As part of my series on strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Yen, founder of Purlisse. Jennifer started her career on the hit TV Show POWER RANGERS and now she saves complexions with her award winning beauty line, Purlisse. Jennifer Yen is a single mom who has a goal: to share the Asian Beauty Secrets that cleared up her skin while she was a Power Ranger; the show destroyed her skin! Now women can fall in love with their skin again from tried and true Asian remedies that date back 1000s of years. Going back to her roots and her Grandmother’s Asian beauty secrets, Jennifer was able to improve her skin and her confidence.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us about your journey to becoming CEO?.
My path to becoming a CEO is an unconventional one. I’m a former TV villianess. I used to fight Power Rangers on TV and had to spend 15 hours a day in heavy makeup, which wrecked my skin. I tried everything to fix it but nothing worked, and that is when I re-discovered my grandmother’s Asian beauty rituals and inspired me to create Purlisse beauty. While I was pregnant with my daughter in 2014, I was fatigued and once again faced with problematic skin. My mom was nourishing me with Black Superfoods, which made me feel healthy and energetic again and my skin was radiant. It was during my pregnancy that sparked my idea for YENSA beauty, the superfood cosmetic.
What is your definition of success?
Wake up healthy everyday with passion and love for family, friends and your work. To be able to work and create at a job that you love, to make money from it and help others. This is success to me.
Tell me about your campaign with Dress for Success
Each YENSA product is infused with 8 Superfoods (8 representing the lucky number in Chinese which symbolizes prosperity, good fortune and infinite possibilities). As I mentioned, it was important for YENSA to stand for something and so I chose the charity Dress for Success #yourhourherpower by donating an hour of your salary for “her power” because their mission to help women get back on their feet, get jobs and achieve financial independence. We are so proud to give back one YENSA BC Foundation for every one purchased, helping women be that much closer to achieving her dreams for success.
I know your brands support women empowerment, why do you think it’s important for you?
During the economic recession, I almost lost everything. It was my girlfriends that embraced and supported me during these dark times. I would pray and asked for a second chance. I made a promise that when I got back up that I would use my influence for good and help other women, and that’s exactly what I did!
What is the hardest + best part of being a female entrepreneur?
The hardest part is finding the balance between motherhood and work. But the best part is taking control of your own life, employing and empowering a team of women, creating jobs for people and making a difference in their lives. Another best part is believing and knowing you can do it, even through all the hardships.
How has being a single mom led to you supporting women empowerment?
I’m grateful for my path and since a majority of our customers are women, I believe it’s my responsibility to give back to women. And now that I’m a single mom to a little girl, it’s even more important for me to support women causes. I want to set an example for her and other women that she can blaze her own trail and achieve economic independence.
How have your Grandmother’s traditions inspired your beauty brands?
Growing up, my grandmother would brew White Tea and use this as an antiseptic. She would make soy milk and wash her face with this. You can see my Grandmother’s traditions inspire my first beauty line, Purlisse.
To restore my health during my pregnancy, we would always eat Superfoods such as black rice, black mushrooms, black tea, black seaweed. This was the inspiration behind creating YENSA, the Superfood Cosmetic.
If you could go back and talk to your younger self, what advice would you give her and why?
Live life simply, learn to live within your means, live on a budget, save 30% of your income and invest early and often.
What are some tips you’d give for an aspiring woman entrepreneur?
I always tell my team that when there is a problem — to come up with 3 possible solutions before we have a discussion. This forces people to think and problem solve, to take on the burden of the problems and also be part of the success when the issues are resolved.
Build strong relationship with your team members, delegate and empower them to make decisions and constantly communicate goals and strategies.
How have Superfoods influenced your beauty products and lifestyle?
10 years ago, I prayed to be where I am today. I thought I would be chilling out and that life would be so much easier and less stressful. Well here I am and it’s just as challenging if not more but the challenges are different. The lesson here is that it doesn’t get easier, you just get better.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Now that I have less time, I’m more productive and a better person overall. I’m more patient. I’m a better communicator. I’m a better mom. I’m less selfish. I’m healthier. I’m sharper. I’m a better time manager. I’m able to take on more work with non-profits. I have a healthy mindset and I workout more.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I believe my former career as a TV villainess and my struggles with sensitive skin helps make Purlisse and YENSA stand out. Using the traditions I grew up with made these brands very close to my heart.
I created YENSA from my heart, heritage and the Superfood Lifestyle that has been lived my generations of women in my family. My last name “YEN” means “Color and Face” in Chinese and “passion” in English. YENSA, means “color” in Chinese and is deprived from my last. Each product is infused with 8 Superfoods (8 is the luckiest number in Chinese culture, which symbolizes good luck, prosperity and infinite possibilities).
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?
Yes, my mom. I’m a co-parenting mom to my young daughter. When I have my daughter, my mom is like a stay at home mom that loves my daughter unconditionally and also doubles as a mandarin tutor. With the help of my mom, it enables me to focus at work stress-free.
Are you working on any new and exciting projects now?
We are gearing up for new products and new campaign for International Women’s Day 2020.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
When I failed almost 10 years ago, I prayed for a 2nd chance. I made a promise to myself that if I ever got back up that I would pull other up too. When we launched YENSA’s BC Foundation, we partnered with Dress for Success, an organization that empowers women’s economic independence. YENSA featured 8 Super Women to promote “YourHourHerPower” by donating an hour of your salary to help another woman. In addition, for every BC Foundation we sold, we are donating one to Dress for Success. We reached our goal and beyond and this is the proudest moment in my career.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started My Company” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Be true and authentic — I created my purlisse beauty after being a former TV actress and I struggled with sensitive skin. Then 10 months after I launched purlisse beauty, I was hit with the recession and struggled as an entrepreneur. I’m always truthful about my hardships and I believe it helps me establish connected relationships with my team, peers and customers.
2. Lead by example and do what you say you are going to do — When I was starting out, I did everything. I would pack up products, write handwritten notes and take them to the post office. I communicate this with my team that I did this with pleasure because we had customers that loved our products. To this day, I still write notes and sometimes ship out products. I always tell my team that no one is ever too good to roll up their sleeves, pack and ship products.
3. Be nimble, adaptive and always be reinventing — When we first launched, I was so happy we were carried at Henri Bendel and Fred Segal, which have been closed in recent years. This is an example of how fast the world is changing. We almost failed after the recession and I had to reinvent our brand into a digitally native brand and partnered with online subscription power houses like Ipsy and Birchbox. The lesson I learned is you can never be too comfortable with past successes.
4. Empower your team to learn, grow and make decisions — I imagine myself as an employee and I would want to be learning all the time, be empowered and to be a part of the decision making process and this is part of our team’s values. I tell my team that they spend a lot of time getting ready for work, commuting to our offices and they spend more time here than at home and they should be getting something, learning from their efforts. And if they are not, they are wasting their time and life.
5. Be loyal, grateful and appreciative for your employees and people who have helped you become successful. It takes an army to create a successful and sustainable business. When I was starting out, there was no reason to believe in me — I was an actress, young, inexperienced, never worked in a beauty company, I’ve never worked in a company ever but there were a few believers and I cherish them to this day. I will never forget the people who helped me and believed in me.
You are a person of great influence. 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. 🙂
I would promote even more women’s economic independence and equality. When women are productive, working and economically independent, the world is truly a better place, a more fair place. Women are pillars and they connect families, communities and values. We want to set examples for children to see the world as equal and fair and I believe it starts with women.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’ve never met a strong, successful person with an easy past. Every successful person I’ve ever met always has a story of struggle, fight, hard work, persistence then success.
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