Christine Chang and Sarah Lee are the co-founders of Glow Recipe, a store that sells natural beauty products from Korea.
In this podcast, you’ll learn how they get free publicity by being thought leaders and talking about the future of their industry.
In this episode, we discuss:
- Why they drive their non-English speaking customers to Amazon.
- Why they redo their website from scratch every year.
- Why you should buy Facebook ads in Europe rather than in the US.
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Felix: Very cool. I think there are other listeners out there that were in similar situations as you two where they have experience because they're working for an employer and 9:00 to 5:00 in a particular industry. Then they decide that with their experience and their entrepreneurial aspirations they decided to go into business in the same industry. Was it an issue with your employer at the time when you made that switch or what was the situation? What was the transition like from working in the industry for an employer and now starting a business for yourself.
Felix: In this episode you'll learn how two entrepreneurs get free publicity by being thought leaders and talking about the future of their industry. In this episode you'll learn how to become a thought leader and how to use it to get free publicity, how to drive traffic from Instagram and Snapchat to your store and how to find and work with influencers on YouTube. Today I'm joined by Christine Chang and Sarah Lee from glowrecipe.com. Glow Recipes sells natural beauty products from Korea, was started in 2014 and based out of New York City. Welcome Christine and Sarah.
Christine: Thank you for having us.
Felix: Yeah, excited to have you guys on. Tell us a little bit more about the store and what are some of the most popular products that you sell.
Christine: Yeah of course. We started Glow Recipe in November of 2014 and our mission was to really bring over these great natural Korean beauty products that we knew had so much potential in the US. To give you a little bit of background Sarah and I come from a 10 plus year beauty background each so combines 20 years and product development and marketing. We've been working with Korean manufacturer [inaudible 00:01:53] the Korean beauty trends. We felt that what was coming over to the states was just very one-sided and a little bit too promotional driven, a little bit too packaging driven. We knew that there was a lot more efficacy out there that could be shared with US women. That was the premise for us starting our business.
The beauty background has been incredibly helpful to leverage for curation and making sure that the brands that come over are truly vetted for a global audience.
Sarah: It was not an issue at all actually because we weren't really thinking about this for a long time. We saw an opportunity and we jumped into it and it was really right after we quit our jobs. Everything just happened in a very period of time and it all happened as soon as Christine and I just traveled to Korea and we saw this humongous opportunity that we could bring over to the States and we started our business right away.
Felix: Very cool. When you saw that there was this opportunity of the Korean products that were not in the US or were here but like you're saying they were branded in a way that you guys didn't like or you felt like you could have done a better job. What was the very first step? You knew that there was this opportunity, how did you make steps towards turning it into an actual business?
Sarah: Like we said we just went to Korea and we took a huge beauty tour around the city. I don't know if you've heard of this but Korea has beauty stores almost at every street corner like Starbucks of New York where you could see the trends. You could see what's happening, what Korean women are obsessed about. Then we of course met a bunch of vendors while we were there and we just talked to them about our opportunity, the experience that we have in the States and what potential we could bring to their business. A lot of them signed contracts right away with us and that's how it started.
Felix: Were you just using your savings or how were you able to get that first batch of inventory back over to the US to sell it?
Christine: We've been bootstrapping from the beginning. We used a small portion of our savings each and then we actually broke even in three months. For us the investment was quickly recouped and then since then we've been profitable.
Felix: That's amazing. Brought the initial batch over, started selling it. What were some ways for you to get your very first customers? How were you able to spread awareness of your new store?
Christine: For us we knew that press would be vital especially for the beauty industry and for a new product or a new category to get the word out. That being said beauty press is extremely saturated as you can imagine. There's so many new beauty brands, indie beauty brands coming out every month and each are fighting to have their share of voice. For us our marketing and product development background really came in handy because we didn't try to push product when we spoke with editors. We spoke in bigger terms of trends or different categories that we thought would have meaning. A good example of something that we first brought over was the trend of fermentation.
Fermentation you might think is something that applies to your wine or your cheese but in Korea it's something that's very ... it's very widespread in skin care now and it's a huge trend. We knew that this angle of fermenting your products not only because it's interesting but because it actually has an impact on efficacy. The fermentation process helps to break down ingredients for better absorption and what not. That story really resonated with editors and helped gain us our first piece of press in a major outlet.
Felix: That awesome. You mention that ... or you didn't mention this but when you think of ... It sounds like when you went over to Korea you saw the future of skin care in the US. Was this lag in the US an issue where you saw that Korea was so far ahead or they had different trends? Then how were you able to catch your market up with the one in the US up to the same speed or same cadence as the Korean market?
Sarah: We had several perspectives on this. One, we were global marketers or marketers that were working in the American market and we were always looking at Korea for the latest advanced technology and when it comes to skin care especially. There were some products that global companies have actually adopted and taken the inspiration from the Korean technologies and taken the category that were big in Korea. For example the BB creams or cushion compacts. We knew that Korea had a huge impact in terms of R,D and new creative ideas and concepts. Secondly, from a consumer perspective we were the Korean beauty ambassadors naturally. Because whenever we traveled back to Korea for personal reasons we came back with suitcases packed with Korean sheet masks and new products and everyone just jumped in to get a taste of it.
We knew that there was a lot of interest and that the skin care market in the US was also evolving where people were just genuinely more interested in trying new things and looking for better quality products in general. We saw a huge opportunity in so many different aspects and we decided that that was where we could play a huge role because we have this bilingual, bicultural experience and backgrounds. We have connections in Korea were we could leverage and bring over brands that we thought could be huge in the States.
Felix: Makes sense. I want to jump back real quick to the way that you approached the press. You are saying that instead of just pushing your products or pushing your brand did you take more of an educational perspective on it where you wanted to teach about the trends and the technology in this space? How were you exactly pitching or what was the angle when you reached out to the publications?
Christine: I think it did help that Korean beauty was just starting to trend at the time and editors were more aware that there was a lot of innovation coming from Korean beauty. That being said there wasn't a lot of understanding around what that really meant. I think the focus at the time was around [inaudible 00:08:55] packaging or one time use items that were a little bit more [inaudible 00:09:02]. That had its own value but we knew that there was a bigger efficacy story that would help us become more than a temporary trend. Editors naturally and especially beauty editors have a lot of fatigue around new brands and new products because they get pitched hundreds of times a day with different things.
For us to be able to present to them what we thought would be the future of beauty and what would be the next trends influencing the US market that was really appealing to them. We could say that with confidence because a great example from a few years back is actually BB cream. BB cream was on one of those categories that didn't exist in the US. It was nonexistent. It came over from Korea and then suddenly exploded because it's not only with the Korean brands but US brands each doing their own take of the BB cream. This create this $200 million category overnight almost. Having that precedence we were able to say, "Look this is the next trend that we think is going to come from Korea to the US and really help US women approach skin care differently.
That being said we couldn't just bring over every single trend we were seeing. There was a lot of curation in that process to make sure that the trends we were presenting were really relevant for the audience here.
Felix: I like that angle and I think it can be applied to any other industry where most publications they want to be first or they want to be the first ones to talk about new technology, the first ones to talk about new trends. If you can approach them with a story like that it sounds like it makes it a lot easier to pitch your story and pitch your products rather than just talking about what exist today. It gives them almost a leg up and make their job easier essentially as a publication by helping them out with a story about what's coming in the future. I think that's a great approach and I haven't heard anyone talk about that way but I think it makes a lot of sense.
Felix: I want to talk about ... Obviously you have a partnership. Not many guests on the podcast come on with a partnership. Talk to us about different roles that you play at the company.
Sarah: I think first of all the partnership itself has been tremendously a support, like helpful for us because there's two people that are super driven, have similar backgrounds, that have different advantages and strengths that we can complement each other. Also when you're starting off afresh and sometimes you're just learning as you go it's just very supportive to have someone on your team and to talk to. In terms of roles we pretty much do a lot of things together but the biggest advantage of having a partner like this is that we have to travel a lot for business. When somebody is in Korea for example and I am in New York then I run the business in New York and vice versa.
Then Christine would be in Korea just bringing in new businesses or meeting new people there to make sure that we have this relationship going and vice versa. Overall roles are pretty much overlapped but because we travel so much we take turns in doing that so that is just not this huge gap in between travels.
Felix: Makes sense. I think others out there that are thinking about starting a business for the first time they want to consider at least partnering with somebody else. Based on your experiences how do you know if someone can be a good partner for you and your business?
Sarah: I think the most important thing is trust. I think what worked for us is we knew each other for more than 10 years actually. We met back in Korea when we were interning or just starting in L'Oreal Korea. In general I think that having that trust with a level of just knowing that the other person would work just as hard as you would or just the quality of work would be there but also there won't be any issues down the road is really key.
Christine: I think it's also important, this is Christine, to pick someone who you know will be able to have that discussion with you because ideas are always better when they're vetted through someone. It's like forging the sword in the fire, right? That process always brings out something that's more elevated and just better. Picking someone as a partner that you're able to have that conversation without it getting emotional or personal but just really in the interest of making a better business idea that would be key to picking the right partner.
Felix: I agree with that. I think you want to find somebody where you are both comfortable with having the difficult conversations and be able to like you're saying not get emotional about it. Not take it personally and be okay having these no difficult business decisions and making them together. I think this is another situation that other listeners might be in where they quit their full-time job and are going to go into full-time in their business. Then they have a partner that they're thinking about working with that maybe is not in that same situation where they don't have as much skin in the game. Do you think that that could still work out in that kind of situation where maybe both parties are willing to both do the same amount of work but don't necessarily have the same, again, skin in the game?
Christine: Actually for us will be absolutely not. I think both partners need to be fully committed and ready to take that plunge especially during the beginning stages of a startup because there's just so much work and so much involvement that's needed. To have one person still working a full-time job I think would just not ... It wouldn't pave the way for a very productive beginning.
Felix: Makes sense. Now I want to talk a little bit about your Shark Tank experience. I don't think we mentioned this at all on the podcast yet but that's something that's obviously a big part of your journey so far. Tell us a little bit about this. What was the deal when you went to Shark Tank? What was the deal that you wanted and what ended up happening at the end?
Sarah: We've both been huge fans of Shark Tank, I think many of us are.
Sarah: Especially who are running their own businesses. We applied on a whim. We went to the open casting call in New York in April of 2015 and we didn't think that it would actually happen. I think the odds were incredibly high. It was tens of thousands to one. When we saw the line snaking around the building we were a little unsure whether we could even get in to audition but somehow things just kept moving along. We were called back for a second video audition and then we were called in for filming in LA in September. It was a lot of months in between where we had time to really be ready to present numbers about our business and present it in the best light possible. When we went in we were hoping to get an investment of $425,000 for 15% of our ...
Sarah: Sorry, 10% of our business. When we had the discussion with the Sharks we did get three offers and then the final offer was for a higher share of our business for the same investment amount.
Felix: You ended up working with Robert is that correct?
Felix: Awesome. How did you come up with the deal or the evaluation for a deal going into it? I think this is probably interesting to other people too. How do you put a number on your business?
Sarah: It was a combination of our sales at the time and then the projected sales that we had for that year times the usual multiple that is applied to your industry. For e-commerce we did a multiple of X times whatever the sales were at the time.
Felix: Makes sense. You first started with an open casting call. You said there were many different other businesses in there to pick. What happens in the casting call? You step in, it's your turn, what do you do?
Sarah: If you make it into the studio which is also really hard I think they had a cut line of 200 people or something like that. Once you're in there's a few casting agents and you have to just line up in one of the rows. You don't really have a choice, they just put you in a line and we were praying to God that we get a female casting agent beauty pitch. We actually did which was amazing because she understood what we were talking about. You get to have just one minute for your pitch basically and that's it. There is like maybe two or three questions after and you're done. Your one minute pitch has to be very, very strong and impactful. Really has to have the gist of what your business is.
To your question earlier why you were asking for that amount of money and what your potential is. We had to work a little bit ... We actually worked a lot of hours to make that one minute pitch really pitchy.
Felix: I think this is another thing that a lot of entrepreneurs want to get better at because there's going to be so many opportunities at networking events. Or eventually if they want to go down the fundraising route where you should be able to sum up your business and sell your business in just one minute. What was your process to come up with the one minute pitch and what do you need to include in it?
Sarah: One minute pitch we were actually used to doing that even from back on L'Oreal because we were always challenged to make an elevator pitch. Our bosses were always telling us if you meet a CEO in the elevator how would you pitch your project in 30 seconds? We were always trained to do that so from the conceptual step of your work to wherever you are we were just trained to do that in general. To give an advice I think it's important to come up with a few key words in the beginning to describe what your business is that identify what your point of difference is. It's a combination of what it is but how you're different and you start from that approach and you'll come to a sentence that makes sense.
Then to Christine's point earlier you already have your evaluation estimated for your business so you have to include that number but justify how in one sentence. For us because it's such a new startup we really talked about the opportunity and how the growth has been so far in the market instead of how our business has been growing.
Felix: Makes sense.
Sarah: That's our pitch but if you've been around for a few years then it would be best if you talk about your growth first and how it's impacted the consumers behaviors or the market in general.
Felix: Focus on your business first if you can if you have the years or you have the revenues or sales to show for it. If not then focus on the opportunity that's there in the marketplace. I like that. After the open casting how long did you have to wait until you heard back about the video audition?
Sarah: About two months. We didn't think we made it because nobody called us or emailed us and two months is a really long time so we just gave up. Then one day we got a phone call saying congratulations you're on to the next step. That was a nice surprise.
Felix: Nice. What happens in the video auditions? Is it similar to the one minute pitch or do you have more time to explain your business?
Christine: There's not a lot of parameters actually around the video piece. It's just supposed to represent what you want to tell the judges. For us we did a day in the life of a Glow Recipe co-founder circling what we did around at the office, what took up a lot of our time, what we were hoping that investment would help us make more efficient and maximize and our vision for the business. We tried to put a little bit of humor in it. At the time it was in the very beginning stages of our business. We were still packing boxes from our office and this was before we moved to a warehouse. We showed that portion of our business and how much room it was taking and why if we got the investment we would be able to do that process much more efficiently because our business was clearly growing faster than what we could meet.
Felix: Is that the video that they use to show on air too before they introduce the Shark Tank contestant or did they come out and film a totally different intro for you guys?
Christine: Sometimes they do use portions of that video. I think sometimes they also come to your hometown and film if you're lucky. For us we didn't have that intro portion. It was mostly what was filmed at studios in September.
Felix: Awesome. I'm not sure how much you can share about this but I know that a lot of Shark Tank results the deal is done on television but then it doesn't shake out afterwards. Were you able to solidify the deal afterwards?
Sarah: We're still talking about this because we wanted to negotiate on a few terms and it's actually a very complicate process because there are things that you don't want to compromise but both sides have that perspective. We're in that process right now.
Felix: I've heard that that it's not obviously just here's $425,000 and here is 25% of the business, here's so much more due diligence and a lot of terms that come out afterwards. After the show aired though what happened? I'm sure that you got a ton of traffic and all of that. Tell us a little bit more about what that was like after the show, your episode aired.
Christine: The traffic afterwards the peak was phenomenal and we're overall extremely grateful for the experience. I think it couldn't have been better. For us we didn't do a big viewing party or a party because they had filmed us for an hour and we knew that around eight to ten minutes of that would be showing. We weren't sure how it would be edited and how we would be edited and how we would be represented. That kind of control you completely give up, right? We just amassed a very small number of friends and family at our offices and waited for the show to air. Thankfully it was in a very favorable light and I think it really did help to explain what our mission was and our business model was to a lot of customers in the US.
Thanks to Shark Tank our customer base which was already fairly diversed ... I would say around 80% of our customers are actually non-Asian or non-Korean and that number has actually become even more diverse after Shark Tank.
Felix: That's awesome. Were you prepared for the ... I guess how did you prepare for the additional traffic and sales that came from the show's airing?
Christine: We talked to the Shopify team beforehand just to make sure that our hosting would be good and the site wouldn't go down during that and it didn't. Then we also did a lot of work on our site to highlight the products that we show during the session to create a special Shark Tank set so that it would just be that much more easily accessible. Optimizing SEO, buying search terms, making sure that all of our social platforms were also speaking to the Shark Tank airings. Just so that everyone would have a cohesive experience and wherever they found us they would be directed to our site and know where to go.
Felix: Awesome. During the pitch when you did open casting and maybe a little bit during the video audition as well and then on the show what did you say you needed the money for?
Sarah: A couple of things. We needed it to really revamp our shipping process. We needed a warehouse, we needed support in terms of resources for that. We also wanted a larger team to support the marketing but most importantly for our digital strategy. We wanted to have a very strong digital presence and for that we needed to create content, we needed a team member to support that, we needed equipment and vendors to help with that. That was the really two main reasons.
Felix: Awesome. Because the deal hasn't closed yet have you made progress towards hiring somebody or paying for help or content? What kind of progress have you ... or what have you been focusing on?
Sarah: We actually have moved to a larger warehouse which we're really excited about and we have a larger team than we used to before Shark Tank. We still need to improve on that and make it even bigger but we're making slow progress here.
Felix: What did you know that you needed to hire for first?
Sarah: We needed somebody to actually help with the client services. We had someone but we needed a team for that as we have a bigger clientele now and we needed a larger team that had a better system at their warehouse. It's a third party vendor that's helping us with our inventory management and also just shipping in general. That's a huge support that we're getting right now. Then for content we are creating our own ways in our offices to create YouTube videos and series of skin care video tutorials in-house right now.
Felix: I do remember I think on a show you mentioned that YouTube was a strategy that you wanted to take. Is that still a big driver of traffic for you?
Sarah: It's a huge help but we’ve have room to grow on YouTube. I think that’s where we need the most help in terms of just digital content creation and making it a very consistent message in a very frequent matter and that requires resources. That’s something we need to still work on more.
Felix: You said that you’re creating tutorials. What other guiding steps or content do you think works well for this type of industry?
Sarah: I think our mission is to make Korean skincare very easy to use and also fun and not some overwhelming chore that you have to do in your busy day. There are a lot of makeup video tutorials or makeup product videos that are very visually appealing and attractive. There aren’t that many for skincare because people still think that skincare is a very serious category and not something that you can see dramatic results on. We wanted to break that perception and so we’ve started this skincare series called #ButSkinFirst. These are 30 second or even shorter video clips that show how fun it is to use our skincare products. Some of them have bubble beans and you pop them and they start to foam.
It’s a great cleanser or some of them have a mesh pad that you just can rub on your skin in a gentle way and it will exfoliate. There’s different products and formats that we're introducing through the video series.
Felix: Do you also work with any other YouTubers or influencers on YouTube?
Sarah: Yeah absolutely, we have some influencer partners that we’ve started working with. Recently we reached out to a number of influencers to partner with us for our ambassador program which we’re starting now actually this week.
Felix: What are some common arrangements with influencers? I think this is another marketing channel that more store owners are looking towards, finding people to talk about their products, feature their product, review their products on YouTube. What kind of business arrangements are common in that kind of arrangement?
Sarah: Often times we do get responses on what the fee would be and if there’s any type of payment that they can get, because I think some bigger bloggers have that standard and policy now. We wanted this to be more organic and genuine, we didn’t want to necessarily pay cash to these bloggers and influencers to promote our products. Our reward for them is we give them the latest trends and the preview before anybody else to this access for the latest Korean beauty products or innovations that we bring over to the States. A lot of the beauty gurus are very excited about this access because they really weren’t able to get that beforehand. Now they can and what they can do in return is to review the new the products and to introduce them to excite their audience.
Felix: Yeah sounds like the same strategy that worked well for you was PR, obviously it's working well for individual influencers on YouTube as well. What kind of content are they creating? Is it reviews or how do you work with them to create content?
Sarah: Yeah it’s mostly reviews but it’s really geared towards each individual’s lifestyle. For example we have an influencer partner who is a yoga instructor. She loves beauty products that can fit her yoga lifestyle. She loves the beauty mist that she can spritz on before and after her yoga session for example. It’s very naturally promoted not in a very forced matter or if somebody is a makeup lover then she would review some products that are great for creating that canvas for her skin to prep her skin before makeup. Everything is really geared and customized towards her lifestyle and what she likes.
Felix: I like that rather than just showing a floating head and say, “Hey look at this product I'm inboxing you.” You actually get them to use it in their environment that their audiences are already used to seeing them in. I think it’s much more organic and doesn’t come across as an Ad. How do you find these YouTubers to work with? How do you identify them? How do you find the right ones to work with?
Sarah: It’s a mix of everything. We actually were approached by some bloggers as well which is really cool especially after Shark Tank. Apparently a lot of them are Shark Tank fans so that was great. The other list of bloggers we actually reached out to them based on we asked around but we still … We’d have some team members in our offices who are fans of these girls so we actually … It was just a natural thing. It was an organic list that we created internally and then we also asked for help form our PR agency as well.
Felix: Cool, so I think Instagram is also probably popular for your company, I think you have almost 19,000 followers. What’s your strategy on there? How do you grow a following like that?
Christine: For us Instagram is just a really great visual way to show us in a bit of what we do on a daily basis and behind the scenes and grow that connection with our customer. Also preview some of the new innovations that we bring over from Korea. It’s been an incredibly useful tool for us and we’re getting more and more engagement in comments and likes which we think is a great trend. Example of using Instagram would be, recently I was in Korea just about a week and a half ago and whatever I saw on the ground I would be Instagraming on the Glow Recipe Instagram, my personal Instagram. Also on Snapchat so that customers were getting various different views of what was happening the ground in Korea in real time.
I think there’s an appreciation of being able to partake in that experience. Then they see those innovations being brought over and then on our site so they’re kind of part of the curation creation process.
Felix: I like that you’re almost priming them for the actual products release on your site. There’s a lot of engagement discussion that you’re getting from Instagram and you also mentioned Snapchat. Is there a strategy or a way that’s worked well for your company to drive them then from Instagram or Snapchat over to the store?
Sarah: I think there’s been a lot of discussions in general about how you can drive traffic from the social media. There isn’t a perfect matrix that we can refer to unfortunately but we do see for example emails and reviews on our site where people say, “Oh I saw this on your Instagram I was really curious about and that’s what triggered me to try it and I love it.” We’ve seen a lot of those comments which is how we know that they were coming to our site. We don’t necessarily say you should check it on our site either on our Instagram it’s just I think people know it by now. We didn’t want this to be again like advertising we wanted this to be a way of immersing themselves into our journey of making our business grow. Also when we travel to Korea just travel with us so they’re always just … They feel like they’re part of the team almost.
Felix: You get them immersed into the content that you’re creating and then they want to learn more about you they're going to be able to find a way to click over to your store either in your bio or just because they recognize or it’s look you up in Google. I think that makes a lot of sense.
Sarah: We have a Glow in The Know page on our website which is really a page that has very high traffic because it’s a page that we curate the leaders trends there. Sometimes we test out new products. We ask for our customer’s feedback on them and if some products work well we just like to keep them permanently or not. It’s a place where a lot of people come to after they check out our Instagram or Snapchat because they know that’s the latest.
Felix: These are the latest products that you’ve released on to the store?
Felix: Okay cool yeah I’m looking at it now, awesome. In terms of actually manufacturing or procuring these products I think you mentioned on Shark Tank that there’s a revenue share with creators of the products. Is that still that the model that you’re using to run the business?
Christine: For a lot of our brands that are on our site and also some brands that aren’t visible on our site we’re doing a revenue share model as we function as their US hub and their US team when we direct their launch in the US. We have been taking on that model because it’s just much more scalable and it’s also incentivizing us and them to grow the business together. The bigger the business is here in the US the better everyone fairs.
Felix: I really like this approach. I think that others might want to do something similar where it’s almost like it’s not drop shipping it’s definitely a step above it. Then also like you’re saying you don’t have to worry so much or be so concerned with the actual manufacturing, leave it to the people that are experts in that space. If someone wants to set up a deal like this and they find a creator or a manufacturer that’s already selling a certain product they want to revenue share with them, how do you approach the business with a deal like this? What are some terms that they need to, not terminology, what are some terms in a deal like this that they have to pay attention to?
Sarah: That’s a great question. For us when we approached our brands I think we first most importantly set a clear vision of what they would get from launching in the US and the benefits that would come from this partnership. Because New York and US as a whole is usually influential on the global beauty markets. While a lot of Korean brands are focused on China or the local Asian markets I think it was an education piece to really help them understand why launching in the US market would be so helpful for them. Then once we set that understanding in place then it was a matter of hammering out some more [inaudible 00:37:36] terms like the margin that we would be able to get from the products when we brought their product over here.
Then also when we brokered connections to major retailers in the US to help them launch in a bigger way what that would mean in terms of cost structure. Just being very clear with them upfront of how those structures would work I think help them understand what they would get, the benefit and then the return on investment.
Felix: I see so you’re not just saying, “Hey we're going to put your products in our store.” You’re attaching all these additional benefits to it. Like either access at a network that you have in the United States, the understanding of the market you know a lot better than they do because they’re not in the US. There’s a lot more to it than just saying, “Hey we’re going to put your products in our store." You’re convincing them to work with you because there’s a lot more additional benefits on top of just another seller of their products. Do you also ask for an exclusive partnership? Is that something important to work out?
Sarah: We do do that for a lot of our brands. The reason for that is because when we help introduce them to different retailers we do need to know that there’s going to be one clear channel strategy in the US and that there aren’t any surprises afterwards. We always ask for that for our bigger partners knowing that we’ll be able to care for them and drive their strategy and launch in the US in a better way. At the heart of it it’s really about finding these brands that have so much potential to do well in a global market outside of Korea because they have such amazing products but they just don’t even have the first idea of where to start. At the basis of all of this is us trying to really help them bridge that gap and making sure that they’re successful and set up for success everywhere.
Felix: I really like this model that you have set up where you’ve identified great products in another part of the world that doesn’t have as much exposure and is not marketed the right way in the current country that you’re in currently in the United States. Then basically taking advantage of that. Do you think that this is an approach like if you had to start ... not necessarily start from scratch. When someone out there wants to take the same approach as you to go find a product in another part of the world and then bring it over is it an easy process to research this kind of thing? How would you even begin down this road of finding a product in a country that you’re not a part of?
Christine: That’s also a great question, for us I think it was a little bit more intuitive because we’re such beauty junkies at the core. We've been beauty-obsessed for all of our careers and our personal lives and we just knew that there was this amazing product overseas. That being said I think there’s always ways through your own life or through your connections or through travel or even the internet which is just such a great source of information to finds these products. These niche or different products that haven’t really had the opportunity to come into the US and be that bridge for them. What we would advise though it’s that it is always easier if it’s an area that you have some experience or expertise in and our business background and beauty background has been incredibly helpful as we set up our business.
Felix: It’s awesome I actually had another podcast guest on that she wanted Japanese onesies and they didn’t sell them in Canada where she was from. She had to buy them directly from Japan and then realized that there is no channel for people to get this access to these kind of Japanese onesies so she ended up buying them in wholesale. Then kicked of a business that way almost accidentally. I think it’s definitely something that’s hard to find unless you’re already really involved or really a customer of that industry already. In terms of actually running the business what is the day to day like for you two?
Christine: No day is quite the same?
Felix: I bet.
Sarah: In general we travel so much so that’s a huge part of our day to day. Just a few weeks ago Christine was in Korea I was in Hawaii actually for personal reasons but we’re always traveling. We’re going to LA soon for an event and there’s a lot going on. In general we meet with our team in the morning to make sure that everyone is on the same page with the latest updates and plans. Then we make sure that our team is on top of the content creation so we get involved but maybe not too much. Christine and I get involved more on PR elements so we speak with editors or magazines, we visit their offices sometimes or just build relationships with them. There have been a lot of interviews recently so we were focused on that such as this one too.
Then we also get on the phone with our vendors in Korea so this is actually a challenging part of our job because of the time difference. We try and call them at a reasonable hour but it tends to be at night of our time which is their morning time so that’s towards the end of the day. During the day there’s a lot of meetings and people that we meet.
Felix: For people out there that do have to travel for business just like you two do you have any tips for making progress on your business when you’re uprooted so frequently? It sounds like a big disruption, at least if I had to go through it I'd feel disrupted I couldn’t get into a flow of working on a business. Do you encounter that same issue and what are some ways that you found that works well to combat that?
Sarah: Yeah this is where you have to be super multitasking but at the same time we have to also delegate a lot of the job to the team for the day to day operations. What we like to do is we sit down together as a team, the entire team, and make sure that in the weeks that we’re away everything is planned in a very concrete way. Everyone knows exactly what to do almost every day to get those projects done. We would obviously be still hooked with emails and phone calls with the team to make sure we approve things and the directions are going the right way. In general the best way is to plan ahead of the time in detail as much as possible and make sure everyone is the same page.
Felix: In terms of running the business I’m sure you probably rely on apps and tools to keep it running especially when you’re not in the office. Are there any apps or tool that you recommend that you use to run the business?
Christine: We’ve been using a new app I guess we’re still in the testing phase called Asana that helps keep lists in order and everyone’s to do list in order. It’s also of course very easy to check on the go on your phone so that we’re constantly keeping abreast of what’s going on in the office.
Felix: I like Asana, it’s great for like you’re saying collaboration between multiple members on a team especially if you all had different to do lists. Any particular like Shopify-related apps that you rely on?
Christine: For to do list or for managing a team not so much but for shopper profile in general we’re testing a few apps for loyalty right now. We haven’t really reached a conclusion in which app we might keep but it’s also another area that we’re looking at because we think [inaudible 00:45:30] and retention is incredibly important.
Felix: Cool, so what’s in store for the future? What other plans and goals do you two have for remainder of this year?
Sarah: This year we have some exciting plans because we just launched our exclusive brands that we were carrying in glowrecipe.com and Sephora. Sephora has been a great partner for us for our brand incubating business and now we’re expanding and really have become an official partner for Sephora to launch new brands. That’s really going to be our focus for the second half especially as we roll out new doors and expand on the dot-com business.
Sarah: Yeah that’s like a new vertical that we’re expanding on. At the same time for our glowrecipe.com on site business it’s expanding and growing so we want to make sure that we maintain this growth, actually accelerate it if we can with new CRM programs and different types of marketing elements that we’re using and we’re starting to implement. We’re looking forward to that as well.
Felix: Awesome so thanks so much Christine and Sarah so glowrecipe.com is the site. Anywhere else you recommend at least they check out if they want to follow along with what you’re up to or your travels?
Christine: Yeah of course at @glowrecipe is our tag for Instagram and Twitter as well and then we’re on Snapchat under Glow Recipe as well.
Felix: Awesome, thanks so much Christine and Sarah.
Sarah: Thank you.
Christine: Thank you.
Felix: Thanks for listening to Shopify Masters: The Ecommerce Marketing Podcast for Ambitious Entrepreneurs. To start your store today visit shopify.com for a free trial.
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About The Author
Felix Thea is the host of the Shopify Masters podcast, the ecommerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs, and founder of TrafficAndSales.com where you can get actionable tips to grow your store’s traffic and sales.