Moms and Dads

So True Naturals: A Labor Of Love

Mom-of-two and So True Naturals founder, Mia Lauchengco, talks to us about entrepreneurship, family, and living life on her own terms.

It is often said that the things you are passionate about are never random. For Mia Lauchengco, becoming an entrepreneur and finding creative solutions always felt like second nature. Her foray into soap making started out as a necessity, but with the way she handles business, one can assume she’s found her calling. Celebrating a decade in business, So True Naturals has exceeded expectations, and Mia is sharing her story. 

Inspiration born of desperation

Mia Lauchengco started making soap, in 2008, as a DIY project at home. She was a stay-at-home mom in search of solutions to ease the discomfort of her one year old daughter. “It seemed like any soap or body wash made her skin flare up. I was desperate for something, anything, to make her skin better,” says Mia.

“I read about Castile soap, and found that true Castile soap— made only with olive oil, is mild enough for newborn skin.” She adds, “At the time, I couldn’t find any that were made the traditional way. So, I decided to make them myself, and it worked splendidly for my daughter.” Mia continued to make her own soap, and eventually even started giving them to friends.

In 2011, restless yet determined to try something new, she asked her husband to challenge her to start a soap business. “I realized that if I was desperate enough to make soap for my baby, then certainly, there were other moms who were just as desperate, but didn’t have the time to make the soap themselves,” Mia reveals. With that, So True Naturals was born.

Entrepreneurship is in her blood

Before having kids, Mia Lauchengco spent most of her life as an entrepreneur. She credits her business savvy persona to her entrepreneurial parents, who she says instilled this quality in her at a very young age. She sold bookmarks to her mom when she was only five years old, and at nine years old earned herself a bike by selling polvoron.

“I wouldn’t say starting a soap and scents business was always something I wanted to do, it’s just that my entrepreneurial streak has found different modes of expression throughout my life,” shares Mia. She admits that she’s tried her luck with several business ideas, but none of them stuck.

Of course, it wasn’t always easy

As the business grew, there was no shortage of challenges. “In 2011, the natural/organic movement was there, but not as widespread or as popular as it is now. So I had to work on really educating our audience— why this product actually worked better and why it costs more than soaps in the supermarket,” shares Mia.

“An ongoing challenge is balancing work and being a mom. There is a lot of guilt about not being able to spend as much time with my kids as I would like.” says the mother of two. A notion all working parents can attest to.

“In recent years, I’ve really taken steps to run the business and not let it run me,” Mia quips. “One of those steps is getting a team to help me out, which for entrepreneurs, I think, is one of the hardest things. You want things done fast and done your way, so you’re used to being a one-woman show. It took me a long time to learn that when you ask for help, that’s exactly what you get— help.”

Teamwork makes the dream work

Like most start-ups, Mia started So True Naturals doing everything on her own. She made the soaps, did the packaging, fulfilled orders, and sometimes even delivered the goods herself. “Every Christmas, my husband knew to expect a breakdown with tears and drama and vows to ‘never do this again!’ Then, I got Fely, one of our home angels, to help me out,” she explains.

Fely Castaneda took charge of production and order fulfilment, and Mia considers her an absolute lifesaver. “She is now a seasoned soap maker and a true soap artist. The beautiful soaps you’ve been seeing on our website in recent years were made by her,” Mia mentions proudly. By 2019, she brought on two more team players, Kate Mangahas and JC Carandang, to help run the business and take care of social media. 

In 2020, Mia and her team moved all their production to a partner foundation that provides education, shelter, livelihood training, and opportunities to women who were once victims of human trafficking. Each woman was trained to make the products, and this has become a job that helps them earn a living. 

“Looking back, I feel like I wasted so much time and money trying to do everything myself. Working with a team is really synergistic,” acknowledges Mia. 

She also credits the survival of So True Naturals through the pandemic to her team— as they convinced Mia to keep the business running when all she could think of was shutting it down. They shifted gears accordingly, and sure enough, their ideas took business to the next level.  

Sharing the love

Aside from their beloved products, So True Naturals is known and loved for their workshops. You’d be surprised to know that what is now a wildly successful venture was once an idea that Mia hesitated to pursue for years. It wasn’t until 2018, amidst an overwhelming burnout and feeling like she hit a dead end, that teaching her craft came together in her mind.

“At first, I didn’t feel it was ‘fair’ to serve up all the knowledge I had accumulated in 10 years to someone who would pay me a fee, and then probably go and start a business of their own. I also didn’t feel it was fair to be paid to teach, only for me to withhold information, tips or techniques that I had learned.”

But the more she thought about it, Mia realised that her workshops could extend far beyond just making soap. It was about sharing the feeling of empowerment and fulfilment, just as she felt when she joined her first pop-up. Her mind was made up, “If I could be part of giving another person a similar feeling of fulfilment, then that’s what these workshops are going to be about.”

With the production hub in full swing, the company was able to scale considerably. They expanded by coming up with a white label program, where one can purchase items in bulk and sell them under their own brand.

Making time for what matters the most

Ultimately, every business decision led to freeing up more time for Mia to spend with her family. That was the goal. Her workshops have been converted to online courses, due to launch in February, and her regular Zoom workshops (an adjustment made because of the pandemic) will continue as usual.

She confesses that time management at home looks like a hot mess, but they prioritize family time (especially on weekends), above all else. She has taken it upon herself to homeschool the kids, which proved to be frustrating at first, but has improved over time. 

“I’ve come to appreciate this season— when I get hugs every few minutes, or see ‘I wuv you’ written out for me in the workbooks as I check them. It is made somewhat even more bittersweet knowing that I’m really a mom who loves to work, and that when things go back to normal, I will send them back to school. That mindset has helped me get a better handle on the situation.”

Passion is found where your gifts intersect with opportunity

“Our mantra is — Let’s keep things simple. I knew that 2020 was challenging for everyone, and I knew that many people were looking for alternative sources for income. That’s why we started the white label program,” says Mia.

She finds immense joy in seeing students achieve great results from her workshops. Be it a beautiful bar of soap (which Mia claims some make far more beautiful than she could ever have) or even starting their own business. “Knowing that we are, in a small way, contributing to making people’s lives a little better, keeps me going in a big way,” Mia beams. 

“I take great pride in coming up with products that work. I don’t consider myself a ‘crafter’, in the sense that I like making things with my hands in my free time. I didn’t start making soap because I wanted to do something artsy, I started making soap because I was desperate. I’m really an entrepreneur. I get a high from getting creative about solving problems and hurdling challenges, and creating opportunities.”

What started as a mother’s simple devotion to her child opened up doors for Mia Lauchengco. She has learned countless lessons that have greatly contributed to her success, and has helped so many others along the way. Her calling may not be in making soap per se, and while we can all agree that she’s certainly got the knack for it, it’s clear that she’s living out exactly what she was meant to do. 

For more information on So True Naturals:

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