From storyteller to soapmaker

Scriptwriter Zuliana Ismail built an online business, Sabunfiction, focusing on handmade soaps

05 May 2020 / 10:45 H.

ZULIANA ISMAIL is a stay-at-home mother-of-five, who single-handedly runs a handmade soap business, Sabunfiction, through her Facebook account and Instagram page.

Zuliana has already made her name as a scriptwriter, and her works include Ghahim Takut Nak Azan, which aired on TV3, Dahlia for Astro Prima, and 7 Lagu, which was nominated in the best telefilm category at the Asia Television Award in 2011.

“I am a freelance scriptwriter. I write for TV dramas, series, and telemovies. I always work from home, and each time I have writer’s block, I will cook and bake something. Then, I started making soaps and now, I focus on Sabunfiction,” revealed 39-year-old Zuliana.

“I am a one-woman show in Sabunfiction. Everything I do [is] on my own, from soapmaking to packing, copywriting and marketing on social media. I am a stay-at-home mum to five children. So, it’s quite tough to juggle between the two. But, I believe in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr: ‘Our lives are not fully lived if we’re not willing to die for those we love and for what we believe’.”


Zuliana started her handmade soap business about a year ago. “I had tonnes of used cooking oil and I felt guilty to throw it all away. I found out that I can recycle the oils to become soap,” she said.

“My first soap was the Eco Multipurpose Soap, which I made with used cooking oil. I called it Eco Soap because it’s eco-friendly. I used to feel guilty throwing away my cooking oils, now I know how to manage them better, [which is] good for the environment as well. Eco Multipurpose Soap is only for [use in] dishwashing, laundry and house-hold cleaning. I add in Thieves Essential Oil [ a blend of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and rosemary] for better cleaning.

“I was so amazed by it because it cleans better than commercial soap, especially on oily surfaces, and my mum, who has sensitive skin, noticed that her hands have healed. She no longer has dry and itchy skin after doing the dishes.

“From then on, [my business] branched out to [include] other soaps for the body and face.

“For body and face soap, I use high-grade oils and essentials oil. I don’t use any used cooking oil in the body and face soap.”


She explained: “Fiction means to create from your imagination. I create happiness, sorrow, sadness, hatred or hope (in my stories). I created and crafted Sabunfiction, and I hope it helps my customers to solve skin problems, and make them feel happy and comfortable in their own skin.”


“In the state of Ihram [when performing a pilgrimage], a Muslim must not use any scents. If they do, their Umrah or Hajj will be invalid. So, I made the Umrah soap for those who perform Umrah or Hajj. It’s unscented, made from plant oils such as olive oil, palm oil, castor oil and coconut oil, with added Vitamin E. Olive oil is known for its moisturising properties, and it does not dry out the skin no matter how many times you wash your skin in a day,” said Zuliana.


Sabunfiction uses natural ingredients from plants and high-grade essential oils. “We don’t use surfactants (SLS), detergents, hardeners or parabens,” said Zuliana. As it is handmade, she feels it is personal. “Sabunfiction is a manifestation of my mind, body and soul to give my best to the customer.

“I learned the basics from Soaplab and online. I [also] joined a soapmakers group in Malaysia and worldwide. Networking and [having] a support group is really important, and I am glad I am in the right support group, Soap Faculty. By right, we are competitors, but we support and respect each other.”

In the future, Zuliana hopes to have her own shop, supplying raw material and teaching others to make handmade natural soap. – By S. Tamarai Chelvi

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