I had the pleasure to interview Eugene He. Eugene is the CEO and Founder of Ceramiracle, an award-winning nutricosmetics brand from California that bridges the gap between food and beauty while supporting inclusivity with its ‘Prejudice-Free Beauty’ philosophy. With offices in Santa Monica, New York and Singapore, Ceramiracle ships direct to customers in over 30 countries with retail presence in the US, China, Vietnam and Singapore.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Asearly as I can remember, I’ve been deeply fascinated with how humans age. I grew up in a middle income suburban household in Singapore and have always been a curious cat. My mum was a nanny during my early years so I was constantly surrounded by babies and I used to wonder why babies have such amazing skin. That eventually led me to Australia where I became a clinical naturopath focusing on chronic and degenerative conditions. During my time as a practitioner, I started experimenting with formulas and amassed a library of ingredients and products.
It might have been a calling but I literally woke up one day and felt I needed to do more to reach out to people with what I know. So just like that, I ended what would have been an easy and lucrative career and joined the beauty industry to start from zero. I worked for beauty and wellness distributors and eventually worked my way up to be an industry consultant. When I felt I had enough working knowledge of the industry, I bit the bullet and started my own business.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
Starting and leading a company is a very ‘lonely’ endeavor. The biggest challenge I faced was having to deal with problems that I have no experience in but yet no one else to turn to for help. It felt like being thrown into the deep end of the pool without knowing how to swim. An example would be when our first batch of products got delayed for two months during production due to ingredient issues. It was a constellation of ‘first challenges’ that hit me at the same time. Through that one experience, I had to learn how to negotiate with suppliers, navigate international logistics, handle compliance, manage customer expectations and replan cash-flow. Eventually, all these ‘first challenges’ create the entrepreneur we are today.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
I want to say passion but that’s a double edged sword. I was lucky that my passion aligned with my experience and knowledge and that has been instrumental in getting people to believe in Ceramiracle and our products. However, passion without clear conviction and knowledge is a sure ticket to burning out and failing. For example, I am very passionate about cooking but I would never open a restaurant.
As an entrepreneur, being proactive is a requirement. You need to predict challenges, ask questions, find answers, meet people (no room for shyness here) and be constantly available. I find that having the ability to think ahead has helped me a great deal in managing situations. Being proactive would also mean not losing out on possible opportunities for the business.
Finally, as much as I love what I do and the business, I am never emotional about it. I find this to be extremely important as bringing emotions into a business clouds judgement and burns you out faster. An entrepreneur should be calm and clear headed at all times.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”?
- You need to be mentally strong and physically healthy because the challenges that a new/young CEO face takes a heavy toll on the body. I find that this outweighs every other point because without your health, any other advice wouldn’t matter. You’ll need to find your own ways to unwind habitually, eat well and sleep well in order to keep ahead of things.
- You are only as good as your team so find the right co-founder or hire wisely. As tempting as it is to do everything on your own, you can never be the best at everything. You need to find people who excel in specific skill sets that you are weak in. It might cost more to get the right people but it pays for itself eventually.
- 80% of the things don’t work as planned but it’s the 20% that creates success. In the early stage of the business, I was wildly optimistic and had great plans. I had just about a plan for everything but naturally most failed. It would come to a point when I almost stopped believing in myself and my plans but perseverance taught me that the 20% that came to fruition brought me to where I am today. I’m a huge proponent of the 80/20 rule and this is why running a business is both exhausting and rewarding.
- It takes more than a good product. While every business starts with a product, not every product is a business. You’ll need to be able to create a sustainable ecosystem around your product and expand this ecosystem with future products while taking into consideration market trends, economic situations and financial resources. Without building this ecosystem, then what you have is a hobby and not a business.
- There are plenty of resources available today to help new entrepreneurs. I bootstrapped Ceramiracle with no knowledge of external funding or accelerators. I have missed several opportunities in growing and scaling the business and did many things the harder way just because I was totally unaware that there were resources available to help startups. In retrospect, I wish I knew help existed and hopefully budding entrepreneurs reading this will spend some time researching on local programs and assistances before starting their business.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Hang in there! It’s not easy and I wish I have the perfect advice but unfortunately, I don’t, but I do have some strategies of my own. I find it helpful to go back to the drawing board and take a bird’s eye view of the business from time to time. This might include crunching some numbers on excel, visualizing the operational structure in a powerpoint or just doodling on paper. The goal is to create hypotheses of the future and working out possible forecasts. The next step is then to work backwards and then plan my time and focus around that, but allowing room for error and surprises. The more accurate you can identify future issues, the probability of burning out decreases. And then get a massage.
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?
I want to dedicate this answer to my high school teacher who has recently passed on. I was a pretty unconventional student who challenged social norms. Two weeks before the most important examination, I had to request for a leave of absence for a week as I was involved with a theatre production outside school. Chances of my school granting me an approval was close to nil for obvious reasons but Mr Osgodby surprised me with a reply that would become my guiding principle in life — to be able to explore your talents and have it realized in opportunities is far more valuable then what conventional education can provide.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
Creating Ceramiracle was the first of many milestones. We have successfully positioned us as a true in-and-out beauty brand that values the importance of nutrition alongside topical skincare. Our next goal is to grow into a respected global beauty business that champions inclusivity because that’s what the world needs more of right now. 2020 will be an important year to watch as we would be launching in a few major markets in the world.
Hopefully when that goal is achieved, it will provide me with the funding that I need to start my ultimate goal — a tech-based research institute to continue my search for the possibilities of pushing human life expectancy beyond 120 years.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
I hope to create sustainable businesses that will continue to provide for generations of families and ultimately be a blueprint and inspiration for future entrepreneurs. Otherwise, I’m happy to be remembered as the guy who made a darn good beauty supplement.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
I’m actually planning to kickstart a new movement to reduce our carbon footprint as we speak! As a prejudice-free brand, Ceramiracle is already committed to promoting inclusivity within the beauty industry and that brings on an immediate positive effect on people’s lives. My next project is to look at how the ecommerce industry has affected global emissions and how we can significantly reduce that by making small changes in our purchasing habits.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m on facebook (www.facebook.com/itseugenehe) and instagram (@itseugenehe)