23 Nov 2021 --- With a mission to bring high-quality and affordable products to everyone, Michelle Kim, Founder of IPO Cosmetics, speaks to BPC Insights about the life-changing moment that sparked a move from fashion to beauty. We find out about the brand’s novel patented skin care system and the arrival of its luxury skin care packaged in a patented, four-step tear-off parcel.
What was the inspiration behind launching IPO Cosmetics?
After years of being in the fashion industry owning contemporary brands, I decided to walk away from the business due to a health diagnosis. Being told you have cancer can make you see life in a different way. I wanted to change my direction.
I started IPO Cosmetics three years ago and, after a year of researching why there is such a lack of affordable, quality products, launched in April 2019. Everyone should have access to that, which is why I decided to create the portable facial.
What was missing from the mainstream beauty industry that you sought to fill with IPO Cosmetics?
Click to EnlargeMichelle Kim wants to bring luxury to the masses. Source: IPO Cosmetics.Many products and brands on the market are purchased by consumers buying into endorsements of famous celebrities and influencers. Consumers don't get to try or buy enough great products that really deliver what they are promised. I know this because I am a big product junkie.
While taking years off during my treatment, and with a limited budget, I really had to lower my spending and source brands at a lower price point. They really did nothing. And I thought it was really unfortunate that consumers who couldn't afford it were unable to get their hands on something that actually works.
That is why I decided to create IPO’s 4step facials; I really want all people to have a chance to experience luxury products, even if it is a one-time on-the-go facial. Feeling confident and powerful because of your skin makes you feel so good about yourself.
What are consumers demanding regarding their beauty and personal products?
Consumers want products that are more accessible and really work, while at the same time demanding clean, vegan and cruelty free products. They are getting smarter when it comes to looking for indie brands versus large corporate brands. All those larger corporate brands commonly found in department stores are so much more expensive and really do make you pay for their advertising budgets.
How is IPO Cosmetics responding to these demands?
Our Glam is 100% vegan, our Recover is almost 100% vegan. Our products have no parabens, no sulfates, no synthetic fragrances, and are cruelty free. We believe using natural ingredients is key versus heavy oils and fragrances. That being said, getting this in a package that includes four products in one, while also being affordable, posed its set of challenges, but we did not want to sacrifice quality over cost.
What is most important to you in terms of your offering to beauty and personal care consumers, and what do you want them to see and understand when they come to IPO Cosmetics?
The most important thing for me is offering premium quality products at affordable prices. I want consumers to come to IPO Cosmetics and understand that they don't have to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars to achieve healthy skin.
During the initial research and development phase, I discovered that brands spend the majority of their budget on packaging and marketing, and not on their ingredients or content. This blew me away! Since then, I've been on a mission to change that and bring high-quality, effective products to the masses without hurting their pockets.
What did the process involve from conceptualization through to commercialization?
Lots of research and comparing the quality that I approve of and love in products. I traveled to Korea to visit the very best manufacturers in the industry to find the best products and ingredients for my 4Step Facial Kits.
The research stage was extensive and took about a year, but it was so critical to developing a high-quality skin care product. I can't tell you how many brands and products I bought and tested - not just during the process of making my own skin care, but in my lifetime. It paid off because it was all worth it.
Many of our customers rave about how they love our products and how its application has become a part of their weekly routine. We get asked to make them in regular sizes and that is what I love to hear the most!
What were the greatest challenges to achieving your vision?
My biggest challenge was keeping IPO Cosmetics cost effective, with products that can put together an entire skin care line that is perfect for all skin types; day or night, men and women, with an emphasis on when they travel. Consumers get to try eight different stock-keeping units of products and not spend hundreds of dollars. You can try eight different products for just $18!
What are the greatest opportunities that you foresee?
Paving a way for quality ingredients with integrity. Ingredients that stay true to that classic Korean ideology that skin care is important and needs to be truly good.
Eventually these eight different products will be available for individual purchase and by then a consumer will get to choose which products they just can’t live without. That is a big win from where we came from. Our growth potential beyond that is endless.
What are your short and long-term hopes and goals for IPO Cosmetics?
We hope all small businesses like us can survive everyday difficulties, including where we are currently with the pandemic.
I really hope IPO becomes a brand that people recognize and love. I would like to be a global brand. Our long-term goal is to create more products like 4Men, 4Acne, 4Body, 4Hair and more.
I really want IPO to be a brand that you can find in all stores, and to give consumers access to great quality luxury products that make you feel great even for one day. It's a kind of happiness you can buy - to treat yourself because you deserve to feel good about yourself.
By Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe, BPC Insights Senior Journalist