Best Face Forward: Pauline Ng of Porcelain Discusses Her Thriving Spa Business

Pauline and her mum, Jenny of Porcelain

Pauline Ng, Founder and Managing Director of Porcelain is such a delight – bubbly, honest,  humble despite her successes – she has managed to turn her mother’s business into a thriving beauty chain.

Porcelain Spa opened in 2009, and hit $1 million in revenue in 2013 – a stunning achievement for 30-year-old Pauline, and her first foray into business.

“My entrepreneurial journey was not planned,” said Pauline. “My mum has been a beautician for over 20 years. It actually started with me helping out my mum.”

 

Jenny Teng of Porcelain
Jenny Teng of Porcelain

 

Bomb Shelter Beginnings

Pauline’s mother – Jenny Teng started her small business (previously known as J Phline) providing facial services to customers out of a rented bomb shelter at the foot of a Housing Board block in Jurong back in the 1990s.

Known for her deep-cleansing treatments and extraction skills, Jenny soon earned a following but struggled for years to sustain her business after being affected by the Asian financial crisis and SARS outbreak.

We started very small and re-invested money back into the company. We were drawing peanuts when we started.

The business took a turn when her daughter, Pauline decided to help her mother in her business. She also re-branded J Phline to Porcelain, The Face Spa in 2009.

“There was a period of hiatus – (my mum) started her business and then it failed, and then she started it again. She loves her craft but it takes another set of skills altogether to run it as a business. I started helping her 6 years ago, this is our 7th year,” said Pauline.

When asked about how they financed the business, Pauline said they kept it within the family.

“We started the business from family savings. We started very small and re-invested money back into the company. We were drawing peanuts when we started,” Pauline said.

Porcelain Aesthetics at Orchard Gateway

Product Development and Expansion

Porcelain formulated their own paraben-free, fragrance-free and non-comedogenic skincare range in 2010 after many attempts in sourcing for a skincare range that does not clog pores.

Porcelain also opened Porcelain Aesthetics in July 2014 at Orchard Gateway offering medically-graded non-invasive aesthetic treatments.

Over the years, Porcelain has built its reputation on clearing up customers’ clogged pore problems through its thorough facial extractions.

“After we launch our products, and we’re certain it’s an amazing product, we observe our clients’ skin. We are very confident of our products’ capabilities. The equipment we use in-house is backed by clinical and medical studies.” said Pauline.

Porcelain formulated their own paraben-free, fragrance-free and non-comedogenic skincare range in 2010 after many attempts in sourcing for a skincare range that does not clog pores.

A career path with fulfilment

“When I started learning more about the science about it, it drew me in. I spoke to a lot of customers and I saw the difference my mum’s skills made to their skin and their lives. I realised this is something that offers a lot of fulfilment,” said Pauline.

Pauline also made the conscious decision to invest in technology and products.

“We can’t separate this from the craftsmanship,” she said.

Today, Porcelain’s many accolades include Best Luxury Beauty Spa in Asia Continent by World Luxury Spa Awards for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2013, Best Decongested Facial by Harper’s Bazaar Spa Awards 2014 and Best Deep Cleansing Facial by Singapore Women’s Weekly 2013.

Pauline of Porcelain
Pauline of Porcelain

Focusing on A Niche

One reason that Porcelain is so successful is it focuses 1 particular aspect of its spa services – and puts effort in doing it well.

“Having less resources actually makes us think about where we want to put this effort in. For example, when we first started, I wanted a one-stop-shop, providing services like manicure and waxing. Then I realised …. I just wanted to focus on skincare, and that’s one of the best decisions we ever made,” said Pauline.

Its most popular treatment is the Quintessential facial, an anchor treatment since Day 1. The Quintessential facial is an award-winning bespoke facial, designed for severely congested and acne-prone skin of all skin types in need of intense repair. Porcelain’s therapists will first assess your skin before an intensive extraction session to clear congested pores. Following that, they will concoct the perfect after care treatment, combining custom-blended products and from a selection of aesthetic equipment, specially suited for the client’s skin. This facial is $374.50 for a 90 to 120 min session.

The Pro-ionic V-Shape Facial and OxyRevive Facial are also gaining in popularity.

Porcelain’s customers are mostly working women, with a good percentage of men, and a small percentage of students.

How does Porcelain stay competitive in an industry with a lot of competition?

“It’s is a very competitive landscape. That’s why we don’t claim to be a Jack of all Trades. We want to achieve clear skin from inside out, over a period of time.  We don’t oversell – we always overdeliver and try our best.”

We are no longer in the infancy stage. We are moving to the next stage of business. It took us 6, 7 years but it’s worth it.

Long-Term Relationships with Customers

To keep their customers happy, Porcelain focuses on a long-term relationship with every one of them.

“Our body is amazing, it’s supposed to heal itself and have the resilience. But as we age, our skin loses the resilience. What Porcelain does is that we educate clients, and we have a long-term plan and relationship with our clients,” Pauline said.

“I’ve been blessed that this year, we are filling up the key positions. We are no longer in the infancy stage. We are moving to the next stage of business. It took us 6, 7 years but it’s worth it,” she added.

 

Porcelain, The Face Spa at Cantonment Road
Porcelain, The Face Spa at Cantonment Road

The Porcelain Experience

I put the Porcelain Sun Rescue Facial to the test and visited their Cantonment branch, situated in a quaint shophouse.

Porcelain’s Sun Rescue Facial takes a three-pronged approach of calming, repairing, and hydrating to give sun-damaged skin restorative care.

The minute I walked in, I could tell this was a successful spa. It looked great, smelled great.  The first impression I had was that it was a very calming experience and it put me at ease.

All the colours used in their décor was consistent, and the service — from the moment I walked in, to the moment I left,  was excellent.

During the facial, my skin was first calmed using Cryotherapy, which chills skin using a cryoprobe of -10°C, while electrophoresis helped to penetrate stabilised aloe vera deep into the skin to kickstart the process of vaso-constriction and dilation to encourage skin regeneration.

To repair skin, an oxygen hyperbaric spray, using a serum, was used to provide cellular hydration and pH level regulation. Lastly, hydration was locked in with an anti-inflammatory and soothing cucumber mask.

What I really appreciated after the facial was that there was a small room where I could freshen up. It was equipped with a dressing table and some hair products – such a small detail and a much appreciated one!

It also allows the spa to turn around the treatment room quickly, for the next customer, thereby maximising their resources. Thoughtful and clever at the same time! I could understand why Porcelain has a loyal following.

I’m a firm believer in PR. Blog posts, partnerships, referrals, and social media is very important to us.

Marketing Strategy & Future Plans

In a competitive industry such as the one Porcelain is in, marketing strategy is ever important.

“As a previous Comms student, I’m a firm believer in PR. Blog posts, partnerships, referrals, and social media is very important to us,” Pauline said.

“We made the mistakes of offering discounted treatments with an online partner, and they were not the right audience. For example, we gave away $20 vouchers once, and someone came with  5 sets of $20 vouchers.”

Pauline also stresses the importance of branding. “We’ve done rebranding that captures our brand essence, which preserves the Asian-ness of our brand.”

As for emulating what the industry does, Pauline believes in blazing her own trail.

“I have a keen interest in business strategy and start-ups. I try to find the best way to do things. I try not to copy industry standards – for example the selling after a spa treatment in a closed room, where clients can feel pressurised. Shouldn’t a spa treatment end perfectly? Customers should feel like they have the freedom to leave,” said Pauline.

Porcelain’s plans for the future include forays into another physical store, and an online one.

“We are having a third store coming up, opening up in October. We are also planning an e-commerce store next year, so more people can enjoy the benefits of our products  … something that we took many years to refine,” said Pauline.

“It is important that we grow sustainably,” she added.

“We want to be very, very good at what we do.”

Written By

Liyana is a Co-Founder and Editor of LadyBoss. She is also Co-Founder of Anagram Group, a corporate training company which serves over 100 MNCs and government clients in Singapore, Asia, and the UK. She also advises SMEs on their marketing communications strategy through her communications consultancy, Anagram Communications. Prior to Anagram, Liyana was Head of Communications for Singapore's largest foreign chamber, and Content Editor of Singapore Business Review. Outside of work, Liyana enjoys travel and spending time with her husband and baby twins.

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