This Former Wall Streeter Turned Down $2 Million and Pays Herself Less Than Her Interns So She Can Build Her Company on Her Terms
By Zoë Bernard
Kimberley Ho is building a skincare company that she hopes will someday be just as ubiquitous as Johnson & Johnson. To do so, she's thinking long term. Ask the CEO what her primary goal for her organic, family-focused skincare line is, and she'll answer without skipping a beat, "To be here in 100 years."
Ho's company, Evereden, is a skincare line that's almost entirely self-funded by Ho and her husband, who both worked in Wall Street's investing scene. Ho says that their knowledge of investing led them to turn down $2 million in unsolicited offers from venture capitalists.
"There's no such thing as a free lunch," said Ho. "With VC funding, strings always comes attached."
In turning down the cash, Ho said that she hopes to lead her company on her own terms. Crafting a skincare line that's safe for babies isn't easy, and Ho has enlisted the help of pediatricians and scientists from Stanford and Harvard to create a product that uses ingredients she says are typically found in women's luxury skin products.
Ho said that most of the money she's put into her company has been spent on research.
"When we talk about re-building children's skincare, we're talking about reformulating everything from the ground up," said Ho.
While Ho said that the unsolicited offers from investors were flattering, she believes she and her husband made the right choice in turning them down.
"It's nice to have investors believe in your vision and your mission," said Ho. "But as a consumer startup, VC money comes with expectations of astronomical growth. In the end, we didn't think it would be sustainable to take on a load of VC money and grow quickly without sacrificing our customer's experience."
While Ho has turned down investors' cash for now, in the future, she says she's open to considering taking in more capital if the time is right.
"As we look towards international expansion down the line, we're open to changing this funding strategy," said Ho. "But we'd need to find the right investment partners who buy into our long-term vision."
For now, bootstrapping means cutting costs wherever possible, which includes turning down a salary for herself.
"I am the lowest paid employee at my company," said Ho. "I pay my interns more than I pay myself. For me, it's not about money -- it's about the vision. In my mind if I pay myself like, $50,000, that's money that I'm not putting into the company."