In Business With Mum

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By June Ramli

Sydney, Sept 29: Launched nine years ago, Enbacci is a family-owned and operated business led by its founders, Yong-Li Zhou, and her mother, Nan Chen.
Utilising the latest scientific advancements in biotechnology, Enbacci harnesses the power of fruit and plant stem cells to create luxury skincare products for all Australians.
Rising to cult status with their inaugural launch, the Vitis Vinifera range, Enbacci products are formulated to improve the health of skin and combat the physical signs of premature ageing, including fine lines and wrinkles, acne, texture, photodamage, and moisture loss.
Harvesting stem cells from a variety of sources, including French grapes, Swiss orchid apples and a temperature-resistant flower called the Saponaria Pumila, Enbacci prides itself on delivering everyday skincare solutions for all ages, genders, skin types and ethnicities.
Advocates for social change, Enbacci has partnered with industry leader, i=Change, and donates $1 from every purchase to carefully selected projects, including The Australian Literacy & Numeracy Foundation, Women’s Community Shelters and the Seabin Foundation. recently spoke to Yong-Li on how she got her start in the business world and what it is really like running a business with her mother.

Biotech beauty: the plant hormone turned ‘super-antioxidant’ touted as skincare’s next big ingredient.
enbacci’s three-step skincare products. Supplied.

Can you please tell us about yourself, and how you started Enbacci?

My name is Yong-Li Zhou. I am the CEO of Embrace Products Group Pty Ltd and the Co-Founder of the Australian luxury skincare brand, Enbacci. I have a Diploma in Personal Care Formulations and I am accredited in Advanced Skin Science. My introduction to the beauty and personal care industry first started when I was working in the family packaging business over 10 years ago. It was there that I learnt the processes involved with product development. Whilst there, I observed that there was a lack of representation of Australian-made luxury skincare in both the domestic and international markets and I was inspired to change that. My mum and I decided to band together and with our combined knowledge of Australia’s capabilities, availability of resources and infrastructure to create products as special and as unique as those associated with traditional international skincare, we created Enbacci. A big focus for us has always been ways our business could encourage and support the growth and development of the industry within our local economy and put Australia on the global beauty map.

Nan Zhou & Yong-Li Zhou.
From left to right, the formidable mother and daughter team: Nan Zhou and Yong-Li Zhou. Supplied.

The skincare business is a very competitive market, so why did you decide to embark on this journey

We saw an opportunity not only in the local market but the international market to really showcase something that was luxurious and uniquely Australian-made. However, the real motivation to create effective and luxurious Australian-made skincare was my mum’s poor experience with skincare. My mum has sensitive skin and had been suffering for years from skin reactions and irritations because of the skincare she was using. She would develop redness, rashes and in extreme cases, open wounds. 

Please explain to us what it’s like working with your mum on this venture. How do you settle a business argument? Who gives in? Or what sort of strategies do you take to decide on the best decision to move forward?

I wholeheartedly love working with my mum. I think we are both quite similar in the way we work. We both have attention to detail and love organisation and systems of processes and procedures. I’d like to think that we are both rational and logical thinkers despite me having a creative streak so when the time comes to make a decision about something, we are able to list the pros and cons together and objectively look at opportunities presented to us. I can’t recall ever having a business argument with my mum and I feel this would be attributed to our constant communication and understanding of where we want the business to go. Admittedly, in the beginning, we did have to navigate our relationship away from mother-daughter roles to business partners. I know that mum always has and always will have my best interest at heart as well, so it was easy to slip into our cultural beliefs of filial piety where we listen and do as our elders say. However, as our business has grown and we now have employees, Mum has decided to take a less hands-on approach within the business so most of the day-to-day smaller decisions are made by myself. I go to mum when I have ideas I would like her opinion on or we have to make some big decisions like what areas of the business we are looking to invest in in the next two to three years or when we’ve been approached for opportunities. We joke that I do the stuff in the business and mum just gives the final tick of approval where needed, but in all seriousness, we still make decisions together and I don’t see that changing any time soon. 

Biotech beauty: the plant hormone turned ‘super-antioxidant’ touted as skincare’s next big ingredient.
Biotech beauty: the plant hormone turned ‘super-antioxidant’ touted as skincare’s next big ingredient.

What was the initial investment poured into the business?

Mum and I bootstrapped the initial investment which was around $100,000. This covered product development and the first run of product packaging and product manufacturing and filling. Our initial marketing efforts included brand launch events in Thailand and Melbourne.          

Tell us how you came up with the formulation, packaging, and the name of the brand. 

I love sharing the story of our brand name because I think it’s one of those things that all brand owners should know and consider very early on in their business journey. When we first started brainstorming brand name ideas, we initially wanted the brand to be called ‘Embrace,’ not only because it is our company name, but because we felt that the word embodies our ethos – think “embrace skin”, “embrace body”, “embrace life”. But, when we spoke to our IP lawyer, he highly recommended we go back to the drawing board and try creating something unique, as “embrace” is a common word and also a word that has been trademarked under the same category by a particularly large and well-known company. So we took on that advice and went back to brainstorming. As we had already created a Chinese name for our company and brand, 恩百思 “en-bai-si”, we decided to work with the sounds from those words and that is how we eventually came up with “enbacci”. When you hear the final sounds of “Bacci”, you instantly think of the Italian word “baci” – to kiss. We thought it was a fitting way of representing the meaning of “embrace”. The packaging design was completed all by us. Again, mum and I had packaging experience from working within the family business and we were able to draw upon the expertise of my dad to help us source what it is we were looking for and what we wanted to achieve. Basic graphic design is one of the many skills I have picked up over the years that has allowed me to create the artwork files needed. We were lucky to be in a position where we had plenty of contacts within the personal care industry having worked on the supplier side of things. When we first started, we worked with a cosmetic chemist to develop our formulations. It was a matter of briefing them on what products we wanted to develop, ingredients we wanted to include for example fruit and plant stem cells or not include, and our target market. They would develop samples and we would tweak certain things about them until we had our desired formulations. These formulations then went off to complete stability and preservative efficacy tests before going into production. Now, I do most of this as I am an accredited formulator and get third-party assistance where needed.

What sort of expansion plans do you have for the brand going forward?

Over the past couple of years with the pandemic, our focus as a brand has been to expand internationally. Mainland China has always been a market we’ve wanted to crack and for us, there was no time like the Melbourne lockdowns to finally make that leap. As a result of the groundwork from the past two years, we are excited to finally be opening our first store in Beijing later this month.  

Are any more new products in the pipeline?

We have a few product formulations ready for production and I am constantly writing and testing new product formulations in my little lab. Keep an eye out on our socials and through our emails for product launch updates. 

Name one of the proudest moments you have achieved in terms of your brand and business so far and why?

Nothing beats that feeling of standing at the end of a giant shipper container, filled to the edges with products you have so lovingly created, ready to be closed up and on its way to an international destination. However, if I have to pinpoint one particular moment, I will always remember that feeling of completing my first million-dollar order, well it was actually closer to two million dollars. I remember a moment in time when I was working for a luxury jewellery boutique and in less than half a year, I had made over a million dollars in sales. When those results were displayed in the staff room, I remember thinking to myself “if I can achieve this, then I can definitely do this for myself” and I have.

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