41 - Liah Yoo, KraveBeauty
Conor Begley: Today we have one of the foremost content creation experts and brand building experts in the world on the show, Liah Yoo. Liah is the Founder and CEO of KraveBeauty, which has gone from the number 177th ranked brand that we tracked in 2019, all the way up to the number 37th ranked brand in 2020 boasting over 114% year- over- year growth. Simultaneously, she has her own channels, including her YouTube channel which has over a million subscribers. It's a little bit longer of an episode today but I encourage you to stick around. We dive into brand building, how she built up such a big audience herself, as well as some of the challenges that she's faced over the last year. If you've enjoyed the show, make sure to be a friend, tell a friend and subscribe. Thanks everyone. Enjoy today.
Speaker 2: Influencers, inspiration and Instagram, Instagram, Instagram. This is Earned by Tribe Dynamics. Here's Conor Begley.
Conor Begley: Something that I've been thinking about over the last couple of weeks, I know this episode will come out at the beginning of the year but is planning, so planning for 2022. And so, I'd be really curious to hear about what are your guys' plans, what are the big things that you're focused on for the next year? And what are some of the challenges you guys are trying to work through?
Liah Yoo: Yeah. I think 2020 and 2021 taught a lot of beauty brands to be more than just a product focused brand because of the George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter, social injustice but also a lot of environmental problems that the current administration and the current environment is facing. It does put a lot of responsibility and pressure into consumer brands because we ultimately hold the power to either influence or dictate how the consumers consume products. So I think now, including KraveBeauty, just going into 2022, we're constantly thinking about what would it look like if we're not just a product focused brand. What do customers want and expect from us? And how do we adapt to this cultural shift with even a paradigm shift there's so many interesting happening in the metaverse world. What would that look like? How would that impact the advertising world? Because I definitely do think it'll definitely impact the paid social strategy too. So how do you connect all the dots that's happening in the world and adapt your business into those shifts? And the transitions is something that I'm really interested in. So yeah, just trying to expand our platforms where our message is getting heard. I do think Instagram is something that is very dear to our heart, where it got to where we are right now as a brand but I don't think it's the future to be honest. So if we have something that we want to deliver in terms of the message that's super complex and very nuanced, which oftentimes like social injustice and environmental problems, and even how to choose the most sustainable packaging solution, it's not so black and white. But all the platforms that the brands are currently using, which are TikTok and Instagram are very short form content. So there's only so much that you can do in terms of delivering the nuance and delivering the context and really including people into why you decided to make that certain business decision. So, we're looking at other platforms that perhaps would convey a long form content, which is maybe YouTube or maybe podcast us, that people can really absorb our intention from A to Z because we don't want to be just a brand saying that glass is better, plastic is bad. I think there's so much in depth nuance into it that's hard to deliver through Instagram stories and it's going to be harder to deliver through a TikTok video. So, we're thinking more holistically in how do we effectively deliver what we want to say to the audience, to the community, to our customers.
Conor Begley: That's really interesting because again, I think, I talk to a lot of marketers, I talk to a lot of people in the industry and almost universally it's like Twitch or not Twitch, TikTok, focus on TikTok, that's the channel. And you're saying, no, no, no, we're not going to go short, we're going long, we're going longer form. Which I think, although you get the numbers will be smaller. So the number of people that interact with it will be smaller, the connection that you achieve is greater. So, it's hard to fully comprehend the human connection that occurs from listening to somebody's voice for like 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour, multiple hours, 50, 100 hours or more. It's just very, very intimate in a way that doesn't come across through short form of content, which I think it still has its place. Is this the announcement, are you launching a podcast? Is this the big reveal?
Liah Yoo: Not a podcast but we are looking into different options. We don't have a definitive answer but for sure that we're going to look into a longer form content.
Conor Begley: Very cool. I know-
Liah Yoo: Yeah. But I definitely agree, it definitely increases the stickiness of the brand and the message and how effectively the message gets across. I think TikTok is really good at making something go viral in terms of the product but there is a reason why TikTok graders also want to be successful on YouTube because they also realize the intimacy that they can create on TikTok versus the intimacy and the relationship they can build on YouTube is very different. And YouTube is not going away anytime soon, I don't think.
Conor Begley: Yeah, for Sure. I mean, I know that you personally, I mean, just thinking about your channels, you actually got onto TikTok for a little bit and then it looked like you achieved some success there but have refocused your own personal content on YouTube as well.
Liah Yoo: Yeah.
Conor Begley: Yeah. That makes sense. How do you think about time commitments there? How much time are you spending day- to- day on YouTube versus anything else in terms of running your business?
Liah Yoo: I think YouTube or my personal brand stuff has completely become my weekend side hustle and running the company, running KraveBeauty has become my Monday to Friday full- time job. So it's pretty easy.
Conor Begley: You're a harder worker than me. I try not to work on the weekends as much as I can. I do emails and that kind of stuff. But I know I talk to Marianna Hewitt at Super Fridays and she does a weekly podcast and it's like, wow, I know how much time it takes to put one of these together if you want to do it right and she's like, yeah, it's a significant lift. So good on you.
Liah Yoo: I don't know how she does it seriously.
Conor Begley: Well, let's take a step back because I want people to get to know you and where you came from. So you started initially, studying design and then with some interest in architecture but then pivoted to beauty specifically with Amorepacific. Talk to me about that time of life and how things worked out.
Liah Yoo: Yeah, for sure. I, for sure knew that I wanted to become an interior designer from the age of 12. So that's why I majored in interior/ architectural design. I really enjoyed my study there getting a design degree was my just childhood dream. But at the time you're trying to graduate and look for a job, you face the sense of reality. And I was still studying in Korea and I was looking for a job in Korea as well. And I think architecture and interior design as a field, just all across the countries to be honest is probably one of the demanding job in terms of the work hours, you have to sacrifice your weekend, you work 24/ 7 and you get paid really, really low. So I wasn't sure if I really, really like and love architecture and interior design enough in order to make that sacrifice and be okay with a low paid salary. And my answer was no. And at the time, I mean, I grew up in Korea and I went to all girls middle school, all girls high school, all women's college. And I think beauty was something that I was constantly surrounded by because I was surrounded by a woman and girls in my entire life. So I think at the time when it was like 2012 K- pop was happening and gaining recognition internationally, and naturally that interest has shifted towards K- Beauty and Korean skincare. And I think that was a time where in the New York City there was Peach& Lily, Soko Glam and soon Glow Recipe came into the US market to really make K- Beauty a thing and be an educator and also a pioneer in that space. So I thought that industry was so fascinating to me. And I was just looking at the entire companies like globe... What kind of companies in Korea do K- Beauty really well or globalizing K- Beauty really well. And it was of course, Amorepacific and Amorepacific has over 26 brands. So it was a natural choice for me and luckily they took a bet, I mean, to be honest, I did not expect them to hire a design degree in a digital marketing and e- commerce department but I don't know what they saw in me and I'm really, really grateful for the opportunity that I was given because that completely changed my career trajectory. But I also, did not mention that in my senior year in college, I also did start uploading content on YouTube. So that made me dive deeper into the beauty industry and just the category in general.
Conor Begley: How long, I've heard that really getting off the ground as a YouTube or takes a minute, how many videos, how long did it take before you really start to see some pretty significant growth?
Liah Yoo: I don't know, define growth here because everyone's destination of growth is very different.
Conor Begley: Let's say, well, let's hear, how do you define growth? What would you consider your different periods of growth? Because right now, you've got over a million subscribers so I would consider that to be pretty big. Yeah, talk to me about the different stages. How did you get there?
Liah Yoo: Yeah. So initially, it was definitely a pure hobby, did I ever think about having an audience of a billion different subscribers watching my YouTube content? Not at all. But I grew up watching Michelle Phan and other beauty YouTubers and those are the people who taught me how to make my eye makeup pretty or make my skin look better. So, I think it's something YouTube as a platform was something that I felt the most familiar with. So I just jumped on it, not really thinking about what the consequences would be to be honest or what the results would be. And no one was making million dollars of money on YouTube at the time because it was a very early stage still. So when I jumped on YouTube, it was purely for my self expression and I'm a very introverted person. And it's funny because a lot of YouTubers are actually very introverted. They would rather talk to a camera instead of just talking to real people in real life because even though you have millions of subscriber, you feel like you're, I mean, they're not there in the same room to watch you. So you don't know who you're actually talking to. And there's certain level of comfort that you get with anonimacy.
Conor Begley: Yeah. I mean, you mentioned that at the beginning, you're like," I feel like I get more nervous for podcast interviews than I do for YouTube videos." Which the reality is this will reach important people, but a smaller number of people than your YouTube channel. Important people in the context of from the business world perspective. Yeah. No, I have heard that very consistently over time, which has got to be one of the biggest misconceptions around people that create content is you assume that they would be extrovert. Only an extrovert would put themselves out there that way but actually it tends to be fairly introverted people, which is, it's just so funny how that works out.
Liah Yoo: Yeah. I'm mean we find it interesting just to talk to anonymous 100 and thousands of people than just one real human being to be honest. And going back to a question of how I grew my channel, I know that was in one of the questions but I feel like, I grew very gradually but then it was only until I trialed and errored. And I made a lot of mistakes in trying to growth hack the YouTube platform or the YouTube algorithm that I came to a realization that it's the growth formula for YouTube or as a content creator is so similar to how you would think in business. It is about finding the right product market fit and I think if you ask the fundamental question of, am I as a content creator, am I providing value to the person that's worth their time because for media and for content, the attention which translates into the time is currency. People's time is your currency. So if people are willing to watch your content by spending their precious 10 minutes, what kind of value are you providing? So I think that fundamental question really changed my entire content strategy from, oh, what do I want to create as a content creator into something that, oh, what do people want to see from me? What kind of information can I deliver? How can I make this content more digestible and more entertaining so that people can watch it through because watch time is also the key metric on YouTube. So I think if you think about it in that way, you start providing value for free. I mean, not for free but time is also currency but for free monetarily and people start gathering to your channel because you are obviously there to help with their skin or how to organize your closet or how to do this and that. So, I think that's how you grow on YouTube.
Conor Begley: Yeah. It's funny, every word out of your mouth, I think is a word that's come out of my mouth before but in the context of our own marketing efforts, which is, and it is remarkable how bad most corporate software, even frankly brand marketers are. Because what they start with is, what do I want people able to learn? What do I want to convey? What's important to me. And it's like, oh, this is the message I want to come across. And it's like, oh, this is a new product that I need to emphasize. And it's like, no, no, no, that's not how you're going to get people's attention. You should start with, what questions are they trying to answer? What are they interested in? And how can I then help them starting at a fundamental level when it comes to content. It's like when we started this podcast at the beginning, you heard somebody say, well," You're not asking about influencers." I was like," Well, yes, influencers are in there." But that's not why people would tune in. People are here to learn about Liah, to learn about how you got here, what makes you unique and special and what can I learn from your journey? And yes, influencers can be a part of that but it's just... Anyways, I just love... I want to click that statement and two sentences you have and just plaster it somewhere for every content marketer out there, because it's absolutely the right approach or at least from what I believe is the right approach.
Liah Yoo: Yeah. I think I'm totally on the same page with you.
Conor Begley: So, I want to talk to you about community building, both in the context of your own channel as well as in the context of the brand. So, it's something that I've really come around to over even just the last few years as I've seen the value that our community delivers to us. Whether it's the podcast or we do summits, we do all of these things. And it's like, because we've been working on this for almost 10 years and we've built up this community of relationships and allies, it's just incredibly powerful. So I'd be curious, what did it look like for you in terms of building out your community as an individual content creator, and then what did that also look like as a brand? What did that look like doing it as a brand and what have been some of the differences? Talk to me about that a little bit.
Liah Yoo: Yeah. I think that's a really spot on question and also I'd be really curious about how you built that community around you. Because I think as your business is more B2B and as service based business, I would be interested in seeing what kind of things you did to form that community or retroactively looking back, what did you do right and looking back how did you create that community? So for me, I think it was pretty similar to be honest in terms of how I built my community on YouTube and how KraveBeauty has nurtured and cultivated its own community online. But I think there's definitely a lot of brands out there where you create a whole culture around it and you sell that aspiration or you sell that specific lifestyle that gathers the like- minded people. I think a good example is Glossier, Lululemon or Tesla, or even apple, they have that certain coolness to it or aspirational aspect to the business and to the brand where it attracts their own tribe. And I think those are good but can sometimes feel very exclusive because if you're not the part of the gang, you're not part of the game. You can't really sit with the people who belongs there. So it all had-
Conor Begley: You're a Microsoft person, you stay over here.
Liah Yoo: Exactly.
Conor Begley: Oh, you use Teams? Ooh.
Liah Yoo: Oh my God, I'm guilty of that.
Conor Begley: Totally. I absolutely shame people for using Google Meets or Teams or anything else, I am like a Zoom inaudible, if you use anything else you're wasting my time.
Liah Yoo: You have a green bubble on your message.
Conor Begley: Ooh, green bubble. Huh?
Liah Yoo: No, I can't be that exclusive but anyways.
Conor Begley: I mean, regardless of whether we personally are, that's our thing and it defines, in some ways it's a badge, it's like you have clothes and there's badges you have. And these are the things that define who I am as a person, you align yourself. It's a real thing.
Liah Yoo: Building my own business with KraveBeauty, I thought I wanted that, that aspirational something that people so aspire to be, that they feel almost like coming into that club or sitting on that lunch table is cool. But I think the more I think about it, KraveBeauty is not really an exclusive company but we're here to really include and handhold everyone. So for us, it was really about humanizing the brand, people eventually want very, very simple things. Customers, as long as they feel included, as long as they feel like they have a stake in the brand, as long as they feel like they have a voice in the brand. I think that's when you can really quietly gather people one at a time. And I think a lot of founder- led brands are really amazing at this where it's as easy as involving the customers into how you make decisions for the company. And once you break down that wall or give up the authority as, I'm a brand and you're a customer, you break that wall and really humanize the brand and just communicate it as a person to another person. You're not only breaking down the barrier but you're also inviting them to have a voice in how we make decisions. And also sharing the same value sets too because we don't want communities output for the sake of communities output. We want a very constructive dialogue and conversations. So I think that's how KraveBeauty has built its own community. And I think that's how I built my own community on my personal channel too. And it was really special because we, first of all, we don't have a shareholder or we don't have any boards on our company at KraveBeauty, which is a huge privilege but we also use that to our advantage of really prioritizing our stakeholders, which is our customers, our internal employees. So in the end of 2020, we held virtual stakeholder meeting, inviting every customer who have purchased at least once and inviting everyone to join on the last day of December or the last day of 2020. And little did I know people actually showed up and I think the turnout was over 500 people logged in from all different countries and all different cities across the nation and on the last day of 2020, that's how they wanted to spend their last day of 2020. So I think it shows to tell that it's really important to have that human aspect of the business if you were to build a community.
Conor Begley: Well, and one of the things that I think is really important there too, is you said 500 people, which is a lot of people, if I were to try and fill up a room, that's a ton of people in a single room. But often I think marketers say, oh, well, that's only 500. That's not that many people. But that connection that you make is so meaningful with those people that it has all of these secondary effects where they're going to be customers for life when they go out that night, they're going to talk about this cool event that they had, where they get to talk to the founder and meet the team and blah, blah, blah. It's just people sometimes can get too caught up in the numbers and not realize imagine filling a room with 500 people and then having that one- to- one connection with people all over the world, that's so special. And so I love that. I'm super into it.
Liah Yoo: Yeah. How do you think you built your own community?
Conor Begley: It's a good question.
Liah Yoo: Because I feel like yours is more high touch.
Conor Begley: Definitely more high touch. So smaller number of people but I think the people that we interact with are very impactful for us and very impactful I think broadly. So I would say, the process for me, so we first started out, we said, Hey, we want to start creating content. So we think that we can grow in this way. And frankly, the approach that we've taken to marketing is very similar to the approach that we recommend to our brands, which is... Oh, anyways. So, we start creating all this content and people start subscribing to us. And at the beginning, you might have 20 people or 50 people on your mailing list. There's a small number of people. And so what I would do is... And so I started going on these trips, so I'd fly to New York and I'd just reach out to all the people that were reading our reports on our mailing list. And it could be a student, it could be assistant professor. It could be a brand marketer or a coordinator, somebody far down the chain and be like, Hey, let's get together, we'd love to learn from you. Happy to talk about what we're seeing, that works, et cetera, et cetera. And so, it was just thousands and thousands of meetings, one- on- one meetings. And I think in every one of those meetings, the thing I tried to think of about was, what value can I deliver to this person? How can I help them? And if you start there. If you start with that, then inevitably, they return that favor most of the time. They say, Hey, well, how can I help him? And doing it without having that be an expectation or being at a request in, I'm not expecting them to do anything, I'm not requiring them to do anything, but I am trying to proactively help them as best that I can, given the resources that I have, whether that's network or that's knowledge or that's data or whatever it is, just works out really well over time. And it's not easy to do, to do it for so long and so many times but I do think it worked really well for us. And I think we tried to take that approach from a content perspective. We tried to take that approach in most of the things that we do, I think. Trying to deliver more value than you ask in return that you expect in return and I think it works.
Liah Yoo: I think you're becoming like an influencer to one person at a time in a way, where you're collectively also building not only the stickiness but that credibility and trust with everyone on a more human and person to person level, which I think that brought you to where you are and your business to where it is right now.
Conor Begley: For sure. And I also think that people underestimate time. I'm about a decade into this journey. I'd say that I probably have another three or four decades of work right ahead of me at a minimum, it's like, how much more can I do? This is only the first one. I could do this four more times and holy shit, that would be crazy if I could do that. So I think having... It's like for you, you're what? 10 years now, 12 years into your YouTube journey?
Liah Yoo: Yeah. 10 years.
Conor Begley: That's crazy.
Liah Yoo: Yeah.
Conor Begley: Crazy number one, that you did it for that long and then number two, what could you do with four more decades, three more decades. Now, maybe you don't want to be creating YouTube videos when you're in your 70s but we don't know where it's going to go. What's it going to be like when you're four decades down the line and you've been getting content for 40 years, 50 years. It's just fascinating to think about.
Liah Yoo: Yeah. I really love the fact that you're thinking in a more infinite mindset instead of having a rigid or structured plan of, this is my exit, this is my next step in my life but you're really enjoying the process and enjoying the ride in a way.
Conor Begley: Totally. I think that, thinking about how things, so not like an exit and a change but how does this build to this? How did these things inaudible.
Liah Yoo: Compounding.
Conor Begley: Yeah. Without being too rigid but thinking about, oh wow, say that we did decide to leave the company or do whatever, I think it'd be pretty foolish not to leverage everything that we've built the first 10 years. And so which for you I mean, you can see that process from Amore to your YouTube or YouTube to Amore to Krave, that's just really inspiring to see. Really cool. So congrats.
Liah Yoo: No, likewise. I know you guys went through a major change too with an acquisition. I'm sure there's a lot of million different pieces that you guys are thinking about for your own future too. But yeah, happy to chat through but I'm sure... But it seems like you're also very enjoying the ride too.
Conor Begley: Oh, for sure. I mean this next step in the journey for us is going to be crazy. I mean, it's like the next two to four years is going to get really weird in the best way I think. So, or really weird in the worst kind of way, but that seems unlikely. So one of the things I thought was really interesting, when I was reading about you was, I saw a lot of you in me or me in you, however that works. What I was reading about your founding of the Krave story. And let me tell you what I mean by that. So, you went to Amorepacific and you got in and you got a little disillusioned by the industry. You're like, okay, they're preaching 20 different steps, they've got all these different things that you don't need. It's actually being more harmful than it's being good. And you're like, I'm going to change it all and I'm going to do it and I'm going to do it the right way. And I very much felt the same way. I remember Jon and I when we started the company, we're like, God, the old guys that ran our companies, they didn't know what they were doing, we're going to do it way better whatever. Now that you're a few years in and now what I've found is, I have a lot more empathy for those people. I'm like, oh, okay, I see why this was happening here, I see why that was happening there. Have you started to empathize with them a little bit more now that you're a few years in. Or do you still feel pretty passionately about and not as say just a product but just about running the business in general?
Liah Yoo: I think there's a multiple layers to this and how I would answer because the one that really this disillusioned me about the industry is it's deeply rooted in the way how capitalism work to be honest. And this is not really unique to one specific company, one specific corporate but it's really just a lot of how corporate America has built their rich or their wealth by growing at all costs and at all costs by meaning exploiting labor, exploiting... leaving a really significant environmentally impact. And I think when that approach is carried on to the beauty industry it's like, what I saw inside a big beauty conglomerate was that the product launch is never dictated by a consumer. The product launch is always mainly dictated by the shareholder's interest rather than how do we solve a customer's pain point? How do we make the user life better? It's always about, we need to hit 5 million this year. We're at 2 million. We need to capitalize on the best seller, make that into a million different categories all of a sudden. So it's now that the entire market is so saturated, the customer acquisition cost is higher than ever. It's so hard to recruit or gain a new customer. So for growth, a lot of companies are rather spending their dollars into creating more products so that they can sell 10 products to one person that they already have. So I think that really changes the... It's a ripple effect where that mindset or that growth formula really impacts what the languages are used in beauty advertising. Because now that your goal is to sell, you need to somewhat manipulate the customer in order to sell products. And in order to manipulate them, you need to somewhat make them feel really bad about themselves and make them feel like there's going to shit without your product. And therefore they need your product. So I think it's like all of a chained events where I saw happening, from where the capital is flowing into how the decisions are made in the business and how that gets translated into the product launch cycle and how that cascades down to how the marketing and advertising is. And so that's really why I came into the industry to run my own ship in the own way that I think it's the most ethical and the most right thing to do, which is not to over manipulate, I mean, not to manipulate your customers but really just rather empower people and trust people that they can make the best decision for themselves. And if your product is something that they are looking for, we are going to be there for them. But we don't need to really distort the truth by saying like, oh, your skin is... these are dirty and these are toxic, you need to do this and that. I feel like the skin care industry has become a little bit too complicated when it should be really straightforward. It's like, I take the food industry or the diet industry as an example, because there's so many trendy diets and there's so many should dos and supposed to do if you want to lose weight. But if someone is really in tune with their bodily system and their natural functionality, they know what food works and doesn't work, they know what food bloats them and what doesn't. I think people have the intuition naturally but then it's all masked and confused by so many advertising and marketing. And that's what I wanted to change, really trying to simplify and uncomplicate the beauty industry and really give the power back to the customers in a way where your skin is naturally really smart. So respect your God damn moisture barriers that you're already born with, that's the best thing that you can gift yourself because you... And no products can really outsmart a natural human biology design to be honest and that's a fact. And skincare is not a drug either, it can't really do so much in terms of changing someone's skin. So, it really comes down to measuring the expectation and just making sure for us, yeah, just really focusing on the stakeholders over shareholders, and you can see how much I'm passionate about this subject.
Conor Begley: Totally.
Liah Yoo: And I think our next step, I actually didn't tell you in the beginning of this podcast but in 2022, we are launching a venture studio. We're completely bootstrapped and we are at a very privileged space where or privileged situation where we do have some cash that we can reinvest into either our own business or to something that's better or to have a bit bigger impact. So, we allocated the fund out of KraveBeauty and set up a new venture studio called Press Reset Adventures to reinvest back into the beauty industry's ecosystem to make sure that the entire industry can become a more sustainable or can become a more inclusive place. And I think there's so much to be done in the capital space or the shareholder space that everything needs to start changing in order for me to feel proud that I am here for a clear mission if that makes sense. Okay. I was really rumbling but I hope-
Conor Begley: No, that was awesome. I loved it. You need to connect with, do you know a Melanie Bender?
Liah Yoo: Oh yes, yes, yes.
Conor Begley: She's pushing on that. She's huge into this kind of stuff.
Liah Yoo: No, absolutely.
Conor Begley: Yeah. And I think you're such a fascinating person and what I mean by that is, so you start this channel and you realize a lot of this stuff is bullshit on the beauty side and so I'm going to try and create my own brand that pushes these missions. And I remember in one of the interviews, you said basically you only need three products, it was a cleanser, a moisturizer and a sunscreen. I think is what you said. And I don't know that could have changed over time, but that's it right?
Liah Yoo: That's it.
Conor Begley: inaudible my own personal journey, I also had acne when I grew up and it was all kinds of weird stuff and none of it worked and as I got older, part of it's just getting older but I just stopped using stuff and turns out my skin figured it out for the most part. And so it's interesting to say, Hey, all these products are bullshit and you really shouldn't even use them but if you need to, here they are, here's the things that you actually should use. And then on the investing side, anyways, I know I'm the one that is rambling, but okay. So I'm going to press a reset here really quickly. So, what I want to talk about is I know that for you, so you start this brand, so let's recap. You go to Amore, that grows quickly, your YouTube takes off, you go after that, you start KraveBeauty, that explodes, grows very, very quickly. And then I think we'll last year, you faced some issues, whether that was, you had the Beet Shield sunscreen controversy, which obviously was not of your doing necessarily. And we don't have to talk about that and then you had some of your fans get upset. And so, talk to me about what that year's been like for you. What it's been like to go through a tougher year after having many years of success in a row. And I've had these kinds of years, I know what it is. But talk to me about that. And if there's been, maybe it's a little too fresh to have learnings from that but talk about that a little bit.
Liah Yoo: Yeah. So beginning of 2021 was not my time. I think externally, I definitely felt, I mean, faced a lot of scrutiny where publicly, we had to pull out the beach shield, which is Beet The Sun sunscreen from Korea out of the market. And that really wasn't a question at all because it needed to be done. I wasn't really proud in the results. And of course, whether some might think it's still okay, or whether some might think it's still disappointing, I think it's not something that we promised. And I don't feel comfortable putting this product out there with the SPF value that is claiming. So we definitely took a financial hit because we also refunded thousands of customer orders. And I know a lot of people in the industry know that SPF testing is by nature never consistent. And they think we overreacted, people say that, why did you do that? There are a million different brands that kind of discontinued very, very silently and just renewed their product without even knowing. But they also don't really have a physical or face of the brand per se and they don't really, really communicate that. Those are the brands that really don't have active social channel anyway. So I knew that was not something that I wanted to do by silently discontinuing and renewing product. But it really did teach us as a brand, with the whole product develop team, especially to thoroughly vet our vendors, suppliers, the labs, and even the testing labs, because little did I know, testing labs can really mess up things. And I think we learned a lot about SPF testing from A to Z and we're going to bounce back faster and we're going to bounce back stronger and more resilient because of this. And I think looking back of course, it was really brutal during the time internally, the team members were also at a place that it's not really stable. But I think I'm glad it happened because it taught us to be doing our due diligence in the way that I have never imagined ourselves doing. So, that is one. The second thing was definitely something that happened with my own personal life with my association with a church that I attended and a church happened to be anti LGBTQ + community. And by no means I think institutional values never need to align with the personal values. And I think there's no institution out there that's going to 100% represent who you are as a human and what you believe in. I think a lot of people still got hurt by the association with me and the church. I'm going to always say that looking back, all the struggles and the hardship that you have, you're glad that you had those because as you become a better person through those breakthroughs and hardships and struggles, and I truly believe that no pain, no gain. And it was a painful year not only externally but also internally as well. We had a pretty toxic company culture in the beginning of 2021. Our people were leaving and you always learn at the cost of sometimes unintentionally hurting people. And whether that is the people that you really cared about, once they are hurt they're going to leave. And I had a lot of growing up to do, and our team as a whole team had a lot of growing up to do too and that was 2021. So, in the end of 2021 I think, I am now at a very great place where I went through a lot of therapy sessions. And I think I had a lot of candid conversations even about the religion or the institution with the person who had started talking about my association or my affiliation with the church. I had a time to actually sit down with him virtually over the phone and talk it out and really learn from one another about each other's perspective. And also, the Beet Shield, of course, it definitely did teach us to be more diligent about our vetting process. And I think overall, I now have a team that I can fully rely on. And I think now we're at a very, very, very healthy place because you team grows and transitions into multiple different phases as your business grows. I'm sure with the rapid growth that you guys had too, your founding team are not necessarily the one who grows it. And the growing team are not necessarily the team who's going to really specialize in each domain. So yeah, I think it's all a learning curve and that's what my 2021 was.
Conor Begley: Yeah. I mean, and we went through a similar tough year, maybe two of them. One in particular though, where we lost a bunch of data. So we lost a bunch of data, lost a bunch of customers because of that. So Instagram shut off their API, we lost all the Instagram data and that was really shady because Instagram's turns out pretty important to us. And then realized actually that there was this pattern in the people that were leaving had a consistent pattern, which was basically that they're mostly small brands who didn't, if you get three tweets a week, you really don't need our software, it's not particularly useful. And so we decided to cut out about 50% of our revenue and it's not for the faint of heart. It's like you, you drop a skew, imagine drop being 50% revenue of skews, it's a big deal. And so, now he came out of it and I remember looking at Jon and saying like," It's going to take two years." I was like," The next two years are going to suck. We're not going to hire people. We're going to have to scratch by." And it all happened in a time where we were in the middle of fundraising, inaudible right on cash. And it was awful. It was like, there was times where I just... I will always remember sitting in a meeting and I thought we'd gotten through most of it and then sat in a meeting and got an email from one of our biggest customers saying, Hey, got to cancel. And it was like, they said they were going to renew and it was close to a million dollar contract, which for us, almost all of our revenue goes towards inaudible. So I just remember calling my wife and being like, " Fuck, I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do." But we made it through. And I think that we definitely had some people who weren't ready for that part of the mission. That wasn't what they had signed up for or interested in because we've been doubling and doubling and doubling. But now that we're on the other side and the business is exploding and it's growing very quickly and there's been all these positive benefits of being really focused on who our customer should be. It feels great but it was shitty. It was not fun. I'm mean, it's a lot of waking up 2: 00 AM and trying to figure shit out. And I think that that is part of life, you are like, oh, shit, I thought I was a shit and then you hit in the face. It's like, oh wow, that sucks. I didn't know this about myself or I didn't know that I was ignorant about this thing or I didn't know... I thought I knew how to do this.
Liah Yoo: Yeah. I feel you. I don't know how... I think we should all be proud of where we are now because it also means that we didn't give up at the time where we really wanted to give up. I think 2021 was that to me where I'm like, I think the universe is telling me to silently.
Conor Begley: Being like fuck it, I'm going to go in and wake up, I'm going to fight through it and you figure it out. And you come out on the other side, I think a better person or you earned it, you earned that expertise, that scar. Anyways, well, I've got a bunch of other questions, but I'm running up on time because inaudible much time than I was supposed to. So, I'm going to flip the script here. Usually we do an fun end of show question. And based on your other interviews, I can tell that you do a lot of research on your hosts. I saw that you looked at my LinkedIn. I know that you've listened to our podcast interviews in the past part of the way that we got connected. So if you had one question for me, what would that question be?
Liah Yoo: Oh, I think now looking back on our conversation today, I see a pattern of resilience in both of us. I know that you had a question to me about what advice would you give to someone who's starting or someone who's running their business. I think you are a very resilient founder and you've been running the company for a decade now and I've been running my YouTube channel decade now. And I think that not only takes persistence, perseverance, but also resilience throughout, to go through each hardship, but still deciding and determining that this is your path. What did you use to train your mind to pick yourself back up, to go at it again? And what advice would you give to people who might be going through the same things or same stage in their career right now?
Conor Begley: Yeah, I think, and thank you for the compliment. So I wrote this in a book to someone, it was a really cool experience. So I moderated this table of brand founders and it was cool, you can go through it. And they did this fun thing where they gave everybody books and they had you inscribed something into the book. And then, you didn't know who it was going to go to but unsurprisingly, you handed it to the person to your right. And then they got to take that with them and it was quite interesting. And so the thing that I wrote to that book was something that my co- founder and I have talked about for a long time. And it's slightly morbid, I don't know if it's necessarily inspiring but it worked really well for us. And the thing my co- founder used to always tell me was, with most companies, the outcomes are fairly binary. Either the company dies or it goes on to moderate to great success. It does fairly well, particularly in technology companies. And so he is like, the only difference between these two is that this one didn't die, that's almost always the difference between the two. And so he is like, all we have to do, if we want to achieve great success is not die, just don't die. Just don't don't die and dying can mean you lose, you said, I just want to give up it's most of the time people just want to give up. It can be, I ran out of money. I have no access to money. I can't make it happen anymore. There's a very small number of things that can kill you. And so if you just avoid those things, you will more than likely be successful to what degree? To be discussed but you'll more than likely be successful. And there was many times where Jon and I would look at each other and there was a bar right nearby house and I'd look at him and I'd tell him," I don't give a shit, I am going to drag this thing, kicking and screaming into existence whether it wants to exist or not." And so we just kept telling each other just don't die. Just don't die and you'll get there. And Obviously, we did to some extent with the acquisition and hopefully we can again, with another one. And so that would be my advice, not life advice but entrepreneurial advice to somebody. Just don't give up you'll get there and just fight through it.
Liah Yoo: Oh my God. Yeah, that's making me really emotional because it's so true. It's so simple, just survive, man. Its pure survival but I really appreciate that. I think maybe I needed to hear and I'm sure a lot of people who's listening to this podcast and this video would really appreciate. And it's the simplest advice that just really strikes you hard. It just hits you in the head. It's like, just decide, wake up today and decide not to die. Then you'll do everything to survive. You'll choose survival, you will choose to show up for your team. I think that's powerful. So thanks for sharing that.
Conor Begley: Of course and thanks so much for joining. I had an awesome time. I'm so glad we ran into each other. And now I have you as a friend which is great and congrats again on everything you've achieved. I know 2022 is going to be awesome and everything you've done to now is just super impressive.
Liah Yoo: Thank you, Conor. Thank you. Thanks for having me, it was a really big pleasure.
Conor Begley: Yeah, it was awesome. Bye Liah.
Liah Yoo: Bye.
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In our first episode of 2022, Conor sits down with Liah Yoo. A powerhouse YouTuber, Liah is the founder and CEO of KraveBeauty, the sustainable beauty brand dedicated to demystifying skincare. We start the episode by hearing where Liah’s interest in beauty came from, and learn why she decided to launch her own YouTube channel in 2011. Liah shares her “trial and error” strategies for expanding her YouTube audience to over one million subscribers, before discussing how she built KraveBeauty’s community by prioritizing stakeholders over shareholders. We then dive into why Liah initially set out to create KraveBeauty, and explore the brand’s mission-driven ethos. To close the show, Liah opens up about some difficult lessons she learned personally and professionally in 2021, and outlines her goals for the new year.