Iban businesswoman from Sri Aman empowers local farmers while creating all-natural skincare products

Rural folk and Sulie (centre) showing the local ingredients used in Sluvi's products. Photo credit: Sluvi Natural

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By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, Jan 7: Disheartened by her skin issues, 33-year-old Sulie Abell decided to venture into the world of skincare and entrepreneurship in Sarawak, hoping to make a difference.

Hailing from Sri Aman, the Iban woman started Sluvi Natural four years ago, with products made from local and natural ingredients grown in Borneo.

Sulie Abell. Photo credit: Sluvi Natural

Before going further with her business, Sulie shared that Sluvi Natural got into the Tabung Ekonomi Gagasan Anak Sarawak (Tegas) Pre-Accelerator Programme and MaGIC Impact Driven Accelerator Programme.

“After the programmes, Sluvi Natural then named the product after my company and simply called it ‘Sluvi’. It was officially launched in September 2018.

“Ultimately, my business is not to reap profits per se. It is not only to give more variety in beauty products, but it also helps rural farmers to prosper,” she said in an interview with DayakDaily.

Various types of Sluvi’s skincare products. Photo credit: Sluvi Natural

She said initially, she did a lot of research on the product as she wanted to use it not only for herself but also for people with similar skin issues, expressing delight that she could obtain ingredients locally from farmers.

“I was happy as these ingredients use local rice, coffee, aloe vera, ginger, and kelulut honey (honey produced by stingless bees),” she said.

However, she explained that she also learned that surrounding farmers near her ancestral village earn very little and decided to help by buying ingredients from them.

“I am happy that in the last three years, their income is better, and I am motivated to help them and at the same time get my products to be more competitive,” she said.

Sluvi face and body soap. Photo credit: Sluvi Natural

She further explained that being a social enterprise, it empowers local farmers as a source to supply natural ingredients to create natural skincare products.

“These natural ingredients are safe for the environment and people, especially those with sensitive skin. I am happy that my product could help a few farmers to boost their income, and I hope to continue doing so,” she said.

However, Sulie shared that it is not easy to be in the industry and ensure that the business is making a profit and is sustainable at the same time.

“We need a constant capital injection into the business, and I hope the government and financial institutions know our needs. We need to be competitive and innovative to grow, especially after this pandemic,” she lamented.

Sluvi Rice face mask. Photo credit: Sluvi Natural

Despite this, she is motivated to be successful and continues to enhance her product and expand her business.

Sulie pointed out that she is hopeful as Malaysians are shifting towards using products made using natural ingredients.

“Sluvi came at the right time. We have set a target of two million Malaysians aged 18 to 60 (to use our product), especially those with sensitive skin, families, modern consumers, health and wellness enthusiasts, environmentalists, and nature lovers.

“These people are concerned with what they put on their faces and bodies, and the products, which are free of chemicals, are good for them.

“We are happy to say that we are in line with the initial target market, and surprisingly 50 per cent of them are men.

“So far, we have 3,000 regular customers, and 50 per cent of them are repeat customers. Now, we are on the road to reaching that target of two million customers,” she said.

One of Sluvi’s latest products — a skin toner made from aloe and rosewater. Photo credit: Sluvi Natural

Sulie also shared that she has been included in the fifth edition of the ‘Successful People in Malaysia Encyclopaedia’ under the Business and Economics category.

“This recognition is for the work I’ve done in Sluvi. But, for me, it still felt surreal when I received this recognition in 2022 because I just wanted to make an impact on farmers without expecting something in return.

“Usually, the recipients of these recognitions are high-profile people, from politicians to celebrities. I am blessed to be included.

“Through this recognition, I am sure it can act as a platform to bring our social enterprise to the next level and motivate us to work harder,” she said.

Sluvi products can be purchased online or at selected pharmacies. For more information, call 010 977 3312. — DayakDaily