Entrepreneur Susie Wang with business partners James Wang and Ric Kostick
A Typical Day In the Life
A typical day in the lab, Susie was formulating the “next big eye cream”. She accidentally knocked over a vial of a chemical that was to go into that eye cream onto the lab table. Within a few minutes, the chemical eroded the lab table. Shocked that the ingredients used to formulate cosmetics were harsh enough to eat away a lab table, Susie began digging for answers. She soon discovered that many chemicals that were widely used in cosmetics were proven to cause cancer, tumors, irritations, and other skin disorders. In addition to using toxic chemicals, Susie witnessed formulas only having just a dash of the active ingredients they were advertising and that most formulas were diluted with mostly water, thickeners, emulsifiers and other cheap fillers to “economize.” Furthermore, Susie was disheartened that many companies would claim “no animal testing” because even if the final formula itself was not tested on animals, many of the ingredients were indeed tested on animals. Since 100% Pure products are made with pure food grade ingredients such as fruits, honey, seaweeds and other natural herbs – these food grade ingredients were never required animal testing. After being exposed to some ugly truths in the beauty business, Susie decided to walk away from the multi million dollar deal and partner with her brother, James Wang and her then boyfriend and now fiancee, Ric Kostick to create the absolute purest, healthiest, most effective and cruelty free line of cosmetics in the world.
What has been your most memorable moment working in the beauty industry?
My most embarrassing memorable moment was when I was traveling and the airline misrouted my luggage, which left me without any contacts. I was walking around a foreign city nearly blind and I ran into a pole and fell to the ground. Diane Von Furstenberg and the buyer of Henri Bendels came to my rescue. They both picked me up on each arm, took me to Bendels and they called Ric, my fiancée and business partner to pick me up.
My most exciting moment was when I first discovered fruit and vegetable pigments to color cosmetics. One summer day, I was picking berries in my garden and I saw the gorgeous pigments staining my fingers – this is when I thought of the idea of using fruit pigments to color makeup… this was a very special, exciting day!
What does beauty mean to you?
Birth, life, innocence, first love, summer nights, fun with friends and family, playing and swimming with my pets… and all the little magical moments that makes life so special.
How do you stay inspired as an entrepreneur and business owner?
What inspires me most is making so many people happy. I love making nourishing, delicious, pampering and healthy products that are a joy to use.
What is next for your career?
I love the beauty industry. I don’t think I can ever leave it. But I recently went into the tech industry. We developed “Incville” which is a cloud based business software that helps your company build a stronger culture and helping the company to be more efficient by facilitating communication and collaboration. Incville has drastically helped 100% Pure so we’ve released it to the world and incville has been a huge success! In addition to working on 100% Pure, I am dedicated to building incville. We’re constantly adding more features on Invicille – This week, we’re releasing ‘docs’ where you can store and share files.
Where do you see the future of the beauty industry going for professionals like yourself?
With more and more evidence coming out about the dangers of toxic chemicals. I am hopeful that beauty professionals will become more responsible and feel the need to stop using toxins in produces. I’m also hopeful that more people will be more sensitive about animals and realize that animals feel the pain when they’re jabbed, poked, prodded and that there are more efficient ways of testing chemicals such as fake skin.
How do you stay relevant in an ever-changing industry?
Everyone is getting more health conscience about what they apply on their skin. This is aligned with 100% Pure’s philosophy. If the industry ever changed to desiring unhealthy products, I can never produce it because I would know that I’m causing harm to people. Its like producing cigarettes – There’s a demand for it but I don’t ever want to make anything that contributes to ill health.
Who were your mentors and how did they assist you as you built your career?
My parents instilled honesty and compassion for people – these are the 2 creeds that I live by.
Another mentor was Mr. John Arriaga. When we were growing and needed office space, Mr. Arriaga offered us space in his new building to use. He just wanted to help us – to help our company grow. That was extremely generous and kind of him. I have always wanted to do the same things for others. Now we bought an 8-acre property with 156,000 square feet in San Jose. We’re always offering people some space if they needed it to get their ventures going without planning on it. I guess we turned into an incubator for entrepreneurs. We provided office space, some mentoring/advice, equipment like phones, internet, desks, chairs, etc. Amenities like drinks, wine, snacks, events, pizza, etc. to help spur entrepreneurship.
Describe your favorite beauty industry job experience and what made it memorable?
Formulating – seeing all the products on the shelves that I created that brought so many women joy.
What has been your most valuable lesson working in this industry?
It’s in my nature to be trusting, caring, nurturing and patient. One very valuable lesson I learned was to let go of bad employees. Its not always worth trying to counsel, mentor and improve everyone because if it’s in their nature to be destructive, I cant help them if they don’t want to be helped. I hired a PR Director that caused a lot of harm to me and my team. I made the mistake of keeping her around for 3 months when I should have let her go immediately. She sat on the floor and threw a fit pounded her feet and fists against the floor) stalked a co-worker – went to his house and wouldn’t stop honking her horn until he came out, fought with our Facebook fans and got our facebook page taken down, came out of her office swearing profanities, instead of working she wasted time just shopping online and looking for condos she wanted to purchase with all the money she said she’s going to win from all the lawsuits she’s involved in – instead of firing her, I tried to find ways to motivate her and tried to see what I can do to get her to become more productive. I used to thing that the failure of an employee was my failure as a manager. This was my biggest mistake. If someone is a failure and doesn’t have the heart to improve, you can’t help them. Despite all her destructive behavior, she said she got us on the Oprah show, Good Morning America, The view, etc. After we found out all that was a lie, we just couldn’t bare it anymore and finally let her go. Although she was with us for only 3 months, she caused a lot of headaches and suffering to all of us… the lesson I learned is not to be afraid to fire people immediately if they are bad employees.
If you were stranded on an island what top beauty products would you not be able to live without?
I can always get clean in the ocean, I can always scrub my feet with the sand, I can crack a coconut and use it to hydrate and moisturize but I cant live without my super fruits night balm because it makes me look and feel great.. this nighttime treatment repairs and softens my skin. I wake up with glowing and vibrant skin.
Finish this sentence: A woman is most beautiful when ___________…
…she accepts and loves herself unconditionally.
What is your advice for anyone looking to break into this industry?
Absolute highest quality will always make you a success. You can always get someone to buy something once but you have to make the very best quality products in order for people to want to use it again and again. When we started our internet business, we tracked and saw that over 80% of our customers that bought our products in 2005 still buys from us even today. The best advice I can give to anyone is to make the absolute best products. That goes with skin care, hair care, body care and now we’re bring this same philosophy into developing invicille – event though invicille is a tech company, we still need to develop the best code, the best engineering and design of the product.