[THE INVESTOR] Style Nanda founder and CEO Kim So-hee, who has already established herself as a legend in the beauty and fashion industry, was catapulted to the spotlight once more following reports last month of her brand selling a controlling stake to L’Oreal.
Kim had a revelation about her future career after selling a jacket on Auction, the e-commerce website of eBay Korea. She had bought it wholesale from Dongdaemun fashion market, and marveled that people actually bought the clothes she had picked out. Incidentally, the only business experience Kim had before Style Nanda was working at a small, non-beauty related company for one week.
Style Nanda founder and CEO Kim So-hee
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In 2005, Kim opened a fashion web mall at the tender age of 21. She had help setting up the business from her mother and aunt, and got a friend to model for her picks. Kim said she focused on items that appealed to young women with strong character and signature styles. She also modeled for her merchandise, and now has more than 48,000 followers on Instagram.
Despite the fast growth and hard promotion, the company did not do very well initially. For over seven years, Style Nanda has been posting operating losses. In 2011, the firm posted sales of 33.9 billion won (US$ 31.48 million) but had an operating loss of 500 million won.
The next year was the turning point, when the company turned to black with 4.1 billion won operating profit. The change was largely due to its success in China. Kim also launched a budget cosmetics brand called 3CE in 2009.
But it was not an easy challenge, since she had to find an ODM company that could help with her brand launch. “I was only 26 at the time when I presented our new line to Korea’s No. 1 ODM firm Korea Kolmar,” recalls Kim. To the surprise of many, Kolmar scrambled onboard.
The brand soon became one of the most popular Korean beauty brands in China. During the first half of 2017, almost 70 percent of Style Nanda’s revenues came from 3CE.
Industry watchers say in the end, Kim’s tenacity and loyalty to her own brand and instincts won the game. L’Oreal on May 3 said it would be buying out Style Nanda entirely, upping its stake from the previously agreed 70 percent.
By Song Seung-hyun (email@example.com)