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Spreading their wings |THE EDGE

1st November, 2016

It's a love story for the ages — the tale of how a young banker, Mr. CK Low, managing director of Skin Essentials, which owns the well-known HerbaLine Facial Spa chain, met his wife. She was a beautician working at a parlour, and so besotted was he that he faithfully spent all his weekends helping her out at the store. Then one day, the couple asked themselves, “Why not start our own facial spa?” The rest is history. 

What started out as a mini beauty salon located within a hair salon quickly grew into various parlours in shopping malls offering their own range of made-in-Taiwan beauty products. Then, almost a decade ago, Low heard the inspiring story of how 

McDonald’s actually made their profits not from selling burgers, but from purchasing, selling and renting out properties across the US. 

It was a lightbulb moment, and the HerbaLine brand soon found its niche in the trendy, modern spa arena housed in homes located along busy streets that were easily converted into businesses. Today, HerbaLine not only sells its own brand of facial products and offers a variety of spa services, the company also owns an array of properties in the Klang Valley that were once residential but now successfully converted into commercial lots. To date, the company owns 28 branches throughout Malaysia and a further 32 are run by franchisees.

“I believe in anyone’s life, there is a turning point. It was in 2006 when we noticed that in many developed countries — Korea, Japan, Taiwan — a lot of doctors had gone into this facial line, like Dr Ko here,” Low explains. “We saw this as an upcoming challenge and we can do something to get ourselves prepared, otherwise when the doctors come, we would be wiped out. This was one of the reasons for changing our business model.”

Eager to keep innovating on their winning model, Low turned a dilemma into a brand new business venture when he tried to rent a corner shop lot in Pandan Indah, Cheras. The owner of the three-storey shop lot was reluctant to let out only two floors to Low, and insisted that he rent all three floors. So Low thought, why not start a brand new concept in order to fully utilise the space? He ended up renting not only the corner lot, but also the lot next door, transforming the space into one massive three-storey building. 

Within this building lies the Mama Kim Sauna Mee café, which serves a variety of healthy dishes based on the 80% vegetables, 20% meat concept. The chefs do not use preservatives or MSG and rely instead on the natural flavours of fish, vegetables and meat to create delicious meals. 

The building also houses the HerbaLine Facial Spa and the brand new Sojourn Guest House, which functions as a relaxing getaway for those unwilling to venture far out of the city to enjoy a laid-back weekend.

“We always try to price our services and products in the middle range. My wife, Kim, and I don’t come from rich backgrounds. We like to go for a nice holiday at resorts such as The W and The Four Seasons. But how many people can afford it? Why is the good stuff only available to rich people? It’s not fair. So we went to the best hotels to conduct our R&D, and figure out why they won these spa awards,” says Low. 

Low then brought the exclusive experience of top spa hotels around the world to his customers at drastically reduced rates. The rooms are tastefully decorated to exude a homely feel whilst emanating a certain level of quality, and are priced from RM98 to RM168 per night. 

For Low, the sky is truly the limit. The company is planning to open several similiar “staycation” concept facilities such as this one, based on the slogan “Live Well, Look Well, Eat Well”, where city dwellers can enjoy a getaway close to home, be pampered and savour healthy yet scrumptious cuisine.

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