INTERVIEW With Caroline Chu
Tell us about you and how your brand started.
My journey into the beauty industry began in a private all-girls school on the outskirts of Taipei, Taiwan. From my early 12 years of strict schooling—having to adhere to a uniform and “short-hair policy”—came my ambition at a young age to explore beauty, color, and individuality. At the age of 21, I moved to San Francisco. Between learning English and studying, I eventually earned my MA in Industrial Arts. Over the course of many years I rose to being Creative Director of Tech 30 Silicon Valley companies. However, I found that this success was not my true calling. Consequently, I left my career to pursue my true passion of developing my own line of skin care. I put all of my belongings into storage with exception of two suitcases and set out to travel overseas alone.
What sets your brand apart from other brands?
What’s the inspiration behind your brand?
My inspiration came from my early childhood of attending 12 years of strict schooling which included 6 years of all-girls schools where we had to adhere to a uniform and “short-hair policy”. Makeup was never allowed. Fast forward to quitting my decade-long career in the tech industry, I then left the US and travelled to different parts of world for more than a year. Inspired by these travels, I wanted to uniquely blend global and local ingredients with the latest research on the beauty market. Ultimately, seeing the world and broadened my horizon and sparked my interests and gave me the courage to pursue my dream.
What is your favorite product in your collection and why?
It’s hard to choose a favorite “child”! I have three collections: skincare, bodycare, and haircare, and they each serve a different purpose, so it’s hard to choose. I love them all!
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What is your company philosophy, purpose or mission?
My company as a brand represents women and men today, and stands for more than appearances. Every product is meant to help maintain healthful skin—the very basis of looking and feeling beautiful, starting from the inside. Beauty is about embracing the feeling of empowerment and comfort in one’s own skin. I envision my line of products inspiring all to feel the same.
I also believe in mentorship, helping students and younger generation, and making big or small contributions to communities when I can.
I am proud to have sponsored various non-profit organizations, such as SimplyHelp Foundation, AICI, OnLok, DIL, Lions Clubs International, Pacific Asian American Women Bay Area Coalition, San Francisco Hepatitis B Free.org, AIDs Walk SF, The Leukemia & Lymphoma, and the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. I’ve also spoken at the University of North Texas, Chung Yuan Christian University in Taiwan, San Francisco State University, 50th Anniversary Epsilon Pi Tau Beta-Beta Chapter, DAI Alumni Portfolio Nite, and the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. For me, it’s really about inspiring others to pursue their passions and being a model to others. As an Asian woman, representation is very important to me.
What are your plans for your brand going forward?
To build a stronger retail presence, grow partnership with distributors and retailers, and creating new collections for their markets. I’m especially interested in developing environmentally-sustainable or “eco-friendly” packaging and products. Addressing climate crisis is more important now than ever.
What has been your toughest challenge as a small business owner?
How to navigate different areas of business with a sometimes-limited budget and working capital. My initial funding for my business came from my career savings, and now that I’m self-funded and on my own, it’s been both a bitter and sweet experience trying to keep things in motion.
Your best moment as a brand?
I have met many amazing people on this journey, and have learned so much from the failures and rejections over the years. It has taught me a great deal about not giving up. So when there is a “yes” after countless “no’s,” that is always my best moment.
How are your items produced?
Research and development takes months, sometimes more than a year. From package design to ingredients sourcing is a labor of love! And I oversee the production of our products which are proudly made in the USA.
Any tips, advice or anything else you want to add
Success is not a race. Many companies fail in the first 2 years not because they lack satisfactory products or ideas. They fail simply because they run out of working capital. If you want to raise money, raise more than you think you need, budget more than you think you will spend.
It’s also so important to hire and work with the right people, people who have similar ethics and goals and will make you feel supported.
Finally, take care of your mental health! Owning and running a small business comes with difficult times and challenges. It’s okay to ask for help, to take a break, and to have “me time” and quality time with your loved ones. That’s actually more important than work.