We recently connected with Keri Bougie and have shared our conversation below.
Keri, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today What can you share with us about the story behind how you found your key vendors?
When I began researching skincare companies and how to begin to develop products, I researched what it was that I was looking for – my end goal being a manufacturer that produced quality “clean” products. I began to look at existing companies that I liked, to see where they manufactured their products. I started by looking at product boxes and bottles, determining the major cities/areas where certain products were produced. I was able to see where the bulk of products were being produced . . . New York, New Jersey, California, and Texas was where the majority of cosmetic skincare related products were produced. I decided that I wanted to have my products produced in California, close to where I lived, so that if there were any issues, I would be able to visit the facilities and overall, I would also hopefully have a closer relationship with my manufacturer given I reside in San Diego.
I had previously made a list of what I wanted my products to be . . . luxurious, yet “clean.” My desire was to work with a manufacturer that was CPMG certified, and had a strong experience with producing natural/clean/organic products. I learned that although there are several manufacturers that will produce product for you, many will never allow you to be privy to the formulas . . . the brand founder (in this case, me) would never have the ability to purchase the formulas and would therefore be hand-cuffed to the manufacturer for all products that are initially produced by that manufacturer. I wanted to see if I could find a manufacturer that would not only develop the formulas, but would also offer the option of me purchasing the formulas (as an intangible asset), for me to have for the future. I found that very few manufacturers would actually allow this . . . or they would allow it, however you had to purchase a ridiculous amount of product over a number of years, to even be eligible for this option.
Through many phone calls to various manufacturers, internet web research, and inquiries, I was eventually able to find a manufacturer that I felt was a great fit. They were CPMG certified, specialized in “clean” natural based products (from the beginning of their existence), were extremely responsive, were located in California, were very reasonable and customer-service oriented, and did enable me the future option of purchasing the formulas without ridiculous demands. And so far . . . I am grateful for the manufacturer I found and the work they perform – ahhhmazing!!!!
Keri, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
My background is originally Business & Finance and earlier in my career, I was always corporate-mind oriented. – not entrepreneurial spirited. That mindset took a quick change after having lost my husband very unexpectedly, back in 2014, and at that same time, having three small children (ages 3 years, 1 1/2 years, and 6 months old). My late husband was entrepreneurial and had successfully started two restaurants, one of which had only opened months before his passing, in the state of Minnesota. His business partners at the time were very supportive of me, knew of my business and finance background, and allowed me to step into the day-to-day business operations. This allowed me to be at home with my three little ones at an especially difficult time, while also earning an income to support my family. Having a taste of this freedom while simultaneously being able to earn money, while also being able to be with my kids, ultimately steered me toward entrepreneurship.
Although my late husband’s passion was restaurants and food (he was a chef), and though I proved I could manage the company (I continued to operate the Minnesota business from California – traveling monthly and/or as needed to MN; I even opened a 2nd location during COVID), restaurants were not my true passion. I myself have actually always loved cosmetics and beauty and thus knew a lot about make-up and skincare.
I began to research and read a lot about skincare for myself, and also started thinking about it for my children. I fell in love with the idea of K-beauty (Korean), as their culture emphasizes healthy skincare from a young age; it is ingrained into their culture. I was simultaneously researching clean skincare, and in doing so, looking at options for both myself and my children. I began to purchase and search for “clean” skincare products for our own kids, and because most of our kids are elementary-aged, I discovered that there wasn’t a whole lot of products targeting this age-group of kids’ in the skincare/personal care/self-care market. I found an abundance of baby products on the market (but my kids didn’t want to use baby products), and a lot of products geared toward the teenagers (acne-focused). Additionally, a lot of the adult “clean” products that I discovered, had stronger ingredients (anti-aging – retinol, exfoliants, etc.), and the kids weren’t crazy about the scents of many of these products (they felt they smelled like dead plants, mold, peanuts, and a variety of other odd scents).
Through my K-Beauty research, I came upon the Korean term “chok chok,” which in Korean refers to fresh, dewy, youthful, natural-looking skin. In combination to all of the aforementioned information, along with having a passion for the beauty/skincare industry, I decided that I wanted to work with my family to develop “clean,” simple, quality, luxurious feeling products that focused upon kids/tweens/teens. With the SoChok Skinlove company, I hope to truly cultivate healthy skincare and self-care in kids/tweens/teens, from an earlier age. I believe that this will enable kids/tweens/teens to form healthy skincare habits, such that if they do encounter skin issues later on, they will already have a strong foundation in caring for their skin, and thus will only need to make “tweaks” to remedy any skincare issues that arise. I also do believe that by taking care of kids/tweens/teens’ skin at an earlier age, it will set them up for success in the future . . . better care for your skin at an earlier age, leads to healthier, younger looking skin as you age. I believe that this approach is what truly sets SoChok Skinlove apart.
As an FYI, many people have wondered what the company name means. The company name “SoChok,” is a reference to the Korean term of “chok chok” but combined with the word “So” as a reference to Southern California (i.e. “SoCal,” since this is a Southern California-founded company). The word “so” also had the intended dual meaning of “so” as in “so very” or “so much.” The Skinlove term came from the idea that I wanted to teach kids/tweens/teens to not just “care” for their skin but to develop habits and learn to “love” their skin. And so, the company SoChok Skinlove was created 2021. We finally fully launched in July 2022.
I think that altogether, from a career perspective – I am most proud of willing this company into existence. Not having any experience in the skincare/cosmetic industry and wanting to enter this market, was and continues to be extremely intimidating. I have had many doubts about this idea, have been scared of taking risks, been worried about moving forward, and am fearful of making mistakes, etc. Despite these anxieties, I have pushed forward, accomplished a lot of work, done a lot of research, have made mistakes, and I continue to be worried about the future, but all in all . . . I have created the SoChok Skinlove brand, from idea to reality. That is what I am most proud of with regards to the establishment of SoChok Skinlove. And, I am always hopeful . . .
Have any books or other resources had a big impact on you?
I try to read/listen to quite a few entrepreneurial focused books, especially those that I find inspirational. I have several books that have been especially impactful to me. The three stories that have greatly affected me are “Shoe Dog” (by Phil Knight), “Steve Jobs” (by Walter Isaacson), and “Elon Musk” (by Ashlee Vance). All of these books convey the struggle of starting new companies, of establishing these in the marketplace, and the perseverance of each founder. There are so many ups and downs, disappointments, and wins and losses, that I believe truly articulate the entrepreneurial journey.
I think that generally speaking, many people may look at these successful entrepreneurs and think that they were successful right out of the gate, and that it was simply a “walk in the park” for the founders and/or that they were born with “silver spoons” in their mouths. I think that in many people’s minds, it was a very smooth and relatively uncomplicated journey . . . come up with an idea, form a company, make sales, and then be a millionaire. This idea however, is far from the actuality of it. Entrepreneurship is far less glamorous and a heck of a lot harder.
In the book “Shoe Dog,” it describes the frustrations of dealing with manufacturers overseas – from negotiating, to deal-making (you may think you have a deal, only find out that you don’t), to communication (completely different languages and/or social interpretations), timing/deadlines (vague timelines), and quality control. In the “Steve Jobs” book, I appreciate the vision that Steve Jobs had, and constantly pushing for that idea to come to fruition, despite the push to comprise or succumb to other people’s input. Many people criticized his “pickiness” and/or found it difficult to be a “mind reader” for the vision he described, but all in all, his products are iconic, and much of is idealism was beyond successful. As for Elon Musk, I appreciate his delve into further knowledge and information, then using that information to develop his own companies. He has continued to exhibit his desire to continuously grow, learn, and expand into new areas (being open to ideas that may seem outlandish to others), then determining any way possible to develop those ideas into reality. And not only move those ideas into reality, but also to do so in record time, given the level of difficulty in each of the industries he has touched. All of these founders also believe in the overall product simplicity, quality, and functionality that they have created. While many of the products themselves may be very complicated, to the average person they convey a level of sleekness and simplicity.
Each of the above mentioned entrepreneurs are focused upon quality, streamlined products and they aim to be category disruptors (i.e. there is an existing saturated category, but they enter into this highly competitive market and want to change the way that that market or product functions within that category, up until that time). Though they may have doubts, be nervous or fearful of their decisions and futures, and make mistakes along the way, they altogether continue to use all their skills possible to persevere . . . that is what I admire so very much and what I find entrepreneurially inspiring.
Any advice for managing a team?
Managing a team can be exciting, frustrating, challenging, and rewarding . . . all at the same time. With different people, come different personalities (some that clash, and some that blend beautifully), different learning and development styles, and different background experiences (thus different vantage points).
For me, I always acknowledge that I am not the smartest in the room, nor most experienced, or the one with all the answers. Far from it actually. I rely upon my team of people, who have strong skillsets in different areas, to provide insight and advice. Creating an environment where people feel comfortable to talk and share is key! If you don’t have people that are willing to share their thoughts and/or experiences, then miscommunication occurs – whether this be in the form of not hearing/sharing information at all, or it is being communicated by way of “telephone” (through other people, as “he said, she said”). Either way, it leads to miscommunication and ultimately issues and unproductivity. The best way to combat this is to be in regular communication with your entire team, as well as individuals on that team (one-on-one basis). Interactions should be approached in a supportive manner (I am here to listen, and how can I help and support you), and they should be positive (I think you are really great at this, how do you think we can do this better, what solutions might you have).
I think empowering your team is also essential in creating a successful team, and ultimately increasing morale. If you show your team members how to do things and why, they are better equipped to be independent, accomplish their work successfully, and ultimately feel more confident in the workplace. I know that I HATE micro-managing people. For one, I just don’t enjoy it, for another, I find it a waste of my time and of the person that is being micro-managed. If you teach the individual the “how” and “why,” it is a better working relationship for both parties. The individual then can approach issues as a problem solver, rather than a complainer. They will be able to tackle new and more challenging situations, become more independent, and then ultimately will be a better leader and team member.
Creating an environment of constantly learning and improving is also a way to maintain high morale. Typically, the “new” and “freshness” of something is what makes things exciting and motivating. If you can focus on finding new and better ways to do things and or new things to enfold into the normal course of what your business does, that ultimately drives morale and motivation. This also drives the desire to WANT to do a great job and to exceed expectations. It also helps to stir in fresh and innovative ideas, to further motivate one another.
Having regular team meetings and being on the same page. It is essential to get your team together on a weekly, if not twice a week, basis. Get everyone together, mesh together the different personalities, acknowledge successes, areas for improvement, and learning opportunities. Discuss the challenges, possible solutions, and courses of action of recent encounters. If there are certain topics that are open to interpretation, then put it all on the table all at once, for everyone to take a look at the same time. Discuss what difference of opinions exist at this time, then develop the template for what is the true model, so that everyone is on the same page. This will reduce misinterpretation and thus mistakes. Additionally, this helps to set expectations and boundaries; this also helps to prevent further misinterpretations, miscommunications, and errors.
Establish and discuss goals in the near term and in the future. It is super important to have a roadmap of not only where you are currently at, but also have an idea as to where you are going soon, and in the future, and how you will get there. Setting the tasks clearly for everyone to see, so that the stepping stones are achievable to all. Once the initial steps are taken, near-term goals can be accomplished and celebrated. Additionally, being on the same page and getting your team excited for the future goals, helps to further motivate your team. If they can see the future of the company, realize that the tasks to reach that future are absolutely attainable, and that anything is possible . . . then the success you lay-out will be a foregone conclusion.
- Website: https://sochokskinlove.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sochokskinlove/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SoChok-Skinlove-108262828190527
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/sochokskinlove
Napier J Photography Jessica Napier Garrett Richardson Photography Garrett Richardson