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Jun 14, 2022
Charmaine Wong

Under The Purple Shell: An Interview with Dato Kathleen on Running A Business with a Socially-Conscious Edge


“Like the fruit, you can’t always judge something from the outside,” explains Dato Kathleen Chew, Founder of Mangosteen about how her favourite fruit had inspired the name of her social enterprise. You might know of Mangosteen for their yummy-scented luxury personal care and home essentials, but crack open the purple shell and find a team on a mission.

Founded in 2013 out of love and drive to support organisations that do important work around the region, Mangosteen is a homegrown social enterprise with a socially-conscious edge.

100% of profits go to empowering women and children in Southeast Asia through organisations like The Asli Co., Rohingya Women Development Network (RWDN), Dignity for Children Foundation, Women’s Aid Organization (WAO) and more.

We spoke to Dato Kathleen and dove a little deeper into what’s under the purple shell of Mangosteen.

(Left: Dato Kathleen Chew; Right: Mangosteen Tropical Guava Hand Cleansing Gel)
Mangosteen is known as not only a personal care business but also as a social enterprise supporting underprivileged women and children. How did Mangosteen come about?

As a previous group legal counsel of YTL Corporation, I had been actively involved in fundraising events for non-profit organisations and every year, we ask people to make donations.

It just occurred to me one day, that there must be a better way of doing this than continuously organising dinners after dinners. So I thought, what if I started a business?

At the time, I had taken an interest in body care brands and Aesop had also just opened its first store in Kuala Lumpur. And I thought to myself, why haven’t Malaysia or Southeast Asian countries had a brand that makes products infused with tropical extracts to represent our region?

We always see skin or body products made of strawberry and lavender but rarely do we get a glimpse of those formulated from limau purut (kaffir lime), calamansi or pineapple extracts.” 

With that in mind, Mangosteen was born in 2013 to highlight the scents of the tropics, while also giving back to the community.

Starting a social enterprise in Malaysia is not an easy feat and yet, Mangosteen does it so well. What has been the biggest challenge so far and what did you learn from it?

Our biggest challenge has been breaking through an already saturated market. The personal care industry is ever-changing with formulations, packaging, and marketing trends. Following trends are tempting because it pulls in more consumers, but we always go back to our brand's approach and social mission - quality products that are heartfelt and can resonate with the broader community.

From home care to personal care products, what sets Mangosteen apart from other vegan products in the market?

If you have ever bought a product but felt a little unsure about whether or not it was produced ethically, we are here to change that. Mangosteen products are the socially conscious luxury upgrade to your self-care routine that everyone’s been looking for. 

Our products from our From Skin to Soul range are formulated ethically and responsibly, 100% vegan and cruelty-free, as well as free from parabens, phthalates, SLS/SLES, EDTA, DEA, MEA, and Mineral Oils.

Mangosteen Tropics collection (Source: Mangosteen) 
Over the years, Mangosteen has worked together with multiple beneficiaries. What are some of the projects that you’re most proud of throughout the years?

At Mangosteen, we believe that gender equality is the key to strong societies. Empowered women with knowledge, education, and opportunities can lift entire communities along with them.

In 2020, We collaborated with The Asli Co. for our first drop of scented hand sanitisers. The Asli Co is a social enterprise that empowers indigenous Orang Asli mothers to earn a sustainable living by bottling, labelling, and packing sanitisers from home.

We’re glad that this collaboration enabled eight mothers from Kg. Orang Asli Serendah to support their children’s education. They earn up to RM20 per hour, three times more than the hourly minimum wage.

In September 2021, we partnered with the Women's Aid Organisation to raise RM15,000 in six months. We are proud to announce that we have raised RM 30,000 for our partnership with WAO.

(Source: Mangosteen)
How has the pandemic affect your work?

We did not stop! At the height of the pandemic, we launched face mask sales on our e-commerce platforms. Our reusable face masks were made by mothers from the B40 and refugee communities, providing them with a stable income to support their families.

We worked with social enterprises and NGOs like Athena Empowers, Rohingya Women Development Network (RWDN), Dignity For Children Foundation and Mentari Sewing Studio to employ and train mothers to sew these masks.

We also collaborated with 100% Project on The BIG GIVE campaign to send free reusable face masks to schools to protect our nation’s teachers and children.

What is the vision for Mangosteen and where do you see yourself in 5 years' time?

In 5 years, we hope to be a household name and continue to be able to contribute to lifting communities in need through our profits. We want to expand our network of partner organisations across the region to impact more lives.

Where to find Mangosteen:




  1. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (an immersive read!)
  2. Educated by Tara Westover (a great book about the importance of education especially for girls)
  3. Wine and War (it’s an interesting bit of history about how the French saved their wines from the invading German army in WW2!)
Local Brands
  1. Earth Heir 
  2. Batik Boutique
  3. Fern (they make flattering dresses for almost every figure!)
  4. KitaKita (a great place for Malaysian gift ideas)
Advice for Young Entrepreneurs
  1. Invest in market research and in building up a solid business plan. 
  2. Do not be afraid to ask for advice and if you need to, get professional advice. 
  3. Understand your business case and the risks involved before launching into the business.