Women Who Launch: Zero Cuisine


Serene Loong, 37
Founder, Zero Cuisine

CAULIFLOWER DREAMS

In 2003, Serene went on a date with destiny (in other words, with Anthony Robbins). She made a list of big audacious goals and learnt skills to make it happen; from bagging an award-winning career in advertising to purchasing her second home before turning 30. In 2009, the global economic crisis hit and Serene was retrenched from her high-flying career. Three years after losing her job, a holiday with a friend changed her life.

What was your state of mind when you were retrenched?
Shocked and in disbelief. After 10 years building global brands with international advertising agencies, working 12-14 hour days and winning many (more than 100) industry awards, I did not expect it. I realised that no matter how hard I worked and how many awards I received, I was still dispensable.

What propelled you to create your own product?
Shortly after my retrenchment, I found a new job. It was then that I went on a low-carb diet and lost 10kg in 3 months. But once I stopped the diet, the weight came back with a vengeance. I realized that a meal is usually built around a starchy carbohydrate like rice, noodles or mashed potatoes. It was hard to sustain a low-carb diet forever. I found plenty of other friends with similar sluggish metabolism looking for a solution too. 

I googled and found cauliflower mash and cauliflower rice have been traditionally made by those on special diets. Problem was it had to be made from scratch and took about 20 minutes to do. I couldn't find any instant versions.

December 2012, I went on holiday with a friend to Australia. We stayed at a rented house. There was not much to do except cook and chat. I made my cauliflower mash for dinner, and my friend, who has his own successful gourmet pet food business, loved it. He persuaded me to pursue the idea and do it as a business. He even lent me his food tech (food tech: a person who assists in developing food products and establishing standards for production and packaging).

Six months later (June 2013), I worked out a formula.

How did you come up with the name 'Zero Cuisine'?
I wanted a name people could easily remember and since the goal was to create a no carb carbohydrate, 'zero' seemed apt. As for 'cuisine', food is much more than sustenance to me.

So you consider yourself a 'foodie'?
Oh yes!

What's your sinful go-to meal?
Happy Crab on Arab Street. It's grilled BBQ crab. Really good and zero carb!

How is Zero Cuisine different from other dietary food alternative?
It is instant, uses natural ingredients and without preservatives. Zero Cuisine is the first starchy carbohydrate made almost entirely of vegetables.

How do you keep your product fresh without preservatives?
By taking out the moisture in cauliflower and limiting air in the packet. This naturally preserves the product for over 12 months.

What was your initial capital investment to startup?
S$30,000

Did you think you would one day start your own business?
As a child, I have always had random business ideas. Plus, I'm not great with taking instructions so starting my own business seems like a natural fit. Anyway, it is probably best that I be my own boss. Zero Cuisine is my first serious foray in business although I have dabbled in making tee-shirts, publishing a book and marketing seminars.

Is the journey of entrepreneurship something you expected?
I never expected it to be easy. The hardest part is believing and sticking to it when things don't go as planned; despite plummeting personal savings and tempting job offers.

What are your future plans for your business?
I am always thinking about 'the end game'. When I got the idea for this business, I attended a course on how to take a company public. It shifted my mentality about money and business. So, going IPO is my long-term plan.

Cauliflower Mash makes news on South China Morning Post, Feb 2, 2014

What is your biggest challenge?
Finding the right partners to work with.

What is the most exciting news you got about your business thus far?
Through my food broker in San Francisco, Amazon has invited Zero Cuisine to be one of their vendors. They are interested to purchase my products to build their Grocery business. How exciting!

Has starting your own business changed you?
Absolutely. The biggest shift is my perception. In the past, I perceived myself as just a small cog. Like an indirect part of the bigger picture. Now, I am still a small cog. But I have come to realise that I am actually directly connected to other cogs, and hence have the ability to influence and impact the Universe.

What advice do you give young women entreprenuers in Singapore?
It is ok NOT do it all by yourself. If your dream is really big, you need a team to make it happen.

Who inspires you? 
Anthony Robbins. He empowers people to transform their lives.

If I had to describe you, what would it be?
I am a conduit of change.

How important is eco-living to you?
Honestly, eco-living is not something I think about on a daily basis. But I do believe for someone to respect and love the planet, it starts with respecting and loving themselves first.

If you could play your part in saving the planet in ONE way, what would it be? 
Take quick showers; not long baths.

Thanks Serene 


To know more about Zero Cuisine and to purchase Cauliflower Mash and Rice, click here.  

Women Who Launch: Katharos


Nerissa Chuang, 30
Executive Director, Katharos

WHEN GETTING INVOLVED IS THE ONLY WAY

From the moment one meets Nerissa, it is apparent that there is more to this National University of Singapore graduate than her infectious girly laughter, impeccable dressing and meticulous grooming. Barely 30, Nerissa is a working machine. Not only does she have a successful career in the finance industry, she also engages a professional mentor as her life coach and keeps busy conducting workshops and building multiple streams of income. Launch in March 2014, Katharos is her first foray as a distributor of natural and organic beauty products.

Were you always passionate about organic skincare?
No! It is a funny story. I attended a course supposedly for marketing and the trainer ended up talking about organic living. Midway through the course, I went to the ladies room. There, a lady who was attending the same course, came up to me and started giving me lots of natural living advice. She even told me I was putting too many chemicals on my face with my regular makeup. As random as this encounter was, it got me thinking.

What prompted you to start Katharos?
After that incident in the ladies room, I decided to purchase some organic products online because the ones at retail outlets were significantly more expensive. However, when the products arrived, I realized more often than not, they were not what I expected. Some products marketed as 'organic' were, in fact, regular products made simply with a small amount of organic ingredients. Some even contained the same harmful chemicals that I was trying to avoid.

It occurred to me that I was not the only one who fell for this. I knew that if I wanted to make the switch to use truly authentic organic products and share the benefits with people around me, I had to be directly involved with the distribution.

What behind the name 'Katharos'?
Katharos means 'pure' in Greek.

Is this your first time starting your own business?
Yes and no. Yes because this is the first business I have started on my own. No because I have been (and still am) working in the finance industry since graduation; and the nature of the job is flexible and it often feels like I am running my own business anyway.

Did you think you would one day become an entrepreneur?
Yes. After experiencing so much freedom in time and having an income that is directly correlated to the time and effort I put in, I find it difficult to see myself as an employee with fixed hours and a salary. I have always been free-spirited and I function best when I am given the autonomy and space to explore my creativity.

How do you juggle two careers?
These days, I pretty much work regular hours on my full-time job. In the evenings, I work on Katharos until 1-2am every night. It is not ideal but it is necessary for now. My weekends are also devoted to trying up loose ends for both jobs. I am fortunate to have capable staff to support me and a supportive husband who helps me with the website, logistics and accounting matters.

It must be exhausting to be always working. What spurs you along?
Warren Buffett once said that in order to attain financial freedom, one needs seven sources of income. I believe with proper time management, people really can multi-task.

What was your product sourcing process like?
Google. I google everything. First, I filter through all the brands to see which measured up to my list of criteria from brand positioning to consumer reviews. Then, I got in touch with the shortlisted brands and purchased samples to try the products on myself. I chose Eminence and Wild Nature because they were able to give me exclusive distribution rights and had quality products I believed in. They also showed business integrity in my dealings with them and good support.

What was your initial start-up capital?
$100,000

What challenges did you faced that you wished someone had warned you?
That the business world is a lot more complicated than I expected. I learnt to be a lot more careful and discerning when considering potential business partnerships. I have had a couple of close encounters with potential partners who had their own agenda; luckily I figured it out and made a graceful exit before it was too late.

In your opinion, are Singaporean women willing to pay more for organic skincare products?
I believe so as long as they are educated in this area. This is why I invest in workshops because I get more personal time with my customers. Most people are willing to spend as long as they know what they are paying for.  I believe if you see the value of something, you don't count the cost.

Katharos makeup workshop at Bull & Bear. Nerissa (top right) with workshop participants.
Who inspires you?
My mentor, Christina Khoo. Some years ago, I engaged her as my life coach. Since then, she has been a great support for me, both personally and professionally. She leads such a fulfilling and balanced life that I really admire and look up to.

Any future plans for Katharos?
I am considering a project to open retail outlets in other parts of Asia, as well as carry other organic product lines unrelated to skincare. I see this as a good form of diversification whilst being in line with what Katharos represents.

What advice would you give to young women entrepreneurs in Singapore?
Before you start, ensure you have some financial stability first before taking on new risks and expenses. There will always be unexpected expenditures in the beginning stages of starting your business so you must be prepared for that!

What is your best selling product?
For Eminence, it would be Eminence's Vanilla Latte Tinted moisturiser. Up to 80% of people who have sampled it, have ordered it. This moisturiser combines the benefits of sun protection and moisturizer with sheer coverage that replaces the use of foundation for daily wear. It has a light, non-oily texture that is comfortable on the skin. Perfect for busy girls who do not have the luxury of time to slater on layers of different products in the morning. And it smells yummy!

For Wild Nature, my best-seller is Wild Nature Destiny Smudge Pot in our makeup range. The strong pigments of this gel liner makes it shockingly easy to apply. I am already getting numerous requests for the smudge pot in brown (which is arriving April 2014).


If I had to describe you in three words, it would be...
Focused. Disciplined. Dedicated.

How important is eco-living to you?
To be honest, it was not until the end of 2012. My husband (fiancée at the time) and I went to South America for our pre-wedding photo shoot. During our stay in the Amazon, we were amazed at the practices that our resort had in order to preserve their natural environment. Being completely in nature, we saw how differently our world has changed due to industrialization. It was then that I started being aware of my impact on the environment.

What are some practices of the Amazonians that left an impression on you?
To avoid any chemical residue of any sort (because everything gets absorbed back into the soil and into the rainforest), they only use one particular kind of soap that is made from 100% native natural ingredients. Also, they bag and collect ALL of their refuse which gets flown out of the rainforest - by plane - once a week.

What are some eco-friendly changes you have made in your life?
1. I grow as many herbs as possible in my herb garden and use organic fertilisers.
2. I have stopped eating shark's fin and foie gras (even though I used to love it).
3. I reuse water from my humidifier to water my plants and clean my floors.

If you could play your part in saving the Planet in just ONE way in your everyday life, what would it be?
Use less energy. We consciously convert our home lighting to LED lights and all our appliances have good energy star ratings.

Thanks Nerissa 


To find out more on Katharos and its full range of products, visit katharosorganics.com.

Interested to know more? Read my review of Eminence Stone Crop Starter Kit.

30% OFF all Natural Alternative Products

NEWSBREAK 
** Natural Alternative is offering all KAT JUJU readers 30% OFF their entire range **

Not long ago, I discovered Australian skincare brand Natural Alternative. It has quickly become one of my favourite go-to brands for 100% natural quality skincare products, especially Natural Alternative's Certified Organic Paw Paw Ointment & Natural Shampoo.  I am SOOO thrilled that MyLifeInc is giving my readers this offer.


Here is how you can enjoy the discount now. 

Step 1: Go to MyLifeInc 
Step 2: Select your desired products & Add to Cart
Step 3: Once finished shopping, click on Checkout
Step 4: Type coupon code 'katjuju'  
Step 5: Go to final Checkout (30% discount will be reflected here in your total bill) and proceed to payment

That's it! Massive savings on Natural Alternative's 100% natural skincare products!!! Don't miss this. Offer is valid until 1 May 2014.

Skincode: Sun Protection Face Lotion SPF 50+


I am always in search for a great face SPF. One that is made from natural ingredients, offers high and broad spectrum protection (no less than 30+ UVA/UVB), and does not sit like a thick oily layer on the skin. With those criteria in mind, let's get started.

I attended this Swiss-based beauty brand's blogger event a month ago and saw the Skincode Sun Protection Face Lotion SPF 50+. Here is the review.


This oil-free SPF lotion provides high and broad spectrum defense against sunburn, oxidative damage and skin irritations. Aside from being packed with Provitamin B (Panthenol) and vitamin E (Tocopheryl Acetat), its 2 important ingredients are CM-Glucan and vitamin C.

What is CM-Glucan? A water soluble derivative from natural baker's yeast with immune stimulating properties. Combined with vitamin C, it further strengthens the product's antioxidant power to defend against sun damage.

While this is not a full-on natural product so to speak (it does contain propylene glycol), it is a dermatological product that contains natural extracts (like vanilla fruit extract) and biotech ingredients developed for even the most sensitive skin. It is 100% free of parabens, fragrance, color and animal derivatives.

I have tried this product over a couple of weeks and had no skin problems. It did not clog my pores. There is no distinct scent and the product blended well under my make-up. This sunblock is also said to be water and perspiration resistant.


Here is a photo of me wearing this SPF under my makeup about 5 hours later - no powder touchup since this morning. You will see some shine starting to emerge around my nose and forehead area (I probably need one more powder pat to last into the evening).


One thing to note is it does leave a thin layer of shine upon application. This is expected for most sunscreen with a high SPF factor. It would be difficult to wear this on a bare face without having a glassy shine on your face. HERE'S WHAT WORKS: Just need to pat it down lightly with some powder. It is a good way to let it set onto the skin.

Lastly, every tube has an expiry date embossed on its sleeve.


Retail price: S$51 (per 50ml tube)

Skincode is exclusively available at more than ten Guardian Pharmacy outlets island wide, including its flagship store at Ngee Ann City (#B2-34).

If you want to to sample some of Skincode signature products, get product samples for free! Click on the links and try these 3 products at no cost.
Skincode Extra Gentle Skin Refiner
Skincode Cellular Anti-Aging Cream
Skincode Cellular Wrinkle Prohibiting Eye Serum

Disclaimer: This product was sponsored for consideration to review. Katjuju.com, is not affiliated, in any way, with this company or its products. This product review is written with editorial integrity and honesty; and without influence.

Easy 20-Minute Green Bean Soup That Even A Kid Can Make


If you can boil water, you can make green bean soup.

Chinese-style green bean soup is extremely easy to make and taste deliciously light and subtlely sweet. For the Chinese, green beans (or some call mung beans) are considered a cooling food source. This is most beneficial for someone experiencing heaty symptoms like constipation, dry skin, skin rashes, persistent headaches, body aches and pimple outbreaks.

While the terms heaty and cooling sounds strange to many Westerners (because grammatically the words make no sense), it is the same concept as yin and yang - opposite yet interconnected and interdependent energies of the natural world.

This is the most idiot-proof green bean soup recipe I have that takes under 20-minutes to cook. It is so simple. Seriously...if I can make it, anyone can make it - even a kid.

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup of green beans (preferably organic)
5 pandan leaves (also known as Pandanus or Screw Pine leaves)
2 large blocks of raw honey rock sugar
Water


DIRECTIONS
1. Rinse the green beans under water.
2. Wash pandan leaves under water. Make sure to rub off any traces of soil and roughly tie in a knot.
3. Add the beans and knotted leaves into an empty pot. Fill with 1.5-2 litres of water. Bring to boil.
5. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
6. Stir occasisionally and check soup. Have the beans opened? If no, continue to simmer. If yes, add rock sugar blocks and remove the leaves.
7. Once the sugar has melted into the soup, the green bean soup is ready to eat. Remove from heat.

TIP: Best served chilled or at room temperature. 

VARIATIONS
This is a very flexible dish to make. There are no standard rules to follow. If you prefer a thicker consistency, add more green beans or less water. You can also adjust the sweetness and flavour by adding more or less of rock sugar and pandan leaves.

I love making this soup because it is so unbelievably easy to make, deliciously light to eat and incredibly beneficial to one's health. Read 4 Disease-Fighting Powers of Green Bean Soup.

4 Disease-Fighting Powers of Green Bean Soup


Things seem to occur in 3s. These days, the weather in Singapore is scorching hot. Add to it, we have haze and drought. It is during this time most mothers will be in their kitchens firing up the stove and making soup - especially green (mung) bean soup.

Have you ever wondered what your mom means when she says 'The weather is hot. Drink green bean soup'? You wonder: How a bowl of soup can help you cope with the heat?

Even stranger is the fact that during the SARS outbreak in 2003-2004, there were bouts of green bean frenzy that saw brisk sales of these tiny little beans. Asians from China to Cambodia, gulped down bowls of green bean soup like it contained some magical way of warding off the deadly disease. Is there reason behind the madness?

Photo source: ChineseCuisineFood.com
Green bean is a traditional food source of Chinese people, and its soup is served as a popular dessert. Green beans alone pack a nutritious punch of protein, fiber and antioxidants. It has one of the highest protein and lowest fat content in the bean family.

But how does all that bean goodness translate to heat-expelling and disease-fighting super power?

#1: Clear Heat
TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) believes that one's external environment has a big influence on what is going on inside the body. On a hot day, our bodies absorb the heat. Once the heat is trapped in the body, physical changes can occur like hot flashes, dry skin, constipation and headaches. The Chinese term this as being 'heaty'.

Classic TCM studies recorded that mung bean skin has powerful heat-expelling properties. When consumed, it naturally expels pathogenic heat by promoting urination and relieving hot weather health ailments like heat rash.

TIP: If you are having green bean soup specifically to expel heat from your body, drink a bowl (or two) of green bean soup everyday. The soup is best served cold from the refrigerator to increase its cooling effect.

#2: Clear Toxins
When cooking green bean soup, some people drink only the soup and discard the beans. Modern science shows that green beans can effectively clear toxins from the body, including environmental and chemical toxins.

Cooked beans act as a natural diuretic and help the body purge toxins that are commonly linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and hardening of the arteries.

TIP: To achieve a more effective detoxification, eat the beans.

#3: Clear Skin
Not only does green bean clear heat from the body, it also cools heat in the blood. TCM believes many skin-related problems like skin rash, cold sores, pimples, boil and mouth ulcers are caused by heaty blood. Consuming green beans which are 'cooling' in nature, helps to clear heat and toxins from the skin and cool the blood reducing inflammation.

TIP: If you are having green bean soup specifically to improve complexion and skin, make your soup thick in consistency and served in room temperature.

#4: Lose Weight
Believe it or not, adding green bean soup to your diet can help you lose weight and keep weight gain at bay. Not only is green bean easy to digest (good for intestinal health) and fast to cook, it has more fiber content than most other beans, even red beans. And having more fiber prevents glucose spikes by keeping you feeling full longer and not battle spur of the moment cravings; from deep-fried foods to sweet munchies.

TIP: Green bean soup is commonly cooked with white rock sugar. If you are adding this to your diet, opt for less sugar or substitute with raw honey rock sugar instead.

Want the recipe?
Green bean soup is so tasty and easy to make. You only really need 3 ingredients. Read Easy 20-Minute Green Bean Soup That Even A Kid Can Make.

Natural Alternative: Natural Shampoo


Two words. Super Squeak.

The last time I reviewed Natural Alternative's Certified Organic Paw Paw Ointment, I knew I would not be disappointed with this Australian brand's shampoo.

You might be wondering why should you switch to a natural shampoo.

Well, most shampoos contain at least one of the following: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Propylene Glycol, Oleyl Betaine and Mineral Oils. These are synthetic materials that actually create hair and scalp problems.

Did you know?
#1: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate corrodes hair follicles, impairs hair growth and causes skin inflammation
#2: Propylene Glycol causes rash, dry skin and skin irritation
#3: Oleyl Betaine causes dry scalp, dry hair and dandruff
#4: Mineral oils are petroleum-based by-products that clog pores upsetting the natural balance of hair's oil and sebum production

So, if you are suffering from unexplained hair loss, extreme greasy and oil scalp, persistent dandruff and thinning hair density - do this: Pick up your regular shampoo, look at the ingredients and eye any of the above four mentioned chemical components. Chances are it will be there!

Natural Alternative Natural Shampoo is made entirely from essential oils and herbal extracts.

Its formula is created to deeply cleanse yet retain hair's natural oils. While this is an everyday shampoo suitable for all hair types, I believe people with oily and greasy hair and scalp are bound to benefit most from this! Look at the ingredients list. It contains only aqua and essentials oils, anything else that is not an essential oil, is a plant-dervied extract!


Two essential oils in this gentle formula are wild lavender and cananga flower (more commonly known as Ylang Ylang). Lavender and Yang Ylang have important roles to play in aromatherapy and natural healing.

When it comes to hair, Lavender oil promotes hair growth and can be used to treat various hair problems like dandruff, alopecia and hair loss. Ylang Ylang oil is also known to stimulate hair growth and give a balancing effect on scalp oil production. It also a natural hair conditioner.

This shampoo does not have an overpowering scent. Rather, it smells like how it would if you twisted the cap off a Lavender & Ylang Ylang essential oil blend bottle and had a whiff.

The only thing I did not expect from this shampoo is its consistency. Unlike most other natural shampoos, Natural Alternative Natural Shampoo is a little more watery in consistence than gelish. It does take a little more than the usual 20cents size to give a full lather. For this, I would say at least a 50cents size.


Watery consistency. Look at how it is running off the palm of my hands.
The moment this shampoo is worked into my hair and scalp, I can already feel its squeakiness coming through. When I rinse, there is no doubt my hair feels ultra clean. And squeaks like crazy when I run my finger over my wet hair. After, all I do is to follow up with a little hair conditioner. No tangles. No snags.

The bottle comes with a clearly printed expiry date. A good indication that it is made with only good old natural stuff.


Retail price: S$14 per 250ml bottle

Available in Singapore at MyLifeInc. Free delivery for orders above S$50. There's good news: Use coupon code katjuju at Checkout to get 30% any Natural Alternative products. Valid until 1 May, 2014.

Disclaimer: This product was sponsored for consideration to review. Katjuju.com, is not affiliated, in any way, with this company or its products. This product review is written with editorial integrity and honesty; and without influence.