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Breaking Through Amazon Barriers with Ju Rhyu, Co-Founder and CEO of Hero Cosmetics

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How to succeed on Amazon is a mystery that many DTC brands have tried and failed to solve. There are tricks to winning on the mega ecommerce site — tricks that no one tells you when you first put your product up for sale in the Amazon jungle. 

That’s why we’ve invited Ju Rhyu on the show. There were a lot of things that Ju wished she knew before she and her co-founders decided to launch Hero Cosmetics on Amazon. Things like what is brand gating? And how do you win the buy box? And what do you do about counterfeit products that pop up right when you start to have a little success?

Ju found the answers to all of those questions and learned so much more as she grew Hero into one of the buzziest skincare brands on the market, which went from 0 to $1 million in year one,  and now not only sells on its website and on Amazon, but is also featured in retailers like Target, Madewell, CVS Pharmacy and more.

On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Ju spills the beans on what it takes to win big on Amazon, and how you can level up from there.

Main Takeaways:

  • If You Build It, They Will Come: Getting your product into retail locations is a mix of luck, perseverance, and creating your own destiny. Relentlessly pitching your product to anyone who will listen, and then jumping on trend-seeking retailers is a strategy to get your foot in the door. Also, having a PR strategy to build buzz may help drive interest in your brand. 
  • Boxing Out Your Opponent: On Amazon, the first steps to success are winning the buy box and brand gating. It takes time, but if you take the steps to prove that you are the true owner of your product or IP, you’ll be able to avoid much of the pain that comes with selling on Amazon.
  • Far Out Future: Because 2020 accelerated the adoption of ecommerce, DTC brands are in a position to set the stage for where business is headed. From bike delivery to the creation of a DTC mall, Ju has a lot of predictions on what to look out for down the road.

For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Key Quotes:

“For me, [the patch] solved a real problem that I was struggling with. It worked better than anything else I had ever really used and I got to thinking if this is helping me, this could probably help a lot of other people stateside as well.”

“The hypothesis was that if we bring this product category to the U.S. and position it more as a beauty product that it could do well. And so for us, the easiest way to test out that hypothesis was on a platform like Amazon. …We said, ‘Let’s see if people buy it. If people buy it, then we’ll work on phase two, which would be launching a DTC channel.’”

“I don’t know how many people know how Amazon really works, but a lot of times when you have a product page, it’s not something that you own, unless you’re brand gated. It’s something that other people can sell that product, leveraging your product page. And then the idea is everyone has to win the buy box. And the buy box is when you’re on an Amazon product page, and you add to cart, the person who’s winning the buy box is the first person whose product you would add to your cart….And it’s really smart on Amazon’s part, because as a seller, you have to earn it either by having really good reviews, like seller reviews or you have to earn it by having the best price. And so there are a lot of sellers, they’ll price a penny cheaper, or like 5 cents cheaper, and then they’ll win the buy box. Which inevitably is a very dangerous game because you can just sort of discount this product to zero.”

“[Retail] buyers are usually trend seekers, they pay a lot of attention to the trends of their category.”

“In 2018, when we launched in a lot of specialty retailers, I credit that to I’m a big believer in, if you build the demand, the retailers will come. Once I started our PR push and we were mentioned in, into The Gloss and Business Insider and Buzzfeed, I actually started getting quite a bit of inbound requests from buyers.”

“Working with and staying close with the buyer is really important because they’ll have a lot of input into your innovation.”

“One of the great things about traveling is you get to really explore and learn a different culture and discover different products or different services that could be adaptable to a different country, a different market.”

Mentions:

Bio:

Ju Rhyu is co-founder/CEO of Hero Cosmetics. Hero Cosmetics was launched in 2017 with one product, Mighty Patch, as a test on Amazon. Now, Hero Cosmetics sells a box of Mighty Patch  every 15 seconds in channels like Amazon, Target, DTC, Neiman Marcus, Goop, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and more. 

 

She has been named to the Inc. Magazine 2019 Female Founders 100 list and was named a Yotpo 2019 Amazing Woman in Ecommerce. She is a graduate of Brown University and Columbia Business School and splits her time between Paris and NYC.

Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce

Transcript:

Stephanie:

Hello and welcome back to up next in ecommerce. This is your host, Stephanie Postles co-founder at mission.org. Today on the show we have Ju Rhyu the co-founder and CEO of Hero cosmetics. Welcome.

Ju:

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I’m really excited that you took the time to call in from Paris. That’s so fancy when I say Paris, maybe you’re like, this is normal for me, but you feel fancy.

Ju:

It was a fun fact that I tell people, “Oh, by the way, I live in Paris.”

Stephanie:

So tell me a little bit about Hero. I would love to hear the founding story of how you started it. I mean, it has tons of news coverage and I was reading so many different stories. And I want to hear from you though about how you came to found it.

Ju:

I mean, the story is I was living in Korea. I was working there as an expat in Seoul, South Korea, and I was suffering from adult acne. I don’t know exactly what was causing it. Maybe it could have been the changing environment, the lower air quality change in lifestyle, or maybe stress, I’m not sure. I was really frustrated because I kept breaking out and it was always just hard for me to find a solution that worked for me. But in Korea I noticed a lot of people walking around with these acne patches on their faces. So I got really curious. I went to a pharmacy, I bought some, and then I was just amazed at how well it worked because it sucked everything out and protected me from touching the area and picking at it.

Ju:

It was really gentle on my skin. And then I immediately started wondering why I was learning about it then, and not like 15 years ago and why it wasn’t more available in the US so I did some research and then that’s when the idea of like, Hey, I should make this available in the US I think people would really like it.

Stephanie:

That’s so cool. I mean, it seems like Korea, all the beauty trends right now are coming from there, everything when it comes to double cleansing and [inaudible]

Ju:

Well, the 12 step regimen.

Stephanie:

Yes. I try to follow the 12 step regimen. And I got a little overwhelmed. I’m like, Oh, this is a lot to clean my face. So you found this product in Korea. What did you do next? How did you have the idea? Because a lot of people find other products in other countries. I know, I at least have, or my oldest T brands really good, or Oh, this hammock is really good, whatever it may be. And I don’t always think, I’m going to bring this back to the States and do this. So what were your next steps? Why was this the product that you wanted to bring back and start?

Ju:

First of all, for me, it solved a real problem that I was struggling with it worked better than anything else I had ever really used. And I just got to thinking if this is helping me, this could probably help a lot of other people state side as well. And then actually in Korea, when, if you’re a cosmetics manufacturer or distributor, you’re obligated to print the name of the manufacturer on the back of your package, that is not true in the US actually. And so the first thing that I did was I started contacting these patch manufacturers to see how much it would cost to buy them from them, how the manufacturing side would work. If they could work with me to develop something that I thought would be suitable for the US market. So I went to a bunch of pharmacies. I bought up a lot of packages. I looked at the backs of the boxes to see who the manufacturers were. And then I started my outreach.

Stephanie:

What were some of the biggest surprises when you’re reaching out to these manufacturers?

Ju:

I mean, a lot of them didn’t return my calls or my emails. I don’t blame them. I mean something like random person contacting them about buying up a much of their patches for a business idea that was still very nascent. And so that was a little bit frustrating, but there were a few that did reply to and then there was a little bit of a language barrier just because I mean, I’m Korean American living and I was living in Korea. But my Korean isn’t totally fluent. And so a little bit of a language barrier, but I got really lucky because I landed on the manufacturer that we work with today, who was more than happy to get my email was super easy to work with was very open and developing relationship. And that’s how, probably how we got to where we are today. From that one cold email he happened to respond and we’ve been working together for now over three years.

Stephanie:

Oh, wow. That’s really cool. So were they open to creating custom packaging? Because I know when I’ve looked into this space before, it seemed very black and white. You can have our packaging or something very expensive, but like it’s still going to be our design. How willing were they to have something really custom?

Ju:

They were pretty willing. They were willing to customize design and basically customize anything that we really wanted. So they were pretty open to that. This is their business, they make products for other companies and other brands. And so they were pretty familiar with how that whole process works.

Stephanie:

And did you end up using a very similar or exact product of what you got in Korea that you started selling here? Or did you make any updates or changes?

Ju:

Yeah, I worked with the manufacturer to adjust to some things I thought were really important. So things like the adhesion or the stickiness or the absorption power of the actual patch of the hydrocolloid patch. So there were some customizations that were made for this product because I definitely wanted to create like the perfect acne patch. And that’s how we landed on what we have now.

Stephanie:

That’s great. And do you feel like you had a leg up because it looked like you’ve been working in the world of digital and e-commerce prior to Hero. Was there anything that you learned from your past life before Hero that you brought into founding the company?

Ju:

Oh yeah. All the time. So my background is I actually got my MBA at Columbia business school and then I worked in corporate America for a really long time. So I worked at Kraft foods, American express, I worked at Samsung. That’s what brought me to Korea. And I mean, I still lean on my, on all those experiences. I lean particularly on my Kraft foods experience because that was in brand management where they train you in a certain way of thinking for marketing. So, consumer is always first to teach you about the retail landscape and there’s a distinction between your consumer and your customer. They talk about like the brand ladder. There’s so many things that I still fall back on and use to this day. And then for some of the other companies, things like processes or even knowing about email and open rates and how to really digest analytics like that, are things that I still use today.

Stephanie:

That’s great. So I’m going to get a little crash course in craft methodology. So earlier you just mentioned distinction between consumer and customer. What do you mean by that and how do you practice that?

Ju:

Yeah, it’s funny because in my mind they’re very different, but I know sort of in the public, they both get used interchangeably, but the way that a lot of these CPG companies work is they didn’t exist before at DTC world. So they always sold through a retailer like a Walmart or Costco or target, et cetera. And so those retailers were always referred to as the customer because those were the people that were actually buying your product. And then you would refer to the consumer as the end-user of the product. So the person who would inevitably eat your Oreo cookie or use your Clorox cleaning solution. Usually the consumer ended up being the consumer of the retailer. So it’s really not like if you’re working at Kraft foods the consumer is not technically your consumer. I mean, it is, but by way of the retailer. And so that distinction was always very important when it was written out.

Stephanie:

That’s good. All right. So you’ve got your manufacturer, you’ve got your product being built. What next?

Ju:

Yeah. I have two co-founders Dwight and Andy, and then I do a lot of the product, the marketing, the PR basically the sales person. Dwight handles a lot of the supply chain ops. And then Andy, he does all our design and creative. So we had gotten together we decided the three of us were going to do this. We had the product concepts so it came. So the next thing was to come up with the brand and the product name, the brand name. And for me, it was really important that we choose a name that was very like evokes emotion or something emotive because I felt like acne was a very emotional category. There are a lot of people who feel bad about themselves or feel insecure when they have acne.

Ju:

And so I wanted a name that was really, I don’t know like instilled confidence or was like a just evoked positive emotion. And so that’s where we came up with the name Mighty Patch. And then we had to create designs does on the box really kind of create the whole brand feel of this product. And then the initial strategy was we were going to sell it on Amazon. So we launched it on Amazon. That was how we were going to distribute it. And then once we had the distribution part then came the other part, which is how do you sell it? So we had to get people to know about it buy it, leave us reviews and things like that.

Stephanie:

So let’s dive a bit into launching on Amazon because I always hear very mixed emotions about selling on Amazon. And I want to hear your thought process about, starting their first. And did you do research on the platform to kind of see, what the space was like? Like what kind of things did you go through before deciding like Amazon’s actually a good spot to start?

Ju:

Well, so we started this business almost like a side hustle. It was a side hustle and we were bootstrapped, we didn’t raise money. And so for us, Amazon was like the most logical place to start because you have access to hundreds of millions of buyers. It doesn’t take a lot of resources or investment to launch on Amazon. You can take advantage of their backend, like warehouses and fulfillment centers to help with the fulfillment part. So for us, like Amazon made so much sense and then also, back then it wasn’t… we just had a hypothesis. And the hypothesis was that if we bring this product category to the US and position it more as a beauty product that it could do well.

Ju:

And so for us, the easiest way to test out that hypothesis was on a platform like Amazon. So rather than having to spend all the money to build a website and find a three PL and do things like that, the easiest and quickest way to test out our hypothesis was to put a page on Amazon. We said, let’s see if people buy it. If people buy it, then we’ll work on phase two, which would be launching a DTC channel.

Stephanie:

That’s awesome. I think that’s such a great way to have that, like MVP products. See if it works before investing too heavily into a big website and yeah, like you said, setting up three PLS. What kind of hiccups did you experience when you launched on Amazon or started that process?

Ju:

So one was we actually proved out our product market fit very quickly. And we actually ran out. We either I can’t remember, but I think we almost ran out of inventory or we did run out of inventory. We had like our second order on a boat and it was supposed to be released, but like the timing didn’t work out. And so it was really, really tight in terms of inventory planning. The other issue was we were getting people were now brand gated, but before we were brand gated, we’re getting people attaching themselves to our listings as we were getting more and more popular. And so I don’t know how many people know how Amazon really works, but a lot of times when you have a product page, it’s not something that you own, unless you’re brand gated.

Ju:

It’s something that other people can sell that product, leveraging your product page. And then the idea is yeah, everyone has to win the buy box. And the buy box is when you’re on an Amazon product page, and you add to cart, the person who’s winning the buy box is the first person whose product you would add to your cart. So I didn’t know any of this when we first started, I was like, why do you have to earn the buy box?

Stephanie:

I had no idea. I mean, I see that from a consumer side where it’s like, you have other options, but I never go to those. It’s like whoever’s first is who I go with.

Ju:

Yeah. And it’s really smart on Amazon’s part, because as a seller, you have to earn it either by having really good reviews, like seller reviews or you have to earn it by having the best price. And so there are a lot of sellers, they’ll price a penny cheaper, or like 5 cents cheaper, and then they’ll win the buy box. Which inevitably is a very dangerous game because you can just sort of discount this product to zero. So anyways, we were getting people attaching themselves for a page, which wasn’t good because we wanted to protect our products and our IP and all that. And then the other issue that we ran into was we started getting counterfeits mixed into our inventory. So there was a time where and I have a photo of it. It’s like someone had literally ripped off our designs created like their own version of our box. I’ll be at the designs were not like you could tell that it was fake. It wasn’t a perfect copy. But somehow it had gotten mixed into our inventory. And then that fake product was getting shipped out to customers.

Stephanie:

How is that happen? I mean, was that like on the manufacturer or how does it get mixed into your inventory?

Ju:

I don’t really know, but I think what happens is they probably attached themselves to our page at that time. And then won the buy box and started shipping this big products to these customers. I think some of them were returned, like people would return them and then it’d get mixed into our inventory that way.

Stephanie:

Oh, that’s tricky. Yeah, because I’ve seen that in reviews on Amazon where people would be like, this is the authentic one. I’ve been buying this for five years and now it’s a knock off. And I’m like well, how’s that happened? But I guess he just didn’t understand how that could happen, where I’m like well, the brand wouldn’t have a knockoff, but yet now knowing how the buy box works and yeah, that can be really tricky. So how did you get those people off of your page when they started attaching themselves to your page? Like what did you do to rise above them?

Ju:

Yeah. So there’s something that you can do on Amazon called brand gating. And you have to prove that you own the IP or the trademark to your brand name. So you present them, you submit all the evidence and then they will brand gate you, which means that you are sort of no longer a public page where people can attach themselves to your page. You and only you can can moderate or edit or sell on your page. And so that’s what we did. And then since we’ve done that, it hasn’t been a problem.

Stephanie:

Well, that’s a really good lesson for anyone new trying to start out on Amazon. That is a possibility. Very good to know. So what’s changed on Amazon since you launched there in 2017, what kind of things have changed?

Ju:

Well, our category now has just exploded. And it’s funny because in September when we launched this September, 2017, it was us and maybe like one or two other products when you looked up acne patches, but now when you search for acne patches, there are like pages and pages and pages of acne patches that show up in the search results. And so sure competition [crosstalk 00:19:00]. We’re the best seller, we have the best-seller badge.

Stephanie:

How did you get that? Just from actually being a bestseller or was there anything else behind that. I’m thinking way off course by looking at the Amazon page now.

Ju:

Yeah. So it’s like a three-pronged strategy. One is you need to support your product and your page within the Amazon paid media ecosystem. As you need to run your sponsored product ads and your display ads. And so there’s a whole advertising strategy. The other is you have to optimize your organic content. So your product titles, your page titles, your descriptions have the right key words, a plus content, video content, images. So that’s the second strategy. And then the third part is kind of building your outside ecosystem. So having press point to your Amazon page or having influencers talk about your product and being available on Amazon and just sort of building your brand halo. So you have to be relentless. It definitely takes time. It took us about a year to get the bestsellers badge from the moment where we really started going after it.

Stephanie:

So let’s talk a bit more about the competitive space, because like you said, beauty is very competitive. So many people are launching products. Like what do you all do to stay ahead from your competition?

Ju:

We will look at our messaging a lot. We always want to be sort of one step ahead in terms of how we message our products, why we’re better really talking about our differentiation. We’re also really evolving in terms of product portfolio. So we’re best known for our patches, obviously that’s whatever it is our bestseller on Amazon and elsewhere. But since then we’ve launched a lot of other products with like we have rescue bomb and then lightning won and then we’re coming out with a bunch of other things next year to really build kind of a routine and regimen for acne. And so, I get the question a lot, like, why is your patch different from others? Like tell me about the patch. Like, they just want to know about the patch, but part of my job these days is really telling people that we’re about much more than just the patch, we’re really an acne brand. And so I think that tactic is something that is also differentiated from a lot of other competitors out there who may only have like a single patch product.

Stephanie:

Yeah. [inaudible] great because it shows that you’re really invested in that whole market and you are always finding new products to offer to your customers, which is only going to help. Like how do you go about developing those new products and know what your customers want?

Ju:

It’s a mix of art and science. It’s some of it comes from well… We have a great PD team, product development team. Part of it comes from sort of research where we’re always looking and reading at trends. And we’re trying to react to white space that we see in the market. Part of it also just comes from our collective acne issues. Like sometimes I’ll break out and I’ll say, I really wish I had a product that did this. Why doesn’t it exist? And then I’ll talk to product development team. And then we’ll create something that addresses that issue. Some of it also comes from research that we do with our customers or our consumers, excuse me. Well, we’ll ask them what are you looking for? What else do you want to see from us? What other types of acne issues do you have that we could solve? So it’s a little bit of like intuition comes from our own experiences. Some of it comes from data. It’s kind of there’s no perfect recipe, I guess we’re coming up with your products.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Cool. So let’s shift over a little bit into more wholesale deals and getting in retail, because I saw some of the retail locations that you’re in, like Madewell and target J group. Very impressive. And so I’m sure everyone’s like well, how did you get into those retail locations?

Ju:

Yeah. Okay. So we launched on Amazon September, 2017. I immediately started pitching retailers our product, and then anthropology was actually the first one to take us in January of 2018. And they took us as a-

Stephanie:

That’s quick.

Ju:

Yeah. It was really quick which again, for me it just affirmed the idea that there was a need in the market for this type of product.

Stephanie:

What was your pitch? Tell us the magic.

Ju:

It was really like just a cold pitch email telling them what the product was, what it does, why it’s gray included a picture in the email. So they had a visual really just use concise bullet points. And I mean, that’s kind of it. I didn’t attach a deck or anything like that.

Stephanie:

And did you have any data that you included that maybe won them over?

Ju:

I think I had talked about how acne patches in Korea were… so back then KBD was really hot. And I think I’d talked to them. I think I had mentioned that acne patches were really popular in Korea and that and there was a Korean brand that was quite popular. And so I wanted to bring like an American version of that product to the US so in a way that, buyers are usually trend seekers, they pay a lot of attention to the trends of their category. So I think she knew that acne patches a developing an emerging.

Stephanie:

That’s great. So you got anthropology as your first retail partner. Was it easier to get the rest after you could point to anthropology and be like, see we’re in here?

Ju:

I mean, it’s definitely validation gives you street cred. But I think in 2018 when we launched in a lot of specialty retailers and I credit that to I’m a big believer in, if you build the demand, the retailers will come. And so once I started our PR push and we were mentioned in, into the gloss and business insider and Buzzfeed, I actually started getting quite a bit of inbound requests from buyers. So I remember like American Eagle was an inbound J crew, I believe was an inbound, Neiman Marcus was an inbound. So as we started getting more press and becoming more known on Instagram and things like that I actually started getting pitched from these buyers. They would email me and say, Hey, I heard about your product. I really want to try it. Can you send me some samples? And so that was sort of special.

Stephanie:

That’s awesome. So how did you get this press to get in front of them? What kind of avenues were they finding you on, like, were they finding you from Instagram or was it actually in these articles that were somehow ending, ending up on their computer screen? How did that work?

Ju:

So there’s a service that I used called Launch Grow Joy. I recommend to, I recommend them to like every entrepreneur that I’ve talked to, because it’s sort of like DIY PR so you pay like a monthly or yearly fee, you log into their system and then they give you access to all these editors that are looking for content or products to talk about in their next article. I did all the pitching early on and like had mentioned before the first article that we really got was an into the gloss. And immediately after that article went up, I think I got like two or three inbound emails from retailers saying, Oh, I just read about your product. I really want to try it. And so I think if you know, what the buyers re like, usually depending on your category, they read certain things to know what the trends are and to know what’s like new. So for beauty.

Ju:

And so the gloss is it’s a publication that a lot of people read. And so I just got really lucky, I think with that first article and then just started pitching other beauty related publications and then sort of build [inaudible]

Stephanie:

That’s really great. So now you’re in many retail locations at that point? What kind of lessons did you learn that maybe you took to new retail partner you got?

Ju:

That’s a good question. I think packaging is really, really important. I think that’s why initially I think we stood out because our packaging was very colorful and it was very bright. And then it was pretty clear with product did on the packaging. And so for me, like anytime we make a packaging change, I always run it by our buyers. So when we launch new products and we’re looking at a different color scheme or something like that, I’ll always send it to our buyers to get quick feedback, because they’ll know if it’ll do well or won’t do well. So that’s a big one.

Stephanie:

Do you change packaging based on different retail locations whatever connects with anthropology might be very different than target.

Ju:

No, we don’t, maybe we’ll do different pack sizes, but we won’t really change the design. So I think that’s a big one. I mean, I’ve learned that working and staying close with the buyer is really important because they’ll have a lot of input into your innovation too. Because, because sometimes like they’re looking for a certain type of product and then they’ll come to you and they’ll be like, Oh, we’d love this. We’d love it if you made X, Y, Z product. And so I try to stay close with the buyers on innovation pipeline. I think it’s really important to hold price. We started selling on Amazon. And then I actually was very worried in the beginning that no one would take us because we were on Amazon, because to your point, a lot of people have this love, hate relationship with Amazon.

Ju:

But actually what I found was that no one had a problem with it because we’re three on Amazon. So we sell on their marketplace. Therefore we control the price because we could control the price. A lot of other retailers were okay with it. And in fact, they kind of see Amazon success as validation that it will probably do well at their store as well.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that makes sense. Very cool. So now with where the world’s at today, and a lot of retail locations, declaring bankruptcy, what are you guys experiencing right now? And what’s your go forward strategy?

Ju:

Yeah, this year has been an interesting year. We’re luckily one of those businesses that actually benefited from COVID in a way and really two reasons, I think one reason is our distribution strategy. So the biggest channels that we sell in which are D to C, Amazon and Target are, they were always online or they never say it another way. They never had to close this year because like Target was considered an essential retailer, Amazon, they’re online and then D to C is online. And so luckily we weren’t a company that depended heavily on a retailer that did have to close so that, so we saw minimal impact. And then in fact, like, as these essential retailers, they get stronger. Our business actually just gets stronger as well. And then the other issue is since we all have to wear masks the masks because acne, and there’s a term that people use is called [inaudible 00:33:08].

Stephanie:

Have not heard of that.

Ju:

Have you not? Its called [inaudible] And it’s caused by either like the friction. So when you wear the mask, sometimes it rubs on her face and it causes friction and then that’ll cause you to break out or I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but when I have the mask on it, it creates humidity when you talk like when you talk and when you breathe, it creates humidity. and that humidity gets trapped and creates bacteria, which causes you to break out. And so we’ve seen a lot of people suffer from mass MI looking for a solution and then they end up finding our products and our company. And so that’s another reason why we’ve actually benefited from COVID in a way.

Stephanie:

Oh, that’s good. So are you going after the masks masks me keyword or any other cameras coming?

Ju:

Yeah, actually when I first heard about maskne I don’t know, maybe it was like April, like may or something like that, I immediately told my team and I said, Hey, we need to double down on this, on this word, let’s write a blog post, let’s do social content. We need to own maskne. I think we were the first ones probably to come up with like content around maskne and to do, to even create a bundle on our website for a mass me. And then since then I’ve seen some other people do that, but I saw that as definitely an opportunity for us.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s, really good. So I want to move over into the mentorship category now, because I saw that you have Jamie Schmidt as your mentor and she created schmaltz and she started in a farmer’s market and then ended up selling it to Unilever. So amazing mentor. I want to learn a bit about the types of things that she’s guiding you on or the most memorable pieces of advice that she’s given you.

Ju:

Oh gosh. So she helps me a lot with distribution because she also obviously had built and sold a company that’s similar in terms of distribution strategy. Like they weren’t just D to C. They also sold that big box retail and had a pretty extensive they had extensive distribution. And so I remember when we did a mentoring session for Inc magazine, one of the questions I asked her was around like succeeding at target and how to do that, how to ensure success because it’s a really important relationship. You want to make sure you get it right. You don’t really have a second chance. So she gave give a lot of really good advice and tips on that and also how they support it.

Ju:

I remember her saying that they ran a lot of geo-targeted ads and some of the top like 50 or a hundred stores to drive traffic to, to the target stores. So that was a really good idea. And even, even now I hadn’t recently sent her an email about sort of international distribution, because I know they have quite a few international distributor partners how to navigate those relationships what those relationships should look like. And then people should definitely follow her on Twitter. She gives a lot of really good advice on Twitter for free. So I’m always following what she tweets.

Stephanie:

She’s very smart. I follow her as well. So what kind of thoughts did she have around expanding internationally? And are you working towards doing that or are you already international?

Ju:

We’re kind of international, like we sell on Amazon Canada, we sell at Liberty London in the UK. It hasn’t been a big push for us just because US market alone is so big and then we already have so much work. But it’s definitely something we have our eyes set on just because for us, acne, we want to make our products available for anyone who has acne. I think they really do help people who break out. And so that’s obviously not just limited to the US it’s really a global problem. Anyone who breaks out should be able to access our products. And so it is, yeah, it’s in the strategy for sure. I think it’s a matter of prioritizing it when we have the time.

Stephanie:

Cool. And so by taking a product that you found in Korea and bringing it back here, it seems like there’d be a lot of room to go other places and be like oh, and here’s another product I can bring to the US and another one, like do you ever get tempted when you travel or traveling to buying other products and be like this worked once. Why wouldn’t I just launch more things on Amazon?

Ju:

Yeah, I haven’t had a product idea yet, but living in Paris I do see things here where I’m like oh, wow. I wish I could introduce this to the US. I think it could do really well.

Stephanie:

What are some things in Paris doing well, or unless you don’t want people to steal your idea because we have many customers who might, I don’t know.

Ju:

Well, I’ll say there’s a retail idea. There’s a retail chain that does quite well here and that doesn’t exist in the US and again, it was sort of the same thing. I’m like, why does it exist in the US? And I think you’re right. I think that’s like one of the great things about traveling is you get to really explore and learn a different culture and discover different products or different services that could be adaptable to a different country, a different market. And so I kind of have two ideas that are kind of like that already.

Stephanie:

All right. So I want to move into a couple more like higher level ecommerce questions because you’ve been in the industry for awhile. I want to hear what kind of trends or patterns are you most excited about right now?

Ju:

I think there’s a lot of cool stuff in food that’s happening. I think I’m really interested… For me personally, I’m really interested in the environment and sustainability, and I see a lot of cool ideas around local delivery by bike. So it’s zero emission. It gets a product from point A to point B. It is a lot more sustainable. I think that’s really interesting. I think food again is also interesting. And especially with COVID and this year and how I think the uptake with buying food online has probably skyrocketed. I think there are a lot of people who weren’t used to doing their groceries online. So I’m really curious to see innovation that comes out with food. I’m also very interested in sort of this marketplace concept that I see coming up and popping up. There’s a new marketplace called [inaudible 00:41:57].

Stephanie:

Yeah. I was just reading about that this morning.

Ju:

Yeah. So it’s sort of like a D to C. I guess it’s a good D to C marketplace or some marketplace for D to C brands, almost like an online mall, which I think sounds really interesting as well. So I don’t know. I mean, there’s just a ton of stuff going on. I think for sure, like ecomm is going to be it because we’ve seen the adoption just really increase in penetration over the past eight months, I guess. So I’m curious to see what the innovation is going to be like, but I already see a ton of ideas happening at the moment.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Awesome. All right. Let’s move over to the lightning round, brought to you by Salesforce commerce cloud. This is where I’m going to ask you a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready Ju?

Ju:

I’m ready?

Stephanie:

All right. So what’s up next on your Netflix queue other than Emily and Paris, obviously?

Ju:

Oh, I’m watching the Crown, the newest season.

Stephanie:

Is it good? Someone just said that yesterday.

Ju:

Oh yeah. Because it’s all about princess Diana and Prince Charles. So yes, it’s good.

Stephanie:

Awesome. Where are you traveling to next when you’re able to travel again?

Ju:

I really want to go to Korea actually. I want to go to Seol.

Stephanie:

Find more trends.

Ju:

Yeah. Find more trends. I want to see my relatives. I want to meet my vendors. Yeah, I would really like to go there.

Stephanie:

Fun. What do you not understand today that you wish you did?

Ju:

I wish I could understand TikTok better.

Stephanie:

Do you guys use TikTok?

Ju:

We’re very heavy on TikTok. It’s one of our most important social channels, but I don’t know. I find it so time-intensive to make the videos and create the content and stuff, but there’s some people who are amazing at it.

Stephanie:

So what kind of what are your best performing videos on TikTok?

Ju:

Oh, the peeling off the patch and that video. Yeah, because it’s like kind of like a doctor Pimple Popper moment. It’s kind of gross, but satisfying. And those videos will get like millions of views in like 48 hours.

Stephanie:

I had a feeling that was going to be what it was. I can advertise those videos all the time. I don’t know what I clicked on at one point in my life, but I can all that advertised to me on Facebook and wherever I’m at. [inaudible] stop following me. Cool. If you were to have a podcast, what would it be about and who would your first guest be?

Ju:

Oh, that’s a good question, because I actually thought about having a podcast. I would have a podcast around entrepreneurship. I don’t know exactly how it would be different from other topics, but something around probably entrepreneurship, maybe how people made the first million dollars or something like that. And then my first guest would probably be Jim [inaudible 00:45:11].

Stephanie:

There you go. That’s to mean you already have that connection, it sounds like a hit to me. All right. And the last one, we talked a little bit about trends or patterns you’re excited about. This is a little bit different. What one thing do you think is going to have the biggest impact on ecommerce within the next year?

Ju:

Well, I mean, I guess the pandemic has already had its impact. In the next year… I don’t know. I mean I think probably this big sustainability push is… I don’t know if it will be in the next year, but I think we will start to see it impacting ecommerce in a significant way, in packaging in your carbon footprint. And I think we’re going to see a lot more of it in the next year for sure.

Stephanie:

All right Ju, this has been a really fun interview. I love talking about how you launched on Amazon and how to get into retail. I feel like there’s a lot to learn. Where can people find out more about you and your cosmetics?

Ju:

You can find more about Hero cosmetics either on Instagram. The handle is Hero cosmetics website, herocosmetics.com. And then for me, you can find me on Twitter. It’s just my first name, last name, J-U-R-H-Y-U, and then same handle on Instagram.

Stephanie:

Awesome. Thanks so much for joining.

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Episode 63