Photography graduate turned adventurous surf-traveller turned skincare entrepreneur, Michael Lorenti’s previous life offers a glimpse as to why he runs Sensatia Botanicals the way he does, i.e. full of heart. As CEO and Founder of this wildly successful, Bali-born skincare brand, Michael Lorenti has imbued his love for nature and community into the very fibre of Sensatia Botanicals, crediting these values in making the company loved by both consumers and employees. 

Michael, tell us a little bit about your education, background and what brought you to Bali.

I went to school at The Art Institute of Chicago where I majored in Photography. I eventually started working with renowned Architect, I.M. Pei’s principal photographer and promptly dropped out of school to focus full time learning via on the job experience. One day with this amazing architectural photographer was like a semester at school.

I came to Bali because I wanted to experience more of the world. I wanted to dive into a unique culture, meet some people different than the first 25 years of my life. I always heard about the Bali surf stories and the amazing life and people on this side of the planet. So, I thought why not start with the farthest place first and if that doesn’t work (worst case scenario) I will slowly backtrack towards the states maybe ending up in Hawaii. So, surfboards and cameras in tote I went.

What prompted you to start a skincare company?

In 1997, when I first moved to Bali, it was virtually impossible to find any natural product. It was already pretty normal to be able to find natural product back in the states, but everything here (at that time) was extremely highly fragranced and perfume-y. I’ve always been quite sensitive to smell so I was in a real predicament. Strangely enough I met a gentleman that wanted to use my garage to make natural coconut soap. The rest is history…


How did you set out to differentiate Sensatia when you first started it?

The company began and continues to focus on pure, natural materials and ingredients that we are proud to showcase. We have always been a no-nonsense company creating pure clean products via a revenue share model that works quite well for all of us involved. We maintain these core values to this day.

Was there a ‘watershed’ moment that really turned the tide and made the business boom?

I think the first watershed moment (among many) was when we were picked up by Cost Plus World Market. This was only about 6 months into starting the business and suddenly we were getting $15,000 orders for coconut soap on a rope every 2 months. It was incredible and really helped us to fuel growth of the company. Unfortunately, 9/11 happened and the US pretty much closed its doors and halted all imports. But this year and a half of working with this company gave us the confidence we needed to look for ways to keep the company moving forward.

Those were some interesting years though… We would literally stop working if one of the boys from the village came by and shouted “OMBAK GEDE!” [Big Wave!] We surfed until the waves turned off then went back to making soap – haha! Through surfing we met a friend of a friend from Japan whose family ran a restaurant supply company and lucky for us, he was interested in buying and selling our products in Japan. 

So you were manufacture-for-export initially, what made you shift to domestic sales? You’re one of Indonesia’s most successful premium skincare brands now!

Back then it was virtually impossible to register any product in Indonesia unless you lived next door to BPOM in Jakarta. So, we focused on producing for export, of which registration is not required. Which in retrospect proved to really help us build a solid foundation of which we would grow healthily, well into the future.

The moment the rules changed in Indonesia in 2010 when the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive was adopted and an online system of product registration was introduced, we were one of the first to dive right into this new system. Finally, we could register online without having to bring thousands of copies of product information to Jakarta for verification… for every product. We were in the right place at the right time one might say. 


In your experience, is there something that differentiates the Indonesian consumer?

Well I would definitely say do not underestimate the buying power of the Indonesian consumer. There is a lot of money in Indonesia and like most of Asia it has a fast moving, robust economy where money is constantly changing hands. The other thing about our customers (at least) is they are as loyal as we are to the brand. Most of our customers are repeat customers who find their favourites and continue to keep them well stocked.

Where so many skincare brands only sell online, or are offline through consignment, Sensatia Botanicals opens stand-alone stores and often in malls across Indonesia. What informs such a bold business decision? 

Just like much of our experience, we achieved quite a lot through trial and error. We work hard to plant a seed and wait to see if it grows.

Our first shop outside the production facility was/is on Monkey Forest Road in Ubud, Bali. This shop did incredible sales right out of the gate… in fact we almost had sales even before we even opened. I went to survey this shop and meet with the owners… we were sitting inside on the white tile floor with nothing in the shop, empty, 3 white walls, and a tourist couple came in wanting to buy something! If that’s not a sign that’s the right location to open a shop immediately, I’m not sure what is. In any event this location was able to afford us to “grow” new shops in new locations. Each time feeling better and more confident about our decisions.

Quite a ‘radically generous’ policy is that Sensatia Botanicals has shared 20% of its revenue with employees, what’s the thinking behind this?

Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It just makes sense to me if we are all working hard, we are all sharing in the result of our hard work. I think it has worked incredibly well for us over the years in that the team have a sense of ownership and responsibility for their efforts because it is directly seen in the form of a monthly bonus. Not to mention it truly takes an entire team to create success. No one can do it alone. I am extremely thankful and grateful for every single person’s hard work and contribution to our success.

Another area where you’ve been forward thinking is in your environmental initiatives. Sensatia is cruelty-free, palm oil-free, has bottle-return policies, cassava shopping bags, and more.

Yes, I’ve always been a firm believer in treading lightly, I really hate to see waste. We should strive to be in perfect balance with what we consume and what is left over from our consumption. If it’s impossible to completely eliminate waste we can at least reduce and minimise our impact so we all have fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink well into the future. 

Speaking of reducing our impact, we recently installed 110 solar panels on our production facility roof which will provide 75-90% of our electricity needs for the production of Sensatia Botanicals products. I just love this idea, pure clean electricity from the sun. We are also installing the same at our admin office and warehouse facilities and will do the same when our new sales & marketing office in Padang Galak is ready this August. It’s an exciting time for renewable energy. 

As a business leader, what has been the most important lesson you’ve learned taking a business from 2 people to now hundreds?

Don’t change or cut corners for the sake of profit. Keep doing what you’re doing if you truly believe it is the right thing to do, one day it will come to fruition. Everything worth anything takes time to build and hard work is never lost.

What are your next big picture goals for Sensatia?

Our next big opportunity lies in expanding further internationally, particularly in one of our neighbouring countries. We’ve recently finalised a strategic partnership with a prominent retailer in the region to establish a presence across that country. Our first store is set to open in a key city in the coming months, marking the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Sensatia Botanicals as we continue to grow and reach new markets.

We are very excited about this partnership because this is the first time that we are working with a well-established retail company of over 35 years to focus on retail expansion in the region. Nothing but up from here.

(Editor’s Note: since publishing this interview, Sensatia Botanicals has become available in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysiacongratulations to Michael Lorenti and Sensatia!)

To find out more follow @sensatiabotanicals on Instagram, or visit

Edward Speirs

Edward Speirs

Edward, or Eddy as he prefers to be called, is the Head of Publishing of the NOW! Magazine, and the host of the NOW! Bali Podcast. He enjoys photography, rural travel and loves that his work introduces him to people from all walks of life.