On 15 August, Lao Natural launched its Luang Prabang showroom, marking a milestone in their journey to create and sell several lines of locally sourced natural toiletries, massage oils, and a range of other products.
The company’s founder, Kornkanok “Korn” Sriwan, had been working in Thailand’s hotel spa industry, and came to Laos in 2012 to hunt down local natural products for herself and hotel guests, but was unsuccessful.
However, she had an idea, and moved to Luang Prabang. “I started making my own products, and wanted to teach Lao people how to make their own,” Korn explained. “I wanted to work with local students and village girls to give them a career path, and we came up with different products using local ingredients.”
Leaving the Thai hospitality and spa industry to embark on a start-up for non-existent products in Laos takes courage and know how. Korn has both.
“I knew we could produce good quality products in Laos, which removes the need to import them from Thailand or other countries,” she said.
“With a little help, we dug deeper and discovered our core benefit would be in using local ingredients to develop great products.”
Korn knew the road to success would be riddled with challenges such as start-up costs. “Our high initial investment was due to various factors such as constantly sending our staff for training and the time it took to introduce our products to the market.”
Lao Natural limited their original product line to five different types of soap bars, but they faced an issue with production consistency. They also discovered the need to import some ingredients.
Having chiselled through the challenges, it was time to take the bars of soap to market. “To achieve growth in the beginning, we focussed on 4-5 star hotels in Luang Prabang, which have been very supportive,” Korn said.
A look inside Lao Natural’s new showroom reveals more than soap, as in a few short years their product range has expanded to 10 diverse lines with 29 different items.
The shelves display bath salts, a variety of massage oils, foot lotions, and custom scented toiletries that every hotel needs: shampoo and conditioner, shower gel, hand wash, and body lotion. They also present raw Lao honey, coconut oil, and even a natural mosquito repellent.
Today, rooms in 13 of Luang Prabang’s top properties feature Lao Natural products, including We Are Lao members AVANI+, Parasol Blanc, Villa Maly, and Luang Prabang View Hotel. Korn added that the company is starting to expand to Vientiane, with the Landmark Hotel already on board. Some local boutiques and restaurants sell their retail products.
While natural products are environmentally friendly, Lao Natural is at the forefront of taking its packaging to the next CSR level.
“We deliver our shampoos, conditioners, and other liquid products in reusable containers, and give a large discount to hotels employing our reusable mosquito repellent bottles,” Korn said. “We encourage hotels to buy in bulk, including large bars of soap, which require less wrapping.”
“We use recycled paper to package some retail products,” she added. “The company internally recycles, and we share our methods with our wholesale customers.
Korn said that Lao Natural remains committed to its original idea and objective.
“Lao Natural continues to focus on providing quality, natural products for hotels looking for a more genuine experience in their toiletry needs,” she said. “We pride ourselves on using local materials, ingredients, and services, while promoting community building to deliver a truly Lao product.”
Korn added that by employing students from ethnic minorities, Lao Natural has been able to provide them with a means to further their education and facilitate growth in their career paths.
“Working with Lao Natural means working with Laos.”
To uncover more about Lao Natural, visit their Facebook page.