Founders, Libra Wellness
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia / Chicago, USA
Carmen and Jeremy introduce yourselves.
Carmen (C) : I’m a Selangor native; born and raised in Malaysia. I’ve spent my formative adult years in Chicago working for Corporate America. I’ve always had an underlying passion for health and wellness. I worked part-time as a Zumba group fitness instructor while I was a college student and even dabbled in training courses to be a certified Health Coach. The full potential of this passion finally materialized and came full circle when I founded Libra Wellness with Jeremy.
Jeremy (J) : I’m from the United States of America. I grew up in Texas but moved to Chicago in 2014 to attend DePaul University, where I met my partner, Carmen. I originally chose to attend university in Chicago to pursue a career in sports PR, since I am a huge sports fan – grew up playing several sports and watch almost every sport in the world. After I graduated, I started working at a boutique advertising and marketing agency in Chicago, which prepared me for life in a start-up. I bring the determination, dedication, and teamwork that I learned from playing sports to Libra Wellness.
Let’s talk about Libra Wellness.
C : We created Libra Wellness because we believe that one should not need to compromise when it comes to health and wellness. We believe our customer deserve products that are better for themselves, their family, and our environment.
J : I have sensitive skin myself, so when we moved to Malaysia in 2021, I was nervous about finding products that would not irritate my skin. We started Libra Wellness so, all of our customers, including those with sensitive skin, can have personal care products they can depend on to make them feel refreshed, and not irritate their skin.
Why organic hair, body and household products?
C : We believe true self-care begins with the self and the environment in which one inhibits. It makes the most sense for us to develop personal care products and everyday essentials to accompany our customers on their journey in pursuit of a balanced life, whatever that looks like for them.
J : Our tagline is ‘Balancing Body and Soul’, so we started with balancing our customers’ bodies with products that don’t use harmful ingredients, are plant-based, and are better for the environment, thus taking care of them and their families.
When selecting ingredients for your products, what are the things you look for?
C : We knew we wanted to create products that are inclusive for the greatest number of people, especially those with dry or sensitive skin. We were adamant about sticking to an extensive no-no list during the formulation process, and this acted as a non-negotiable for us. Some of the chemicals we’ve chosen to opt out of our products include sulphates, parabens, petrochemicals and artificial colourants and dyes.
J : After doing some research, we discovered that sulphates are a huge concern for people with sensitive skin, and almost every personal care product has sulphates in its formulation. So, we wanted to remove any sulphates from our products, thus making them more inclusive and better for those with sensitive skin. We chose plant-based ingredients such as avocado oil, broccoli extract, and coconut oils because all three have qualities that work together to create high-quality, premium personal care products.
Let’s talk packaging. It is not the easiest when deciding what packaging to use to keep products fresh, not hurt our ecosystem and of course, eye-catching. Walk us through this process.
C : As we embarked on this journey of sourcing for packaging, we had one clear goal – to avoid single-use plastic as much as we could. We landed on aluminium, which is infinitely recyclable and remains user-friendly.
J : We wanted to stand out, and there aren’t many (if any) Malaysian brands offering personal care products in aluminium bottles. So, the fact that we could be one of the only brands offering that, we decided to focus on aluminium bottles. Plus, they look cool and feel very premium.
There is a rise in companies offering organic body, hair, and personal products globally. What sets Libra Wellness apart from the rest?
C : I think what is going to set us apart is our holistic approach to personal care and its intersectionality with health and wellness that extends beyond product. We have plans to create spaces and share resources about the broad spectrum of self-care in practice, touching on areas related to physical, mental and emotional well-being. We plan to collaborate with like-minded individuals, brands, and organizations to promote these advocacies and amplify these types of messages.
J : We don’t want to be known for only selling products. We want to create a platform that highlights local brands and companies that share our values, there are several that we have met so far, and we’re excited for what the future holds for us. Again, our tagline is ‘Balancing Body and Soul’ – the products we create help balance the body, but our platform will help balance our audience’s soul with ways to find balance, take care of their mental health, and live their healthiest life possible.
Carmen, you are a Malaysian and Jeremy, you are American.
You both were based in Chicago and now making Malaysia home. How’s the transition so far?
C : Repatriating to Malaysia renewed my sense of adoration and appreciation for this country. I experienced some reverse culture shock when we first moved here, which is perfectly normal after spending many years abroad. But now that the dust has settled, I’m glad we’re here and I’m just enjoying the ride!
J : The transition has been amazing for me! I have wanted to live abroad for quite a long time, so when I got the opportunity to move to Malaysia, I jumped at the chance. The chance to experience a different culture and lifestyle than what was available to me in the States has been eye-opening to me, making me rethink what is important in life. I will admit that I did not know much about Malaysia before I moved here, so living here is like discovering something new every single day. And I love that.
C : It was a no-brainer for me since Malaysia is home after all. There is also a growing demand in Malaysia for homegrown brands and products that are eco-conscious and competitive in an international market. It’s an exciting time to nurture and grow a business like ours in Malaysia.
J : Carmen is Malaysian, so that pretty much put it at the top of the list of where we should move. But I do believe that Malaysia is a great place for us to build Libra Wellness – there is a massive community of like-minded people in Malaysia so we knew we could strive here, while also helping local communities grow and succeed alongside Libra Wellness.
Which is your favourite Libra Wellness item to date?
C : I like them all! But the Moisture Restore Shampoo holds a special place in my heart. Years ago, I suffered from hair loss caused by a bacterial infection and acquired a small bald patch on my scalp. But after testing and using our shampoo myself for almost a year, I recently discovered some regrowth in said area that I haven’t seen in years!
J : The Skin Balancing Body Wash is my personal favourite. The scent is refreshing, and I like the colour of the bottle. Plus, it doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin so that’s a huge plus in my book.
Jeremy, Carmen – what is success to you?
J : Success is more than just how much money you’ve made, it’s how you build your business. Success to me means having a business that not only makes money, but also helps local communities, brands, and entrepreneurs thrive as well.
C : I believe success is derived from being in service to others/society with great intention and purpose.
What are your plans?
J : We have a couple of new products to launch this year, but we will also focus on building the other side of our business. We plan to have several events, conferences, and interviews with local entrepreneurs and experts to help bring more balance to our customers and audience.
C : We want to expand our product line-up and come up with more amazing products that our customers will love! Other than that, we’re also focused on developing some meaningful partnerships with other Malaysian brands and entrepreneurs to bring valuable content, events and experiences to our audience.
Best book you’ve read this year
C : Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
J : A Promised Land by Barack Obama
The last music you’ve downloaded
C : I recently discovered an indie artist called CHINCHILLA and her music has been on repeat!
J : I am really into old vinyl records, and I recently found a Charlie Parker record at a local store here, so I have played that non-stop whenever I’m home.
The music that changed everything for you
C : I don’t have a profound answer for this. But a good Britney Spears bop always puts me in a good mood.
J : I discovered Michael Kiwanuka a few years ago, and whenever the stress is starting to overwhelm me, listening to his songs helps mellow me out.
When you need to feel inspired
C : Go for a walk or move your body. Tension in the body kills inspiration.
J : Meditate and focus on manifesting my future.
Things you’ll always have in your fridge
C : Maggi brand of chilli sauce because I’m a true-blue Malaysian and it tastes good on almost everything. It’s my version of a hot sauce, only better.
J : American ketchup and Tabasco hot sauce
A typical day for Jeremy Andrus and Carmen Khor?
C : A typical workday for me is a toss-up between meetings and computer work or a combination of both. I’m not a morning person so I tend to schedule any creative work for late mornings or early afternoons. Evenings are my favourite because it’s time I dedicate to unwind, decompress, and indulge in some solo time. This is when I make time to squeeze in a workout, watch some mindless TV, or work on a hobby.
J : I wake up, take my dog outside, and then grab some breakfast before heading into the office. When I arrive at the office, I drink a cup of coffee, read any new emails and plan my day. Then, I tend to bounce around from working on sales ideas, accounting, logistics, manufacturer relations, and anything else that needs to be done that day. After work, I head home and review what happened that day before dinner. After dinner, I tend to spend a few hours unwinding by watching sports highlights or playing video games before going to bed.
What have you come to appreciate the last 2 years
C : The value of personal time. Building a business is an all-encompassing endeavour. In this process, I’ve learned that the calm, quiet times between the chaos are where I find peace, and I’ve learned to cherish these sacred moments.
J : I appreciate the moments between the chaos. Starting a business is 24/7 job, so whenever I have those moments when I’ve caught up with my work and don’t have anything due, I tend to relax for a minute and prepare for the next wave.
Best gift you’ve received
C : I was once gifted a visual pocketbook about how not to take life too seriously as a graduation present. As a type A personality, I needed that book in my life.
J : As a big Chicago Cubs fan, I received a crystal baseball commemorating their championship win in the 2016 season. That is the best gift possible for me.
Best gift you’ve given
C : I like doing custom gift baskets and filling them with items that either remind me of that person or things I know they would enjoy for that extra personal touch.
J : I gave my partner a picture with the constellations and stars from the night of our first date. I don’t think I will ever top that gift.
Biggest inspiration comes from
C : Learning from other humans. People’s stories, trials and tribulations, successes and failures serve as great tools and inspiration for me both in business and in life.
J : Learning from others who have come before me.
One gadget you can’t do without
C : My iPhone! My whole life is on my phone.
J : My phone for sure.
Country you can’t wait to go back to
C : The U.S. because it’s our second home and to visit friends and family.
J : Spain. I had a great time when I travelled there a few years ago and can’t wait to go back.
C : Crime Junkie or On Purpose with Jay Shetty
J : Games with Names, Club Shay Shay, or the Pat McAfee Show 2.0. All sports-related.
Something you’ve recently discovered.
C : There are no specific timelines to achieve the goals we want in life. Everyone is on their trajectory that is uniquely theirs.
J : Don’t be afraid of the unexpected. Embrace the fear, it will help you get where you want to be.
Philosophy in life
C : I am a strong proponent of leading with courage, authenticity, and vulnerability in all aspects of life, especially in the presence of fear.
J : Do unto others as you will have them do to you.
Best things about Chicago and Kuala Lumpur
C : Summertime in Chicago is magical – the warm weather and energy is electric. Kuala Lumpur is a city that keeps on giving. There’s a little bit of everything – food, music, art, nature, cityscape – you can’t go wrong!
J : Spring and fall in Chicago are the greatest time – period. I really like that Kuala Lumpur is a multicultural city, where you can find almost anything you need.
What’s in your glass and plate for cocktail hour
C : Either a gin or vodka-based cocktail and anything with cured or smoked salmon. Delicious!
J : Stoli and soda in my glass, and satay on my plate.
An indulgence you’ll never forgo
C : Chocolate or ice cream. Or chocolate ice cream.
J : Chocolate cake and Swiss roll
Work of an artist you collect or would (collect) if you could
C : I have an affinity for Mark Rothko. The is always a hint of quiet strength and powerful emotion hidden in the subtlety of his work.
J : Jackson Pollock. His art looks simple but very complex at the same time and just inspires me.
Where can Fab! Luxe readers can go to get to know more about your work.
You can find all things Libra Wellness and shop our latest collection on Libra Wellness. Our handle is @librawellnessco on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.