How to Build a Career on Passion (& Transform Your Skin in the Process), According to Peach & Lily Founder Alicia Yoon

Skincare is having a moment right now — for college students, influencers, and even the everyday woman shopping on Instagram. And true beauty obsessives know just how transformative Korean beauty products have been in this movement, whether the goal is translucent skin or a radiant post-mask glow. K-beauty has totally innovated the U.S. market, helping everyone finally jump on the 10-step skincare routine, with Peach and Lily founder Alicia Yoon leading the charge. 

The Peach and Lily brand is loved by dermatologists and consumers alike for the incomparable ingredients (and the shelfie-worthy packaging you just can't beat). Plus, the e-commerce site goes through a rigorous curation process that involves testing the formulas and vetting the reviews on products from Korea and beyond. 

Yoon talked to us about her motivation to bring these favorites to mass markets. What we learned? How to start a business, stay inspired, and be more thoughtful about your skincare routine. 

What did you study in college? 

I went to Columbia University, and earned a B.A. in Philosophy and East Asian Languages and Cultures.

How did you get involved in the beauty industry?

I have eczema, so I grew up always trying to figure out how to care for my skin. It all changed in the ‘90s when I went to esthetician school in Korea (where I had grown up), and learned the science behind skincare. That’s when I saw that, with the right knowledge and products, I was able to transform my skin myself.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Skincare has always been a lifelong passion, and, after first building a career in investment banking and management consulting, I finally decided to pursue skincare full-time by starting Peach and Lily in 2012. I had discovered this great joy of learning how to manage my eczema flare-ups, and I wanted to pass that on to as many people as possible. This desire became the genesis and mission for Peach and Lily!

What are the biggest lessons you have learned from founding Peach and Lily?

There are many challenges and long days in building a company, and the two things that have been a constant source of fuel for me are passion and tenacity. Focusing on something that I feel extremely passionate about – helping others discover the joy that comes from taking control of your skin – has been foundational. This passion is what keeps every day feeling like day one and makes what I do fulfilling to me.

The grit is equally important. There will be days when you’re exhausted or a problem seems insurmountable, but you have to believe and keep going and you’ll begin to see that you can find a way through it. And that builds your tenacity further with every challenge you overcome. What’s great is that both passion and determination create a positive feedback loop that only reinforces these elements. Every time you pursue your passion and exercise your determination, both elements grow even more.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced working in this industry?

The biggest challenge in building a startup is allocating very limited resources — time, money, people, these are really constrained in the beginning. I overcame this challenge in two ways. First, it’s key to think outside the box and be extremely resourceful. That means being very creative, asking for help, digging around for answers even in other industries, and being comfortable being super scrappy. Second, I had to be extremely data-driven. It’s easy to go on simply a feeling, but, when you have limited resources, just a feeling or general idea of how your business is going is not enough. Figuring out ways to measure how various initiatives went is key, and taking data-driven actions can help propel the business forward in a very efficient way.

The goal is to build your business to a place where it’s self-sustaining while still maintaining good growth. Building a learning and data-driven culture from the beginning to get smarter every month is a great foundation! And never stop believing in yourself! Sometimes it’s hard, but taking time to meditate on your strengths and talk to encouraging friends, family, or mentors will help you get through those challenging moments. And you can do it!

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

Even though we’re now seven years in, every Instagram comment, email, or testimonial we receive about how people’s skin was transformed by our Peach and Lily and Peach Slices products still makes me smile from ear to ear. It is such a privilege to care for someone’s skin, and the fact that someone trusted us and saw incredible results for their skin is always going to be the best moment in building Peach and Lily.

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style." – Maya Angelou

What is one essential skill that young entrepreneurs should have?

Problem-solving! There isn’t going to be a playbook, so rolling up your sleeves and figuring out the problem is a skill that’ll be used every single day.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with aspirations in the beauty industry?

Learn as much as possible in the beginning because every skill, even the ones that don’t seem as relevant, can come in handy later! Don’t worry about others and their paths, stay in your lane and enjoy the adventure of focusing inward and growing your skills and career.

Beauty is emotional as much as it is functional, so examine how beauty can build connections with others and also with yourself through things like self-care — understanding this can be a powerful thing in building a career in beauty. And, in the world of beauty, there are so many roles you can explore, whether it’s product development or sales or marketing, so be open-minded about what aligns best with your passion and skills. And don’t forget to have fun!

Get your next beauty fix at Peach and Lily