Elina Wang: Founder & CEO of ESW Beauty

Episode 387

Elina Wang, Founder and CEO of ESW Beauty, shares with us all about the journey in building ESW Beauty, vegan and cruelty-free beauty products that mix clean ingredients and good-for-you foods with sustainable and playful packaging. We learn all about her journey including why she decided to create her company after struggling with her own health issues. Elina introduced the first ever compostable plant-based milk sheet mask line and it is really something special. I love the back story, the products and can’t wait for you to hear this very inspirational interview that is sure to have you thinking! On this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be you just want to make sure you will get knocked down but just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go Let’s go. Hi, everyone. It’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin show and I am so excited to have my next guest. Here we have Elina Wang, who was the founder and CEO of ESW Beauty and ESW Beauty is an amazing, amazing brand. That creates vegan and cruelty free beauty products that mix clean ingredients and good for you foods with sustainable and playful packaging. They’re beautiful, beautiful packaging, for sure. And the products are awesome. I was trying a different one every single night, a couple of weeks ago. And I was just like, I could not figure out which one I liked more. So it is absolutely absolutely a great. So Alena is here with us today. And she created these products after struggling with her own health issues committed finally to embarking on a cleaner lifestyle, changing much of her diet and food choices. And then she decided to transition to clean skincare products as well, because she really wanted to live this way. Full Circle, I guess, with everything that she was doing, but was really struggling to find those kinds of products that she would actually want in her beauty products. So she decided to create them a little similar story to many entrepreneurs who finally decide to create something after they couldn’t find it. So the plant based milk sheet mask is one in particular that I love, but also the raw juice sheet mask is awesome, and probably the hero product out there. But really more than anything, I think you’ve got to hear the backstory that Alena has and try these products too. We’ll have all the info in the show notes, but I’m super excited that she agreed to come on. So welcome, Elina,

Elina Wang 2:38
thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. And I just want to say I love everything that you’re doing. And you’re such a veteran and someone that I look up to you illumine entrepreneurs. So thank you again for inviting me.

Kara Goldin 2:52
Totally. Well, thank you. Thanks for for coming on. So before we get into hearing about ESW Beauty and your journey and building it, I’d love to hear more about what you were doing before you decided to embark on on creating incredible products but also a great company.

Elina Wang 3:11
Sure. So I founded this company when I was 21. So fairly young, I would say before that I went to college, so I was in college when I founded the company. But I actually began working for my mom. She was always an entrepreneur and really someone that inspired me a lot to start this journey. She had a Korean beauty distribution business. And this was back in the day when Kay beauty I would say 2014 to 2019 was all the craze. I work for her and alongside went to school and that’s really where I learned a lot about isness skincare, the beauty industry in general. And that was how I began.

Kara Goldin 3:56
That’s awesome. And so you’re the founder and CEO of EA SW VDI talked a little bit about some of the products and but how would you describe the brand to others who aren’t familiar with it?

Elina Wang 4:07
Sure. It is a clean beauty skincare brand inspired by a healthy living. We formulate all of our products with our core philosophy. They’re all made with non toxic ingredients. They’re vegan, cruelty free and Ollie’s made with sustainable packaging

Kara Goldin 4:23
and our like what are some of the different products that you have?

Elina Wang 4:27
Sure so we have three main lines right now are Rajesh sheet masks. Those are sheet masks inspired by different juices, and they each target a different skin concern. So for example, our green recite is a really fun one and it features kale, spinach, broccoli and apple and inspired by fun green juice. We have our soothing TV show tools. We have our hibiscus White Rose Quartz guasha and our men green TJ crystal facial roller. We also have our most recently we actually launched in up tuba are plant based Moshe masks. But very soon this summer, I’m very excited to launch a couple more lines. And I can say they are a, a another skincare category that is very popular and is doing very well. Something I’m personally very inspired by that I really love. That’s not a sheet mask. So definitely growing.

Kara Goldin 5:24
Super, super cool and exciting for you. So can you share a little bit more about your journey and sort of why you decided I’m gonna go and launch this,

Speaker 2 5:35
of course. So growing up, I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. You know, I remember even before this was a tick tock word when I was 16, you know, I was manifesting oh, I want to be a young entrepreneur, I love to create, and I love to build. And I think I took a lot of it from working for my mom and one sheet watching her entrepreneurial journey and ventures growing up. And I never really knew exactly what I wanted to do. So when I began working for her, I fell in love with skincare and with beauty products, really, you know, studying the different types of packaging and ingredients out there. And around the same time, so this was in college, I really began to struggle with my stomach ulcers. I have had struggles with it since middle school. So it’s been many years. But I think with the combination of stress of, you know, working for a family business, I was commuting all the time, every week from Boston to New Jersey school and you know, I had multiple jobs that I was working at the same time, it got to a point where it was way too much, I also was not taking care of myself not sleeping well not eating well. And I realized that I needed to reset my life, I can’t just keep you know, going to the ER and you know, having these moments where I can’t get up and be in this pain. So then I really began to look at my diet, take my, my you know, my lifestyle and and take care of myself and kind of revisit all of that. So I eat more whole foods, you know, no more like late night ramen, and more, you know, packaged foods, and all natural foods, vegetables, fruits, lean meats. I love juices. Because sometimes when we eat such a clean diet, it gets very boring. So juices are a fun way to kind of they’re more playful and fun, tastes good. And then I love plant based milk. And just different things like smoothie bowls, I fell in love with overnight oats and eating healthier, but, you know, in a fun way. And that was my inspiration. And the entire theme of the brand. So combining my love for skincare and knowledge of it, as well as my love and inspiration from my healthy living journey. The SW BD was born.

Kara Goldin 8:04
So you had your mom as a role model it sounds like. And she obviously when you had questions, it was nice to be able to have her around to ask her opinion. But obviously, she probably didn’t have the answers to everything because your journey is a little bit different than than hers. What has been the most challenging aspect of starting your own business that maybe something you didn’t think about when you were first getting going?

Elina Wang 8:33
Wow, so many, I think definitely starting very young, I didn’t have a lot of work experience behind me, you know, in corporate. So there are some times where I had to, I really had to self learn so many things, you know, I went to a business school and I did learn accounting, but you know, there’s way more than, you know, counting 101 You know, when it comes to the books, or even, there’s so many things that I had to self learn along the way, you know, from Googling, and you know, from just in personal experience, but I’m very grateful for, you know, my mom, but also meeting a lot of amazing founders who have guided me, within the industry. But I think there’s just so many technical things that I wish I knew more of before, but every time I had something that I wasn’t sure of, you know, I would research it or, you know, reach out to people who I knew who could guide me and mentor me. And that’s kind of how I continue that journey.

Kara Goldin 9:34
So you had a lot of people in the beauty industry that you could reach out to it sounds like you were just mentioning Expo West. Has that been? Was that a great show for you?

Elina Wang 9:47
It was incredible. It was one of the best shows, but I’ve been to so high energy and I always love attending shows because of you know, money many times it’s multiple days. So There may be people who have seen our products and tried it before. And they come by our booth, and they tell us their love. And now they’re fans of it. But there are also times when there are a lot of people who are seeing it for the first time. And we always love giving out samples, day one will have them try it. And they come back day two, and hearing the feedback of how it improved their skin, because trade shows are tiring. And it helped, you know, soothe and moisturize their skin and make them feel more relaxed. is really what is the best of trade shows. Alongside that I think meeting a lot of people in the industry and just having a good time. It’s always so fun. Yeah, I remember this trade show, we filmed so many tic TOCs. We just had so much fun at the booth we like had like dances going on. And you know, it’s just a great time. I think of it as you know, a party even sometimes I think when people see you having fun, they see your brand, they see your booth, they just naturally are drawn to you as well.

Kara Goldin 10:58
That’s great. I always tell people, our first show was actually our first show for hint was the Fancy Food Show. And, and it was it was in New York, we were so not prepared. I mean, there were so many things we learned after that first show. And we probably had what I realized was one of the worst locations ever, and didn’t really have you know, the beautiful booth that we dreamt of having we had, you know, definitely had, you know, looking around at the other booths, we were like, wow, this is like such a great booth. And there’s this bigger and all of these things. But what I realized is that you have to start somewhere. And if you have a great product, it doesn’t really matter where you are. And eventually you’ll get better at it. Right? If if absolutely just as you’re starting out, but just starting somewhere, don’t wait until you have everything perfect, because it won’t be perfect. Do you agree with that?

Elina Wang 12:01
I love that definitely. I think same for us. When we first started very first show causing Prof. 2019 We had so much so much to learn, we had a fun booth, you know, I remembered we, you know, we got like we had a whole juice bar set up. That was the inspiration behind it was all the Ikea furniture. And, you know, we didn’t know all these, you know, like you need the agency the contract on on staff to be able to help you with a lot of things. You know, we saw these neighboring booths, and they had these beautiful setups. And, you know, I remember we couldn’t even have enough time to set up everything was just myself and my co founder. But it was fun. And you know, through that show, actually a little more about the story. We weren’t even completely confirmed to launch the brand until the first trade show. Our story was we took a $25,000 bank loan to create samples and have enough investment for a trade show to fly out from New Jersey to Vegas in the hopes that we would receive a PIO and we did great, I’m so grateful we received a really great Kohl’s Pio. And that was just from me, you know, talk and pitching the brand. And you know, getting into the middle of the hall tried to stop buyers and just share my brand as much as possible. And that’s really how we confirmed to move on to the next step. So it was really a lot of leap of faith and just like you mentioned, you know, you can’t get it all perfect. You just have to start and you know throughout the way you will learn and things will fall into place.

Kara Goldin 13:41
Yeah, definitely have a chapter in my book you and I were chatting about my book, but I have a chapter in the book that is called fly the plane as you’re building it. And yeah, not literally hopefully but it’s but it is so true. You’re never going to have it all figured out and you just have to start and try and get it out there and do the best you can and I think it does work out if it’s meant to be for sure. So you have an incredible product called the plant based milk mass. So is it actually milk that’s in the product

Elina Wang 14:16
now so it’s not actually milk. It’s inspired by the plant based milks, but we do include the specific ingredients so for example we have almond is the almond extract for here are much almond milk and we also green tea extract so it’s kind of our inspiration behind it and that packaging but there’s no real milk within the product.

Kara Goldin 14:39
Got it so you don’t need to refrigerate it or anything like that. So

Elina Wang 14:43
you don’t have to but people do like to refrigerate it to have it be a little more chilled. The sheet masks themselves are naturally cooling but you know it’s a little more chilled. It’s great in the summertime when it’s very, you know, warm outside and very hot to be able to have that nice, you know cooling, extra cooling Fact on your skin.

Kara Goldin 15:01
So I love your ESG approach, which is clearly something that Gen Z ers, millennials. You know, lots of retailers are looking at today as as really mandatory having some kind of strategy around this. So I think anybody who’s launching a product in, in beauty, but also in lots of other categories, need to have some kind of strategy. And here you are starting your company with it, which is super great. But you launched the first ever compostable sheet mask, is that right?

Elina Wang 15:39
Not the first ever one. I don’t want to say that. But we are one of the very few brands to have a compostable fabric. And how that story happened was, we actually launched with a biodegradable fabric, but we had a couple buyers who are giving us feedback. And they have seen, you know, one or two brands before that had the compostable fabric. And so we decided, You know what I I love challenges, I want to do the same, I want to improve my product and make it as sustainable as I can. So I worked with our contract manufacturers in Korea, with my co founder and we found a Japanese manufacturer that made compostable fabric and they you know, cut the the mold so it can fit the sheet masks, you know, with the eye holes and you know, the lip and everything. And that’s how we created this this line. And we actually tested it ourselves. We bought a really cool at home composter called lomi. And we composted we put in our food scraps along with the sheet mass fabric that was used, and within four or five hours, it was fully composted into soil. So that was really exciting to be able to see it become full circle.

Kara Goldin 17:02
That’s, that’s amazing. That will be at your next trade show. Right? You’ll you’ll be able to show that that’s a that’s yeah, very, very, super cool. So how have you gotten the word out about es W beauty? I mean, you talked briefly about, you know, sampling. But that that I think is always really challenging for people like just to make people know that they’re there. And marketing can be really expensive, as well. So what how have you gotten the word out so far?

Elina Wang 17:36
Sure. So I would definitely say trade shows. So pre COVID. And then in the past year and a half, we did a lot of trade shows, meeting buyers and meeting customers organically. Word of mouth was huge as well. And also, I think a lot of times people find our brand, you know, the opposite way, not from social media and then purchasing it, they see it out in the stores. You know, we love partnering with a lot of independent shops like fashion boutiques, juice bars, bloody studios, spas, they try it, they love it, and then they find us online and then they follow us on social media, that’s oftentimes their journey. But we are, you know, marketing ourselves, we definitely use a lot of social media, you know, we posted on Tik Tok and Instagram. We love reaching out and sending products to influencers and have them share the products. And you know, sometimes we like to do in store pop ups as well to meet people organically. But I find that when you meet someone or when they find your product in stores, that builds the strongest connection. And from there, you know, they then really love your brand and are consistently a fan and open to trying your other products and your lines.

Kara Goldin 18:54
So you’re speaking to your younger self, a new entrepreneur, what would you warn yourself about, that you maybe you didn’t know when you were starting your business,

Elina Wang 19:05
you have to learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, because you will constantly be faced in the room with challenges. Not all are negative. Some of them are opportunities that you know you would need to teach yourself and overcome but you have to learn how to embrace everything that comes at you and be calm. And you know sometimes for me, you know I let I let it hit me a little bit if it’s something that’s very tough, but really immediately get back into it, formulate a clear plan my next steps and just take the steps to execute it.

Kara Goldin 19:44
I think that’s that’s beautiful. I think it is really challenging because you’re, I always describe entrepreneurship as building a puzzle, right accepting the picture, and you have to be able to keep going and be Excited to keep going. But you have to know that at some point, you need to give something rest or go to bed and get back up again the next day and try again and and understand that maybe not everything is going to turn out exactly as you planned. And you have to have faith that there’s there is a way to do something that is not just one way as as well. So I think that’s along the lines of what you were saying, as well. So as a founder and as an entrepreneur, we don’t always get credit for like the really hard things that were for us when we were producing hands. Everybody told me that you can’t produce an a product using that uses fruit that doesn’t have preservatives in it. And I would ask, I didn’t come from the CPG and beverage industry. So I would ask why. To these manufacturers, and they said you just can’t. And I just kept asking, like, yes, nonstop. Like, why is that? And no one would have the answer. And I started to think well, maybe it’s just because no one’s figured it out. And we as a company actually figured it out and figured out how to sell product without preservatives in it, which was a really big deal. And it’s one that, you know, I’m so proud of, but it’s definitely not something that we share with the consumer unless they ask right like it’s it’s more of a an industry thing that I’m probably the most proud of. But I’m so curious, is there anything that you’ve done that people said, oh, you can’t do that there’s not going to be able to? I mean, this doesn’t make sense. No one’s ever done this before. What do you think you were doing? Being able to think that you can, I’m so curious.

Elina Wang 21:54
I think for me, it’s really, probably a lot of is my age, like with really minimal experience, also minimal funding as well, up until this point, we’ve pretty much been self funded, to be able to bring our brand into retailers. A lot of people did doubt me, even my mom actually, in the beginning, she didn’t believe it. I told her just one day, this is what I’m going to do. And now I’m very grateful to say we’re in 5000 Plus stores across North America. So I think that entire journey was something that you know, even today, like there’s still people who say, wow, like you’ve made it here, but I don’t know how you’re gonna make it there to the next steps. But I’m someone who loves and welcomes challenges, I will consistently, you know, work hard to prove to myself it’s not about proving to others that I can do it.

Kara Goldin 22:55
That’s awesome. Sometimes the doubters, they do it for reasons of of love, right? They don’t want you to be hurt. They don’t want to see you take risks, all of those things. But ultimately, I find that those especially coming from somebody that loves you, that’s just fuel. Right. Yeah. I mean, you end up that’s, you know, what all great entrepreneurs realize, I think later on in life, it’s, it’s, it’s definitely the fuel that they need in order to try and figure it out. So what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs knowing what you know, today?

Elina Wang 23:36
Wow, um, I think it is. You have to stay calm. And you have to be able to know how to emotionally balanced the ups and the downs, the highs and the lows. Because, you know, in one day, you can have like, five highs, six lows, some unexpected, some expected and, you know, knowing how to emotionally stabilize yourself and being able to handle it, because it’s not just you, you have a team, as well. Want to be able to lead and take care and stay calm for your team. And just keep going. And that’s what the entire entrepreneurship journey is. That’s why it’s so hard. Because you have to be very emotionally resilient.

Kara Goldin 24:24
Yeah, no, absolutely such great advice. So the best advice that you ever received?

Elina Wang 24:30
Hmm, um, I think it’s too recently up every stage of my journey. I received different advice that has been helpful. But I think recently, it’s really to network and meet people and to, you know, become friends with everyone. The other thing is being nice to everybody is very important, no matter who they are. I think that’s something that everyone is taught, but to really implement that and You know, meeting people being kind to everyone. And I think those are the things that right now has been really helpful.

Kara Goldin 25:10
I love it. Well, Elina, thank you so much. This has been such a great interview and so inspiring. And like I said, II SW beauty. The masks are absolutely terrific. I can’t wait for these new products to come out. Everybody’s got to be following you to actually see what those are when when you’re ready to share about them. And we’ll have all the info for your company in the show notes. And obviously, on your website, you also have all of the retail partnerships that you have to where you’re selling the products. So thank you and best of luck with everything. And thank you again for all of your inspiration.

Elina Wang 25:49
Thank you so much for having me.

Kara Goldin 25:51
Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. If you would, please give us a review and feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode of our podcast. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin. And if you want to hear more about my journey, I hope you will have a listen or pick up a copy of my book on daunted which I share my journey, including founding and building hint. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And thanks everyone for listening. Have a great rest of the week, and 2023 and goodbye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the book.com and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening