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 The founder and CEO of Singapore-based Spa Esprit Group is not a person unknown for her business acumen. Moving from a background of banking into the lifestyle industry 21 years ago, Cynthia Chua transformed a project born out of her passion into a large conglomerate with a presence in 9 cities around the world, under 17 brands with 100 outlets.

After finding success with her second brand ‘Strip’ – the waxing specialists known for their quirky and creative marketing – Cynthia ventured into the food and beverage industry in 2016 with brands like A Wanted Man and Common Man Coffee Roasters (which recently opened an outlet in KL).

We caught up with Cynthia to pick her brain and learn 10 nuggets of wisdom that helped her evolve Spa Esprit Group into the diverse powerhouse that it is.

On how she creates her brands…

My concepts tend to reflect my state of mind, things that interest me at that point in time. Ideas are constantly coming to me and my mind is like a sponge, constantly absorbing and experiencing what I see, hear and sense. My ideas will then start incubating and once I feel the time is right, I will launch it.

On what she considers before launch…

I always ensure that the concept we roll out is fresh and not available in the current market. When I create a brand, it has to be able to compete on a global platform and to have the ability to fit into key cities across the globe. I inject fun and accessibility into all my brands. It is always about sharing, communicating and having fun while enjoying a great product in a cool space.

On why she creates her brands…

It is not about opening new shops; it is about educating and raising awareness; to start a movement that will benefit the city and the people. Take the 3rd wave coffee trend and the French Bakery trend; with our brands, we not only bring you the best products, we also stoke a trend and positively impact people’s life.

On the importance of creativity…

Marketing and creativity plays a huge part in all our brands. Strip is a Brazilian waxing concept and the best way to communicate our offerings is by using creative and fun marketing campaigns to educate the public on personal grooming and to make waxing less intimidating. It’s provocative and yet has a touch of wit and humour. 

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Strips most prominent advertisement featuring its Orang Utan mascot. (photo: strip.com.sg)

On the challenges faced by Strip…

Brazilian waxing was a taboo among Asian women in 2002 so when I first started the brand, everyone said that I was crazy to provide such a service, that only caucasian women will patronise it. But our top-notch treatments, paired with great media endorsement and quirky marketing campaign propelled the brand. I am happy to say that over 80% of our customers are local men and women.

On going from beauty to F&B…

Beauty and food goes hand in hand, it is all about a lifestyle and something that I personally love. When I first went into the food and beverage business, it was really tough. It was my first venture into industry and I took up a massive 35,000 square foot space; I practically had to learn everything from scratch and physically squat there to get things moving.

Her advice for budding entrepreneurs…

Passion and tenacity are needed to make a business successful. You must absolutely love what you do and believe strongly in it. But passion is not enough if you do not have tenacity to see it through. It’s important to stay strong when the roof caves in and have the ability to go the whole way. It takes 10,000 man hours to make a business successful so having the tenacity to squat through it is critical.

On how she unwinds…

I practice yoga daily to de-stress and find balance. I love reading, blending of aromatherapy oils and writing. I also enjoy checking out new restaurants and catching up with my friends at cocktail bars. Finally, I love travelling and connecting with like minded people; finding inspiration everywhere helps keep myself in balance.

On the future of her business…

I love stationeries and am looking to curate and customise stationeries and books. A bed and breakfast is also something that interests me but it is difficult to find the right location and manpower, as it is a big project. 

On the future for herself…

To travel to less explored places and to help young creative people grow.

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Here are 10 young Malaysians who find themselves where Cynthia was 21 years ago - our Generation T Creators.

Tags: Strip, Spa Esprit Group, Common Man Coffee Roasters, The Tatler 10, Cynthia Chua