A mosquito repellent that started off as a concoction mixed in one man’s kitchen has become such a hit that hotels and businesses have placed orders for it.
The brain behind the product, however, is no chemist but an accountant by training. Mr Theodore Khng, 27, got the formula right – after failing 68 times.
It was out of boredom – he was waiting for the results of his professional accountancy qualification test in London – that he decided to try his hand at creating skincare products four years ago. He wanted to create a product made with all-natural ingredients that his peers could trust.
His research took him to places like India and the United States and, with the knowledge gleaned, he would mix his own balms on his kitchen table.
Samples would be sent to his friends overseas for testing.
His entrepreneurial spirit got him a $50,000 grant from government agency Spring Singapore.
With the Ace Start-up grant in 2013, he started his firm, Theo10, which hawked his homemade balms that treat problems such as insect bites, eczema and muscle cramps.
Nine months ago, upon requests from friends, Mr Khng tried mixing his own repellent.
“You’ve got to get the right formula for the skin, in terms of texture, efficacy and smell,” he said. “But it was initially floral and sweet-smelling, which attracted mosquitoes instead.”
His friends would test out his repellent spray when they went on their regular fishing trips. On his 69th attempt, the formula appeared to work.
Instead of using his kitchen table, Mr Khng now manufactures the repellent at his factory in Mandai, where he churns out 600 bottles of the 130ml sprays each day.
Demand for the non-sticky, non-oily repellent that “smells like chocolate mint” has surged in the past two weeks as the Zika outbreak led to a rush for anything that repels mosquitoes.
At the moment, he takes only bulk orders of at least 10 bottles, and his clients include hotels and companies. Mr Khng admitted: “I’ve been working overtime since last Monday.”