K-beauty Entrepreneur Alicia Yoon On Taking the Leap From Corporate Consultant to Starting Her Skincare Brand
On this episode of Behind Her Empire, Peach & Lily founder and CEO Alicia Yoon discusses her journey from being a corporate consultant to establishing her own skincare brand as well as the necessity of having an airtight business model to become successful.
Throughout her life, Yoon suffered from severe eczema and struggled to find effective skincare in the United States that had meaningful results on her sensitive skin. During her high school years in South Korea, she turned to K-beauty brands for help and found the ingredients in those products more suitable to her skin.
In 2012, she founded leading Korean skincare website Peach & Lily as a way to help others take control of their skin problems. Her positive experience with K-beauty formulations inspired her to bring these products to the United States, products with ingredients that were effective but still foreign to Western beauty brands.
Before starting her business, Yoon worked in the corporate sector as a consultant for The Boston Consulting Group and Accenture. Once she realized she wanted to start a business in beauty, she left her role to attend esthetician school in South Korea and study K-beauty alongside trained chemists. She said that passion is absolutely necessary when it comes to starting a business.
“Your head and your heart have to feel 100% passionate and okay with it,” Yoon said. “If you don't love the thing that you're doing, it's really hard to keep waking up and really putting 100% into it and it does take 100% of you.”
Aside from having passion, Yoon believes that entrepreneurs need to take a step back before starting a business and make sure that their business model is completely ironed out so they can achieve long-term success. She said that founders should reevaluate their business models especially “if the cost of goods is just too high to maintain a profitable business.”
She learned the importance of the business model through her first startup, a Korean fashion import firm. Despite winning awards and selling out trunk shows, the business didn’t have much potential for growth, she said.
“There were issues with the business model. It would have been okay as a small cult business,” she said. “While those businesses are great, that's just not what I wanted. I really wanted to go all in with a business where I could really scale it.”
Yoon said that this experience and her time at Harvard Business School gave her the confidence to start Peach & Lily. Being in business school during the financial crisis opened the door to several networking opportunities and allowed her to have open conversations with other founders about their journeys, about what works and what doesn’t, and some of the challenges they had to overcome.
“I think the existential moments lead to more fuel, passion and action,” she said. “It does get hard because there are just going to be moments where you have to wear like 17 different hats.”
Because entrepreneurs play so many different roles in their business, Yoon thinks it can be difficult for them to see the impact that their company can have on its customers. Sometimes, this can make it hard to stay motivated.
Yoon to recharges herself by calling her support group: her friends and family whom she calls her “personal cheerleaders.” When she is having doubts about her work, she says they help remind her of her goals and why she started her business.
Customer reviews also help her stay motivated. Peach & Lily has an email listserv that allows customers to send reviews and comments to the company. Yoon feels the power of her work when she reads reviews that state how her products have changed her customers’ skins or how amazing her customers feel after using Peach & Lily products.
In a little more than ten years, Peach & Lily is on track to become the number five skincare brand at Ulta Beauty.
“I would literally turn on amped up music and I would get so emotional being like, wow, we're actually helping people,” Yoon said. “This is why I'm doing this.”
dot.LA Reporter Decerry Donato contributed to this post.
This podcast is produced by Behind Her Empire. The views and opinions expressed in the show are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of dot.LA or its newsroom.
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