Michael R. Lorenti Jr. started Sensatia Botanicals as a profit sharing company. “I never agreed with the idea of a few fat cats making all the money while everyone else gets whatever’s left,” he tells Stephanie Mee.
Hi Michael. First of all, a blast from the past – where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?
I grew up in a small western New York town, 20 minutes down-stream from where the great Niagara Falls puts on her amazing, tireless show. My father was very hard working and instilled creativity, ingenuity, passion and determination in me, while my mother instilled sensitivity, unconditional love and respect for all things, with extra compassion for those less fortunate than us. Both my parents always emphasized fairness in every situation, a readiness to fight for what’s right, and to always, without question, adore and respect nature.
Have you always been in the botanicals game or did you seek other career paths first?
I’m actually a photographer by trade, but growing up with an Italian grandfather, who was always (literally) stopping to smell the roses, I gained vast exposure to all types of plant life. He was a self-proclaimed chef who was always proud of his botanical collection of herbs and spices. So I would say it’s in my genetic make-up.
How did you end up in Bali, and what made you stay?
Cities seem to have a way of driving me to my wits end, but the silver lining is that they always force me to flight. This last flight brought me half way around the world to find my garden of Eden in Jasri, Karangasem, a delicious little no-frills, black sand beach and fishing village with a group of folks that have turned into the brothers I never had. This is where Sensatia was born.
What planted the seed for Sensatia Botanicals?
The Balinese are a very proud group of people; they have history and to offer up a sad story is not their style. But I can tell you I have shed many a tear from stories of the lack of simple, basic human needs. Things we take for granted like food, water and shelter are often unattainable for some folks. This is what brought me to start Sensatia Botanicals as a profit-sharing company, and a means by which we can siphon a small bit of the world’s affluence into this little village the world has forgotten, or perhaps never even knew about.
The company was founded in 2000. Can you tell us about the early years? What were the main challenges at first?
The main challenge in the beginning was definitely working capital. I started this company with just $3,000 and a crew of two, so it was difficult trying to keep it all together with inadequate work space, and hard to buy good supplies and raw materials and get them into the country.
What sets the company apart from other cosmetic companies?
I think what sets us apart not only from other cosmetic companies but from most companies in general is that from day one we set up this company to be a profit-sharing cooperation, and to this day it still remains proudly as such. I never agreed with the idea of a few fat cats making all the money while everyone else gets whatever’s left. We are also less about hype and more about delivering what we promise. We create wonderfully clean, simple, rich products from excellent raw materials sourced from all over the world, and then create a corresponding fair price, not the other way around.
Sensatia is the first and only GMP certified cosmetic company in Bali. Can you tell us what exactly that means and how you achieve that status?
GMP stands for Good Manufacturing Practice. Once achieved, GMP Certification is proof of a company’s transparency and accountability, and you can essentially track and trace every single drop of every single material that has ever entered or left the GMP Certified facility. Most people are amazed to learn that a company in Bali uses this international standard, and that every single raw material and every single batch of every product we produce is tested in our lab before it can be allowed to enter or exit our facility.
Sensatia makes a huge range of natural skincare, hair care, and lifestyle products. Can you name a few products you absolutely can’t go without?
Any Sensatia Leisure body wash, because they are all awesome. I used to be such a bar soap guy, but our body wash has brought me over to the liquid side. I also couldn’t live without our Coconut & Vanilla face scrub, Facial C-Serum and our Sea & Surf Sunscreen. In fact, this is the only sunscreen I can use that doesn’t make me break out in pimples. And for the mozzies, our Lemongrass Botanical Lotion can always be found in my bag.
In your opinion, what makes a person truly beautiful?
Wow, great question. To me a person’s beauty is not something you see but something you feel. A beautiful person is not afraid to be themself, even if silly. They try new things and remain positive even in the darkest of times, and their default answer to everything is yes rather than no. A beautiful person is present, sincere, humble and grateful. What you feel inside is what shows on the outside.
When you’re not designing new products or managing operations, we can find you doing what?
Well if I’m not at the beach, or looking for cool places in areas of Bali I haven’t been to before, or up on the rooftop gym with the boys, then I’m probably up to something with a crew of people in the village. I’ve lived in this village for almost 19 years now and have sort of become a permanent fixture. Hanging out with the Bali crew never gets old to me. They are fine, gentle, humorous people who love to joke and play tricks on each other. What’s not to love?
Every time we check into the Sensatia Facebook & Instagram page, we see fab deals happening. What are the latest Sensatia promotions going on?
Currently in all Sensatia shops when you spend Rp1.000.000 you receive a Rp100.000 Sensatia Cash Voucher to be used the same as cash on your next visit. You can collect as much Sensatia Cash as you can and literally come shopping for free.
There are currently Sensatia shops in Jasri Karangasem, Ubud Monkey Forest, Seminyak Village, Bali Collection Nusa Dua, Lippo Mall Kuta and now Popular Deli Canggu. Do you plan to expand abroad at any point?
Absolutely. Our first major move will be to work with our distributors overseas to set up one model shop at a time to sell shop licenses to other parties. A franchise concept I suppose, though I hate that word. The exciting part is that many people in this country have already asked us to open shops in other parts of Indonesia like Jakarta, Surabaya and Semarang.
Finally, a look to the future – where do you see yourself in 15 years?
As I look up at the calendar on my computer to see what year it is again I am reminded of a funny story. When I first came to this part of the island I stayed at a Balinese surf buddy’s house. One day after a morning surf I rocked into the house to get some grub that my friend’s mom cooked up daily and I caught my friend’s dad staring at the calendar. I finally said, “Pak, why have you been looking at the calendar for so long?” He said, “Well I’m just trying to figure out what year it is.” I burst out laughing and said to myself, “This is the place for me.” To me that is perfect – just living in the now. But 15 years? Less in the office and more at the beach in the surf with the biggest decision of the day being snapper or mackerel.