Jan. 8 2019
Making the first move in your career, love life, or when forging friendships can be intimidating. Luckily, there’s a highly-curated and safe platform that makes it easy to take fate into your own hands to land that dream job, relationship, and bff. Bumble is the revolutionary app that lets users connect with confidence, allowing busy women everywhere to use tools like Bumble Bizz to find interesting and motivated people to network with, hire, or even work for. Since we’re passionate about empowering females to #MaketheFirstMove in every aspect of their lives, we’ve partnered with Bumble on a 4-part series highlighting women who made the first move in their careers, and ended up as the main characters of major success stories. This week, we’re chatting with Vicky Tsai, Founder of Tatcha, the cult-favorite skincare brand inspired by modern-day geishas and built from the approach that “less is more.” On top of having created a majorly successful company, Vicky has given back in a big way: through an alliance between Tatcha and Room to Read, the business has funded one million days of school for children in need. Talk about inspiring. Below, this beauty boss tells us how she got to the top and how we can use networking tools like Bumble to succeed in this modern world.
You spent a decade working for large companies before starting your own line of beauty products that spotlight holistic methods and Japanese ingredients. Why did you decide to start Tatcha? What was your mindset when you finally took the leap into entrepreneurship? Were you scared of failing?
I had been working for big companies for a decade when I woke up one day and just said, “I choose happiness.” I realized that for me, if I spend most of the waking hours of my life working, and if my work isn’t meaningful to me, then I really needed to reevaluate my priorities. I wasn’t scared to fail because I considered the numbers: if I stayed, there was an 100% chance I would be unhappy, but if I tried to find or create work that was meaningful, there was a 50% chance I would be happy. I was okay with those odds.
Bumble was created to help women make the first move, whether it be to find a romantic relationship, meet new friends, or expand your professional network. Can you tell us about some of the relationships that helped you move forward through the inevitable struggles of starting a company?
An entrepreneur is defined as someone who marshals resources to create something out of nothing; the most important resource you can have when you start a company is great relationships. The only thing that allowed me to create a company, grow it, and have a daughter at the same time, was my husband, Eric. He is the invisible co-founder, the super-involved parent when I’m on the road, and an incredible partner in life (speaking of making the first move, I asked him out several times before he agreed to date me).
My co-founder, Stanley Hainsworth, did all the brilliant creative work, while starting and growing his own company at the same time. He was always someone that I could talk to about all aspects of scaling a business, from leadership puzzles to operational ones. Our nickname for each other is “twin” because we’re so similar. My other co-founder, Brad Murray is like the sun to my moon. He’s the one who is always optimistic and thinking of how things can turn out for the best; you need someone like that to get you through the hardest days. Alec Schilling was one of our earliest team members who, to this day, embodies fully the culture and the values of the company more than anyone. She reminds me of why I love my work. If it weren’t for these people, I think there are many times that I would have given up.
Your mother was also a woman who #MadetheFirstMove by owning a beauty boutique in Houston when you were a child. How did her entrepreneurial spirit influence your own journey of being a business owner?
My family is originally from Taiwan, which has a very entrepreneurial culture. My mom started out with corporate jobs, and then switched over to being an entrepreneur with a number of businesses. When I was little, I spent my weekends and summers supporting one of the businesses. Watching her be a boss made me realize that it’s never a question of if you can do it, it’s just a matter of how. You can create something out of nothing; people do it every day. In times when I’ve felt guilty about how much my work takes me away from my daughter, I think about how much of a role model my mother was to me, and I hope that my daughter feels that way as well.
In times when I’ve felt guilty about how much my work takes me away from my daughter, I think about how much of a role model my mother was to me, and I hope that my daughter feels that way as well.
Disrupting an industry as competitive as beauty is incredibly difficult, and takes dedication, passion, and hard work. What were some of the behind-the-scenes struggles you went through to get Tatcha off the ground? Was there a big break that changed everything?
The struggles evolve as the company evolves. From a business standpoint, in the beginning, it was very hard to raise money; there were more naysayers than not. I can only count on one hand the number of people who said, “That’s a good idea!” I’d like to think that with a business background and a business degree that we would have been able to avoid some of the obvious challenges, but I made every mistake in the book.
Personally speaking, starting a company, especially one that grows quickly and gets to some scale, is like having two full-time jobs. You live it and you breathe it, and there really is no such thing as “somebody else’s problem;” successes feel like team successes, but failures feel like my very own. Keeping an even keel through the ups and downs of the business took some learning for me. I’ve gotten to a zen place, but it took ten years. Beyond all of that, I took myself to the brink of financial ruin.
There wasn’t one true moment that I would think of as a big break, but working with incredible retail partners like Sephora and QVC and having true relationships with them has made all the difference in being able to break through in a very competitive environment.
You made the first move and started a multi-million dollar company that has become a cult-favorite skincare brand and has its own dedicated section at retailers like Sephora. Who are other women who also #MadetheFirstMove that you admire?
I admire Leslie Blodgett, Christina Carlino and Janet Gurwitch who started Bare Minerals, Philosophy and Laura Mercier respectively, and laid the path for me to follow. They made possible so many of the things we do every day. I also look up to Alli Webb at DryBar. It was a breakthrough concept when she came up with it and continues to be the gold standard.
Huda Kattan. I have so much respect for how people are changing the business models of beauty – how we educate, how we entertain, how we bring things to market. Huda was one of the first to do that, and I think she’s doing a beautiful job. I admire her all the more for doing it with a family and a child.
Starting a company like Tatcha takes resources like chemists, suppliers, and distributors. Once you decided to take the business from an idea to physical products, what were the first steps you took? How did you decide which tasks to focus on first and which ones to outsource or hire team members to tackle?
Our business philosophy has always been very simple; love your products and love your clients first. All of our investments (money, time, energy) started there, which won’t change. Our very first teammates were skincare scientists at Tatcha Institute, which is where all our innovation takes place. They make each formula from scratch, like a couture dress, with a philosophy of gentle strength. We’ve poured our heart and soul into R&D, making sure each piece is the best we can possibly do. Next we invested in our Customer Love teammates; they are the beating heart of the company and exemplify best-in-class customer service.
Bumble Bizz is a tool that readers can use to take fate into their own hands to land their dream job, meet fellow women who are interested in expanding their own professional circles, or even hire talented individuals to join their businesses. When hiring, what attributes do you look for in a candidate? How can our readers stand out when putting themselves out there on a platform like Bumble Bizz?
I consider culture fit first and foremost. Skills can be taught, but if we don’t have a shared set of values then it won’t work out. Next, it’s about directly-relevant experience; when sharing your career story on a platform like Bumble Bizz, highlight the work you’ve done that is most relevant to the role and tie that back to how you want to be approached on the app. If you are using the platform to find a job, I always notice when someone has done their homework on the brand and the company they are approaching and is able to specifically articulate why they would be a great fit.