Entrepreneur Middle East's Achieving Women 2023: Kate Wooyeon Park, Founder, Lamise Beauty Park realized that there was an opportunity to bring Korean skincare to the UAE in a way that blends perfectly with Emirati culture, and it's a notion that she has stuck to as she set up and built Lamise Beauty.
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If you've ever felt a visceral void when trying to connect with others, perhaps what's missing is jeong (정), a Korean concept that encompasses the emotions of goodwill, warmth, and affection. For decades, it has been a non-verbal element that seeped its way into every part of Korean culture and society, and it has now evoked great global interest as well. For Kate Wooyeon Park, founder of Dubai-based Korean beauty (aka K-beauty) brand Lamise Beauty, jeong has been a driving force in how she's built her company from the ground up. "In Korean business culture, jeong is a word that is frequently used to describe the importance of relationships," Park explains. "In this case, it means building deep emotional connections and mutual understanding with people in and around your business. This shapes my leadership by putting lots of effort into forming meaningful relationships with my team, my customers, and my suppliers. I see business relationships as long-term connections, valuing loyalty and trust over quick wins."
Park, a native of South Korea who moved to the UAE a decade ago, founded Lamise Beauty in 2017. Products from a wide range of Korean skincare and cosmetic brands -including K-beauty biggies like Cosrx and MediHeal- are sold via its online platform (with UAE-wide delivery), and also at a brick-and-mortar shop located at The Greens, a residential community in Dubai. And like many entrepreneurial ventures often do, Lamise Beauty too was born out of a problem Park faced firsthand. "When I moved to the UAE from Korea 10 years ago, my skin needed to adjust to the dry climate, as it became dehydrated and irritated frequently," she recalls. "I started experimenting with new products, and then bringing my favorite beauty products from Korea, but once I started to share the cosmetics with my friends, they always asked me to bring more. That is when I realized that the quality of Korean cosmetic products could be appreciated not only by Koreans, but also by others from many other countries."
Park thus realized that there was an opportunity to bring Korean skincare to the UAE in a way that blends perfectly with Emirati culture, and it's a notion that she has stuck to as she set up and built her enterprise. For starters, her enterprise's name is derived from the Arabic word "lamees" (لميـس), which means "soft touch". "Natural ingredients -such as aloe vera, rose, honey, avocado, prickly pear, etc.- are valued in both Korean and Emirati skincare traditions," Park notes. "Highlighting the benefits of these ingredients created a connection with customers from different cultural backgrounds. I thus decided to launch Lamise Beauty to help raise awareness about taking care of your skin, and to provide a platform for the people in the region to experience many different Korean beauty brands, under one roof."
The Lamise Beauty team. Source: Lamise Beauty
Now, it's safe to say that Park's entrepreneurial journey has been aided by the Korean Wave, or Hallyu (한류), which refers to the growing influence of Korean pop culture across the globe. But while Park isn't dismissive of the positive influence of this cultural shift, she also points out that it is the K-beauty products themselves that deserve the most credit for Lamise Beauty being a hit in the market. "Hallyu has definitely played a role in the increased interest in Korean cosmetics, but I believe that, ultimately, high quality products with innovative skincare formultions which help everyone's skin concerns is a significant factor," Park says. "This has led to many beauty experts and influencers from different cultures to share lots of information about K-beauty such as ingredients, how to use certain products, and positive results, among others. It is this movement that has inadvertently increased the number of consumers who choose K-beauty products."
But with the increased consumer interest have come some specific logistical challenges that Park and her team have had to overcome. "With the rise of popularity, the market has also seen an increase in counterfeit products being sold through unofficial channels these days," she laments. "Counterfeit product manufacturers copy a brand's image, item design, and sell them at lower prices. Most customers can therefore not tell which one is authentic until you use it. This is why Lamise Beauty is working directly with each brand from Korea, and we always give the right information to customers about authentic products. I believe that the value of Lamise Beauty is built based on this authenticity and transparency."
But in reaching such a point in its growth, Park had to first discover what was the best way to connect with customers. According to Park, this was a learning curve that has molded her into the leader she is today. "In the beginning, it was all about selling the products on our platforms, without understanding the market, or a concrete strategy," Park reveals. "With time, I realized that understanding and meeting customer needs is crucial. This led me to focus on listening to their skin concerns to find the right products for them, and test them thoroughly. As a result, we were able to make the users satisfied and happy through good results. Also, having a great team who has the same business mind is essential. Our team spends lots of time on studying brands, products, and benefits of ingredients. We test the products together, and share customer feedback on a daily basis. This shifted my leadership style toward empowering and supporting my employees to be K-beauty advisors."
For Park, curating operations based on the consumer's delight has transitioned into something of a driving force as well. "What motivates me to keep moving forward is when good feedback from a customer is shared with us," she says. "Engaging with a Korean skincare network drives my passion for my work. Building connections with like-minded individuals who share the dedication for skin care can create a supportive network, and inspire fresh ideas." Plus, having experienced first-hand how K-beauty products have helped her feel better about herself, Park hopes what Lamise Beauty now supplies helps others feel the same way. "I believe that staying updated about the latest trends and technology -and applying that on my skin- builds confidence, both physically and naturally," Park says. "Embracing your body is important, and the skin is the largest organ on your body. And so, I believe incorporating new, exciting products in our portfolio, as we try to stay at the forefront of innovation, will, in turn, instill confidence in our customers who seek the latest and most effective skincare solutions."
Kate Wooyeon Park, founder, Lamise Beauty. Source: Lamise Beauty
When I ask Park what her life's greatest business achievement has been so far, she incorporates a sentiment that has been peppered across her entire narration of her entrepreneurial journey: an immense pride in her heritage. "As a businesswoman and as a Korean, one of my proudest achievements has been successfully expanding our Korean skincare brands into the Middle East," Park says. "Breaking into new markets required careful planning, cultural adaptation, and a deep understanding of our products, as well as global consumer preferences. And most importantly, I am so proud that I could have many customers who are happy with our products, and trust Lamise Beauty."
'Trep Talk: Lamise Beauty founder Kate Wooyeon Park shares her tips for entrepreneurs.
Believe in yourself "Confidence is your power in business. It helps you navigate challenges with strength and authenticity. Be confident, and speak up."
Keep learning, and be flexible "Always be curious and open to learning. The business world changes, so adaptability is key. Stay informed about your industry, and be ready to embrace new ideas."
Build a supportive network "Surround yourself with mentors and supportive people who can offer guidance and encouragement. Having a strong network is like having a team cheering for your success.