On July 17th, a perfectly sunny summer day, the team here at CosmoBiz Salon, in collaboration with our parent company the Beauty Business Industry Monitor Institute (BBIM), welcomed participants for our first ever executive seminar. The 22 participants, carefully selected for their roles as leaders in the Korean Beauty Supply industry, joined us at The Palace Banquet Hall in Annandale, VA, for a series of lectures and discussions on the state of the industry. This first seminar sets the groundwork for what will become a series of informative and inspirational educational opportunities that will help us revitalize the industry. The seminar focused on how to better equip beauty supply stores to deal with the changing economy and started the discussion to the establishment of a Co-Op.
Travis Johng, President of BBIM Institute, started the conference out with his talk “Beauty Industry Business Market Analysis: drawing the roadmap.” He gave an overview of the history of beauty supplies in the US (more on that next month), general beauty, and African American beauty history. This provided the framework to discuss how the beauty industry has gotten to where it is now, and where he predicts it will head in the future.
Creating a Better Beauty Supply
The talk culminated with a discourse on the fact that mass market retailers have been encroaching into the territory that beauty supplies have, until recently, capitalized on. “They will keep drilling to get more of a market share,” Johng explained, noting that online retailers with their direct consumer methods create yet another threat. “Korean beauty supplies have no choice but to work together in order to strengthen themselves.” One of the highlights of his talk that many attendees noted was his discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of the Korean Beauty Supply industry.
Many of the points Johng brought up showcase both the strengths and weaknesses of the industry. To start, price competitiveness in the beauty supply world has been a huge advantage in keeping mass market retailers out of the industry. However this has also meant that there isn’t enough profit and that leaves (small?) retailers vulnerable. Within the Korean Beauty Supply industry, information travels incredibly quickly, which can be a great asset. However, there is too much information from within the circle and not enough coming through from consumers and outside experts. In fact, even during the conference one of the attendees noted that one of the troubles he faces with attendees and peers alike was that many were unwilling to listen to outside sources, even experts, if it didn’t fit their understanding of the industry.
The two other points noted were that there is so much knowledge within the industry, but even that becomes a weakness when it’s taken for granted. When there is too much perceived knowledge on a subject there is a lack of urgency to learn more. Lastly, it was noted that Beauty Supply stores have the largest selection—more than any mass market retail, which allows them to attract more, and varied customers. However, this coincides with the weakest space utilization, meaning the per square foot sales ratio is extremely low. That said, given the right strategy the Beauty Supply industry is in a unique position to take greater control and make a greater impact than ever before.
The second talk of the seminar, a discussion session with Travis Johng and Shea Moisture sales representative Dawn Green discussed the importance of marketing and the need for a unified, systemized front for the Beauty Supply industry. Global Beauty Alliance Member Lafayette Jones pitched in to share his thoughts, noting that one of the largest areas for growth in the Beauty Supply industry was the use of coupons. He explained that by creating a unified industry it would allow for the use of coupons, bringing in more revenue and customers.
The second day of the seminar started back up Monday morning with a presentation by Rosemary Mahoney and Bryan Munson of the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International. Munson and Mahoney delivered an impressive and important briefing on what a Co-op is, how you go about forming one, and what the benefits are. While the ideal time to form a Co-Op is when there’s a common goal, the most successful time to form one is when there is a common threat, explained Mahoney. Like with the earlier lectures on how to make Korean Beauty Supplies successful, Mahoney and Munson gave more credence to the argument for unification made by Johng, Jones, and Green the night before. Some of the interesting facts the group presented included that 73% of Americans say they trust Co-Ops more than any other type of business. In comparison organized religion is only trusted by 42%, banks by 28%, and congress by 8%.
The last speaker of the day before the seminar closed out with a discussion by the participants was Mr. Lafayette Jones. Jones gave a detailed overview of the industry, noting that Korean Beauty Supply stores are in a unique position to serve far more than their target customer. He specifically pointed to other ethnic minority consumers as well as a resurgence of young caucasian consumers who are looking for products like hair extensions. In his lecture, and in his activity in the previous discussions Jones pushed for unification, noting it was the best way to preserve the industry.
A Seminar in Review
When the lectures had drawn to a close there was plenty for the collected leaders to consider, and plans were made to start the consideration and planning for a Co-Op. While it’s still early to speculate on where this may lead, the fact that the table has been opened for conversation is a bright sign for the industry.
Johng gave his closing thoughts, “This seminar was long overdue. When you are in normal circumstances you act normally—you go to school and go through your day to day. We are not in normal circumstances. Korean Americans are in an odd situations—we’re in survival mode. We don’t go to school, we focus on getting by, that’s what happens when you’re in survival mode. Because of this we’ve overlooked education. I think the seminar was an awakening for these leaders who were in desperate need of these classes. During the lectures I watched their faces and eyes, they were all drawn in and hungry for more and more information. It gave me a lot of hope that the beauty industry will be okay.” Johng has plans to continue the series of seminars to make it more and more accessible to those who wish to attend.
We asked several of the attendees for their takes on the seminar. Sungleesik Kim, President of the New York Beauty Supply Association, said, “I would like to thank BBIM for this lecture series. I was very impressed that the BBIM team hosted this event not out of a sense of obligation, but out of their true hearts to help the Korean beauty supply community. It’s not easy to run this kind of seminar smoothly but Travis Johng, President of BBIM, has a very good system and team members and this seminar ran very well. It was a little sad that the participants were not very active. Next time I hope they prepare handouts so participants can better digest the wealth of complex information.”
Ilhong Kim, President of the Georgia Beauty Supply Association, added, “The contents of the seminar was very informative. It provided a good opportunity to learn. It was a great time to think about our industry’s future and to suggest a better way to cope with the current challenges. I learned that the beauty supply stores not only deal with African American consumers but that we have to be ready to serve a larger multicultural community to expand the market. One critique I have is that it would have been better if next time there were more participants. The New York Association will be hosting one of these seminars soon, and we’d like to learn from them and then hold our own seminar in Georgia.”
One participant who would like to remain anonymous noted, “This is a type of seminar that has never existed before, it was very informative. Only an institute like BBIM could run a seminar like this on Co-Ops.”
Meanwhile Sangyong Lee offered some very important criticism, “It was a very good seminar. I think the Co-Op issue that was covered in the seminar is a subject that association members and non-members alike need to give serious thought to. It would have been better if there were more participants, and the industry itself needs to come up with a better way to support itself financially so more people can attend these kinds of functions. The BBIM seminar definitely helped to bring in a new perspective.” Mr. Lee was not the only one to note that the price for the seminar might discourage others since there was no immediate benefit to attendees, that is something BBIM hopes to address in the future.
With the very first BBIM Executive Seminar drawn to a close, the team here is already looking forward to the next one. A second round is scheduled to take place in New York; if you would like to attend or want information on having your own exclusive seminar contact BBIM at 301-329-8300.