A Beauty Expert Reveals Inner Beauty
Starting her settlement period in South Korea in 2012, Director Kim Mi-ju opened up a beauty shop, “The L Beauty” in Guraedong, Gimposi, Gyeonggi Province. Seeing how sophisticated she is, it seems like she was born a skin care salon director, but she is full of unexpected experiences.
She majored in gastrology in North Korea, and after acquiring her first-class chef certificate, she worked as a chef at a state-run restaurant. “In North Korea, it’s highly regarded when a woman works as a chef in a state-run restaurant. Especially with a first-class chef certificate, it’s like being guaranteed lifetime employment.”
Right when she was adjusting to her social life as a chef, she received word from her mother, who had ventured to the South first, to join her. She was afraid to risk her life and also give up her guaranteed positions as a chef. “When I saw my colleagues getting married and having children, I thought that I wanted to get married and have a family, too, which would be difficult if I escaped, so I thought against it. But then once I made up my mind, there was no reason to delay. I left my home and safely made it to Korea, where I met my mom, whom I hadn’t seen in over 15 years.”
Past Work Experience is Just Experience
After leaving the Hanawon, she wanted to do something related to her work experience as a chef so she got a job at a restaurant. “After working for about a year, I realized that making food wasn’t suitable for me. The food making process and names for ingredients were all different between North and South Korea. Of course, I’m sure it would’ve worked out if I had kept at it, but I didn’t want to hang on to work I didn’t feel suited me just because I didn’t want my past work experience to go to waste.”
After giving up on becoming a chef, she started attending a nursing aide academy. She barely made it through the curriculum, but she failed the certificate exam twice. She was thinking whether or not to try a third time, when she met a friend who worked at a skin care salon. While discussing her employment concerns, she started to develop a curiosity about beauty care and thought she wanted to pursue studying it.
Starting a Business: The Key is in Thorough Preparation and Client-oriented Marketing Strategies
She immediately registered at a beauty academy. After 3 months of theory classes and practicum, she acquired her national skin beauty technician certificate. After getting her certificate, she worked for 2 years at a skin care salon near Paju, Gyeonggi Province. While working there, she thoroughly learned about providing custom care for different client’s varying skin conditions, and how to take reservations, promote, and generally how to run a salon. She also learned about the related products that the salon sold and how to deal with customer inquiries as her dreams of starting her own clinic intensified.
Thinking of starting her own business, she moved with her family to Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province. She thought that it’d be a strategic position that would see a surge of clients since it was a new city with prospects of a bigger population. After a lot of preparation, she opened up her own beauty shop with the name “The L Beauty” in Guraedong, Gimposi in April of 2017. Beauty shops aren’t run just with equipment or materials. Just like every other business, promotion and marketing is very important. At first she consulted with a marketing agency. But her lack of experience and knowledge resulted in her choosing the wrong marketing firm, losing 2 million KRW, and resulting in heartache.
“I realized that there are limits to advertisement done with money. I thought to myself that professional skin care is what’s going to move the clients’ hearts. There are people who come just for skin care, but there are people whose concerns are about their skin. I listened to their concerns and then suggested custom skin care methods. I didn’t impose my thoughts on them but I helped them to understand and make their own choices.”
Thus Director Kim’s business strategy changed not only her clients’ skin but also their closed hearts. Clients who saw a noticeable improvement in their skin recommended ‘The L Beauty’ to other people, and by word of mouth her clientele increased.
In contrast to her initial concerns, the beauty shop started off well. As she saw more clients, she stopped using an advertising agency for online promotions, and changed her marketing strategy to using the reviews her clients put up through social media and blogs.
Risks Can Set Up Opportunities
And so 2 years passed. Despite it being her first business, things went smoothly. She felt very proud of what she’d accomplished. Until COVID-19 came out of the blue. At first she thought it’d be temporary, but COVID-19 dragged on along with social distancing and strict quarantine regulations. It led to her clients all canceling their reservations.
“I stayed by my empty shop without being able to do anything for almost half a year. Every day I wondered if I should go out to my shop or not, but out of small hope that a client might stop by, I would come out. It was really challenging since I had to pay the same rent with no income. It made me think if I should close the store now and just find part-time work elsewhere. But I convinced myself that it’s at times like these that opportunities can arise, so I started attending Hoseo University. I decided to learn more about skin care and differentiate myself from others with superior expertise. I was not convinced that closing shop was the only way out of the risky situation. This was in fact a chance and opportunity to improve and further myself.”
A Small Dream: Trying Out Custom Client-oriented Expertise
Director Kim is in her final fourth year at Hoseo University’s Department of Beauty. She says that her experience of operating a skin care clinic helps in understanding her classes. She’s also being recognized as an expert as she shares her knowledge and skills on skin care and beauty with various people.
Director Kim is preparing to try out various beauty-related works in one place after finishing her degree. She is also emphasizing to her juniors the need to study thoroughly and acquire professional skills rather than just imitation. The beauty industry is completed with detailed handwork and skills and is work that can be done lifelong without retirement.
Her life plan consists of her studying hard until her 40s, and leaving behind any desire for money while running straight toward her dreams and future. She lives her present filled with a passion for learning and dreaming of a better tomorrow.
The dreams of Kim Mi-ju, director of “The L Beauty”, include owning a large-scale skin care clinic. Her dreams and future will be achieved not out of greed but from skills.