This Girl Boss Founded a Company Offering Environmentally Friendly Personal Care Products That Now Makes 7 Figures in Gross Sales

The CEO and Co-Founder of MAGWAI shares how one particular beach trip led her to launch a brand focusing on environmentally friendly personal care products.

As an archipelago, the Philippines has an abundance of beaches that thousands of visitors flock to every year. And with beach trips come bottles of sunscreen to be purchased and used. But did you know that sunscreen is actually harmful to the ocean?

According to National Geographic, a whopping 82,000 chemicals that originate from personal-care products are said to be tainting the world’s waters each year. Data shows that 14,000 tons (approximately 12.7 million kilograms) of sunscreen are also said to wash into the oceans. 

Despite the damage that sunscreens do to the oceans, there aren’t many ocean-friendly personal care products that are available in the market—particularly here in the Philippines. This gap in the market is what MAGWAI CEO and Co-Founder Czar Carbonel spotted seven years ago.

Joined by her business partners, Maffy Tamayo and Mico Anabo, Czar went on to fill the gap by launching MAGWAI to the market in 2017. To date, the company has grown to earn a massive seven figures in gross sales annually. Here’s how she and her partners did it. 

Seeing the detrimental effects of chemicals on oceans drove MAGWAI CEO and Co-Founder Czar Carbonel to start her own line of ocean-friendly personal care products.
Seeing the detrimental effects of chemicals on oceans drove MAGWAI CEO and Co-Founder Czar Carbonel to start her own line of ocean-friendly personal care products.

Czar Carbonel on Her Early Business Ventures 

Czar admits that being an entrepreneur was never her original plan for herself. In fact, after she graduated from college, she ended up starting a career in advertising, specifically in digital media and creative strategy.

However, it can’t be denied that she’s always had a knack for sales even at a young age. “I still remember my very first ‘venture.’ I created an Adventure Time Finn hat as my Halloween costume,” she shares. “I thought that this was something I could sell, [so] I posted it in OLX, got my mom to help me with sewing more, and ended up with some decent sales.” 

From creating Halloween costumes, Czar then went on to something more practical and can be used daily—particularly by Macbook owners. Around a decade ago, she started the brand Candy Shield, an e-commerce business that offers protective cases for Macbooks. 

“That time, I just got promoted and received an office-issued Macbook. Since I’m typically clumsy with my gadgets, I was desperate to protect it,” she explains. “I found the Macbook cases being sold in stores to be too expensive and thought I could provide a more affordable alternative through e-commerce, and thus Candy Shield was born.” 

Reflecting on how her entrepreneurial journey started, Czar says “Reflecting on my entrepreneurial journey, I think these started with wanting to solve an unmet personal pain point and sharing this solution with other potential consumers.” 

Noticing a Gap in the Market

As for MAGWAI, the brand’s story started around seven years ago as Czar was about to go on a beach trip. “I read an article about how mainstream chemical-based sunscreens are toxic to coral reefs,” she recounts. “I was about to go on a beach trip, so I tried looking for reef-safe sunscreen in the Philippines but couldn’t find any.” 

She ended up sharing this with Maffy, who was a colleague while she worked in corporate at that time. It so happened that Maffy also knew about how chemical sunscreens are toxic to coral reefs. And the lack of reef-safe sunscreens in the country was actually also a frustration for her.  

This then led the two colleagues to start MAGWAI—an environmentally friendly business that develops reef-safe sunscreen locally, thus making it accessible not just to Filipinos but to other tourists as well.

Czar saw the opportunity to produce her own line of reef-safe sunscreen—given the prevalent concern of chemicals harming the ocean. That, and the lack of environmentally friendly alternatives. “I was about to go on a beach trip, so I tried looking for reef-safe sunscreen in the Philippines but couldn't find any," she laments.
Czar saw the opportunity to produce her own line of reef-safe sunscreen—given the prevalent concern of chemicals harming the ocean. That, and the lack of environmentally friendly alternatives. “I was about to go on a beach trip, so I tried looking for reef-safe sunscreen in the Philippines but couldn’t find any,” she laments.

What Sets MAGWAI Apart

Together with Maffy and a third business partner, Mico, Czar incorporated the brand in 2017 before launching it to the market a year later.

“Our focus is delivering a superior product experience without compromising on sustainability,” MAGWAI’s CEO and Co-Founder explains. “We believe that in order to truly convert consumers into life-long users of eco-friendly products, the product experience has to match the current product they are using or be better.” 

While MAGWAI started with reef-safe sunscreens that serve as an alternative to the mainstream sunscreens, which usually contain chemicals toxic to coral reefs, the brand has evolved to offer more products—including shampoo bars, conditioner blends, and facial bars in eco-friendly packaging.

As Czar points out, “These products offset chemical and plastic pollution in the oceans and landfills.” 

Czar and her partners have also made sure to invest in their branding. “We believed that having a strong, distinctive branding was important to help us grow so we invested in photoshoots, creating video materials, developing the website, among many other marketing initiatives,” she says.

What It Means to Be Sustainable and Eco-Friendly

MAGWAI is not the first brand to champion the idea of sustainability. In fact, Czar and her partners are aware of the stigma that eventually surrounds sustainable businesses.

“When you say that something is eco-friendly or sustainable, the reality is that it usually carries a stigma that it’s not as effective, it’s expensive, difficult to use, and that, at the end of the day, the conventional product is better,” she points out. “We want to change that.” 

“We want consumers to love using sustainable products, not just because they’re sustainable, but because they work,” the girl boss adds. “Even in our branding, we changed it up a bit. We believe that eco-friendly products can be fun and colorful, breaking the stereotype that sustainability is always serious.” 

Investing in Research and Development 

While their vision for the brand was clear from the onset, Czar and her business partners still faced struggles when it came to turning the vision into an actual product that would appeal to the market. In fact, Czar admits that she and her partners did not have any experience in personal care product development and production.

Because of this, they had to engage a toll manufacturer and had to meet their minimum order quantity (MOQ) production. They also were lucky to find MAGWAI’s fourth co-founder, Erly Briones, who had experience in that area. 

“One big struggle for us when we started out was perfecting the product,” she recalls. “The first formulation of the MAGWAI Reef-Safe Sunscreen had such a thick white cast that some of our consumers made fun of it. And I totally understood why.” 

Because of this, they had to reformulate and eventually struggled with that part due to the fact that they didn’t have a lab and were very dependent on their toll manufacturer.

“Even until now we are still trying to overcome the product development challenges because it’s very expensive to do clinical and derma tests,” Czar admits. “What’s great is we received grant research and development funding from the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST PCIEERD), which helps us cover the costs of clinical tests and marine tests done by the University of the Philippines (UP) Marine Science Institute.” 

When it comes to starting a business, Czar notes the importance of having an expert on board to help with operations and production. In this case, she and her business partners sought help from a toll manufacturer and business partner.
When it comes to starting a business, Czar notes the importance of having an expert on board to help with operations and production. In this case, she and her business partners sought help from a toll manufacturer and business partner.

Finding Success with MAGWAI

While the journey may have been full of struggles and a whole lot of research and development, MAGWAI has come a long way since it was first introduced to the market in 2018. After all, MAGWAI’s product line now offers a more diverse product line that goes beyond reef-safe sunscreens.

To say that their products have been a hit among users is an understatement, especially when you consider the PHP 12 million in gross sales they made last year. This year, they are targeting to reach gross sales of PHP 18 million.

But for Czar, what made her feel like MAGWAI could go far came in the form of interest from other companies. In fact, the CEO and Co-Founder says that the company’s big break came “when known institutional brands like Shangri-La and Discovery Resorts have taken interest in MAGWAI and became our customers.” 

At just 34 years old, Czar has seen a lot of success in her entrepreneurial journey. She credits this success to being able to find a balance between reflection and action. “While I’m driven to get things done, I’ve learned the value of taking a step back each day to reflect and recalibrate strategies,” the girl boss explains. 

“I also place great value on continuous learning,” she adds. “I carve out time for reading, whether it’s directly tied to MAGWAI’s category or not, as this often sparks new ideas and serves as a wellspring of inspiration.”

For the Future

While MAGWAI has experienced huge success in the last five years, there is still a lot of room for development and expansion in the future. “Moving forward, our focus at MAGWAI is to consistently offer sustainable personal care options to consumers,” says Czar. 

According to her, MAGWAI plans to do this through continuous product innovation. “Our goal is to develop more products that are not only dedicated to sustainability but also exceptional product experience,” she shares. “We are actively working on reformulating our reef-safe sunscreen to minimize the white cast and enhance its overall performance.” 

Czar and her partners also aim for distribution expansion for their products. “We want to make our products available in more popular tourist destinations across the Philippines,” the girl boss adds. 

Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

MAGWAI’s success is a clear manifestation that there is a demand and clamor for personal care products, particularly those that are sustainable and less harmful to the environment. Given this, it is not farfetched to say that there are budding entrepreneurs who are considering entering the market. 

“For anyone who wants to put up a personal care product business, similar to other businesses, the customer pain point needs to be very clear,” Czar advises. “Specific to personal care, producing quality products is key, and that requires truly understanding your niche by immersing yourself into the actual products.”

“Having an expert in product development and production on your team is a game-changer,” she points out. “This teammate can play a vital role in crafting formulations and selecting the right manufacturing partners.”

Reflecting back on starting off her entrepreneurial journey, Czar recounts that there was “a level of naivete because I didn’t know how challenging starting businesses would be.”

“If I’d known, I would have hesitated,” she admits.” 

But that level of naivete turned out to be a blessing for this girl boss, who strove hard to build her brand to the success it is today. “No regrets. My journey has been an absolute blast,” she ends.