During our first k-beauty unwrapped masterclass in London, Jina Lee, CEO of URANG shared with us the story of creating Urang brand. I shared this interview with Zarah @seoulfull_star.
Jina Lee On creating a company
Karolina: What was the reason you decided to create your own cosmetics? How did it start; did you start DIY/formulating in your kitchen?
Jina Lee: It all starts with me becoming phobic about cosmetic ingredients. It was 9-10 years ago. One day I realized that ingredients in the products I was using could be harmful. So I switched to natural and organic cosmetics. I got curious about ingredients and started studying cosmetic chemistry, the ingredients itself, how they were made, what the fragrance was, etc. This is the time when I started making cosmetics in my kitchen. I used limited ingredients and tools. The cosmetics were for myself and for my husband at first but got seriously into it when I had my first child.
Zarah: Which product did you start with? How long did it take you to come up with the formula? What was its purpose?
Jina Lee: The first thing I made was natural handmade soaps, then some toners and shampoos.
Then I made stretch mark oil product for my belly when I had my first child and that is the start of the ‘Glow Oil Serum’ product.
And the multi balm was first made for my son’s diaper rash and my nipple rash-so for my first child. And the recipe is almost the same right now with URANG’s multi balm.
On “big decision”
Karolina: When did the light went off and (What was the moment) you said you want to do your own cosmetics and enter the beauty industry?
Jina Lee: Well I can say it just happened like as if this was my destiny.
I had my own blog and whenever I made new products to use I gave out for free to my blog friends and they all gave me positive feedback, so that is when I thought okay so my products are working.
I started with a very humble mind.
When I saw the ingredient list of many commercial products, I thought ‘why do you use this thing? This is merely only water with possible toxic ingredients.” I wanted people to use safe and great quality ingredients but at a reasonable price that has a decent amount of good products without deceiving people with putting only a little bit and exaggerating that little portion.
Zarah: Did you consult your idea with anyone? Things like brands name? What does Urang mean? What is the inspiration behind the name Urang, what does it mean?
Jina Lee: Yes my family and friends, but especially my husband who is my husband but a best friend as well as the best business partner.
URANG -U(You)+Rang(means within Korea)= so You and I we use together. Also, my blog friends called me (urang: abbreviation of uginong sarang(means organic love in Korean). And also Ultimate Radiance and Natural Glow.
Karolina: It’s not easy to move from an idea of creating a brand to executing it. How did you stay motivated to continue this passion? Where did you take the energy from?
Jina Lee: Yes, that is right. At first, of course, there were so many things to actually do to create a brand and actually put it out in the market. But making is not actually the real hard part. The cosmetic industry is jungle-so many products out there and in Korea, so many new products come and fail every day.
If anyone wants to create a brand you m.u.s.t know this. You really need a passion to stay motivated to go on, because to tell you the truth I wanted to stop at one point last year because it was not as easy to market your own thing. But, as our products started to get love from people all around the world that is what got me more motivated. And of course, my family is a motivation. I made this for myself and my family. I will try my best to make the best out of this.
Zarah: What was the toughest and most difficult moment when building your brand?
Jina Lee: As I said, the tough market and how to efficiently market my brand.
And also, for URANG we try to put the best ingredients possible and a lot of them. See our ingredient list. You will never see water as the number 1 ingredient ever in URANG. We try to put the best, safe, and a lot of good stuff into one bottle, so the real prices are high. We bring many of the ingredients from overseas like US, UK, Italy, Bulgaria, and so on all by air. Because we really focus in ingredients, starting from this year when we had to send seriously a lot number of products to Costco USA, the ingredient and manufacturing cost was so high, that was kind of hard for us at first. The cost, but also setting and handling big number orders to be sent to the port in time with no trouble. We had problems with the bottles, so all of our team had to go to the manufacturing company to check one by one for all the bottles. And since we get the ingredients overseas, stock managing is hard^^
Zarah: What advice would you give to other women who want to start their own business?
Jina Lee: It is actually really tough for sure, but you can do it. But find something that you like and know a lot and can do well. I think that is the key. If you have the passion for what you do you will go all the way and will be able to through the harsh times.
And you need to have at least seed money that you could endure for at least 1 year (rent, other employee fees, product fees, etc).
On perfectness and new products
Karolina: Did you have a moment you said this product is not good enough and it has to be taken off the market? Or I need to work more on it before I place it on the market?
Jina Lee: So I have a few things that I have been working for a long time but is yet pending to be placed for the market.
BB cream and suncream is especially the ones that I am trying really hard to make an outcome as a URANG product. I have been using my own-made BB creams and sun creams for several years now, but when you talk about commercializing it this is kind of a different story. It is actually very hard to make something natural, organic and safe as well especially for make-up products. I am satisfied with my recipes, but I am trying more harder to make it a better product for many people to be satisfied with it without putting ingredients like carbomer, silicones, or PEGs. So I search everywhere to find better emulsifiers or ingredients to replace them.
I think I am a few steps closer to getting them into the market. I am aiming to place them on the market like the first quarter of next year^^
On creating a global brand
Karolina: From making cosmetics for yourself and your family and friends you moved to a brand with global aspirations. What was the turning moment of becoming an international brand?
Jina Lee: We are also very awed about this because we were not thinking of spreading our brand globally this fast. It came like a wind. It’s grateful that people find us genuine and different from other brands.
Zarah: How did the product offering changed and grow over time?
Jina Lee: At the first launch we started with 8 skincare products. We are always slow in launching new products so until now three products came out new including this pink ampoule.
On companies vision
Karolina: Why do you do what you do and how do you want your brand to be recognised?
Jina Lee: My brand started for myself and my family so setting-up the values high like using safe ingredients, using the best ingredients or searching for the best ingredients is like a must thing for me. I literally go overseas to search for the best ingredients if I have to. This meant, I went to Bulgaria to find the rose water and rose essential oil. I went all the way to Italy into the mountains to find the helichrysum essential oil. I use it, my family uses it so my expectations and values are high. My philosophy is that ingredients say all in a product. If you have the highest quality ingredients, then you will have the high-quality product.
I could never deceive our customers and that is for sure. We will not put just a tiny bit of a concept ingredient and brag and market about that.
I hope a lot more people get to know us and our value and philosophy. I am sure they will get to love us more when they get to know our story and how much effort and love we put on those lovely products.