Build a brand authentically: Consumers can detect when a brand is not authentic, so communicating your “why” is really important. For EmBeba, we adhere to our mission and core values in everything we do. We distilled that down to “we make CLEAN, effective, safe, easy and fun sensitive skincare.”
As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Thai-Anh Hoang.
Thai-Anh Hoang is the founder of clean family skincare brand EmBeba and a mom of two. Prior to her entrepreneurial journey Thai-Anh led an international team for a Fortune 500 company, implementing data analytics software and services for CPG companies. She helped established brands optimize their data for strategic decision making. She is also the co-founder of Orphans’ Future Alliance, a Southeast Asia non-profit organization dedicated to lifting orphans out of poverty through scholarship and activity based mentoring.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, it seemed natural for me to have an urge to start my own business. But I started with a degree in International Business and a career in client services for a large corporation for a number of years. I dipped my toe into entrepreneurial waters with a nonprofit I founded in 2012, Orphans’ Future Alliance, which provides orphans in Southeast Asia with access to quality primary, secondary and post-secondary level education and activities based mentoring in their communities.
Like many entrepreneurs, the idea to go out on my own was always in the back of my mind, but I never quite found the right thing that would make me want to give up a great career and put in the work I knew my own business would require.
But then I went on a trip to visit family in the Bosnian countryside, and my toddler had a severe heat and diaper rash that we couldn’t solve with the usual ointment and cream that we bought along. A family friend gifted us with a homemade remedy that was traditionally used for farmers, featuring natural ingredients from the garden. It cleared up her rashes within a few days and that was when I got the “aha” moment to start EmBeba.
My idea was to merge these generation-tested remedies with modern technology to help families with sensitive skin. So it turns out that it wasn’t a career choice, but a passion born out of an inspiration and my own family’s struggle with eczema and sensitive skin.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
It’s been very surprising to me how supportive and open industry experts and pioneers like Ian Gingerbergs and Craig Dubitsky are of new founders, and their willingness to share their insights when you reach out to them. I reached out to Ian after hearing him on a panel discussion and was taken aback that he would spend an hour giving a new entrepreneur time to pick his brain and giving me valuable feedback on how to approach retailers. With Craig, it was a back and forth email and the time he took to give me advice when I started on this journey.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
The tipping point is when I started getting messages and before/after photos from parents how amazed the product worked on their children’s atopic dermatitis. They couldn’t believe it! Many of them were skeptical to try the product when I offered, because they’d tried so many remedies before with no results.
This was a powerful moment, because it proved my thesis that there is a market and value for this product.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are quite a few people that helped me including my advisors and mentors. One that particularly stood out is my co-founder and best friend, My Le. She and I have been together on many endeavors including building the operation for our non-profit, Orphans’ Future Alliance, and without her, I couldn’t have created and launched EmBeba. We are really the Yin and Yang of EmBeba.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The global beauty industry today has grown to more than a half a trillion dollar business. Can you tell us about the innovations that you are bringing to the industry? How do you think that will help people?
At EmBeba, we focused on bringing back generation-tested remedies that are proven effective for sensitive skin and reintroducing it to a new generation of families. We use the latest skincare technology and toy design principles–yes, toy design!–to produce truly amazing products that are designed for even the littlest kids to want to use.
A great example is our first product, a 100% sustainable diaper balm that can also be recycled as a coloring book/crayon holder once you finish the balm.
We are really solutions-focused with our products. We are not just a “nice to have.” We’ve consulted with pediatricians, dermatologists and other professionals to create products that are soothing and provide help for families with sensitive skin.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern beauty industry?
- The acceleration in the availability of sustainable packaging materials. When we started out even two years ago, finding 100% recyclable or biodegradable packaging was a major struggle within our product development process. Fast forward to today, and we are able to find more suppliers who have it in their portfolio. That’s exciting as EmBeba is committed to minimizing our footprint as much as possible.
- CLEAN is in. We are loving that more brands are committed to the CLEAN standards, which is a win win for the consumers.
- Availability of alternative ingredients. We are excited to see more non-traditional ingredients available for formulation and this is so important for EmBeba as we bring back age-old remedies that use ingredients that might not otherwise be considered for skincare formulation.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to improve the industry, what would you suggest?
- The proliferation of “CLEAN” beauty brands without the industry certifications and standards to weed out the bad ones. I would like the industry to step in and put together guidelines on what constitutes a CLEAN brand.
- The overuse of claims that are not backed by results. There are many products using fast and loose “claims” of effectiveness without testing or results to back it up. This has hurt the industry’s credibility. I believe this is an issue for the FDA, which needs to update their standards, and one that I see them slowly starting to address.
- The increase of single use packaging, which contributes to the waste problem on our planet. I hope to see more biodegradable or recyclable materials produced for sheet masks and samples.
You are an expert about beauty. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”?
Pretty is a state of mind and I tell my young cousins to not buy into the social media idea of “beauty.” For me, feeling pretty is looking pulled together. For me, that just means pulling your hair into a nice ponytail, concealer to hide your dark circle and a bright lipstick. That’s what makes me feel good, and I think it’s important for everyone to find simple ways that they feel their best.
And a practical beauty hack: get one of those mirrors with curved glass that make you look great in any outfit (often found in the store changing room). It’s a weird trick, but for days when you feel like you need a little boost, seeing yourself in those types of mirrors is always a great confidence lift.
Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, Can you please share “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”. Please share a story or an example, for each.
- Do your research: The beauty industry is vast and there are so many resources available online now for you to quickly get up to speed, learn and become an expert. This is important because you need to come to the table (suppliers, labs, retailers, investors) with a deep understanding of the industry to be taken seriously. As someone who did not come from the industry, I had to learn quickly over the past 2+ years to build and navigate EmBeba strategically.
- Make connections and build your network: As an industry outsider, it’s important to start reaching out to learn and make connections to folks in the industry and build your network. You never know how they can help, connect and support you later on.
- Product Fit: Building a modern beauty brand ultimately means you need to create products that consumers want to purchase. It still comes down to product/market fit.
- Every channel is different so adjust your strategy appropriately: There are so many channels now for beauty products, so it’s important to understand each channel, their uniqueness and how to optimize your sales channels.
- Build a brand authentically: Consumers can detect when a brand is not authentic, so communicating your “why” is really important. For EmBeba, we adhere to our mission and core values in everything we do. We distilled that down to “we make CLEAN, effective, safe, easy and fun sensitive skincare.”
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 am deeply passionate about lifting orphans out of poverty through scholarship and activity based mentorship. I co-founded Orphans’ Future Alliance nine years ago and have been managing it ever since.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote comes from an unexpected place– the movie “The Martian,” where Mark Watney’s says:
“At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”
This really resonates with me. Life and building a company from scratch are essentially a series of solving problems to achieve your goals. I live by this quote and remind myself that there is an end goal at the end of the day, but focus on the problem in front of you.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.