For the two years Eliana Cardeno lived in South Korea, she was fascinated by the innovative ingredients and exciting products emanating from the K-beauty, or Korean beauty, industry. Pretty soon, she couldn't imagine life without the stuff.
“I was thinking, What am I going to do when I go back to the States? I probably won’t have access to these products and these ingredients," Cardeno says.
That question led to the idea for Kiyomi Beauty, a subscription box launched in 2019 that ships monthly and seasonal boxes of curated, full-size Korean skincare and makeup products to your door.
For the beauty founder, taking the leap to turn her business idea into a reality wasn’t a difficult decision. Her previous career was in the nonprofit sector, which is where she first discovered her interest in entrepreneurship and business management.
“I knew I wanted to pursue an entrepreneurial venture at some point in my life, but I wasn’t necessarily sure what exactly it was going to be, until finally I came across this idea,” Cardeno explains. “It was really something I was passionate about and felt like a problem that needed to be solved. And I’ve been doing it for almost a year and a half now.”
Aside from launching Kiyomi Beauty, one of her proudest moments so far was her participation in Girl Boss NYC's She Means Business Incubator, which taught her how to succeed in pitch competitions. Since completing the program, she has placed in the Top 3. “To have that support and the confirmation that yes, this business idea is something that's tangible and can actually grow was pretty great,” Cardeno says.
Like many business owners, Cardeno saw the impact of COVID-19 on her online business, with customers concerned about the shipping, packaging, and handling of the products. But she says that consistent communication helped ease her customers' fears. “For me, it was really important to keep the communication channels open with my customers like sending out newsletters sharing the process of how we are disinfecting them all, how we are handling things,” says Cardeno.
While the pandemic has been difficult, Cardeno notes some upsides, such as how her products are helping people practice self-care during COVID-19.
“One thing has been positive was to see people come together to support small business and to understand how important self-care is in moments like this,” Cardeno says. “The fact that these products can provide just a 10 minute separation from the world is a beautiful thing. There have been some cons, but there are been some beautiful pros as far as connecting with my customers, really opening the channels of communication, and seeing what they need during this time in COVID.”
Girl Boss NYC is a digital business incubator and professional women's network created to promote and increase entrepreneurship among women of color in the greater NYC area. Click here to learn more.