Koko Hayashi of Koko Face Yoga: “Keep the corners of your mouth slightly turned up all the time”

Keep the corners of your mouth slightly turned up all the time. With age, the corners of the mouth tend to drop due to muscle deterioration, unless you are conscious. When the face shows a negative expression, your brain misunderstands that you are negative, even if you are not. Then, you feel negative. Facial expression […]

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Keep the corners of your mouth slightly turned up all the time. With age, the corners of the mouth tend to drop due to muscle deterioration, unless you are conscious. When the face shows a negative expression, your brain misunderstands that you are negative, even if you are not. Then, you feel negative. Facial expression matters not just for beauty, but also for the mindset.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Koko Hayashi, founder of Koko Face Yoga. Born and raised in Japan where natural beauty methods such as Face Yoga have been popular for many decades, Koko has been practicing the art of Face Yoga for herself and introducing it to the world. She’s currently based out of Los Angeles. Since she started teaching in 2018, she has quickly gained attention from celebrities such as Kim Kardashian (who has even tweeted saying Koko is “pretty legit” after taking her Face Yoga session). She was voted as the #1 popular Yoga class at The Yoga Expo Los Angeles and was featured on “Shark Tank”.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

After a 5-year corporate job in Tokyo, I went to Hong Kong for an MBA degree. I started a business in Hong Kong, but it quickly failed. So, I went back to the corporate world in Japan. While working for a corporation, I couldn’t give up the dream of becoming an entrepreneur, so I started selling Japanese soaps in the USA as a side hustle. In addition, my Face Yoga that began as a hobby on YouTube grew, so I started teaching it as a business. Now, both businesses have grown large enough to employ others.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I had been to the Shark Tank auditions in-person twice and had never been accepted for 2 years in a row. Suddenly though, 1 year later, I was scouted by them and just a few months later I was on the stage! Although I turned down the offer, being featured on the show impacted my business in such a huge way. It’s okay to give up something you pursued maybe because it was not good timing or wasn’t the right fit, but always keep your radar on. So, whenever the good timing does come along, it might just come to you.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of the most important techniques in our Face Yoga method is tongue posture when your face is resting. In order to explain well, I often show my tongue inside of the mouth. But sometimes TV shows or some big media can consider it as erotic, which I didn’t know at that time. There are many American nuances that I am still learning.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have met so many great mentors including one who financially supported the business. One thing I learned from them is that if the mentor’s experience is far too different, compared to yours (ex. the mentor’s business is making 100M dollars and you are making less than 1M dollars.), you won’t learn much because you won’t be able to understand the advice, they are giving you. Although, for example, if the mentor’s business is making 10M dollars/year and you are making 1 dollars–5M/year, then it is a good match. You will learn a lot since the situation is not so different. Finding good mentors who have experienced your situation recently (within 5 years) would be helpful.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

There are not many female founder role models yet. If there are many founders around you when you grow up, it is probably easier for you to become one yourself. I hope to be a good role model as a minority female who didn’t grow up in the States.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

Since the BLM movement was launched in 2020, I see so many opportunities for black entrepreneurs, but not for Asian. I hope I will see more coming specifically for the Asian community. To help other entrepreneurs, we launched Koko’s Got Talent audition program. If you have a beauty/health talent that you want to introduce to the world, apply here.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

There are many markets specifically targeted towards women (ex. beauty, femtech). To me, it is a bit odd that males lead businesses for females. The corporation that I was working for before coming to the USA was a hair removal salon company for women. There are more than 100 locations in Japan and other countries, but 90% of the executives were male. The business grew too quickly and their operation was a mess. They almost went bankrupt. Fortunately, they were acquired by another company that helped save them financially, but their reputation was ruined.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

I did not know the concept of founding businesses when I was a kid because in my countryside hometown, there were no entrepreneurs. After I started working in Tokyo, I learned of the concept of entrepreneurship, but still, it was only for a limited number of people. Now that I’ve been an entrepreneur, I understand that it’s possible for anyone if you are passionate about the solution you are providing, you are good at it, and there is demand for it.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

Not everyone should be an entrepreneur. Some are good at following a lead as a team member. Some are good at being creative or professional in certain industries and are not always good at managing businesses. Actors need managers. Actors won’t work without managers. I happen to be a talent as a Face Yoga expert and influencer and at the same time a business manager, but this is a rare case.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, What are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Men might tend to compete, but women want to cooperate with each other. I think it’s a good idea to try to find partners (ex. collaboration) that will help both parties grow together.

2. Take advantage of being a female or different from others. There are many opportunities to prioritize diversity (ex. grants, media appearances).

3. Ask for help. Women support each other. Things cannot be done by yourself. It’d be easier to ask for help if you are always helping others though because relations should be win-win.

4. Sleep well. As women experience life differently from men such as menstruation, it’s important to take care of yourself and in doing so, you help your body even more during those times of the month.

5. Keep the corners of your mouth slightly turned up all the time. With age, the corners of the mouth tend to drop due to muscle deterioration, unless you are conscious. When the face shows a negative expression, your brain misunderstands that you are negative, even if you are not. Then, you feel negative. Facial expression matters not just for beauty, but also for the mindset.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I help people who have lost their confidence due to aging symptoms in their face by introducing natural methods that help them regain a youthful appearance. You can see, quite easily, the many positive comments on our YouTube. I also casually mentor some other beauty/health business owners. I would like to launch an accelerator program to help on a bigger scale in the future.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

One thing I recently started as an activist is a petition. I have never done it as I don’t like to be attacked by others in general, but this time I decided to speak up and stand out. There is an influential orthodontist who introduced correct tongue posture that provides many health benefits, but other orthodontists are trying to revoke his dental licence. Disruptors are supposed to be attacked by oldies. If you are not being attacked, you are not creating anything amazing. Regardless of the result, I hope this petition will inform other great disruptors that you will be supported even if you get attacked by others.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Ally McBeal (TV show starring Calista Flockhart) would be my dream because this show inspired me to learn English and work outside of Japan when I was a kid. I hope to be a good role model and inspire the younger generation to challenge the world with something bold.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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