Five years ago this month, Christine Chang, BSBA ’04, cofounded her skin care company, Glow Recipe, leaving behind a career in global marketing at L’Oreal US. Just over a year later, she and her cofounder appeared on Shark Tank as a way to jump start the business—and later decided a financial relationship with the “sharks” wasn’t necessary. Chang answered a few questions for the Olin Blog.
Can you tell us a little about Glow Recipe? What inspired you to found it? Was it conceived at Olin?
Glow Recipe is a clean, cruelty-free skin care company founded in 2014. Our mission is to empower our customers to feed skin the ingredients it needs, when it needs it. We’re available at 1,500-plus doors in all Sephora US and Canada stores, as well as Douglas in Germany and Mecca in Australia.
My cofounder Sarah and I were inspired by growing up in Korea and learning a holistic approach to skin care and self care from our mothers and grandmothers. We were the only two bicultural and bilingual employees at L’Oreal who had experience in the beauty industry in both Korea and the US, and we thought this background could uniquely serve us to bridge these two cultures. While Glow Recipe is based in New York, it will always be K-beauty inspired.
Why did you decide to attend WashU and Olin?
I was looking for a school that had diversity, in terms of class size, backgrounds, ethnicities and majors so I would be exposed to a rich breadth of options and possibilities. Olin was an incredible foundation for my first job at L’Oreal as a marketer and helped me build analyticial, creative and presentation skills.
How did you decide to move down the path of entrepreneurship?
I was an assistant vice president at L’Oreal, heading marketing for the skin care category of a brand I really enjoyed working with. At the time, a great number of global beauty companies were starting to partner with Korean manufacturers due to the sheer level of innovation, especially in skin care, that was coming from Korea.
The Korean beauty brands that were being brought over were not reflective of this innovation, nor was there strong brand building. I decided this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leverage my background and experience to bring over beauty innovation and education in a relevant way for a global audience.
Why Shark Tank? What was that experience like?
We were huge fans of Shark Tank even before we were entrepreneurs. It was a surreal experience to be on national TV (completely unrehearsed!) and to have your business dissected by five successful, inspirational entrepreneurs.
It was nerve racking, but such a valuable learning experience on how to pitch our brand and communicate our mission. We got three offers from the sharks and shook hands with Robert Herjavec on the show, but eventually amicably parted ways. When the show aired in December 2015, it brought incredible nationwide awareness for our brand and philosophy.
Have you needed or planned to go outside for additional funding, or has that not been necessary?
We are bootstrapped and have not received outside investment.
Mentions in E!, Cosmo, HuffPo, CNN—is there a secret to the media exposure you’ve been able to capture?
Compelling, educational content has been the cornerstone of our platform and the fuel behind our social and press growth. We’ve always believed that educating on the routine and our skin care philosophy comes before selling a product.
Skin concepts such as Glowipedia, the first “skin care look book,” or “glass skin” skin care hacks like “seven skin method” were appreciated by both editors and customers as our unique approach to skin care techniques and education.
A recent shoot featuring a behind-the-scenes look at how our Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask was made also went viral. We got a lot of feedback from our community that they appreciated the transparency behind our processes.
In what ways was your experience at Olin formative in your experience and goals?
Olin was a combination of interesting courses, lifelong friendships and a supportive, safe environment to figure out how I wanted to approach my career and life after college.
Were there particular courses or professors or alumni who were particularly memorable or influential?
Maxine Clark, the founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop, granted me time to do an informational interview. She was one of the first to really effectively create an experiential retail space and is an inspirational entrepreneur.
I also love seeing the work of Celia Ellenberg, AB ’04, who is the beauty director at Vogue. She consistently pushes the boundary on interesting, out-of-the-box beauty editorial.
What are the next steps for you in your career?
Continuing to grow Glow Recipe and build our team. Glow Recipe started as a curation site in 2014, bringing over natural K-beauty products to the US. Glow Recipe Skincare, our in-house brand, was launched in 2017.
This year, we hit a major milestone by evolving our business model from doing both curation and creation, to solely focusing on Glow Recipe Skincare. We have a lot of exciting innovations and activations planned for our brand and can’t wait to see what 2020 brings.