Mistakes before Perfection: The Philosophy that Built a Booming Beauty Brand

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At three years old, concert pianist Angela Jia Kim began learning a lesson that would later catapult her entrepreneurial ventures. She cultivated her talent by following the same routine with every new piece of music: learn it, memorize it, perform it.

Making mistakes was simply part of the process.

“Your first performance is going to suck,” Angela said. “I knew I had to perform a piece many, many times before I could enjoy it. One thing I learned as a concert pianist is that you have to get the mistakes out before you get to beauty.”

So Angela took the same fearless approach into creating her organic skincare line Om Aroma & Co. Thousands of experiments in the kitchen led her to create her luxury line, free of parabens, formaldehyde, mineral oil, synthetic fragrances and dyes. After launching her products in 2007, she eventually opened Savor Spa in New York City.

But her entrepreneurial adventures didn’t stop there. She realized she needed to learn how to manage employees. Looking back at her history, she’d been alone for much of her life—first as a touring musician and then starting her own businesses. As Angela jokingly describes it, she had “an emotional level of a 13 year old” going into business. So she created a network for women entrepreneurs called Savor the Success as a vehicle for professional growth.

These days, she runs three businesses and openly shares her personal story to inspire other entrepreneurs.

“Fear is really smart. It’s just how you deal with fear,” Angela said. “If you’re scared about something, you need to come up with a plan of action.”

How did you come up with the idea for Om Aroma?

I’m a concert pianist and one day, as I was walking out on stage, I broke out in hives in front of hundreds of people. After the concert, I decided to look at the list of ingredients and was shocked to find out how many chemicals were in the formula. Just as a hobby, I started making lotions and potions in my kitchen. I became obsessed with creating this anti-aging cream for the face.1minute__47646.1370894448.386.513

I have very sensitive skin. I’ve always had eczema and a tendency to break out. I was very allergic to synthetic fragrances and parabens, a very common preservative found in most skin and body care products.

What makes this different from other skincare lines on the market, especially since all-natural is becoming more popular?

We use champagne caviar truffles. We’re luxury, organic, eco-chic. A lot of organic lines don’t look pretty. They’re very “Vermont mom and pop.” I wanted something that was truly anti-aging, organic and luxurious.

Everything’s locally produced in New York. We hire women who are transitioning back into the workforce who might’ve taken time off to raise their children. We like to say Om Aroma is good for the skin and good for the world.

How did you develop the products?

A lot of the research was through books, and a lot of it was just really experimenting. I had to send the formula to a holistic chemist to make sure I’d gotten things right. But most of it was going with my gut and intuition. I never wanted it to be a business at first; I just wanted it for me. All my life, I couldn’t screw up. As a concert pianist, you strive for perfection. But with this, a lot of it was just pure trial and error.

You mentioned you were allergic to parabens. What are some of the other ingredients in skincare products that we should avoid?

  • The formaldehyde preservative called urea is often the fifth ingredient out of 55 ingredients. It’s a carcinogenic preservative.
  • Synthetic fragrances can have up to 2,000 fragrances in one scent.
  • Silicon acts as a plastic wrapped around your skin, so your skin is tricked into thinking it’s being moisturized.
  • Mineral oil—it’s such a cheap oil.
  • Petroleum—why put that crap on your skin when you can use sweet almond oil or safflower oil, which are 10 times more nourishing for your skin?

What have been some of your greatest successes so far?

5step__12448.1370827713.386.513I’m really proud that I’m affecting people’s lives in a way that’s very motivating and inspiring for them. We launched Savor the Success to give women entrepreneurs the tools and technology to connect on a deep level. They have partner calls, masterminds, check-ins. It’s like a Match.com meets Weight Watchers. We’re making sure they’re accomplishing their goals, and it’s making a real difference in the world.

What have been the biggest challenges to growing your business?

For me, honestly, it’s the challenge of not having the time for all three businesses (Om Aroma & Co., Savor Spa, and Savor the Success). I’m time-deprived. I have amazing help and all three enterprises are profitable and doing well, but it’s just a matter of being able to be present.

Do you have plans to expand the brand? How so?

We’re franchising the spa. We’re coming out with a cinnamon oil this month, and a very crisp beauty serum for Mother’s Day.

Do you have specific tips to consumers on the best way to get the most out of your product?

A little goes a long way. It’s more cost-effective than your local drugstore brand. Use half of what you normally use. My products are designed it for the average woman who doesn’t have any time. I literally have 30 seconds to do my skincare routine. My ritual is I wash my face, mist, hydrate with serum, put on moisturizer and go.

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