My name is Alicia Yoon. I grew up in both Seoul and New York, but feel most at home along the Mediterranean Coast. I spent most of my childhood and teen years in a swimming pool, training as a platform diver. Of course, life has unexpected turns, and instead of pursuing an athletic career, I ended up spending most of my time in finance and consulting. Along that journey, my dream to start my own business kept growing. In 2012, I finally found the courage to pour all my savings into launching a beauty company called Peach and Lily. Peach and Lily brings the best Korean and Japanese beauty products to the US through our e-commerce site and also by selling our carefully curated products to other retailers like Sephora, Target, QVC, Urban Outfitters, SpaceNK, and specialty boutiques. I trained as an esthetician 15 years ago in Korea’s esteemed beauty schools when I was 18, and fell in love with skincare and the Korean beauty rituals then. It’s a dream to be working on a beauty company where passion and work meet.
You just turned 23 and your life is a blur of nonstop work and so many mixed emotions. You just graduated from college and you’re invigorated to be starting your career off at Goldman Sachs where everything is bustling and there’s so much to learn.
It’s 2005 and the financial markets are abuzz with opportunities and it all seems dazzling.
You work until 2am on most days for the last six months since you started your job -- and you don't even mind because you’re ambitious and are excited to be starting your career.
At the same time, you’re growing frustrated because you want to learn more about how companies operate -- not about how companies are capitalized. You spoke to your boss last week about taking on a project that would give you more experience in what you enjoy doing. She swiftly said no. You’re disappointed but quickly cover up your crestfallen face with a smile and the resolve to work even harder to earn your stripes. You plan to make the same request later with more leverage and goodwill.
Another six months go by, and you realize that finance isn’t really for you. You start to dislike the work that you’re spending brutal hours doing and you feel stuck. You don’t know which career to switch to. You don’t really have the time to look for different opportunities. You’re just working day-in, day-out, and you’re really unhappy.
Take heart! In the next 11 years, you’re going to move onto a few other exciting jobs that you really enjoy and go onto attend Harvard Business School, and eventually start your own business that you absolutely love building.
It’s hard to see now, but your career is a marathon. You may not be exactly where you want today with your career, and you may not even see where you want to head let alone how to get there.
But there are two important things that’ll serve you well, so keep doing these two things:
1) Be patient and learn as much as you can. You’re not going to enjoy every day of your career. (As a side note, it's a luxury that you’re in a position where you can think about having a career and not just a job to pay the bills) You see, though, even the things you hate doing will teach you valuable things that come into good use later when you’re building Peach and Lily. Be patient and try to enjoy each step of the way, however mundane or tedious, as that is the majority of life: those moments leading up to the place you want to head. Learn and grow from each step. Dare to enjoy the things that you don’t enjoy because if you only chase what you’re excited by, your skill sets will be lacking, but importantly, you won’t have strength of character later to persevere through the challenging moments when you’re building a company or career you love.
2) Persist in seeking what you want and ask the deeper questions. You’ll get closer and closer to what you want to do with your career, but this will only happen if you don’t give up in seeking those goals. You won’t always know what you want, so there’s a tenacity required in thinking about what invigorates you.
It’s easy to go through the motions each day and simply bring home the paycheck. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but since you’re set on finding a path that you love, the persistence in seeking that is a key part of that journey.
Without asking those deeper questions about what you’d like to do with your days, you wouldn’t have changed course when you found a comfortable and enjoyable job as a consultant. And when you do figure out what you want to do, strive towards that goal. It’ll take you three years of preparation to start your own company, but that persistence will pay off. You’re going to find Peach and Lily to be such an exhilarating ride. But remember, this will be a constant thing you have to do: keep asking the questions about how you want to live your life. This isn’t just for your career, but every part of your life. Only when these questions are constantly asked, will the answers be found – and these answers will be your north star that guides you along a path that is dotted with wells of passion, meaning, fulfillment and joy.
You'll be just fine. More than fine. I know it’s hard to see now. You dislike your job, your hours are long, and every day is filled with frustration. But stay where you’re at and learn, because trust me, you’ll be glad you learned everything from your analyst program at Goldman. Be strong and patient because you’ll see that this is just a small part of your career path. Do keep asking the questions about what you really want to do. Try your best to find ways to get there when you know where you want to go. And you will. Knowing that, step out of the momentary unhappiness and embrace even this part of the journey with a big heart and smile, a curious mind, and a tenacious spirit. And that attitude will take you on an adventure you’ll love. You’ll see.
With lots of love,
Alicia and I have been friends for quite some time - she's one of the most eloquent and kindest girls you'll meet in the beauty business. She's got this incredible knack forseeing the next big trends in Asia and knowing exactly how to translate otherwise intensely cultural phenomenons into huge beauty sensations stateside. She's also the hardest working entrepreneur with the most vigorous focus (the girl never sleeps but always has a smile on her face)!