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Pianist turned entrepreneur, Angela Jia Kim shares her approach to building Savor Beauty

Joining me today is Angela Kim, the founder of Savor Beauty.


Angela Jia Kim is a retired concert pianist-turned-founder of Savor Beauty, a natural skincare, facial spa, and self-care journal brand inspired by Korean beauty rituals with the award-winning serums, creams, cleansers, peels, and masks are made sustainably and ethically by women in the Hudson Valley.


We’re chatting about Angela’s approach to building this business, bootstrapping it with credit cards and why it’s important to use your passion to drive you forward in life and business.

Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!


Okay, So I'm Angela Jia Kim and I'm the founder of Savor Beauty and Spot. It's a natural skincare brand based in New York. So organically made in New York, we have two spas in the city, New York city, one upper west side, one in the West Village. And it's a simple skincare numbered system that's based on the Korean beauty rituals and that's five, right? That's five. It's a five step system. Yes, the essentials are the five steps system. So it's like super. I always like to say it's effortless beauty. Love that, Love effortless beauty. I want to wake up looking effortless. I feel like I feel like five is manageable.

00:04:50 It's super manageable and we try to create them in like little minute ritual so that, you know, we're all busy women, right? We don't have an hour to spend, like my mom did on massaging our faces every single night, but we do want to wake up effortlessly beautiful, right? And I think we all learned through this entire pandemic, that skin you need to start with skin. And if you have beautiful glowing, hydrated, moisturized glistening skin, people will be mesmerized by the glow, you know? And that to me is effortless beauty. Oh yeah, absolutely. And I also think during the pandemic, well, I know for me and my girlfriends I can't speak to everyone else, but I feel like self care became super important. And the evening ritual of taking off my makeup, washing my face or being in the shower or whatever and putting on my evening routine became such a treasured few minutes. You know, it doesn't need to be long and drawn out, but it became something that I really looked forward to and I've never been like that before.

00:05:52 Well, I'm so happy to hear that really do, because I think that's such an important message for for women just to take a little that they matter. And just to take some time. And then I always like to take beauty deeper. And, you know, I try to say affirmations while I'm doing my be evening beauty ritual, morning beauty rituals. And you know, I just said earlier, you know, you have this glow and you take care of your skin. That's mesmerizing, right? But a lot of it is also in a radiance. So that's something that I'm very passionate about is how do you cultivate and really nourish your inner and outer radiance. And so I hope we'll talk a lot about that as we talk about building business, because building business is really challenging at times. It's joyful and wonderful, and you get to express your passions, but you also, they're challenging moments. Let's not kid ourselves. And I think nourishing our inner and outer radiance is key as leaders, totally. I love that. What was your affirmation this morning? So my affirmation this morning was I feel nourished and radiant, how beautiful I'm going to start doing that.

00:06:59 Yeah, I think affirmations, why not? You're washing your face instead of thinking about, oh my gosh, I forgot to do this, I forgot to do that just to stay super grounded and and just say something like, at the end of the night, it's like, I put away my stress for the evening or just anything that I always say, people are always like, well, how do I create my own affirmations? And my little trick is if I'm feeling negative or if I'm feeling way down or stressed, I try to find the opposite feeling and that's my affirmation. So, if I'm feeling like, as an entrepreneur, there's a lot to do and you can easily feel overwhelmed I'll say something like I feel poised and prepared for tomorrow. You know, I love? And I don't just say it once, I'll say it like 10 times in a row until start to believe, it you know. I am going to report back to you in a week, wonderful, you know how my affirmations are going because I need to do that, that's a great tip to implement that in the daily self care rituals. But let me get into the story. I want to go back to the very beginning and understand where your entrepreneurial journey really started.

00:08:04 So I'm a retired concert pianist and I remember selling Cds after my concerts, you know, I would go on these month long tours and I think that's where I got the entrepreneurial bite, you know, I'd be so thrilling after it would be like, oh my God, it just make $15.30 dollars, $45 you know. So it was really exciting. But I was about to walk out on stage one day in a concert tour and I put on this quote natural lotion all over my body and started breaking out into hives in front of hundreds of people, which you know, I don't know if you've ever broken out in front of one person, but imagine in front of hundreds of people, it's very humiliating. So I took a look at the list of ingredients after the concert and was shocked to find out how many chemicals there were and I just went into my kitchen and started, you know, I was like maybe I should make my own lotions and potions, you know and at that time that this was more than a decade ago, there weren't a lot of natural clean beauty brands on the market. I know today there's a lot but I wanted to find something that was anti aging that was like I called it green, sexy, you know, something that looked beautiful like christian Dior meets Vermont mom and Pops lotion and creams and my mom is korean and so I wanted to make something for her that she would korean.

00:09:16 Women are obsessed with beauty, right? I wanted to make sure that she loved it too, I wanted something organic for her. So that's just really how my my entrepreneurial journey started and then I started, I made like thousands of lotions and potions in my kitchen, thousands, you know, I would take olive oil, coconut oil, mix it together and then I'd be like, oh that feels greasy in, It smells kind of funny if I add an essential oil and that's just what I did every single day. So I started giving them as gifts to friends and they were like, oh my God, I love this cream, it helped really hydrate and moisturize my skin and can I buy some and that's just how it all started. So to paint the picture, what year are we talking about? He said 10 years ago, so we're talking like 2001, 11 actually, so you know, I keep saying 10 years ago, but every year passes, I should increase, I should increase the years. So it was right before my daughter was born, so she was born in 2009. Yeah, so it's more than 10 years ago. Two 1009. Okay, so you're giving them to friends and family and you know, they're starting to say, hey, I might like to actually buy this.

00:10:20 At what point do you be like, okay, I'm gonna turn this into a brand and I'm going to stop being a pianist. That's such a great question. So I was on tour and I remember I was taking orders on on the phone and the audience, I could hear the audience and they're like, talking, talking, I should be nervous, but I'm like on the phone going, okay, so you're like 13 motions okay. And I would like, that's just, I didn't realize it, but I was selling right and juggling both and then I became pregnant with my daughter and I just realized I didn't want to have the lifestyles touring and being on the road, I wanted to make my home, you know, in Manhattan and just stay there with her. So when she was born, I was like, okay, I'm gonna go on maternity leave for three months, but she came with such a creative tour de force, you know, and after a month, I was like, I'm bored, I want to do something with her. And so I opened up a little holiday pop up shop in Bryant park in new york city, and while I was breastfeeding her, I was, you know, selling creams and Oh my God, that's amazing, you know, it's just funny how where life takes you because you never know in 10 years where you're going to be in life, but I'm a big believer that if you follow your passion, something amazing will always happen.

00:11:38 That's so true. So I just followed my passion and my daughter and I, she was one month old and I was, you know, Breastfeeding her, we sold like $40,000 of cream that, that holiday season, and that's when I knew I had a little business, right? And that's when you knew, okay, I'm going to switch my focus and I'm not going to go back to the touring, I've got this now, I'm going to get cracking Yeah, and I think, you know, a lot of women, a lot of people in general, they go through that where they're like, I'm not really, I know I meant to do something else or they want to start a business or they want to go and do a different career, they want to go back to school, they want to transition and it's hard, right? Like it's scary when your identity is one thing for a really long time and then you want to do something else. And I always say, let passion be your guiding light and dedicate yourself to it just a little bit every single day and eventually it will become so big that the leap is not as scary. It just becomes the next big step that you take. But what about music? Because that must have been a big passion for you to write and like what would people around you saying?

00:12:43 What people saying, oh, it's, you know weird for you to give up this thing that you've really worked towards already or with people like, hey, you actually are on something onto something. Yeah, you should quit that and start this. Yeah, well, and so this is what's very interesting, this is where I talked about nourishing your inner radiance because I came from a background where, you know, it was all about applause approval and perfection, right? So I was used to doing things for outer external appreciation, not internal. So it was really hard for me because my mom was not, she was not a supportive. At first she was like, you're a concert pianist, you can't do this. And I remember just making up every excuse mom, if I'm always on the road, I can't have a baby mom, you know, you know, I can't raise my daughter. And so I was using that as a way to convince her so that I could feel okay with my career choice. I think what I did to handle that is I just said I'm going to take a little break, Just take a break and I think that's the trick. Just take little baby steps.

00:13:47 You don't have to commit 100%. You can just take a little break and see where this takes you. And then it became so big for me and so obvious that if the decision was painless, totally got it. And so after that holiday season you've made $40,000, Did you? Was that like profitable $40,000 that you were able to then think about manufacturing and actually making it a bit more legit and serious and all that kind of stuff or were you like, I need to invest some money now and get a loan or or find some investors or you know, what was that money piece of the puzzle to get started at the next level. That's another great question. You're just full of amazing questions and I think this is going to be really helpful for a lot of people who are just starting out. So to answer your question, I've never taken on investors eye view our customers as our investors. So before let's rewind a little bit before when I was like doing a lot of the creating of the lotions in my kitchen, I was racking up a lot of money on my credit card. It ended up being after I opened up that holiday Kiosk and then I opened up my first shop, I put about $60,000, I was $60,000 in debt for my credit cards.

00:14:59 And I kept saying to myself, okay, and this is a little tip for risk, you can always ask yourself well, how much am I willing to lose? And I said, well, sell my Manhattan apartment to pay off this credit card thing if it doesn't work out. And so really, that's what I did, and then I, the first two or three years, it was not profitable by any means, because it's very expensive, like who does that, Who starts a cosmetic business on credit cards and with no investors, you know, so, I mean, there are a lot of people who do it, but it's very challenging when you don't have a lot of money at the start, So I would just pay it off little by little $300 a week, $400 a week, and then eventually I paid it all off, but it took me a good three years to do that, right? So every time I made a sale, I would pay off the credit card, like after, like a week or a month, I would put it into the savings, and then I would pay off the credit card. Yeah, and I think that's a big thing about entrepreneurship is, it's like, you've got to be comfortable being in that uncomfortable stage of being like, well, I'm going to have to be in debt a little bit here and you know, until I figure it out and until I pay it all back and then find my new groove.

00:16:07 Yes. And so I would say that journey for me was three years and I remember a very specific moment when I had an assistant who was helping me and she was, she was making money and I wasn't, you know, she was making her salary. Of course she was, she was working for me. And I remember thinking to myself one day that is just that is not going to be the case. At some point, I have to be paid well for what I do because I work the most over any employee. You know, and I carry the most risk, I carry the risk I carry the burden and I carry the privilege, right? So I need to be compensated well for my for what I've done, right? And I want to tell you and all the entrepreneurs out there, that's really important. At some point, you're going to take care of your business, you're going to nurture it, you're going to feed it. It's like a baby, but at some point you're going to shift and your business will take care of you. So it is a full circle moment and I think that's an expectation that's really important for us entrepreneurs to have that the business will take care of you eventually.

00:17:12 And at what point did the business not taking care of you? I would say for me because I had no business experience. I am sure the listeners, your listeners are much more savvy than I am. I had to learn everything the hard way I call it the school of hard knocks. So I had to learn every single entrepreneurial a lesson. You know how to manage employees, how to fund your business, how to do pr how to do marketing. I didn't know that what marketing was. I didn't, you know, I did shipping, I did every single thing in my business, so every single thing that my employees do now I've done, you know, so I had to learn the hard way. So to answer your question, it probably won't take most people this long, but it took me about five years to get it to the point where I felt like my business is taken care of me and honestly, you know, there are many twists and turns, but I feel like in the last year it's finally really taking care of me in that spiritually and emotionally, you know what I mean? Because I learned to let go. I learned that I don't have control really, we all learned that lesson, right?

00:18:13 Right? And by letting go and allowing my business and my team members to really thrive in what I call their zone of genius. I feel like it's really taking care of me and even now we're reopening new york city is reopening and there are a lot of stressors, you know, now we're renegotiating leases with the landlords and new york city landlords are sharks, you know, So there are a lot of different stressors that are starting to build up again, but I sleep well at night because I know that this too shall pass and my wisdom will carry us