Witraporn Pimpla, founder of Thailand’s most recognised, internationally certified organic skincare brand, Znya Organics, tells her very personal story of success.
Behind every established entrepreneur is a story. For Witraporn Pimpla, a 41 year old skincare entrepreneur, inspiration came from very close to home. A sufferer of severe skin allergies for over two years, it was her own discovery of the benefits of natural, all organic products that spurred her on to create her brand Znya Organics. Now sold globally and one of the most high profile organic beauty businesses in Southeast Asia, she sat down with us to explain how her dedication to purity has won her success.
Forced to live with a disruptive skin allergy for over two years, Witraporn discovered that, contrary to medical advice, her allergies were being caused, not by the food she was eating, but by the chemicals found in the soaps she was using. Giving up all products containing any of these nasties, she found her symptoms completely disappeared. And so it was that, by the age of 30, she had completely committed to using only chemical-free products. “From that moment, I changed my lifestyle to only using organic products that are certified by the United States Department of Agriculture.”
Having spent over ten years in America, on her return to Bangkok in 2011, Witraporn was shocked by the lack of organic products on offer in Thailand. “Seven years ago, I booked a flight back to Thailand with my daughter after finding out that both my aunt and grandmother had been diagnosed with cancer. I wanted to find places with authentic, organic and safe skin care products, but they were missing in the Thai market. Back then, the demand for organic products was emerging, but the term natural was being thrown around for the sake of selling products, even though those products were not 100% safe for users. Being sick made me realise that we cannot always see what is inside the products, and the term ‘natural’ can be very different from ‘organic’.”
Setting about solving this issue, Witraporn combined her knowledge from her cooking courses at Le Cordon Bleu in America with personal research to formulate new recipes for soaps, lotions, lip balms, shampoos and skincare products. After two years of experimenting in her own kitchen and plenty of trial and error – she had to throw away over ten kilos of soap after one disastrous tryout – Witraporn officially launched Znya Organics in 2013 as one of the first internationally certified organic skincare brands to come out of in Thailand, and a close-knit one at that. “Although Znya Organics started because of my story, it quickly developed into a family business. I have two younger sisters who have helped me from the start. One looks after finance and accounts, while the other makes sure we source the best quality ingredients. My role is mainly creating a strong brand that represents who we are and overseeing production and marketing. Because we are sisters and we know each other quite well, it makes it easier to divide tasks and responsibilities.”
Since 2013, Witraporn has ridden a wave of changing consciousness. Having set out in a landscape where she had to convince people that ‘organic’ is a term applied to skincare, too, she has seen a shift in the market for both retailers and consumers. Her own sales speak for themselves. From humble beginnings selling seven soaps at a local fair when she launched, Znya Organics now ships their products worldwide from their office in Samutsakorn. Also seen at various retail locations across Bangkok and beyond, Znya is generally thought of as one of Thailand’s most trusted organic skincare brands. Her latest collaboration is on a range of organic amenity sets for Bangkok Airways’ business class passengers and her brand also covers a range for pregnant mothers and children and reaches well beyond soap to span everything from shampoos and conditioners to facial oils, toothpaste and body lotions – all free from parabens, preservatives, sulphates, synthetics and silicone. “In 2017, our organic certified chocolate toothpaste received a gold medal from Euroinvent. We also achieved a total of six awards from the first international innovation stage in 2016. We want to show the world the competency of a Thai brand, that we can develop USDA Organic products that are chemical free and also innovate, using Thai herbs, bringing them to the world stage.”
Witraporn has been in the business long enough now to witness shifts beyond consumer behaviour. Demand has led to change at a grassroots level, and now the entrepreneur sees an increase in the number of organic farms in Thailand, making it increasingly possible for her to source her ingredients locally from farmers in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Uthai Thani, Ubon and Sisaket provinces. “Right now, we have a collaboration with local farmers, growing different plants for our products including white sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, turmeric, galangal, tomatoes, pumpkin and rosemary, just to name a few.” She adds, “Getting ingredients requires a lot of planning because a lot of the products are seasonal.”
At the end of the day, Witraporn knows that the success of both her business and her mission to convert others to an organic lifestyle rests on the quality of her range. “The trend is coming, but our high-quality products are what will make us stand out. As a producer, I am responsible for the lives of customers that purchase my products.” She’s also responsible for her own considerable success.