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STRIP, BROWHAUS - She tackles 'overgrown bushes' problem

WAX FIGURE: Strip and Browhaus founder Cynthia Chua. PICTURE: SPA ESPRIT GROUP

Mention Strip and Browhaus, and chances are you will think they originated in the West.

But these two brands are 100 per cent Singaporean.

Founder Cynthia Chua, 43, took the trend of bikini waxes from New York, refined it, and successfully exported it back to the American city.

She then started a chain that specialises in grooming eyebrows and eyelashes.

Their 68 salons worldwide include ones in London, Hong Kong and Bangkok. Last year, the two brands raked in a total of $47 million for Spa Esprit Group's local and overseas businesses, which is about half of its annual takings.

There are 16 brands under the group, including food and beverage brands like Skinny Pizza, Tippling Club, Tiong Bahru Bakery and Bochinche.

Strip was born in 2002 following a conversation about the "unkempt, overgrown bushes" of Asian women, which Ms Chua's Western friends found hilarious.

She saw there weren't many salons offering waxing services, and decided that it could be something that ladies here would want.

She says: "When we started Strip in Singapore, waxing as a grooming regime was still uncommon and Brazilian waxing was hardly practised or openly discussed."

Thanks to quirky marketing campaigns - think hairy orang utans - demand grew and the wax culture took off.

Following this success, brow and lash grooming salon Browhaus was born in 2004.

This time, Ms Chua took a very Asian practice - threading - and popularised it in the West, reversing what she did with Strip.

There are now 14 Browhaus salons in Singapore and 15 in seven other cities across the globe.

While it has been challenging expanding overseas, such as having to understand the local culture, dealing with taxation issues and manpower matters, she has managed to overcome these by getting the right partners in each city.

She plans to open another 30 to 40 Strip and Browhaus chains here and internationally in the next two years and is aiming for Russia and Australia.

She says: "With Strip and Browhaus, we have helped put Singapore on the global beauty map.

"I wish for people around the world to look at local brands for inspiration and realise that Singapore is brimming with creativity."