Kevin Cottie Tan was never satisfied with the hair gel and ointment options on the market. In 2012, when he was a 22-year-old, he found nothing suitable enough for his hair to withstand the humid tropical climate of Malaysia.
After finding an ointment recipe in an online forum, she gathered ingredients to assemble a product in her home kitchen. The result was an oil and wax-based ointment that had a medium to strong hold with partial shine. When Kevin became a barber in 2015, he finally launched his ointment on the market under the brand Butter, which is the Malay word for “butter”.
Which makes it a good ointment for modern men
Back then, the barber didn’t have many options for making ointments; there were only a couple of popular brands like Suavecito and Shiner Gold that were commodities on the market. However, they mainly offered water or ice-based ointments.
“Those worked well, but it would have been great to have options like traditional oil-based ointments. I was curious about traditional ointments and wanted to achieve two goals from making mine. The first was [its] maintenance and durability under the warm, humid tropical climate, and the second were large quantities of product, ”he shared.
Mentega products are made with nutritious ingredients such as cocoa butter and essential oils. Different wax mixtures are also mixed to get a good hold and withstand the heat.
Bottled in 170 g (6 oz) jars that cost € 69 each, Mentega products also have a bit more volume compared to those on the market that were often too small, at 113 oz. For Kevin, who liked to keep his hair straight, he would empty the small jars in three weeks.
Mentega offers a few different types of ointments, clay, paste, cream and water-based. The difference between each is retention and finish (matte or glossy).
“For people who prefer finishes with a more natural and matte look, we recommend the creamy spray of clay salt and swimming. For something brighter, whippy hair cream and analog paste. If there’s one very versatile thing that can do everything in the middle, the Lagoon Water-Based Pomade, ”the barber explained.
“A useful tip is to use enough product and always distribute it evenly in the hair. We usually find that people struggle with style because they use too little product. ”
From home cooking to shipping around the world
Despite selling his ointments to resellers in seven countries, Kevin told Vulcan Post that all Mentega products are still handmade by him and another team member. All this is done in the back kitchen of his barber shop, La Corteria del Forn and PJ.
“Having to juggle working as a barber during the day and making sure the batches were done on time and you can [were] labeled at night made me feel like I was working two full-time jobs, “Kevin shared. He clarified that this doesn’t happen every day, but takes up at least half of the week.” I definitely didn’t sleep. I think I still am, ”he joked.
Mentega’s growth came at a very slow but organic pace. After devoting more time to product R&D, Kevin never really bothered to put in the marketing effort.
Luckily for him, he worked as a barber and had the opportunity to use the ointments on his own clients. “Designing customers with our own ointment was the perfect way to educate them about the products. For fat people (lovers of oil-based ointments), it was an additional option to the few options available in the Malaysian market at the time, ”Kevin told Vulcan Post.
The brand gained more attention after a couple of years when production of the same was moved from Kevin’s kitchen to The Oven Cuttery. “I did year-on-year growth of 10% to 20% in the early years, and since then it’s been growing steadily,” he added.
Most of Mentega’s clients are young male men and millennials between the ages of 20 and 40. Nor is it surprising that many of them are those who already use ointment and are curious to learn about grooming while combing their hair at the barber shop.
To date, Mentega ships its style products to salons across the country and abroad, including the United States, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Kevin shared that these latter SEA countries account for a large portion of Mentega’s sales. He also told us that Mentega’s monthly income is about RM 10,000.
From Kevin’s experience in 2012 with limited hair products on the market, he noted that ointment options have now evolved. Today, Malaysians can easily find different product categories from around the world that cater to various types of lifestyles, hair types and preferences.
Innovation and creativity are improving every day. At the heart of it all, Mentega focuses on the needs of our customers. The main challenge is not to create something to meet these needs, but to discover and explore what needs go unnoticed in the first place. If we can create something that solves a problem that the customer had never seen, we have created a perfect product.
Kevin Cottie Tan, co-founder of Mentega.
Kevin doesn’t stop here either. It plans to continue manufacturing products that go beyond hair products and will focus on lifestyle-based products more focused on preparation.
The barber ideally wants to make Mentega a basic brand in the local hair products market.
Featured Image Credit: Kevin Cottie Tan, co-founder of Mentega.