We had a few minutes to catch up with Wǒ founder, Karen Lee-Thompson, and chat about all things beauty and Wǒ related. To find out how her own experiences kick started her into creating the brand and her thoughts on the beauty industry post COVID-19, read on...
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself in under 30 seconds?
I’m Karen, originally from Taiwan and mother of two wonderful girls. I’ve been in the beauty industry for nearly 20 years now and I live and breathe beauty innovation. I love learning, developing new skills and acquiring new knowledge, I also believe in making a difference to the world, no matter how small.
Why did you start Wǒ ?
Well, being in the industry this long and working on so many different brands in the past, I couldn’t help but feel there are still many consumer needs that have not yet been resolved. Particularly in an inclusive, holistic way.
My family is one of those, like many living in the UK today, that combine different cultures and ethnicities in one union. When my daughter was younger, her skin showed the same characteristics as mine; easy to tan but sometimes oily. But as she has grown older, her skin has started to develop freckles, almost the same pattern as her English Grandpa. That was the moment when my curiosity took over and it became my mission to find out more. Based on numerous credible scientific skin research findings, it’s been identified that our skin has unique characteristics and one of the key factors is ethnicity. On top of that, the environment around us, the lifestyle we lead, our overall physical health and mental state all contribute to how our skin behaves. That is the reason why I believe skincare should become part of our lifestyle and will ultimately lead us to healthy skin.
You have used a number of experts from the beauty industry, can you tell us about some of those and why you thought it was necessary for a small, new brand?
When it comes to hard knowledge, like how ingredients come together and the safety element of it and how they impact the skin, that information is formed from a very particular expertise. That’s the reason why as a small business, we are committed to bringing the best knowledge to our customers. We collaborated with a skin scientist, who has many years of experience in the industry and highly regarded reputation, and a regulatory / product safety advisor who safeguards everything that we put into the formulations. To me, regulatory compliance is a given, it is a hygiene factor when it comes to product development, it has to be done. So, we go above and beyond the basic regulatory requirement, to give our customers the best.
How do you differentiate yourself from the ever-growing list of start-up beauty brands? What top tips could you give any new entrepreneurs out there?
Every brand has their own particular USP (Unique Selling Point) and the key difference is that we have USPs every step of the way, from the start of the consumer journey to the end, we set out to do something different to other brands. I can confidently say that how we think about Wǒ is different, from the skin diagnostic, which is not just a product filter system, down to our unique single dose product format. Our communication is not just product focused as there are many other things that contribute to the health of your skin as well.
Top tip? You have to be super resilient, and you can plan and plan, but there will always be something that will come and disrupt you!
What is the toughest aspect of being a small brand dominated by big companies?
I think being a small brand, the challenge is to get yourself out there, to be heard, to be seen. There are loads of new brands coming into the market every single day and you only have consumers’ attention for about 3 seconds so that is tough.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far from being a brand owner?
The biggest lesson for me is how to articulate your ideas. But I must say, up until this point, I haven’t perfected that yet. I am sure there will be a lot more learning to come.
Do you think the beauty industry will change as a result of COVID-19?
I think it will, absolutely. But I hope it will change for the better. We have never had an opportunity like this to really review how we live our lives. So I’m sure as a results, new behaviours have been established in the past few months, like less make up – suddenly people will feel the difference and the benefit of not overloading your skin. People will feel and see that.
What beauty advice would you give to your younger self?
My younger self, that’s an interesting question. I never thought about that actually. I got into beauty at a very young age, because my mum was very much into beauty products, my grandma as well. Beauty advice? If I am going to give any advice to my daughters, for sure that is to cleanse you face properly each day, because if you don’t have a clean face to begin with, any product you put on top will not be effective.
Where would be your 1st port of call, if you could go anywhere in the world once free travel is unrestricted?
I would definitely fly back to Taiwan straight away. I do miss my family over there, especially my grandma. Then maybe carry on to Australia, because I’d like to learn more about the healthy living practice in that country and get some inspiration!
For more information about the brand and the founding story watch the brand story video below