Joy can only be spread if it reaches the right people in the right way. In that spirit, businesswoman Emmi Hoang is a vivid example of using one’s own joy to bring happiness to the surrounding others, as is the way she named her start-up business: Happy Skin.
Greetings Mrs. Emmi Hoang, Founder Happy Skin Vietnam. As far as I am concerned, you had been quite a reputable beauty blogger in the community before deciding to open your own beauty business. So, may I ask what was the reason for such a decision, driving your career down the business path?
Being a natural sharer with a particular passion for skincare, I started Happy Skin not initially as a cosmetic brand or beauty service. What I wanted was to share my beauty-making knowledge with everyone, especially women, giving them access to several methods of refining their outer appearance and becoming a better a version of themselves, all of which came from my personal experience. For this very goal, within a year and a half after resigning from the cosmetic brand manager position at an FMCG corporation, I focused on building my image as a beauty blogger, as well as participating in various courses on beauty-making while working as an instructor myself for other aspiring young people. Happy Skin was then founded as a professional continuation of my contribution to the community, allowing me to introduce not only beauty-making knowledge at a higher level, but also a wide range of skincare products that incorporate cutting-edge technology to enhance their therapeutic effect.
Becoming an inspirational beauty blogger has been a mentally “enriching” experience, extending my relationship circles as well as asserting the scope of my influence. But that was still not enough for me to advance further in my career. I want to make a statement in the field of business, the big league where a person’s intellect, personality, financial capacity, and even luck are put to the ultimate challenge, and where I will emerge with a better self and an even greater career.
So, what kind of experience and strengths did you find useful when firing up the business?
With my previous experience at a multinational corporation, I was familiar with the standards and procedures in the modern retail industry. Compared to other beauty bloggers who are also running a business, I do have a strategic edge in the management mindset, with a more systematic and all-round perspective of what “doing business” is about, from marketing, finance, to even logistics. On the other hand, my reputation as a beauty blogger also provides me a distinct advantage over any normal business owner in the beauty industry. In the role of a beauty blogger, I was able to find those, among my audience, who were trusting and devoted to me. Not only did they become my very first customers, but they also gave me a basic idea of my target client and their needs.
High-tech cosmetics could be seen as a niche market, with a general lack of domestic brands when your business first came out. What has given you the confidence to boost your business operation even higher?
Before Happy Skin came out 6 years ago, I had already recognized the tremendous potential of pharmaceutical cosmetics and high-tech beauty equipment, seeing their fundamental lack of consumer’s awareness and demand, that is, they are still strange to most consumers. For such a specific line of product to thrive, there is no other way but to enhance its media coverage and share advanced, scientific knowledge to consumers, so that they may understand the importance of investing in these specialized skincare products. Although there are still not many brands, this strategy has been employed by industry “giants” for several years, and I have been fortunate enough to be standing on their shoulders, benefiting from their media promotion activities. In addition, the audience community on Happy Skin’s original media channels, who are more than familiar with the specialized knowledge from my skincare classes, was quite receptive of this new approach. You may say that this is an initial advantage that has helped us spread our knowledge in a more practical way, to a larger crowd of potential customers.
Reality has proven that despite being a niche market that requires significant investments due to the strict and precise standards in product manufacturing, this is one of the fastest growing product lines not only in Vietnam, but also in other countries in the region. Happy Skin has now exceeded 200% growth, and this is a very optimistic sign.
Recently, Vietnamese consumers have been gaining interest in the skincare process, coming to appreciate, and placing their trust in specialized cosmetic products that employ advanced technology. That being said, they still have an inherent skincare habit of seeking treatment only when a problem develops. I, however, consider this an opportunity to offer more values to my customers, extending my service to the unexploited areas. And then there’s the combination of several factors like the young population and the high urbanization rate… which created such a abundant market as it is. I believe that I picked the right time to begin and thus was able to catch up with the rapid growth in this industry and stay on top of the trend.
What are you most proud of regarding Happy Skin current position and achievements?
After spending 6 years building up both the community and the business itself, I’d still refer to Happy Skin as a start-up business. As such, I will always maintain a learner’s perspective, seeking experts who, with their experience, could provide me with the most objective pieces of advice. Many have been dismissive of Happy Skin’s business model, but it was those critical comments that gave me a pragmatic point of view and had sufficient time to make adjustments and ensure that my business goal is no longer to survive, but to thrive and take the lead.
What am I most proud of, you ask? First of all, the fact that I have constructed a business model that I never thought I could. Second is the level of inheritance that I have established, particularly in operation and personnel management. At the moment of speaking, I am no longer haunted by the “nightmare” of employees leaving their job. Happy Skin’s internal staff is 90% complete and showing potential for expansion, while maintaining a high level of connection among senior staff now that they have found a common voice and shared the same vision with the organization. Every member of the management board clearly understands the professionalism and responsibility expected from them, their rights to contribute to the company’s decision-making process, as well as the achievements we are reaching for and the inevitable challenges that come along.
Then is it true to say that you have turned a personal passion into a business idea? And how did you, along with your business, grow throughout this journey?
It is not wrong to say that my starting point for this cosmetics business was my own passion for beauty and sharing. I have realized, however, that not every passion can turn into a business idea, and desires, no matter how strong, can never make an amazing story if not combined with thorough thoughts. And the story behind Happy Skin’s success does not lack shame and failure. Business can never be driven by passion alone, but by meticulous calculation for its survival at first and its direction in the long run.
I believe I’m not too different from any other start-up, who grow alongside their business. A business owner must always be ahead of any other in the company every step along the way. Between now and the early days, I recognize a significant change in my management style. The more insightful I am of the business’ inner issues, the more receptive, open-minded and sympathetic I become, and I’ve also grown to be willing to protect an employee’s rights instead of merely putting the company’s benefit on top of everything.
Opening a business under the reputation of a beauty blogger, you must have received many customers who came to you because of their trust in your personal brand. Does this pose any pressure on you?
It definitely does. During the early stage, my personal brand motivated me to develop a cosmetic brand, but as the middle stage started to set in, it became a pressure. At one point, I encountered a rather serious skin irritation due to the body reactions to some of the technology and products in testing. As a beauty blogger and business owner, I was haunted by it for a while. I started to constantly question myself, that if I could not solve my own skin problem, how could I have the confidence to consult others for their beauty. I was afraid to meet other people for a long time, doubting whether or not I should keep on with a beauty brand of my own?
The more people know of you, the higher their expectation for both yourself and what you do. Therefore, anything that has your name on it will be an easy target for criticism, and the feeling of pressure is inevitable. However, once you have overcome this pressure, things will become easier. After the accident, I was ever more empathetic with those who ever went through a skin problem, becoming more determined to share my knowledge with them and carry on with this journey. These stages in a business career are crucial, just as the scars on our body, because they are the imperfections that remind us to become better.
How have you managed to integrate your personal and business brand together?
In my opinion, if a founder has already established a personal brand before establishing the business brand, it is an advantage. Personally, however, I would use them to complement each other, preventing any dependence between one and the other. During the hiatus following the aforementioned incident, I had a small test where I let the business develop on its own, without my personal brand’s involvement. Fortunately, it continued to be welcomed and no longer necessarily required my constant promotion.
A lesson I have learned after years of being a start-up, if a business or brand is to escape from the shadow of an individual, it has to grow faster than ever. Once a business has grown to a certain scope, the question of its founder is no longer a matter of importance for its customers, and it will be considered an independent brand. The story of an influential funder may become an inspirational, but no longer a decisive one. Therefore, my strategy in this stage is to speed up. We are focusing on extending the spa network and creating new products in order to increase our coverage while reinforcing the brand’s position, with an ultimate goal that customers choose the product for the product itself, not because it is from Emmi Hoang.
Having been a business and self-betterment journey for many years, how are you defining yourself as a businesswoman?
I have been a big fan of this saying that no woman is more charming than a woman speaking about her passion. Nurturing and realizing one’s passion are the core values that I am building or myself. When participating in any community activity or appearing as a business owner, I always try to express the image of a woman persistent to her dreams, who knows what she needs to do to keep that passion alive and aflame. In addition, as an independent and aspiring woman, I would like to pursue the image of a businesswoman supported by a happy family. Though not everyone would need it, I consider myself lucky to have a loving and supportive family, who always encourage me to conquer my dreams in life.
Your brand, Happy Skin, has the word “happy” in it to refer to joyful things, but have you actually had more “joys” than “sorrows” over the first few years as a businesswoman?
The scale may be tipping towards “joys” at the moment, but only just, and that’s considering the past 6 years of being a start-up altogether (Grinning). Before striking such a high note at this point, I and my crew had to go through several low notes in the past. Those were unforgettable times, dragging both my self-esteem and emotion to the bottom, but they have also slapped me into reality and driven me to become better.
People always say, find joy in your work and you will feel no pressure, but it is easier said than done. Do you agree?
For me, the daily joy does not necessarily come from work, it can come from any place. Try to find it to light up your mood and perform your best in your work. There will be times when you stumble upon unpredictable obstacles, and my solution to compensate for the unpleasant experience is to “borrow” the joy from other things, for example exercising, for a healthy body will get you through anything with ease.
“Joy” in business management is quite hard to define. How can we be both care-free and concerned for the business? That is why recently when we were redefining the company’s corporate culture, my mind was flooded with thoughts. I wish to create a working environment where everyone finds inspiration and bonding. Each manager at Happy Skin has to adopt a warrior spirit, exerting their best effort and feeling worthy and appreciative towards collective accomplishments. For the moment, that is my definition of the joy in one’s work.
Businesswomen tend to pursue perfection in their work, but what if they also apply that mentality in their life? Are you a perfectionist in your personal life?
I am, by nature, a perfectionist, not because my work demands so. I realize that it can be self-torturing sometimes, urging me to move forward, making me toss and turn about things that are not good enough, even if they are already at an 8 or 9 out of 10. Truth be told, I still support the notion “everything is possible, and you can always do it better” in both work and life. The perfect 10 is within your reach if you truly want it. On a positive point of view, setting high expectations for one’s self helps elevate the quality of their work and life, but as time went by, I’ve also come to terms with the fact that there are things that you just have to let others do for you and believe that they will do a good job at it. I have learned to share my power with those around me, and even if they might not live up to my expectation, by doing the best they can, they have already helped me lighten the load and have enough time to concentrate on many other tasks.
3 words to describe your personality?
Strength – Tenacity – Sincerity
How did you feel when your first product line was launched?
Extremely nervous. I get this feeling every time I start doing something new, but the more I do it, the more confident I am, actively making adjustments for a better outcome.
How do you steer clear from negative relationships?
Energy can be spread from one person to another, but it does not mean that being around positive people will make you positive. It might not be best for those who possess too much negative energy to be around those who are filled with energy on the other end of the spectrum. The key here is to determine your current energy level, then find a way to convert it to the positive side. If you are already on the positive end, share it with others. Sometimes, giving is better than receiving.
Text: JENNI VÕ, HỒNG ĐẶNG | Translated by HÒA TÔN | Creative Director: HIEPLEDUC | Photo: THẠC TRƯỜNG GIANG. Copyright© All Rights Reserved.
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