Across Online and Offline, Two Second-Gen…

Across Online and Offline, Two Second-Generation Owner Siblings

rite a Success Story with Their Father from the Start
VP Clara Kim (34) and Director Clemens Kim (32) of CLORÉ BEAUTY SUPPLY in Ontario, Canada

Generally, you would assume the second generation business owners would start their career at a company already established by their parents and climb up the corporate ladder, garnering experience. Here’s an exceptional case. Here come the siblings Vice President Clara Kim (34) and Director Clemens Kim (32) of CLORÉ BEAUTY SUPPLY, who are behind the operation of eight retail stores and an online shopping mall in Ontario, Canada



What are your job responsibilities?

Clara: My official title is vice president, and I run the HR and marketing department. I am in charge of business promotions and retail store layouts and designs. I also hire and train employees who will be sent to different departments and retail floors. The company logo currently in use and the unification of all retail store designs were my work.

Clemens: I’m in charge of the business operations of the stores laid out by my sister. I do procurement and distribution. I also built and am running the POS system and websites. Processing online orders and shipping goods are also my responsibilities. So, I run the IT, e-Commerce, accounting, and purchasing departments and also the distribution center. Generally, you can say I’m in charge of operation. HR and marketing works went to my sister who is a people person and more artistic. For me, reason and logic better suits me. I think we as partners can make up each other’s weaknesses and make a good team.


The company name, CLORÉ, sounds exotic. Is it French?

Clara: It’s not a French word but a made-up word Clemens and I came up with in 2012, at the birth of the company. It’s known that Cleopatra was the first one who wore wigs. We thought her name should be a great inspiration for a company name. We took “Cleo” from Cleopatra and combined it with “extension” from hair extensions. We wanted it to be easy to pronounce and to remember while elegant. French culture still has a lot of influence in this area, so we added French accent at the end, coming up with “CLORÉ”. Clemens came with the word, and I worked on the company logo. I think he’s more creative than me.

Clemens: (laughter)


How did you start working at your father’s company?

Clara: I majored interior design in college and were working in a relevant field. That’s when my father suggested working together at his startup. In fact, he was running four beauty supply retail stores with a partner in Toronto since 2000. When they decided to split their ways, his partner took over an anchor store, leaving the rest three stores in his hands. We started working at father’s beauty supply stores early at 12 and 10 years of age part-time or full-time, so it didn’t feel strange at all.

Clemens: I was studying in Australia in 2012 when my father made the suggestion to me. I majored accounting in college, so I was confident that I would find a role I could play at his company.




How’s it like to work with your father as company president?

Clemens: Our president is a very open-minded person. He fosters an atmosphere that allows us, including all other employees, to work creatively. Whenever we make suggestions, he would rarely go against them but add his voice to make changes. Before he ran business supplies in Canada, he ran a restaurant and convenience store in South Korea, and I used to work at his convenience store to help him out when I was very young. I was pretty familiar with working alongside him.

Clara: That’s true. He always cheers us for taking a new challenge and encourages us to go further. At work, he cuts out family ties and is about strictly business.



Nonetheless, there have to be incidents where you conflict your president who is from an older generation…

Clara: I can’t say there was not a single incident, but I can’t really think of anything now. When there’s a minor conflict in opinions, we simply discuss about them and agree on a single conclusion, which can be applied consistently across the business. When we can’t agree on something, we usually follow his lead. That doesn’t mean he’s always right, though. (laughter) 


Any example when your president got it wrong?

Clara: Hmm … in 2012, in the beginning of the company, I was in charge of HR. At that time, we didn’t require employees to sign a contract. I argued that “we should have contracts for legal protection,” and he said, “that’s going to put employees on a tough spot.” It took two to three years to set forth the written employment contract policy. 

Clemens: Of course, there were times when “we” were wrong. He always said non-Korean cashier could boost the sales, but we always opposed to the idea. We thought we should put someone we really trust on the money-handling task. Now, many non-Korean workers are working at cash registers, and so far, there’s been no significant issue. He was right about trusting people



This question is for Clara, who’s in charge of marketing: how do you promote company images?

Clara: CLORÉ brand is actually pretty well known in this area. You can say we have a solid brand image. For this, we’ve been working really hard for marketing. We participate in many local events as a sponsor. For example, for the annual event, Toronto Carnival, in last August we provided 4,000 bags. We have partnership with many charities and made donations. These activities, including local event participation and donation, establish our brand image and strengthen customer loyalty. I feel great about the current status of our brand image as one who heads the marketing.


For Clemens: how about POS system, online shopping mall, website management, and so on?

Clemens: From the start in 2012, I spearheaded building the POS system and the company website and introduced the online shopping experience. I thought those new technologies should be the foundation for our company’s growth. You won’t believe, but they had no POS system for those four retail stores till 2012. The introduction of the POS system contributed a lot for opening new stores and growing the company in size. We are making business decisions based on the data generated by the POS system. The output is utilized in reaching new markets, sales strategies, product strategies, and marketing. This is where I can put my specialty in use and am proud for playing my part well. We’re also running an e-commerce website. Customers can make online purchases on our website, and we will ship them to their home from our warehouse using the post service. It covers the entire Canada. In fact, in Canada, people of same ethnicity do not necessarily live closely together. They are spread out in the big country, so online shopping and delivery are a must.


Doesn’t the retail business in Canada differ from the U.S.?

Clemens: The competition among beauty supply stores should be about the same in Canada. However, fortunately, we don’t have Ulta Beauty, Walmart, or Target competing for hair care products with us. In the end, I would say there’s less competition. Another thing is that we don’t have those areas heavily populated with black ethnicities, so we don’t have to go to a black community to open up a store. We simply pick a locale with good traffic. Our stores are usually located at large shopping malls, airports, and other places with good traffic. We heard the retail stores are getting bigger in the U.S., but we don’t have it here. Our stores are usually only 3,000 to 4,000 sq. ft. Customer service and location are far more important than the size of a retail store


What advice can you give to other second generation business owners?

Clemens: I would say, “you should know yourself” before you start working. You should know what you like, and what you like should come in handy at work. If you choose to work on something that look good on the appearance, you will regret. When you’re confident that this is it, the foundation and motivation for success will catch up with you. You should find something you’re good at.

Clara: You should learn from the past generations. Based on the lessons, you should open your heart and communicate with your employees. Even if you’re really good, things you can achieve alone are fairly limited. When you find a way to advance with your employees, everyone can commit to the goal of the company.


You emphasized the lessons passed down from the past generation, what were your lessons?

Clara: Our president emphasizes the happiness of employees above all. He wants to promote the work-life balance for all employees. Our stores open 11 hours and 30 minutes a day (from 9:30 AM to 9 PM), he makes sure that morning and afternoon staff run in shifts to avoid working long hours. He’s usually at his office only three or four days a week, and that’s how much he trusts his employees. Avoiding supervising them unilaterally, he approaches everyone with attention to their new ideas. Every idea is valuable for him, and he really backs them up. This is why a lot of great workers stay with us for a long time. He values people, and I learn that from him while working here.

Clemens: I saw him working with my own eyes growing up. He worked from early morning to late evening diligently. He sincerely cared for his family. All those things make me keep going straight and pushing myself.


Did you have a three-day workshop with all managers of the company?

Clara: All of twelve managers and the senior management went to a workshop for three days. It was not an easy thing to call all managers into one place. However, we wanted to set and share our company values and vision, so it was not a waste at all. For three days, we discussed our ideas, managers suggested and agreed on a company vision. The vision statement was “we care and support each other to make a loyal community.” The underlying thought was that we should be a closely-knit community like a family. I wouldn’t be able to forget the moment; it was very moving.

Clemens: I remember the time when we opened the headquarter/warehouse/distribution center near the airport. “We made this far,” I thought at the moment with some emotion.


How can you run all the stores through managers?

Clara: When a family business grows, you can’t only rely on family members. We built a trustful relationship with managers in order to maximize our growth potential. If one wants to grow business, he or she wants to meet good people and get help. One can only do so much. You need to place some trust on people. In my opinion, you need to listen to managers carefully and follow up with their concerns immediately to raise their loyalty to the company.


Any last words?

Clara: Under our company logo CLORÉ BEAUTY SUPPLY, it says inspiring beauty. We want to make a positive impact on people, so they can improve not only their appearance but also their inner beauty. We only sell products to improve their appearance but must think how to inspire customers for inner beauty.

Clemens: I will not stop challenging. I will always study new things and try new things without fearing failure. I think beauty industry has a bright future. Canada still has many unmarked markets. Although we currently focus on Ontario area, we will expand to all Canadian regions



Asked 2nd Generation BY SAMUEL BEOM
BNB Magazine January 2020 ©