My Biggest Achievement in Business is My…

My Biggest Achievement in Business is My Numerous Failures

CEO Youngpyo Son of Model II Beauty Supply in Georgia

Located in a mall occupied by big chains like Walmart, Rainbow, T.J. Maxx, and so on, Mr. Son’s Model II Beauty Supply boasts its accessibility to the mainstream consumers. Once you enter the store, you will be greeted by every staff member who adorned smile on their faces. The first impression was pleasant and uplifting.

It was the year 2000 when Mr. Son started his career as a beauty supplier. After 19 years, he now serves the community of beauty suppliers as the chairman of Georgia Atlanta Beauty Supply Association. During the interview, his smart phone rings nonstop. He shares up-to-date news with members of the Association and runs association-wide collective purchase projects, among others. He has to multitask all the time. Running his businesses and overseeing the Association, he is a busy man, but we asked him to spare his time for many retail store owners who have many concerns and are facing difficulties. Here comes his secret to successful management of a beauty supply store.


“With mere 1,600 sq. ft. of retail space, you can still compete with larger stores.”

With the average size of a beauty supply store on the rise, smaller retailers are losing their footholds. Many retail store owners are facing the tough decision whether or not to sell their businesses. In this circumstance, Mr. Son made a tactical move which is new to traditional beauty supply management strategies. He thought “a small store still has a way to succeed.” Mr. Son explains, “I frequently visited and surveyed Sally Beauty, the beauty supply chain, and became confident that a small retail store could succeed.” He thought that it would be “more efficient to sell only those are essential for customers in a smaller space rather than piling up old inventory in a huge space.” He believed “minimizing the number of brands it carries is the key for a small retail place as it helps not only retail floor organization but also preventing shoplifting, which can be worse in an unorganized store where even staff doesn’t know whereabouts of items.” He is a strong believer of “simple display in a small retail store.” After all, “being small helps customers locate items easily and employees spotting shoplifters,” he mentions

You Need to Move On from a Failure ASAP!

Growing up poor, he immigrated to the U.S. at his age 17 and lived in a relative’s house. He remembers the days when “he sat and watched other kids having lunch because he couldn’t afford a meal shunned from government aids. It was like experiencing what had happened during the Korean War.” Since then, he tried “almost every kind of businesses.” According to his count, he has run a total of 19 different businesses, so it’s not an exaggeration. “The biggest achievement in my life is that I experienced so many failures,” he says. “It gets better time after time,” recalls Mr. Son whose positive mind must have fueled him so far. Now, he runs two beauty supply stores and a restaurant. So, why beauty supply? He answers, “you think of something new, follow-through with that, and work hard, then you receive feedback right away.” The key to success is “move on quickly after failures without dwelling in despair and worries.” Mr. Son never gave up in any circumstance. “It’s still the same; I will think of something and try anew,” Mr. Son says. He summarizes the driving force of his life in a few words: stay positive and challenge yourself.


Work-life Balance, and Getting Rid of Stuff You Don’t Need!

The toughest task in beauty supply management is “inventory and long hours.” Mr. Son sympathizes with many retailers but says “you need to break the chain.” “Piling up old stocks will do no good to your revenue growth, but it only adds more cost,” he explains. He says it was not easy clearing obsolete inventory for him too. It’s easier said than done. Throwing away inventory can’t be easy. However, “for a change, you want to be aggressive,” Mr. Son emphasizes.

“Many owners who ran their beauty supplies since the beginning of the industry worked six to seven days a week.” “However, I personally recommend working three to four days only and use the free time searching for new opportunities and of course for leisure. “When you spend all days at your store, you will be certainly left behind in this fast moving industry. Though paying workers might reduce your profit for now, in a long run you make more money in doing so.” Also, he emphatically says “work-life balance” should not be ignored.

As an owner of three businesses, two of them located in the same mall, he runs from business to business, for example, helping his restaurant during lunch hours. There are people in line to be seated. He credits his know-how learned from beauty supplies to his success in other business.

Who’s Going to Pay This Much?

Mr. Son likes trying new things ahead of others. 19-times tried different businesses, he’s truly outstanding. One of the bestsellers in his store speaks to the fact. You usually expect wigs or chemicals, but he points his fingers to an unexpected item: a body shaper, which can be worn to improve body shape. Not many beauty supplies carry these items to begin with, but he made extra effort to find a quality product, which is a little more expensive than the average similar goods. Mr. Son loves trying new things. He showcased the body shaper in the front of his store with a big sign. Customers made inquiries after seeing it, and the item started to sell. It stands out among the cheap body shapers available online, which is why Mr. Song was confident. He never had a customer who complained a broken hook with the body shapers purchased at his store. Now, “body shapers generate a solid number,” he brags. When he introduced the item before the members of the association, they said, “who’s going to pay this much?”, but he didn’t give up. Same goes for hair products. He intends to stand out in the competition with quality products though not cheap, and it’s leading his business to success.

Workforce Management Secrets

“First of all, I need to set a good example. They learn from me. When I do something, the manager copies me, and the workers copy the manager.” His store is managed by an African American woman. He says, “when customers get answers from African American employees, they tend to believe it and make purchases quick. You shouldn’t just see how crowded the store is. When a Korean employee tries to make a sale, it often becomes a standoff; long conversation no sales.” That is why he recommends hiring locally. He suggests if you are hiring non-Koreans, you should get recommendations from loyal customers, or if Korean, from local church pastors or acquaintances. “You can always find a right person.”


See-through Window Storefront

Mr. Son had a manager who embezzled a lot of money at a previous store he ran. After the incident, he even went to a workforce management seminar ran by a department store. He offers an advice: “about 85% of general population would be tempted to steal when the circumstance permits, so you have to implement a system that suppresses temptation.” “This applies to everyone including Koreans and non-Koreans,” says Mr. Son out of his personal experience. His solution was to make storefront with see-through windows, so the inside of the store can be inspected from outside. “You don’t steal when you know people could be watching,” says Mr. Son recommending the same solution to other retail stores.


Focus on Top 5% Loyal Customers

This morning, a beauty supply store right across the street ran a buy-one-get-one free promotion for first 200 customers and 30% discount on chemicals store-wide. They are selling braiding at 94 cents per piece. This is a considerable threat to his store located proximately. However, he is confident that he can survive without price cut. He says you only need to make top 5% customers loyal. “Making 5% of customers loyal to your store takes time. Our employees stop whatever they do when a guest enters to the store and greet him or her. It doesn’t matter if it’s a customer or not.” Mr. Son cannot emphasize more that customer service-oriented management is very important. He tells his secret is to serve customers sincerely. He never stops greeting customers himself, and he says it’s much easier when you feel like they are your friends. He likes making jokes, so customers are naturally intrigued to him. Another secret is finding out what those loyal customers want and procure those even if they are expensive.


Vision and Goal for the Future

“I will never stop working. I will continuously contemplate and try new things.” When he speaks firmly, you see the face of a strong willed business owner buried under his gentle facial expressions. “I want to help other store owners and succeed together,” the chairman of the Atlanta Beauty Supply Association and an owner of two beauty supply stores says. Through Mr. Son who’s on top of his business undergoing a lot of challenged and hardship, a bright and renewed hope for the beauty supply industry can be glimpsed.

Beauty Supply Interview BY KYOUNGHYUN HAN
BNB Magazine December 2019 ©