We interviewed the clean, cruelty free, and pH balanced hair care brand PERSEVE, set up by a mother and daughter duo of Hyeri Sung and Olivia Bae. We spoke with the daughter Olivia on how they hit $200,000 in sales in 10 months.
“About 30% of our sales are direct from our website so it’s a must for our business.”
We were inspired to discover the story behind this hair care brand and how Olivia turned her struggles with hair loss into a way to help others. We love that she was able to turn a difficult situation into a solution for those who can’t afford the proper haircare products. Jumping into building a website with Wix, and creating a shampoo, conditioner, hydrating treatment, and a dual function masque.
Our brand is called PERSEVE. We’re a women founded and AAPI (Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander) owned haircare brand that is founded by me and my mom, Hyeri, who has been a hairstylist in New York City for over 25 years. We’re a clean and cruelty-free haircare brand creating luxurious yet affordable formulas that are quality alternatives to prestige brands. Our mission is to make premium haircare formulas accessible to everyone.
“As immigrants, our culture is super important to us so we focused on adding our background to the brand.”
My mom and I founded the brand together and are Korean-American immigrants. As immigrants, our culture is super important to us so we focused on adding our background to the brand. When we started we knew for sure we were going to have everything formulated and made in South Korea. Our products are all under $20, but equally equivalent in ingredients, standards, and performance of a prestige product that retails for $30.
Working Alongside Family
This is kind of corny, but the best part is working with my mom. We have polar opposite personalities, but we mesh well together. Also, the fact that my mom and I are working to build something together motivates us daily. We have polar opposite personalities and work styles, but that helps us a lot as a team. In areas I lack in, she thrives in. And areas she lacks in, I thrive in. We balance each other. And we also prioritize communication because it’s super important in every aspect, not just when running a company together.
My mom has been a hairstylist in New York City for over 25 years so she’s always had a passion for haircare. I think our love for hair care stems from the idea that it frames our face and helps us feel more beautiful, but also can help us in so many ways to change our style and identity at the snip of a scissor or flick of a curling iron.
As small business owners, we tend to wear a lot of hats – I usually manage our marketing, social media, and business development. And my mom takes more of a product development and operations role in the business. She does all the dirty work while I do all the pretty work.
I was experiencing intense hair loss after getting COVID and tried so many different products from high-end, drugstore, to personalized products. Not much worked except a $30 shampoo from Sephora, but it wasn’t realistic to spend $30 on a single bottle of shampoo.
“It almost felt like brands were gatekeeping prestige formulas by sticking overly expensive price tags on them. My mom and I had a lightbulb moment and made it our mission to make prestige formulas accessible to everyone.”
Our goal is to make affordable luxury hair care, like treat yourself vibes, but products on a budget. We want to make the ingredients of a prestige brand accessible to the everyday consumer with our clean and cruelty-free price inclusive products.
The very first thing we did was create a brand identity. My mom and I brainstormed so many names for the brand and landed on PERSEVE after about a month. Then started working with a graphic designer to create logos and content for the brand.
The hair loss was such a life-changing experience for me because it essentially gave me a whole new career path. When I got COVID, I was living in NYC and I had just lost my corporate job due to the pandemic, dealing with the aftermath of losing my hair was extremely stressful.
Probably a few weeks after I recovered from COVID, my hair would come out in clumps and I would see it mostly while washing my hair, or when I brushed it. I was so desperate for a fix so I tried everything. The only product that worked was a $30 shampoo, but being out of a job in the middle of a pandemic I couldn’t justify paying that much for a single product.
My mom and co-founder, Hyeri, has been a professional hairstylist in New York City for over 25 years and actually created one of the first non-toxic keratin smoothing treatments before launching PERSEVE, so she has experience with manufacturing and that definitely helped us a lot with our brand.
Prior to PERSEVE, I was an event planner for hospitality groups mostly doing corporate events. It’s a world of difference from what I’m doing now.
As a small business owner, your hours aren’t the typical nine to five. Everyday is different, but I typically start my day out at around nine at our office. The first thing I do when I get to the office is check my emails. Then my mom and I will usually go and help our warehouse team in the back with packing orders and preparing wholesale shipments for pickup or delivery that day.
After that, I’ll go to the office and do some work. Mostly consisting of prospecting, sending cold emails, and working on our social media platforms or marketing initiatives. Usually throughout the week when I have a free moment, I’ll work with our photographer who has a studio nearby to plan and create content. Every week is filled with different projects, but that’s typically what my day to day is like.
I think a core moment for us was when we finally received our finished products. Our products are made in South Korea so it was a long and extremely stressful process to get our products delivered due to the pandemic and importing restrictions. It was delay after delay so when we finally got it, it was unreal. It felt like our hard work finally paid off.
“We’re immensely proud that we’ve sold about 15K products so far and a lot of them are returning customers.”
One tip is patience is key, you’re not gonna see instant results. For example, in marketing especially if you’re bootstrapping and not throwing thousands into Facebook ads, you are not going to see an instant return. We’re immensely proud that we’ve sold about 15K products so far and a lot of them are returning customers.
Creating an online presence especially for a CPG (consumer packaged goods) is so important. You need to have a consumer facing website to capture consumers. And a website is the most cost effective selling channel especially if your brand is new and haven’t entered major retailers yet.
We launched our business on our website. We bootstrapped and built the brand ourselves. The only thing we really outsourced for our business was a photographer and a graphic designer, but beyond that we kind of do everything ourselves.
Experiences of Building with Wix
The templates are absolutely the best thing about Wix. The Wix templates are easy to use and actually aesthetically pleasing. There’s so many design templates you can choose from too. And you literally drop and click to design and you’re done.
Wix made everything user-friendly and also automated a lot of the actions, so it’s very hands off compared to other platforms. Also, the analytics and email marketing features have been the most helpful tools for our business.
The only problem I do have with Wix is that sometimes the website editing tools glitch and freeze, but beyond that I have nothing bad to say about it. It’s one of the best website builders.
Invest in a better chair – just kidding! But in all honesty, I would maybe tell myself to “have patience.” And I say that because in the first few months of launch, I was so anxious and constantly beating myself down for not getting instant results. Then once our brand started getting some traction I realized that all I needed was some patience.
“Also plan and organize everything. Creating content and copy for the website prior to starting is always a good idea so that everything is more organized and you’ll definitely finish the website a lot quicker.”
I would also say don’t give up. It’s so hard being a business owner, but the empowerment from building something from the bottom up with your own two hands is priceless. I feel so proud to say I created a brand on my own.
Do your due diligence and research everything. Research the industry, your competition, trends, and ingredients. It’s so important to know your information because the hair care industry is one the most saturated sectors in beauty and you want your products to differentiate within that mountain of competition.
For the future we have some retail partnerships in the works so hopefully we’ll have some exciting news soon. But our ultimate goal is to have our products available at major retailers like Sephora and Ulta.