Beauty by Nature: Meet Wendee Lee, founder of Biconi

by Susannah Jaffer September 26, 2017

The ZERRIN team chats to Wendee Lee, the founder of natural skincare brand Biconi, outside Singapore's Art Science museum


Tell us about your life before starting up your natural skin care label.
I like to say I grew up in an office, because I spent so much time in my parent’s one after school. My sisters and I were always tasked to help out with the filing, paperwork and making rounds of coffee. You could say this gave me early exposure to entrepreneurship!
Originally from Malaysia, I spent my childhood years in Kuala Lumpur and have clocked up years in the US, London and Singapore since leaving home.

I spent the first seven years of my career in advertising agencies before deciding that I wanted to strike out on my own. I didn’t have a particular calling at the time. All I knew was that I wanted to break away from the corporate world.

 
What’s the story behind the birth of Biconi? 
The Biconi story started when my father was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2008. At that time, our family was in the midst of experimenting with a little-known fruit called noni. Noni is native to Southeast Asia and have been used in traditional Malay medicine for centuries, but it only came on our radar recently when my mother was looking for a natural health supplement to cope with her diabetes.

What started out as a small batch of soap bars blended with our homemade noni enzyme to help my father during his chemotherapy treatments, turned into a lifelong passion for my mother and myself when we were able to see firsthand how effective something as simple as a natural bar of soap can be.

We shared the soap bars with our nearest and dearest, and we soon started getting calls for more. It took us a few years to get our act together, because, to be honest, we didn’t really see ourselves as beauty entrepreneurs at first. But as I kept talking to those who had used our soap bars, and hearing about the positive effects they’d experienced, I realised the impact we were making. That was the beginning of Biconi.
 

Why the name ‘Biconi’?
We started Biconi knowing that we wanted to pay homage to our heritage, which wasn’t hard to do with all the amazing biodiversity we have in our own backyard! Biconi is a fusion of words with the BI honouring my mom, Blan, who started it all – CO for coconut and NI for noni. Our name is also our promise, and we make sure we add virgin coconut oil and our Biconi noni enzyme into our products whenever possible.

"As I kept talking to those who had used our soap bars, and hearing about the positive effects they’d experienced, I realised the impact we were making – and that was the beginning of Biconi."


Concious beauty brand Biconi's full range of natural products for skin and hair, available to shop on ZERRIN


How do you source and produce your skincare?
It varies by product but it all starts at the same point, which is finding quality partners we can work with for the long term. We make some products ourselves, but we also acknowledge that there are experts who are more experienced than we could ever be. We choose to work with local suppliers not only to reduce our carbon footprint, but also to give back to the local community.

Our product formulation really starts with our customers telling us what they want. Following that, lots of my time is spent researching what’s already out there and how we can do better. With my training as a natural skincare formulator, my focus is to make sure we develop effective products using the most natural ingredients. Since we would never test on animals, our friends and family get to test our prototypes instead!

What is one product from the range you use without fail?
Can I be cheeky and name two? They are my absolute essentials! The Hair Revitalising Shampoo Bar for my daily shampoo, and the Glow Facial Serum as a facial oil after cleansing.

Biconi's Glow Serum is one of founder Wendee Lee's favourites. She uses it daily without fail!


What key lessons have you learnt so far on your entrepreneurial journey?
It’s incredibly tough but at the same time very rewarding. Launching a new brand and pitting yourself against the giants of the beauty industry is a daunting thing. Then again, it all feels like a cause worth fighting for when our customers share how much our products have helped them.

From the moment we started, I knew that we wanted to focus on ingredients from Asia. The price of this focus is that we face an uphill challenge not only from consumers who have long-held beliefs that imported products are always better, but also from sourcing quality and safe ingredients.

What inspires you to continue doing what you do? 
To be honest, I just love sharing how great hair and skin can be achieved naturally, to just about anyone who will listen. Knowing that I'm able to help just one more person keeps me going. 


How do you take steps in your daily life to live a little more consciously?
I ask myself what I can do better with my daily routine, and start with simple questions like, “Do I really need to keep the water running while I shampoo?” or “Do I really need another dress?” I don’t always get it right the first time around, but getting into the habit of asking myself these questions has given me perspective.


Finally, what tips would you give to other women who want to #shopmeaningfully?
Buy local, choose products with minimal packaging and take a look at the number of products you already have in the bathroom. Some are redundant. For example, a good facial serum can double up as an eye cream so you can get away with one product instead of two. This helps cut down over consumption and saves you money at the same time.

"Buy local, choose products with minimal packaging and take a look at the number of products you already have in the bathroom."

 

ZERRIN's interview spot for the day: the lily pond outside the iconic Art Science museum in Singapore

 

Discover the Biconi skin and haircare range here 

 




Susannah Jaffer
Susannah Jaffer

Author

Founder of ZERRIN, Susannah is an avid lover of dogs and slowly made fashion. She is passionate about raising awareness of conscious brands who are doing their part to make the retail industry a better place.



Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


More from THE ZERRIN BLOG

Healing Through Making: Lorraine Lee, Talee
Healing Through Making: Lorraine Lee, Talee

by Susannah Jaffer July 07, 2018

Sometimes, creative inspiration comes when you least expect it. That's what happened to Lorraine Lee, who's inspiration to start her jewellery label, TALEE, came from a period of emotional hardship for her family. Read our chat with the story behind about the Canada based, Malaysian born entrepreneur.

Read More

Winona Tan: Creating a beauty brand with purpose
Winona Tan: Creating a beauty brand with purpose

by Susannah Jaffer June 15, 2018

Inspired to create a cruelty free natural beauty brand that gives back, Winona Tan founded WANT Skincare two years ago after discovering a lack of truly clean skincare formulations. Discover her story inside.

Read More

Five easy ways you can reduce plastic waste
Five easy ways you can reduce plastic waste

by Team Zerrin June 05, 2018

Single use plastic is a huge part of our daily lives, but for the sake of our environment, we need to kick the habit! From reusable straws to shopping totes, here's five simple changes you can make to reduce your impact in your daily routine.

Read More