- Yonsei Student Startup Team Supports Confident Women by Simplifying Skin Care June 24, 2019
2019 Hackathon Competition winner “Be Simple Be Gentle” creates products to support positive consumerism for women
As the rising startup scene opens new opportunities and innovation for young people, Yonsei Enterprise Support Foundation (YESF) accelerates student startup ventures by helping students turn creative ideas into a sustainable reality with a thorough support system, from idea examination to business development.
One of the YESF’s newest initiatives is Yonsei Startup School, a “Hack Your Brain” support platform launched last year, where 860 students are assessed by Brain Orientation & Suitability Index (BOSI), a meta-cognitive personal aptitude analytic tool, to help design their startup careers. 62 startup teams were formed consequently and 29 excelling teams competed at the school’s Hackathon Competition earlier this year, with the “Be Simple Be Gentle” team [Maeng So-hee (entering class of '15, French Language and Literature), Chae Young-jin (entering class of '12, Sociology), Moon Hee-ji (International Trade major at Duksung Women's University)] winning first place for their sustainable skincare product for women.
Please introduce your team, “Be Simple Be Gentle.”
Our team “Be Simple Be Gentle,” creates skincare products that are simple but gentle. We first met as fellow members of a women’s association. When we decided to start this business, we had so much fun during the planning process since we shared the same values we wanted to instill through our product. And the result was an all-in-one lotion made with minimal ingredients.
People generally think of all-in-one lotion for men, but in fact, it’s not easy for anyone to apply several layers of cosmetics every day. So our team thought, ‘Don’t women also need all-in-one products?’ Also, since all three of us are heavy users of skincare products, we were eager to research the related topic. After the Korean government enforced the “all ingredients-labeling law” for cosmetics, it became known that the types of products used in our regular skincare routine (skin toner-lotion-essence-serum-cream) are all essentially the same. They were the same products packaged under different names, and consumers were buying them at high prices. So, we decided to address these issues by creating our own brand and an all-in-one product for women.
Your team had participated in the inaugural Yonsei Startup School and won first place in its Hackathon Competition this year. How did you first learn about Yonsei’s start-up programs?
(Maeng) I had the opportunity to participate in the “Hack Your Brain” event, a brain function analysis-based career consultation held by the YESF at Yonsei-Samsung Library. My results revealed that I had the mindset of an entrepreneur, and the event counselor introduced me to Yonsei Start-up School, advising that its mentoring service would be helpful. I had a business plan in mind but didn’t know how to put it in action, so I decided to receive mentoring to get some much-needed professional advice.
Tell us more about the “Be Simple Be Gentle” business concept.
The main concept of our product is an all-in-one lotion for women that only has nine simple but gentle ingredients.
Most product types used in a basic skincare regimen are made from similar substances. While this fact is not unknown to female consumers, it is difficult for them to reduce the number of products because they have been applying several products in various steps from early on. Even I personally have oily skin, but I used to apply toner, lotion, and cream products. It seems that female skincare products are unnecessarily subdivided.
So, our team first created our brand’s signature all-in-one product called, “Real-in-one.” This product, which combines toner, lotion, and essence, signifies something different from conventional all-in-one products - it symbolizes a confident woman who rejects the complex skincare routines that companies have been pushing on consumers.
Our team also wanted to give consumers the power of “positive” consumption. This can be done with simplicity, just like our team name. I imagine everyone has experienced at least one instance when a skincare product did not live up to its raving reviews. That is because everyone has different skin types – a substance in a product that had worked wonders for someone does not guarantee that it will work for me.
Therefore, we only use ingredients that have been proven safe and, above all, have been used extensively and over a long period of time. This will minimize chances that our product will not work for a consumer’s skin type, and thus ensure “positive” consumption.
Our team also paid great attention to substance names in our products. Since we only use ingredients from natural sources, we sought substances that are familiar, such as oil. Our researchers always complain to us that the range of raw substances they are able to use is so restrictive. (laughs) We are currently testing our fifth prototype (we have 13 products so far) and the best feedback we have received from most testers is that they are getting fewer skin problems than before.
What services does “Be Simple Be Gentle” offer? What makes you special?
What is special about our team is our brand. Our brand “Be Simple Be Gentle,” pursues the values of simplicity, confidence, and togetherness.
Our brand supports animals that have been ruthlessly exploited by humans; we only use vegan ingredients and products that are manufactured by corporations that ban animal testing. We also try to reduce unnecessary waste such as boxes and packaging to minimize burden on our planet.
Above all, what is most unique about “Be Simple Be Gentle,” is that we identify with real consumers. The cosmetics industry generally follows a one-way manufacturing process, using data to develop products and hiring beauty influencers to promote them. They don’t spend enough time to directly meet real consumers and they solely depend on the power of influencers to advertise and publicize their products.
However, “Be Simple Be Gentle” prefers a two-way street, where everyday consumers actively participate in the manufacturing process of our products. We reflect unbiased reviews based on the needs of real consumers, not only in manufacturing but also throughout product development. We are currently recruiting supporters for the all-in-one lotion by giving them a prototype and then developing a final product by incorporating their feedback. We plan to continue conducting this two-way manufacturing process for product expansion.
Any memorable moments during the Yonsei Startup School and Hackathon Competition?
Definitely when our team won! (laughs) Since our products are already part of the immensely competitive beauty industry, we didn’t think that we could stand a chance against the teams with creative, innovative ideas. Before the results came out, our team members had consoled each other, saying that we were in it for the great experience and not for the prize. We so vividly remember the moment we were screened on the awards ceremony video for the winning teams because it was so unexpected.
What are you currently working on now?
We are exploring opportunities that can help us grow; we were selected as participants for a care program organized by the Women’s Venture Association and we are also studying distribution and global advancement at the Korean Importers Association. Our team is also collaborating with cosmetics startup BK LOHWELL to get hands-on experience on working as a startup and learning what steps to take in the future.
We are currently receiving advice and support from the organizations and investors we met at the Hackathon Competition. Targeting this July for our product release, our team is actively updating our online platforms (our blog and Instagram account), recruiting supporters, testing prototypes, and selecting partner companies. And we are slowly building our startup’s framework with our 1.5 million KRW prize money.
What is the ultimate goal of “Be Simple Be Gentle?”
This startup project can be traced back to when we first met at the women’s association, where we had read various books, debated social issues, and then finally decided to go beyond theory and take concrete action.
We wanted to raise the issue of how women are ironically both the main consumers as well as the main target of the cosmetics industry, falling victim to fear marketing tactics ruthlessly used to lift corporate revenue. We wanted to create products that can help women live more freely and with confidence. Our ultimate goal is to develop products that help ensure women’s choices and dignity, and to change social standards of beauty imposed on women.
To this end, we hope to focus on ensuring “positive” consumerism for women’s choices rather than presenting a new set standard of beauty ourselves. Haven’t you ever felt bad about your skin on days when you were too busy to complete your skincare routine? But, at the same time, there is no really good all-in-one product for you to use instead. So, it was our first mission to create a reliable all-in-one product that stands out from existing products.
On the other hand, our team pondered over whether consumerism itself could create social impact. If we cannot stop consuming to survive, we want the act of consumption to positively affect society. So we customized our manufacturing process so that consumers can support gender equality, an eco-friendly environment, and animal rights by buying our products. We develop products with certified companies that ban animal testing, use only vegan ingredients, minimize packaging, and donate a portion of our profits to women’s organizations. We believe that we can contribute in making a better change in society if consumers continue to buy our products and the cycle structure of our manufacturing process is sustainable.