Startup Life: Joyce Lau on How She Started NakedLab for her Daughter
Having a child is a life-changing moment, dictating the start of a whole new chapter in life where your priorities get reshuffled and suddenly nothing matters apart from the sleeping (or crying) baby in your arms. This was the predicament Joyce Lau found herself in, who changed the entire course of her career in 2018 to start a new company, NakedLab, to bring quality bedding for her then two-month-old daughter, who was battling serious eczema.
A former architect and now a full-time mother and entrepreneur, Lau tells us about her frustrations with the bedding industry, her belief in the health benefits of bamboo textiles, and how she hopes NakedLab can ultimately bring a family better sleep, health, and mindset overall.
Name: Joyce Lau
Industry: Textiles and bedding
Company size: 8
Startup since: 2018
When did you launch your company and why?
NakedLab™️ was founded in 2018 when I became a mother. When Pia was 2 months old, she was battling a serious eczema situation. With this sudden urgent need to focus more on skin health and sleep health, I struggled as a new mother shopping for quality bedding that didn’t break the bank. So many options were overwhelming and unreliable in terms of quality. That sparked my curiosity to find out that the bedding industry was very ambiguous and antiquated. This frustration initiated the beginning of my journey and the birth of NakedLab™️.
Retailers were selling high-end bedding at up to ten times markup, inflating thread counts, and operating on bloated supply chains that added to cost but not quality. I had no background in textiles or manufacturing, but I soon realised just how savvy one can become after spending one year educating myself on the industry, visiting factories, and sampling fabrics.
I discovered bamboo sheets, which have a lot of health benefits. It’s not only scientifically backed to make you sleep better because of its thermoregulating properties, but it is also naturally anti-dust mite, anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic. It also feels so silky soft and feels extremely luxurious.
We focus on Oeko-Tex certified BambooSilk fabric, which is free from harmful chemicals although because I insist on the Oeko-Tex certification, it means that the bedding is more easily creased than cotton (which is dipped in chemicals) and has to be carefully handled (cold or low-temperature wash, and no bleach and tumble dry). We started out with one product, which is a pink baby cot sheet for Pia, but have since added kids’ bedding, adult bedding, and duvets, which are coming soon.
To me, NakedLab is more than just a shop that sells bedding. Bedding is such an overlooked item at home – it’s a household item where we spend most of our hours (the average person spends almost 230,000 hours of their life in bed, that’s approximately 26 years!) and it is also the one item our skin has the closest contact with. I believe a good set of bedding gives you not just good sleep, but also the foundation to good health and most importantly for me, a good mindset. And that is the key to a happy home and a happy life. This is what kept me going, it just makes me so happy knowing that I can help make a little difference to somebody’s sleep and happiness because they had a good rest.
Was sustainability a factor for you when you created your line?
I think sustainability is an essential factor in any business nowadays, that’s fundamental. I’m not even going to dive into the manufacturing process, for one simple fact is that bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, with some species growing up to three feet a day. It doesn’t require the use of pesticides, or any other agrochemicals, nor fertilizer or irrigation, both of which are common in cotton farming – cotton sheets are still the traditional choice of bedding while so many of us still know anything about bamboo bedding.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
Not in a million years! I wanted to be an architect since I was very young, and I have not strayed from that path until now. I was trained in the UK and came back to Hong Kong for a China development project eight years ago.
Your husband is also an entrepreneur. Has he helped you in any way along your own start-up journey?
He is my mentor when it comes to business. He has so much more experience in terms of this entrepreneur journey. I have seen all the downs and I see how he overcomes them and becomes better and better every day. I always say I understand what he is going through, but honestly, I only truly understand now when I became an entrepreneur myself. Your business is like your own baby, it’s so close to heart. Because you build it yourself, sweat and tears. He always says “running a business is all about self-improvement and self-challenge every day”, there’s many more other good quotes from him because he reads so much, he’s the most disciplined person I have ever met. I always go to him when I need advice.
What are some do’s and don’ts of starting your own company?
If I can give one piece of advice to the aspiring business owner, I will say: don’t try to do everything at once. When you have an idea, you often get overly excited and try to get everything done at once. I think the key is to really do it step-by-step and to try to balance the inside and outside of the business. Prioritizing is super important; try to focus and tackle one hurdle at a time.
You started your business at a time when you still had a full-time job and caring for a newborn. Thinking back now, would you have done it any other way?
I think that was the perfect timing. When I started, it was really just a passion project, I didn’t think it would go far. I had a full-time job and a daughter, and a side business was taking a lot of time, especially at the early stages. But I have learned how to hyper-focus, delegate and prioritize. That was something I was pushed to learn when I had so many hats on, and now I think these are the keys to success!
Has the pandemic impacted your business in any way – good or bad?
In a good way for sure. People are now very curious and focus on wellbeing and self-love. People are also staying at home more often, they are more aware of and yearn for good quality products so business is taking off.
What’s in the works currently?
Loads of exciting things. In October, we’re finally launching our very own 100 percent bamboo duvet – say bye to allergies! In December, we’re launching a donation/ repurpose programme with Hong Kong Dog Rescue where we’ll be setting up recycling stations at major offices and donating old bedsheets to rescued dogs at their shelter for the winter season.
We’re also planning for more colours, mattresses … and in February we’re launching an exciting new product that we’ll have more information for later. But very exciting things are coming up.