Blk71 resident feature #4: PS Love tells us about their startup, and how they broke into the retail space in Singapore

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“I’m really grateful for the community. That’s why I drew footsteps on the board: because it’s not just a journey of ourselves — well, a large part of it is our personal journey — but I think a bigger part of this is our journey together.” Peck Ying, Founder of PS Love

Peck Ying is the founder of The pslove company. She developed a heat therapy patch targeted to help women alleviate cramps that strike during their periods. In this interview, Peck Ying tells us how the core focus of her startup evolved over time, shares some of the challenges of breaking into the retail scene, and gives a few insights on marketing.

Tell us how you started The pslove company and how it has evolved with time.

We started the company in April 2014, though MenstruHeat was only launched around January 2015. We initially started out by delivering monthly supplies to ladies through a subscription service — the first of its kind in Singapore. We wanted to make it super-convenient, since we found ourselves needing to stock up on those things on a very regular basis.

Over time, we discovered that subscribers tend to prefer receiving a surprise together with their necessities, and that’s when we started to realize that the market didn’t perceive our service from a utility standpoint. This seemingly small disparity between our vision and what the market here prefers on the whole made us reconsider the route we were taking with this company.

Eventually, the subscription service became increasingly challenging from a logistics and fulfillment angle. Due partly to heavy-customization for each box, it demanded a lot of operational processes that we could not continue to achieve with the highest quality in a scalable way. That was when we realized we needed to grow out of this model and focus on MenstruHeat.

How did you develop the idea for MenstruHeat?

During our interactions with subscribers and customers, many of them told us that they weren’t able to easily find a good, natural product for menstrual cramps. Personally, bad menstrual cramps and backaches haunt me as well. We found that existing solutions such as water or electric bags are heavy and inconvenient, may need about 15 to 30 minutes of charging, and can get very hot initially but does not last very long.

There had to be something more convenient, and since it wasn’t available, we innovated something that the modern woman will prefer — MenstruHeat. We all have busy lifestyles and just don’t have time to manage this (cramps and backaches). A lot of ladies actually can’t find a good, natural remedy so they just suffer and bear the pain, myself included!

How did you break into the physical retail space?

It was a real challenge. Currently, MenstruHeat can be found in over 500 retail stores including Guardian and 7-Eleven, but that was no easy feat. From our initial interaction with the larger retail chains, they tend to be skeptical toward smaller companies like ours, and they were more open to working with companies with a large advertising budget. They felt that new products with a limited marketing budget wouldn’t survive on their shelves. We had a couple of rejections but we believed in our product and we were determined to list our products to at least some retail channels so that MenstruHeat is conveniently accessible by consumers. That was when we decided to aggressively knock on many more retail doors and our channels grew from there.

That said, we are adopting a 2-pronged approach: physical retailing to widen reach, coupled with online retailing to engage with loyal / recurring customers.

So, how do you handle this barrier to entry?

We tried growing our existing retail presence by entering the smaller independent shops first, as well as do much more marketing so that a larger base of customers look for MenstruHeat in retail channels. It was encouraging and a form of validation for us to repeatedly hear our customers asking: “Can I find MenstruHeat in Watsons or Guardian?”

Moving forward, as we look towards expanding our product reach overseas, we are hoping to use our local product presence to give overseas retailers confidence in retailing our products.

How do you approach marketing?

We do a lot of social media marketing because our target age range is 18 years old to 20s — and they are mostly social media users. We also hold events, engage in cross-collaboration and work with partners who reach the same target audience.

How do you forge partnerships for your company?

It requires some luck; you’ll need that kind soul who is willing to partner with you when you are still relatively small and unknown. Our first big partnership was with a blogshop that’s quite reputable. The founder is really nice and she was willing to work with a nobody like us. She has quite a big reach in both Singapore and in the region, so we started with a free giveaway so that she could engage her followers and spread the word at the same time.

We also worked with health and fitness partners. Similar to penetrating the retail scene, it is usually the smaller brands who are willing to partner us initially. Working with many small brands eventually helped us grow our reach and that in turn attracted larger brands to work with us.

For any partnership, it is important to understand the value you bring to the table and what the partners’ interests are. Always go for a win-win.

How is the company funded?

At the moment we are bootstrapped and have not yet taken any funding. Something that keeps us going is the need to generate revenue. We need to ensure that we have revenue and profits, enough to push for growth: that’s the only way the company can survive.

How does it help to work in Blk71?

NUS Enterprise supports us a lot in terms of community and mentors. I have been connected to many good mentors through Enterprise and, of course, having this workspace. For example, Brian from NUS Enterprise connected us to someone from P&G. Since they are in the consumer space, they know what works in the market, how the distributors work, how to manage exports, and marketing and pricing strategies.

What insights did you gain from speaking with P&G?

Our mentor from P&G was able to give us a global perspective on product distribution. Specifically, we were given tips on how to negotiate with retailers and distributors, who are mostly seasoned negotiators and have been in the trade for a long time. These are invaluable lessons that we would otherwise have learned the “hard way” if not for our mentor.

The other aspect was finding out who our target market is. Initially, we thought our market was anyone from 18 to 35 years old, which is really broad. They taught us how to focus and narrow down the group, and how to reach out to them in a more specific way. That really helped us.

Did he mentor you voluntarily?

Yea! He’s an entrepreneur himself, and I think that’s the beauty of this whole community — there’s a lot of giving back to the ecosystem. Founders who have been there, done that, and made it really want to contribute, whether it’s in terms of money, mentorship, or even just to provide a listening ear.

So I’m really grateful for the community. That’s why I drew footsteps on the board: because it’s not just a journey of ourselves — well, a large part of it is our personal journey — but I think a bigger part of this is our journey together. So everyone walks the path; in different ways and different directions, but it is still together in a sense.

Thanks, Peck Ying, for the interview!

The pslove company is based at Blk71 #02–01.

Curious? You can explore PS Love on:

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NUS Enterprise nurtures entrepreneurial talents with global mindsets, while advancing innovation and entrepreneurship at Asia’s leading university.

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