2019 Honorees

Ju Rhyu

CEO & Co-Founder

“For females aspiring to become leaders, eCommerce is a training ground for future CEOs.”

How did you start working in eCommerce?

I went to business school and then I joined Kraft Foods. I worked in consumer packaged goods because I wanted to learn more about marketing. That was back in 2008, but I knew that technology and digital were going to be the future. Back then, a lot of these PPG companies were — they probably still are — stuck in the old way of doing things. They didn’t have a direct relationship with customers or consumers. They didn’t embrace social or eCommerce.

That’s when I knew that in order for me to be part of this changing dynamic and be relevant in the future, I needed to learn more about eCommerce and digital. That’s what spurred my career shift.

I co-founded Hero Cosmetics in September 2017 with one product. These were acne patches that I discovered while I was living in Korea and suffering from occasional hormonal breakouts. I discovered these acne patches there and I just thought they were so amazing. They worked so well — they didn’t dry out my sensitive skin. I had never seen them before, and I didn’t know why they weren’t available or widely available in the US.

To me, it was more of a marketing problem. No one was doing the education, or building the awareness, or talking about how this was such a great solution for acne. That’s where I thought, with my marketing background, I could do something in this space. So we launched Hero Cosmetics with a product named Mighty Patch. It’s been a year-and-a-half since we’ve been selling and it’s definitely taken off a lot more than I had ever expected.

What does your typical work day look like?

Typically, I wake up and the first thing I do is check my email, Instagram, social. I work from home because I’m based in Paris and our team is based in New York, with a six-hour time difference.

I’ll take two hours around noonish to do some errands or have lunch, et cetera. And then, around two pm my time, because that’s eight am Eastern Time, the second part of my day starts. I take a lot of calls from vendors or partners. I have calls with my team. We do a lot of video conferencing.

I try to close my office at eight pm Paris time because if I’m not disciplined with that part, work can take over the rest of my evening. When people want to take calls, I always tell them, “Please do it before two pm Eastern Time.” So that’s an average day.

What do you love most about your job?

I love being part of the growth story. I love all the people I get to meet through this company. I’ve met so many entrepreneurs, as well as people in the investment community. It’s given me access to interesting people.

I love the flexibility too, because I’m my own boss. I have a personal responsibility to my team, but I dictate my schedule. I like the flexibility instead of always being in an office from nine to five.

I love the variety because every day is really different. There are always different challenges and new ideas being thrown around. I also like that because we’re small, we can still be really fast. I remember when I worked for big companies, it always took so long for an idea to get to execution because there were many levels of approval. Here, we’ll just say, “Oh, I think we should do this,” and then we’ll do it.

It’s really exciting to be part of a company that’s growing, and it’s rewarding to see the customer feedback as well. I read every single review and try to reply to people if it’s possible. That’s also been really rewarding: when I see that customers are really happy with the product. It’s like, “Yes, we’re doing something, we’re doing something right.”

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What advice would you give to others looking to work in the industry?

Talk to a lot of people who are already in eCommerce. Learn what aspects of the business interest you. There’s the op side, merchandising, and marketing — and within marketing, there’s pay media, SEO, and email strategy.

One of the best ways to learn is to talk to people in the industry. They can explain each function and role, and that may give you a better understanding of what you’re interested in.

Also, read. I read all the time. There are a lot of industry-related emails or websites that are a great source of information. It will help you learn about trends, the new technology, and the goals.

The third thing is, if you can, try things out before you commit full time. Get some exposure to different aspects of eCommerce to better figure out what you like.

In the past, CPG companies were the breeding ground for future CEOs. But I think future CEOs will come from eCommerce companies.

What do you think is the next big trend that will define the industry?

Instagram is on its way to becoming the new Google of commerce-oriented search. People discover brands and trends on Instagram. So similar to SEO for Google and search, there will be some way to optimize for search within Instagram to acquire customers for eCommerce sites. It will also change marketers’ tactics for how to optimize for brand discovery.

I recently talked to a company that provides texting services as a complement to email for certain reminders, etc. I think text and message-based services will continue in popularity by giving customers and companies different channels by which to communicate. Imagine you are close to running out of a moisturizer and the brand knows it. They send you a quick text, “Hey, we think you might almost be out of your moisturizer. Do you want buy a new bottle so your skin will always be hydrated? Type ‘yes’.” You type “yes” and then it gets sent. It’s almost as easy as voice-controlled devices like Alexa.

Are there other women in the industry that you admire & why?

Julie Wainwright, founder of TheRealReal. It’s an amazing company and website, and her offline stores are so well thought out and well done. She’s built something that integrates online and offline, and has that customer service high-end touch. I love that she was able to launch TheRealReal even after some career setbacks.
 Also Natalie Massanet, founder of Net-a-Porter.com. She really launched the curated lookbook and content/commerce concept. I also personally love shopping on this website and browsing for inspo.