“Basically, everyone thought it was the most stupid idea in the world.” laughed Khulan Davaadorj, the founder of Lhamour organic skincare.
With a degree from Columbia SIPA and a background in renewable energy managing billion dollar projects, naturally the next step was to start making soap in the kitchen, right? That’s the leap of faith Khulan took when she founded Lhamour organic skincare back in 2014.
The life of an entrepreneur is certainly not easy. But imagine being robbed, losing your Macbook with your business plan and all your paperwork, and having to fire your first three employees because you have no money to make payroll. Then imagine being sued by one of those employees and having to fight the lawsuit in court. Then, imagine all this happening within your first month in business.
Oh, but there’s more. There was the office flood that left her products floating in knee-deep water. Then there was another flood. And one more after that. Throughout all this, she had to move offices four times. Khulan recounted all these obstacles with incredible grace and humor, telling her story with a smile and brushing it off with her signature phrase: “It was all so crazy!”
This makes it all the more amazing to see the business she has built from the ground up not only thrive, but flourish. Lhamour’s revenue has doubled each year, and has significantly increased its exports, tapping into countries such as the US, Singapore, Canada, and Korea. Locally, it is carried at 8 sales points in Ulaanbaatar in additional to the UB airport.
What’s even more impressive is Khulan’s dedication for creating social impact through her business – not only are her products zero-waste and environmentally friendly, she gives jobs to people who had little professional work experience (including many single mothers and housewives), and she also actively dedicates her time, office space, and energy to mentoring Mongolian youth. As cynical business school students, a few of us couldn’t help but wonder if her social impact efforts were distracting her from the core business. After all, isn’t the whole purpose of private equity to make business lean and focused, to shed all unnecessary operations and maximize efficiency?
Khulan was gracefully unfazed by our cynicism. She told us that to her, social impact is a quintessential part of her business. Her business carries meaning because of the positive impact she is able to impart upon the local community. She looked every bit a proud parent when she raved about her young mentees: “This year, every single one was accepted to university!”
After the office visit, our group of CBS students toured the Lhamour store at the nearby Shangri-La mall, where we tested the full range of her products. Mongolian pride runs deep through the creation of her products, with traditional Mongolian ingredients such as sea buckthorn and sheep’s tail tallow highlighted as key ingredients. Everything felt incredibly natural and fresh. The brand comes across clearly through the story and the packaging: high-end, yet rustic and lovable without any hint of pretense.
After hearing Lhamour’s story, many of us have become the biggest fans of Khulan and the company she started from scratch. We are not the first ones who have been impressed by her story. In 2016, NHK World featured Khulan in the “Her Story” documentary series. Take a look if you are interested in Khulan’s story!