Migrant entrepreneur Demee Koch uses beauty line to show she belongs in Switzerland
February 26, 2023 | 5:49pm
MILAN, Italy — Demee Koch still remembers what she wrote in her high school yearbook growing up in Cebu: That she wanted to become an entrepreneur and philanthropist someday.
Fast forward to today and she has fulfilled that dream by becoming a serial entrepreneur.
Starting off, she said she saw that the working world was challenging and prejudiced, particularly against young people just out of college. This prompted her to leave the Philippines to travel and learn about other cultures.
She believed even then that she was capable of great things but that she needed to venture outside of her comfort zone to achieve that.
“As an immigrant woman from the Philippines, I experienced my fair share of prejudices and rejections, including statements like ‘others are better than you’, ‘you don’t understand’, ‘you don’t belong here’, and ‘you stay behind’,” Koch said.
Her path took her from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where she worked in a variety of positions, organizations, and industries, to Switzerland, where she settled after completing her MBA studies in International Marketing at the Swiss Business School in Zurich.
Listening to customers
Prior to launching her cosmeceutical business in 2018, Koch ran a grooming salon in Switzerland that evolved into a one-stop lounge with upscale spa services.
One day, one of her staff members called in sick and she had to assist a cancer survivor who needed eyelash extensions. She said the moment the client saw how the extensions changed her looks, she began crying.
That prompted Koch to work to develop a product that would handle the concerns of people like her client, which included temporary lash loss and eye irritation.
“I’ve worked hard for more than two decades to build my cosmeceutical company. I had this idea to make something that would transform people’s lives after this happened,” she said.
She said her businesses are the culmination of her experiences in understanding customers.
“I only wanted to change the beauty industry with the best of intentions by educating people about how brilliance knows no bounds with respect to race or gender,” Koch said.
The Swiss brand DE MOI was created in 2018 to combine Koch’s two passions: developing beauty products of substance and championing important causes.
The beauty business has increasingly focused on the development of sustainable cosmetics that will meet customers’ changing needs while minimizing the industry’s effects on the environment.
Koch said her products are made with Swiss-formulated ingredients, Philippine botanicals such as papaya, guava, singkamas and aloe vera and come in recyclable and sustainable packaging. The choice of Philippine botanicals is informed by generations of experience with the therapeutic and cosmetic benefits of the indigenous species in the country, she also said.
DE MOI’s products speak of conscious choices and the essentials for beauty and sustainability and has rapidly expanded its market to Switzerland, Italy, the Middle East and the US, to China, Japan, and the Philippines because of the value the brand gives, she also said.
At 44, Koch is a sought-after speaker, guest author, a Forbes Business Council member and influencer, and a commentator on conscious beauty and entrepreneurship.
Recognized and honored with awards as one of the most influential Filipinas in the world by Global FWN, one of the top 20 inspiring women in 2023 by the New York City Journal, Koch uses her influence to support organizations like the Voice of the Free, a hybrid organization that combines social care, social entrepreneurship, and social movements for social change.
Koch is also a board member of the Breaking Silence Movement, a private, non-profit organization that fights gender-based violence.
Throughout her rich experiences, Koch believes that outstanding women succeed even in male-dominated environments, and that it shouldn’t require exceptionality.
Her decades of experience in business have taught her to make no compromises, to listen to her intended audience, to work with the best, to be sincere in her efforts and to innovate something that will truly bring value and impact as a proud Filipino.
Filipinos have been sacrificing their time, energy, and happiness to work abroad for at least five decades. Overseas Filipino workers have been recognized as modern day heroes for their significant contributions to the Philippine economy. But going abroad is not only about the sustenance of a family and the nation.
This article series features overseas Filipinos who reach success in their respective fields and businesses. Each story offers insights about the impact that moving abroad has on migrants but as well as on their host countries and on the Philippines that they left behind.
Mye Mulingtapang is a multilingual teacher, journalist, wife, and mother based in Milan. She contributes to Roots and Wings, a bimonthly online magazine for Filipinos in Europe.
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