Cindy Kang: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help”

It will be hard to unplug. With social media being so critical for businesses today, it’s hard to not be online all the time. We try to make structured office hours to contain digital usage, and we intentionally schedule times where devices are off-limits like family dinner time. As a part of our series about entrepreneurs […]

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It will be hard to unplug. With social media being so critical for businesses today, it’s hard to not be online all the time. We try to make structured office hours to contain digital usage, and we intentionally schedule times where devices are off-limits like family dinner time.

As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cindy Kang. Cindy is the Co-founder of Hey Dewy. Born in Korea, Cindy grew up on the East Coast and now lives with her family in Southern California. She has spent 15+ years in a variety of corporate jobs and was tired of experiencing an endless cycle of dry/stale air and office germs. The big, clunky humidifiers she had at home weren’t a practical solution — she needed something small, light, and portable, thus Hey Dewy was born. Cindy’s passion for water carries into Hey Dewy’s brand mission and charitable goals — 10% of every purchase is donated to The Water Project — giving those in need access to clean, safe, and reliable water. Hey Dewy is taking the country by storm — keeping skin hydrated, and of course, dewy.

Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I was born in Korea and came to the US when I was young. Growing up with immigrant parents we were poor, but I was deeply loved and rich in joy. Early on, I learned the value of hard work and how to figure things out on my own. At the age of 9, I had a near-death experience where I then spent a long time healing and grew a tremendous appreciation for life. I know my childhood has a huge impact on who I am today… I am grateful to be alive, I try to make every day count, and I’ve learned to never give up.

What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?

I suffer from dry, sensitive skin so I’ve always looked for solutions to combat this issue. Over time I naturally came to enjoy skincare & even helping friends find solutions that work for them.

One night, my son’s nose was really stuffed and I fell asleep next to him underneath a humidifier. When I woke up, I noticed that my skin felt fresh and dewy. In that moment, I wondered if we had overlooked the benefits of the humidifier for the skin! A few years later, as we were packing to travel, I was super frustrated that my big, clunky humidifier could not fit in the suitcase. It was then that I realized that there must be other people who have this same problem. The wheels were then set in motion to do something about it.

There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?

Totally agree, that there are a lot of good ideas out there, but it is all about execution. I think know-how is definitely a hurdle, but grit and ingenuity can overcome this. Also, practically speaking, teaming up with a business partner can help fill in gaps where you may fall short. I have the benefit of partnering with my spouse who complements my shortcomings and not only helps fill in gaps that the business requires, but is also a great source of support to keep on going.

What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?

Well, you’ve got the first part down — if you love what you are doing, that passion should fuel you through the inevitable tough times. But test and see, it doesn’t hurt. It’s okay to start small, see if there’s interest and traction, then keep building from there. You will never get to a ‘final, perfect product’, but instead, you should think of it in terms of constantly tweaking and improving — this will help you to not get discouraged if there’s negative feedback. Instead, you can take that negativism and turn it into positive results that should see a return if you don’t give up. Yes, it may take some time and a bit of money, but if it’s something you love, it is worth the investment and sacrifice. Give it a go!

It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?

I think of it like climbing a mountain. The end goal is to reach the summit, but there is a challenging, uphill journey along the way. There will be curves and cliffs, slips and falls, but if I keep my eyes towards the top that helps me stay motivated. It’s also a sense of delayed gratification. Sure there are some quick wins that you should embrace and celebrate, but knowing that your goal is not yet achieved, really helps to withstand any doubts or obstacles that make it less enjoyable. So the question is, what is the BIG vision that gets you excited?

What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?

I really enjoy and need the flexibility. In between getting the kids ready for school, to shuttling them to practices / activities, I need the ability to constantly juggle my schedule. It also affords me the chance to really step in to our boys’ lives, especially in these formative years (they are 11 and 9 years old). I also like showing my boys that mommy can kick butt in business! I love being my own boss, working hard, and showing my boys that ANYTHING is possible.

On the other hand, while it is not a formal 9 to 5 job, I am ALWAYS working / thinking. The work never ends, and it requires real discipline to disconnect and be present when it is family time. What has really helped me is to prioritize and intentionally plan ahead. I do my best to put some solid times for work and play as well as routines. I’m still learning to shift gears between the different components of my day, but a planner really helps me stay organized and structured, so that I’m not being reactive but rather, proactive. Prioritizing is key for me, because I can’t say yes to everything. Things are constantly changing but I try to take control of my calendar and make sure its aligned with my priorities.

Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

There are definitely fun and exciting aspects to the job, but there are also times when it is unglamorous. From packing and fulfilling orders in the beginning, to responding to customer service requests, you’re required to wear many, many hats to make sure the business is running.

Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?

Not sure if I ever had this thought, since I had a ‘real job’ for over 17 years (worked for a handful of Fortune 500 companies). After experiencing both worlds, and appreciating the pros and cons of each, I definitely prefer the life of an entrepreneur…being your own boss, building something bigger than yourself, and seeing the fruits of the hard work you put in is priceless.

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?

I don’t know if this is funny, but we had all these plans for product to be ready in time for the holiday in 2018, but due to the many steps in the manufacturing process, it wasn’t ready until months later. I learned that while you can plan all you want, there are some things that are out of your control, and you need to be resilient and resourceful to pivot strategy as needed. Hilarious!

Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?

Rachel Hollis because she inspires me to be unapologetically myself, and to never let fear stand in the way of achieving what you want. She has helped me empower others in my life and re-define what success looks like. I’m no longer worried about whether I fit in or not, but will continue to shine bright and be who I was made to be.

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

I am very passionate about the power of water to change lives. In partnering with various organizations like The Water Project, I’m doing my small part to help certain corners of the world where water is not easily accessible. If we can help remove the burden of gaining access to clean water, we believe we can break the cycle of poverty and open up new opportunities for women and their families as well as communities at large.

While our company is for-profit, we believe we are stewards of the profits we receive, and it is our responsibility to be a conduit for these funds to support impactful causes and initiatives that better our world. It is definitely a means to a higher end.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. It will be hard to unplug. 
    With social media being so critical for businesses today, it’s hard to not be online all the time. We try to make structured office hours to contain digital usage, and we intentionally schedule times where devices are off-limits like family dinner time.
  2. The highs are really high, but the lows are super low.
    Rarely do sales go in a straight line. Sometimes we’ll have a big sales day or large order for a customer, but the next day it’s dead quiet or a deal falls through; so it’s important to not weigh too much on when the hits or losses come, but to just keep pushing forward.
  3. Get used to rejection.
    We shared our idea with various business leaders and ‘experts’ but they gave countless reasons for why this would NOT work. Friends and family are politely supportive, but ultimately you need to believe in your business, and not let outside negative voices dictate your outcome. And no matter the outcome, failure is not missing a goal, failure is not having the courage to try… so try and enjoy the adventure — not everyone will see that.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
    We have an army of support to help us start the business and continue to grow with us. Operations, PR, Social, Marketing, Creative — there are so many aspects to run the business, and while we are wearing many hats, we need more help to get things done well.
  5. You need more money than you think. 
    This is the biggest difference between a hobby and a real business. We had to take some big risks by taking some of our life savings to launch our company. And as we saw growth, we needed even more money to fuel that growth even further.

What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

#LiveAUDACIOUSLY. Our fear and insecurity keeps us from becoming our true selves. If I can inspire people to take that step out of their comfort zone and into a life of one’s greater calling, that would be amazing. We all have a special, unique purpose in this life, but sadly, many live life without fulfilling it or even embarking on it. I hope to encourage others to be the ones that take the bold leap, and for stories of their adventures to be told as well.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Today or Never” ~ Mary Poppins

I know life is short, you push something off… it may never happen. Lots of times I’m scared, but with faith, I jump anyway. Fear & doubt are real, but I try to focus on Loving others and its true, Love casts out Fear. I know that it is fear and doubt that will lead to never accomplishing anything truly great. Perhaps it took that life-threatening experience to change my mindset to always seize my ‘today’.

Some of the biggest 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.

I really admire couples that achieved success like Chip and Joanna Gaines, and Rachel and Dave Hollis. They’ve proven that both success in business and marriage and family is possible. I’d love a chance to sit down with them and pick their brains on how they’ve been able to juggle the demands of life, family, and work.

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

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