Arunee Promchai founded La’Poon Organic by Natural Soap Base Co. to share Thai wisdom and traditions. Based in Lamphun, a small agricultural town in northern Thailand, the brand uses local herbs and raw materials to create extracts, fragrances and soaps.
Through a partnership with the Faculty of Pharmacy at Chiang Mai University, the company creates products that meet the needs of retail and wholesale customers around the world, under the GMP ASEAN Factory and USDA Organic standards.
In 2013, Promchai created a Facebook Business Page for Natural Soap Base Co. to strategically target customers domestically and globally. Shortly after beginning to prioritize social media, the company received its first international order from a retail business in Myanmar.
For La’Poon Organic, their first international sale opened up numerous global opportunities. They are operating in multiple countries, even investing in hiring five sales employees to work on the ground in Laos.
Using an e-commerce platform allows the company to save time and money on operational costs, while concentration on customer service and product development. Every year since going digital, Promchai’s company has grown at least 15%. She expects that the jump in export sales will promote continued growth.
Promchai shared that the purchasing power and interest in organic products from foreign customers make global markets very important for the business. Looking forward, La’Poon Organic sees the greatest potential for growth in Dubai, Germany, China, Japan and the United States.
She explained that she wants to continue prioritizing customers in other countries, however, COVID-19 has generated several barriers to new markets. Promchai said that she cannot physically travel to “markets or product exhibitions.” As a result, their online platform is increasingly critical for finding and reaching customers in other countries.
From shocks to supply chains to loss of revenue, the impact of the pandemic has been a domino effect for La’Poon Organic.
The founder shared that they have experienced the cost of materials and production increase. As a B2B enterprise, La’Poon Organic’s customers are predominantly largely micro-small businesses. Promchai shared that while many of their customers lost income, she did not raise prices, and instead, decided to maintain customers and use the pandemic as an opportunity to expand.
The company adapted its online platform to focus more heavily on personalized communications with customers, rather than pushing sales.
Social media tools play an essential role in La’Poon Organic’s reaction to the pandemic. For example, Promchai organizes online trainings through Facebook Live every Saturday to consult new customers who are interested in starting a business.
For a small business, exporting poses its own challenges.
Currently, Facebook is La’Poon Organic’s only online platform. Promchai emphasized that she plans to have her daughters help teach her digital skills and begin using more e-commerce platforms to expand the business.
Promchai also quoted a lack of market insight as a frequent barrier to new markets. She said that she hopes to see governments prioritizing access to country-specific export information, as well as general support and funding for small businesses.