As the beauty industry – and the world broadly – makes positive moves towards greater diversity and inclusivity, it’s more attuned to the fact that not everyone has the same skin type, colour, concerns and goals. There are now more foundation shades in the market than ever before, and the number of brands offering custom products have grown by leaps and bounds, especially in the last five years. But long before customisation became a buzzword in the beauty world, one company was already championing the term “bespoke”. Its name is MTM Skincare.
Launched in Japan in 1991, MTM Skincare specialises in detailed skin analysis and custom- blended products that address specific complexion needs. More than a decade later, Dr Susan Teng brought the brand, literally unknown outside of its home grounds at the time, into Singapore. “We had zero customers when we first started MTM in 2003,” recalls daughter Kelly Keak, Managing Director of MTM Skincare Singapore. “No one knew us. We had to build the company from scratch.”
Today, MTM Skincare counts not one but three swanky outlets in Singapore (at Wheelock Place, Serangoon Gardens and Winsland House), a customer base of about 10,000, and a steady three to five per cent growth annually for the past 17 years. It’s proof that skincare customisation has – and will continue to have – substantial merits. “We believe that no two persons are the same,” says Kelly. “Your skin is unique, and MTM celebrates this uniqueness.”
Although she only took the reins three years ago, Kelly grew up with the brand, and saw that its impact on people went beyond skincare. “The love for people to feel beautiful is in-built in me,” she explains. “When I was young, I saw the joy in my mum when she helped make people feel confident again. And I want to continue creating that joy for others.”
“Beauty means confidence, empowerment, and freedom to express yourself,” she adds. “I always believed every woman should make self- care and self-love a priority. By taking time out for self-care, we allow ourselves to feel worthy, to feel loved and cared for. Our confidence affects our everyday lives, from the decisions we make to our general thoughts Kelly is no stranger to overseas missions and meeting the beneficiaries she helps, such as this girl in India and feelings about ourselves. Think of a time when you looked your absolute best, and felt great even without makeup on. Think of how confident you felt then. This is why I think our platform is pretty powerful in helping people achieve self-confidence.”
That innate sense of wanting to empower those that come through MTM’s doors extends to the staff as well. “I don’t see myself as just the managing director of my company,” Kelly reveals. “I’m very devoted to my colleagues, because they are the people that do so much of the work. I see them as family, and I hope I can help them live a better life and future. That’s what guides me through the business planning process, clarification of opportunities, and the goals for the organisation.”
One way in which MTM Skincare Singapore helps its employees in their personal and professional growth is through the company’s Chinese cultural training. Spearheaded and taught by her mother Susan, the monthly programme seeks to impart the values and wisdom of traditional Chinese culture such as filial piety, empathy and compassion. Kelly and her senior managers also organise team building sessions to help employees hone their problem-solving skills: “Through the games, they acknowledge the possibility of failure, de-dramatise it, and are encouraged to pursue risky initiatives and embrace innovation in a more open and inventive way.”
Raised by a mother who’s a strong advocate for inner beauty and community service, it’s no surprise that Kelly is a regular face in the local charity scene. She’s on the committee for several fundraisers and organisations, including Community Chest, Halogen Foundation, and the Singapore Red Cross Benefit Gala 2019. Under her helm, MTM Skincare has also started a couple of CSR initiatives – one with Cambodian NGO called WAH (Water and Healthcare) Foundation, where long-service staff are rewarded with a water filter donated to needy villagers under their names and a trip to witness the installation process, and another with Willing Hearts, a volunteer-run charity that prepares, cooks and distributes meals to vulnerable communities in Singapore.
“Giving is the greatest gift that gives back,” says Kelly. “It is what inspiration is about: seeing your contribution make a difference in the lives of others.”
(All images: Kelly Keak)