Mask Moments is a Venture Capital-backed skincare startup specializing in delivering the latest, high-quality Korean sheet masks for lower costs. “Overnight successes” are often lifelong journeys and Mask Moments is no different. From overcoming insecurities and plowing through depression, Sophia shares 3 success-mindset secrets she learned on her journey as CEO of Mask Moments.
Kay Makishi: So when was your “aha” moment for Mask Moments?
Sophia Hong: About six years ago, I moved to Asia for work and one of the first things I noticed is how everyone had AMAZING skin. I realized that a lot of it [good skin] was cultural and not just for “special occasions”. It was an everyday routine. People were getting home facials regularly. They were diligent and serious about their skincare even likening it to drinking water.
Most budget sheet mask options didn’t fit right, or were too sticky, drippy and just didn’t work with my sensitive skin. In Korea, many more advanced, high tech masks were evolving and the high-quality ones I loved were too expensive and not as readily available. I wanted to change that and make the most advanced, high-quality masks widely accessible to my friends in the US. So that’s how the idea started.
KM: I love when products come from a personal problem and need! So after your “aha” moment, what was next?
SH: Well, there was a big gap from the idea to actual execution of the launch. I had consulted for a beauty company, was living in the land of K-beauty, and had relationships with labs and industry experts. I had all this access, knowledge, experience and resource, so it was more like, why don’t I [launch my own sheet mask brand]?”
“I WAS LIVING IN THE LAND OF K-BEAUTY AND HAD ALL THIS ACCESS.. SO IT WAS LIKE, WHY DON’T I?”
KM: Can you break that down for us… what was that internal process of starting a company and making your first product like?
SH: The problem was, I was scared! Leaving corporate would mean a lot of risks, uncertainties, and changes. I mean, I knew that I had a superior product but it wasn’t just that. I’m not an influencer. Where would I have an audience? How would I get the word out? Who would listen to me? A lot of “what if’s” and questions like: What if I can’t make ends meet? What if I fail?
I was also scared of public failure and criticism. I’m not the shameless, bold type. For the longest time, I struggled with whether I wanted to be the face and voice of my brand too. I didn’t have the confidence a lot of times. I was also scared of not making money. There were a lot of fears and insecurities, and I would only focus on the negative. It was eating me up.
KM: Thanks for being honest about your fears. I think that resonates with a lot of, well, people in general. That said, you still charged forward anyway. What drove you?
SH: Honestly, I had to have repeated “come to Jesus” moments. I did a lot of soul searching, and I realized the only thing stopping me from taking the leap was facing my fears head-on. There’s always going to be a risk. I’m still living with the risk. But I also learned how to tolerate that risk and approach it differently.
Learning to tolerate risk is learned behavior. A shift in mindset. It was actually in overcoming my depression and my sense of rejection that I learned the importance of recovering emotional health and self-esteem.
I ALSO LEARNED HOW TO TOLERATE THAT RISK. LEARNING TO TOLERATE RISK IS A LEARNED BEHAVIOR- A SHIFT IN MINDSET.
I used to work in corporate America and saw many people become a shell of a person in toxic environments, questioning their self worth and identities. Many people put their self worth on what the world tells them like numbers: salaries, how many followers, job titles etc. You get caught up in the rat race and it’s unhealthy. That was me too.
I wanted to create a culture that countered that: a healthy culture that promotes inner strength, emotional wellness and embraces vulnerability. I believe that can make people more powerful at whatever capacity they are in.
Mask Moments seeks to remind every person who puts on our beauty masks that our worth, value and validation do not come from mere numbers and optics, but that we are loved and worthy- because life IS valuable. At the heart of self-care is self-love. The mission and message were aligning with the product and skincare. For me, this was the true “Aha” moment. My business journey is very much tied to my personal journey, and it gave me a purpose.
KM:. Thanks for sharing all that! So what’s your vision for the future of Mask Moments?
SH: We encourage our customers to take routine moments in their schedules to care for skin with Mask Moments: to give ourselves a break, a moment, to lift ourselves (while lifting skin!) and lift up others. I want to redefine beauty as more than skin deep.
I want to encourage people to adopt better skincare habits, learn the benefits of masking often with us, and also take that moment as a reminder to take some time for self-care.
I also want to open up more discussion about emotional health too as an important factor in the workplace. I’d like to build that kind of culture at Mask Moments and send that message through our brand. It’s sad when everyone measures each other and calculates value based on numbers, and unfortunately, we live in a world that does that (and there is a place for numbers). So I want to be a company that supports a different culture, where we use our energies to lift each other up. In my mind, that takes a culture, leadership, and not just one company – but it takes a community of people. I hope it sparks a conversation among people who read this.
KM I 100% support your culture and indeed is what I’m creating through Makishi Apparel too. Do you have any tips for our readers aspiring to become entrepreneurs themselves?
3 Success-Mindset Secrets from Mask Moments CEO Sophia Hong:
1. Remember why you started. I think it’s really important to think deeply about the purpose behind your business (mission), and to analyze and understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. To me having a purpose for a business is more important than just profit and it can be the biggest motivator on the down days- believe me, there’s lots of them!
2. Self-care! (Duh!) You didn’t see it coming? Haha. This is KEY. Self-care means different things for people. For me, it means giving myself a break to treat myself to high-quality Mask Moments, 4- 5 times a week if not daily.
The act of caring for my skin helps remind me that I’m blessed, loved, am valuable and that I have to be kind to myself. I feel more confident with healthy, glowing skin and it helps builds my self-esteem, because, without it, there’s less of you to give to the world.
Being an entrepreneur requires more sacrifice, more sleepless nights, more discipline, humility, and patience. There’s certainly no place for entitlement and you live below your means. You need abundant inner strength for all of that.
3. Stronger Together. This could be an extension of self-care, but I also encourage finding a supportive group of people that can be your core community. People who can keep you grounded, support and help you grow and believe in your cause, are affirming and help you suppress negative voices.
Sometimes finding a community might mean you have to branch out to people you normally wouldn’t or even find someone you dislike. All sorts of people can grow you. It should be a group that you allow into your life more and that you can also invest in deeply, that give you diverse perspectives on how people conduct their lives and even help you navigate conflict with people you find difficult. It’s a good practice.
Banding together is a strength, especially if you’re up against Goliaths. I would love to do more of it– so, welcome, Every Irene!