Meet the Business: Suzi Chen, founder of Mighty Impression

What is your name?
Suzi Chen

What is your business name?
Mighty Impression

In a sentence or two, tell us: What do you do? Who for? And how does it benefit them?
We are an ethical skincare brand that makes and sells artisan soaps and natural skincare products to support life-changing causes.

Where can we find out more?

The curly questions:

When did you know you wanted to start your own business?
I did not always want to start a business. I had a very conventional upbringing and education. I studied all the way through and got my doctoral degree in medical science. It was not until about 10 years into my career that I began to think about starting my own business. Around that time I met some brilliant young minds who were quite entrepreneurial and that got me thinking. Then I learned a lot from my partner who has always been running his own business. It really made me think it was possible. With Mighty Impression, it started out as a social impact project under our strategy consulting business Notonos. We wanted to demonstrate to causes that social good and business profitability can and should go hand in hand. Solely relying on a charitable model is not a sustainable way of making a difference. 

We hope by offering tangle products like artisan soaps and natural skincare products, we can help fund life-changing projects instead of relying on donations and grants. We transitioned Mighty Impression from a social impact project to an ethical business in June 2020.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt this year?
We are actually more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. It’s just that we don’t often notice and celebrate what we have managed to achieve during challenging times, because those wins seemingly small and inconsequential. Although I am not a sports fan, but I do like this analogue that I came up with: Life throws us a curve ball and what do we do? We catch it and make it a great game. 

What’s your proudest moment?

The proudest moment for Mighty Impression came early this year when the 5-year-old daughter of a customer asked where her own “special soap” was. The little girl loved our soaps, which smell and look so good that “could be eaten” and wanted a bar of her own.

To us this was very special, because we try very hard to make sure people not only come to Might Impression for its great impact but also for its great products.

In a competitive skincare and beauty industry, having customers enjoying products made by this tiny micro ethical business called Mighty Impression, it is very special. And when we can entice little ones to be interested in personal hygiene and self-care with our soaps, it is just magical.

What’s the smartest bit of marketing you’ve ever done?
Collaboration with people who share the same value and vision. Through collaboration, we can amplify our voice and impact.For example, one of Mighty Impression’s community partners is Aussie Books for Zim, an Australian-based charity that set up libraries and literacy programs in rural Zimbabwe using books rescued from Australian landfill. Since Aussie Books for Zim’s inception 5 years ago, it has rescued and shipped more than 100,000 books from Australia to Zimbabwe and set up 9 libraries in rural Zimbabwe. Mighty Impression has played a big role in achieving this.

Last year we decided we would celebrate Aussie Books for Zim’s work with a public photographic exhibition. So both organisations collaborated on this initiative, not only we wowed our supporters and donors on the opening night, we also showcased the resilience and hard work of our communities in Zimbabwe. We even attracted local media and were featured on TV. So I would say the smartest marketing is genuine collaboration. 

What’s the biggest challenge you face at work?
Having the self-belief to represent Mighty Impression probably was the hardest challenge that I had to face. By nature, I am a private person. I have never really mastered the art of self-promotion. But I have learned that just because you have a good idea or a good product, it doesn’t mean people will come. If I don’t proactively making connections and promoting Mighty Impression, we would just be another best kept secret.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
The work of one of my favourite authors, Chris Hadfield, who happens to be the first Canadian astronaut to walk in space is often the source of many useful business advice for me. Chris often talks and writes about hard work and preparedness being fundamental to an astronaut’s life. To me, the same applies to running a business. Particularly with being prepared, which is something that many small businesses struggle to do as we often get trapped by the daily grind and forget to step back and look into the possibilities of the future.

What would be your advice to aspiring soloists?
Dream really big but be pragmatic about your execution. I am an optimistic realist. This means I am not naive to the challenges that I will be facing when starting a business. But at the same time, I am not afraid of the challenges ahead, because my feet are on the ground ready to go.

What would your mum say is your greatest strength? And weakness?
Funny you asked, because my mum actually had a talk with me when I was younger about this. Mum talked about how I share a similar mind as my Dad – quite forward-thinking and strategic. But Mum also cautioned me to be patient and be mindful that not everyone’s mind works in the same way. So I constantly remind myself to practise empathy and patience, so I can see things from other people’s perspective.

What’s one thing about you few people know?
I have led a very diverse career. So depending on when people came into my life, sometimes people may only get half of a picture about me and what I do. So I kind of describe myself as a medical scientist-turned resilience builder and soap maker who visited the United Nations twice and dreams of an equitable future.

What is the one regret you do not want to have in this lifetime?
I do not want to have this sense of I have wasted my life. We are not on this earth forever and however long I am here, I want to make it worthwhile. So I often tell people – especially young people – it is okay that you don’t know what your life’s purpose is yet as long as you begin exploring what you may want to do in life. Try something, take action, develop perspectives and keep moving forward.

What inspires you most about your work?
This may sound cliché, but knowing that my work can change someone else’s life is what inspires me. As I mentioned previously, Mighty Impression has been collaborating with Aussie Books for Zim for several years. I look at the footage and images from those rural African communities where electricity is an luxury. But with Mighty Impression and the likes of Aussie Books for Zim, we can literally make a difference to someone’s life, potentially inspiring a different future – that really keeps me going.

What do you love most about running your own business?
I love the creative side of the business the most as I am a very creative person. I love how I could lead the creation of our skincare products, particularly with the formulation of our artisan soaps.  For example, we have been experimenting natural fragrance and colouring with our artisan soaps. It’s actually not easy to create 100% natural skincare products and in some cases, it simply cannot be 100% natural as we have to safely control microbial activities in our products. But we work hard to keep our formulation as natural as possible. As a result, we have developed a new Almost Edible artisan soap range where our handmade soaps are 99.98% natural. And recently we thought about partnering with our customers and together we can design soaps together. So we launched the design your own soap initiative. Customers can now visit our website and personalise their very own soap depending on their skin type. It's hard work, but it is also very fun.