Start with homemade cosmetics, succeed with books

Update: April, 30/2017 - 09:00
International success: ’DIY cosmetics: Guidebook to making your own cosmetics at home’ has been published on Amazon and translated into Thai, Korean and English.
Viet Nam News

by Hoàng Hoa - Nguyễn Vân 

DIY Cosmetics: Guidebook to Making Your Own Cosmetics at Home, co-authored by Đỗ Anh Thư and Nguyễn Thu Giang, is among the few books by Vietnamese authors sold on Amazon. With eye-catching images and useful content, the original in Vietnamese Tự làm mỹ phẩm has been translated into Thai, English and Korean. In Việt Nam, 15,000 copies have been sold since it was released in 2014.

DIY Cosmetics is the result of the special interest in cosmetics held by the young authors, Thư and Giang. While Giang learned about homemade cosmetics in Russia in 2009 and has done personal research on cosmetics since then, Thư had the opportunity to attend a homemade cosmetics class in America while she was living there with her family the same year.

Đỗ Anh Thư, 30, once majored in French studies. Her father’s period of work in the US gave Thư the opportunity to live in the country for a few years.

“I still remember when I was 12 and lived in the US with my parents, I was deeply attracted by the cosmetics shops and just walked back and forth along the aisles, looking at a lipstick that I couldn’t afford,” said Thư.

In 2009, Thư had the chance to return to the US for a second time. Her parents told her to pursue a Masters Degree in Economics, but with her passion for makeup, Thư insisted on taking a cosmetics class.

Thư came back to Việt Nam determined to put her passion to good use.

Thư started her own business Grandpa’s Garden Institute for Cosmetics Science Studies in 2011, offering classes on different topics – cosmetics formula analysis, cosmetics quality management or the business of cosmetics. Grandpa’s Garden is the first training centre in homemade cosmetics in Việt Nam. She was also among the first Vietnamese to release video clips on how to make lipstick on YouTube, receiving lots of positive feedback.

Passion for cosmetics: Đỗ Anh Thư (R) and Nguyễn Thu Giang (L), co-authors of ’DIY cosmetics: Guidebook to making your own cosmetics at home’ posing with Thai magazine editor-in-chief, Karuna Chinthanom (C). — Photos courtesy of Đỗ Anh Thư

With a similar passion for cosmetics, Giang ran Skilful Hands, a popular Facebook page for handicraft and cosmetics lovers in Việt Nam. One day, she learned about Thư through the Grandpa’s Garden and got excited to find someone who shared her passion.

With experience and interest in homemade cosmetics, Giang and Thư co-wrote Tự Làm Mỹ Phẩm (Do It Yourself Cosmetics) as a text book for courses that Thư offered in class. It was a beautiful text book, the first of its kind in Việt Nam saying that "women can make their own cosmetics at home, just like they are preparing their meals".

Initially, Thư planned to sell homemade cosmetics yet the business encountered a number of difficulties. Customers did not believe that DIY cosmetics could be made that easily. “People were suspicious of the quality of the products and doubted whether they were truly DIY or just fakes,” said Thư.

Thư later shifted from selling homemade cosmetics to instructing people on how to make them and selling ingredients for homemade cosmetics, which are imported from the US.

“Due to the great demand for ingredients, I once had to ask Giang, who was in Russia at that time to answer customers’ phone calls on the night shift,” said Thư.

The shared vision and passion connected the two young women and made them transform the cosmetics course’s text book into a manual on handmade cosmetics.

The content of the book was the easy part for the two authors, who already had experience in making DIY cosmetics and writing. The “visual illustrations seemed harder than we expected”, as the images needed to be eye-catching and interesting enough to draw audiences from first glance, said Thư.

“At first, we were told by the editor at the publishing house that images should be high quality. By ‘high quality’, we thought that images just need to be good in terms of lighting and sharpness. Yet we had to do it again and again, spending quite a lot of money on photographs,” said Thư.

It took nearly one and a half years to get the book published in 2014.  The book featured 15 recipes with beautiful pictures of lip products, perfumes and body spray, face/body creams, lotions, deodorants and toothpastes. It guides readers to create their own, unique recipes as well as troubleshooting (mistakes when making products and how to fix them).

The book ranks among the top 100 best selling books on Việt Nam’s biggest online book retailer.

With better-than-expected sales, Anh Thư published Everything Skincare, the first skin care book in Việt Nam in 2016.

While the two authors were finding ways to bring their English version to Amazon, Thư also brought some of the copies of DIY Cosmetics in Vietnamese to the Cosmetics Fair in Bangkok, Thailand, to promote and seek partners. She brought her book to nine booths but all of them declined. At the tenth booth, she met editor in chief of Media Matter magazine, Kruna Chinthanom. She opened the first few pages and said, “The book looks nice, do you want to publish it in Thailand?”

Thư was over the moon and agreed. "The copyright was sold for US$1,000 but it will cross the border, to a country which is famous for consuming cosmetics in Asia and that meant a lot, said Thư.

Thư later contacted the CEO of a publishing house in South Korea, Yoon Kyu Lee and successfully persuaded them to publish her book after being turned down by nearly 20 other publishing houses.

“I admire your passion and enthusiasm. I had not received any business calls on weekends from overseas before you, and I could feel your sincerity and earnestness. It would be an honour if I could help your dream,” wrote Lee in one of his emails to Thư.

The DIY Cosmetics book was published by Yesin Books in South Korea in 2017.

“It is our hope that this book [DIY Cosmetics] will save others the time and costly mistakes we made, while helping them to experience the fun and excitement of making their own cosmetics,” wrote Thư in her book.

Thư is busy preparing yet another book, the upcoming Cosmetics For Moms And Girls. VNS

Young authors: While Giang (L) learned about homemade cosmetics in Russia in 2009 and has done personal research on cosmetics since then, Thư (R) had the opportunity to attend a homemade cosmetics class in America while she was living there with her family in 2009.