Ask any beauty enthusiast, and they’ll affirm that Charlotte Cho is the significant figure in the rise of K-beauty around the world. When I had the chance to meet the queen of K-beauty in person earlier this year during the House of Sephora, I was undeniably starstruck. Beyond my fangirling moment, Charlotte Cho shared profound insights into her brand during the brief session. It was truly enlightening to see how passionate she was about her brand, Then I Met You, and beauty as a whole. Charlotte Cho isn’t merely a founder; she’s a force to be reckoned with in the industry, having made her mark as a co-founder of Soko Glam, author of books, and an esthetician. Beauty Insider Malaysia delves into a conversation with Charlotte Cho, uncovering the story behind Then I Met You, her beauty philosophy, and her advice for aspiring founders.

@beautyinsidermalaysia Then we met Charlotte at House of Sephora and fell in love with her skincare products! We can’t stop staring at that flawless skin 😍 Find out more at #beautyinsider #thenimetyou #houseofsephora #houseofsephoramalaysia #sustainablebeauty #beautytips #thenimetyouskincare ♬ Dance You Outta My Head – Cat Janice

Interview with Charlotte Cho, the Founder of Then I Met You

Hello, Charlotte Cho! Congratulations on the exciting news about Then I Met You expanding to Sephora in Asia. Would you mind sharing a bit about yourself?

A California native, I moved halfway around the world to South Korea for a PR job for Samsung right out of college. There, I discovered that Koreans have a skin-first philosophy and they believe that skin care should be an investment in their overall well-being 

My own experience with Korean skin care made me a firm believer in its benefits, and I was eager to share what I had learned with my friends in the U.S. This passion ultimately led me and my husband Dave to found Soko Glam in 2012. I also earned an esthetician licence and wrote The Little Book of Skincare, which detailed the 10 Step Korean beauty routine. I became a spokesperson for Korean beauty not only in the US, but Soko Glam quickly became the go-to resource for all things Korean beauty for all around the world, even in Malaysia!

Six years into my journey of Soko Glam, I decided to infuse the best of both Western and Korean skincare to Then I Met You, through thoughtful and sensorial clinical formulations.

Can you share the story behind the inception of Then I Met You? What inspired you to start this skincare brand?

Then I Met You is a brand that honours Korea’s rich beauty culture and timeless ingredients, while infusing clinically effective ingredients and sensorial textures to elevate your skincare experience.  With my background as the cofounder and curator of Soko Glam the past 11 years and as an American-born esthetician, I have a strong point of view on Korean beauty innovations. I am honoured that Then I Met You is part of Sephora’s curation, and where customers can discover sensorial Korean beauty through the lens of Then I Met You.

We heard that your interest in skincare sparked after you spent five years in Korea. Is that true? What inspired you personally to delve into the skincare industry and co-found Soko Glam as well as Then I Met You?

Growing up in the US, I actually never particularly cared for skin care. I thought it was a chore and something that I had to worry about when I was older! It wasn’t until I spent five years in Korea that I discovered the world of Korean beauty and skin care. After using these products and applying the Korean “skin-first” philosophy, I saw my skin and confidence transform.

In 2012, my husband, Dave and I embarked on a passion project to create Soko Glam, a platform to share the best Korean beauty products available in the US. I spent everyday trying products, curating edits and talking to thousands of customers. After six years of testing thousands of products, I was ready to pour everything I had learned and experienced into my own skin care line. Then I Met You was born!

I wanted to create a brand with meaning; one that has an emotional connection to my community. I launched Then I Met You at a turning point in my life. I realised I wanted to focus on the things that truly mattered to me. Because of that, the brand is based on the Korean concept of “Jeong”, which is the emotional bond you feel to the people, places and things that matter most. We speak about it often to our community, and I even wrote a book about it, called The Little Book of Jeong. With Then I Met You, I’ve been able to go even deeper on my skin care quest to create the most efficacious, transformative products with ingredients that I know matter. 

I attended your sharing session during the House of Sephora Malaysia earlier this year, and you explained the concept of “jeong” during your talk. How does this philosophy influence the products you create and the brand’s overall mission?

That’s so exciting, thank you for joining that discussion! It was so fun to meet all the fans of Then I Met You in person. I wanted to create a brand with meaning; one that has an emotional connection to my community. I was inspired by the Korean cultural value of jeong: a meaningful connection that one can develop with people, places, and things. After nurturing jeong in all aspects of my life, I created Then I Met You to remind others to cultivate more substantial connections with the things that matter most to them. We speak about it often to our community, and I even wrote a book about it, called The Little Book of Jeong

If you could only pick three products that best represent the brand, what would they be and why?

Then I Met You is synonymous to the ritual of the Double Cleanse. Not only am I a religious double cleanser, but I wanted to create a ritual that would help people effectively cleanse away impurities to prevent breakouts and prevent premature ageing. I start the Living Cleansing Balm followed by the Soothing Tea Cleansing Gel, which gives you a clean slate, while nourishing and brightening the skin in the process. We launched these two products five years ago, and they are still our best sellers today!

The Bong2 Bounce Cream is Then I Met You’s latest launch and is the perfect lightweight moisturiser for the humid climate of Malaysia. I was inspired by the juicy Hallabong citrus fruit that is grown on the island of Jeju, Korea. It is a barrier cream, featuring squalane and hallabong extracts, which will cocoon and protect the skin barrier with moisture. The unique, sensorial lightweight texture works well under makeup and does not pill, as it absorbs quickly into the skin. 

What aspects of leading Then I Met You do you find most fulfilling as the founder, and what impact do you envision it making in the industry?

The fact that I get to wake up every day, and create skincare products that will be part of your everyday rituals, is a blessing. The fact that I get to immerse myself in the world of Korean beauty, and put all that I have learned while curating and testing products for Soko Glam, into Then I Met You, is a blessing. To be able to infuse my jeong for Korea and be a representative of Korean beauty and stay close to my roots in this way, is part of the journey that will always be fulfilling to me.

The skincare market is constantly evolving with new trends and innovations. How do you stay ahead of the curve and continue to innovate within the industry?

Luckily thanks to my dual hatted role of also managing curations on Soko Glam, I have a lot of first hand access and resources with the emerging trends coming out of Korea. We have an office in Korea with half of our product development team there, that I visit frequently! It keeps me on top of trends and new innovations. I also have direct relationships with the top R&D researchers and cosmetic chemists that want to innovate with me, which I believe is a rare and special opportunity due to my background as the cofounder of Soko Glam. 

How do you prioritise self-care and maintain your skincare routine while managing the demands of being a founder?

With two kids and two companies, it’s a bit tough to juggle it all well if I have to be completely honest! With so many priorities, it’s easy to feel disappointed in myself when I can’t get to everything. I try to give myself grace, even if I don’t have the most detailed skincare routine every morning and night. I also give myself the opportunity to do nothing at all, such as vegging out over a Korean drama or not working at all over the weekend to be 100% present with my children. My husband and cofounder Dave always tells me to enjoy the journey, and that’s what I intend to do!

What beauty advice resonated with you the most, and is there a particular beauty mantra that has become a guiding principle in your life?

Don’t forget skincare is about the journey, not just the destination! Sometimes I think the skincare conversations can get quite serious and technical, to the point where we forget the self-care, fun and discovery part of it.

It’s also a good mantra for life, that while we work incredibly hard and strive to be the best in the industry, we also have to step back and be excited about the journey of learning and growth, rather than be obsessed with the end result.

Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to enter the skincare or beauty industry based on your own experiences building Then I Met You?

Be different. The brands that you may be inspired by, have created their own playbook! Copying them will not yield results as it has already been done and customers do not want more of the same. With your unique point of view, be different and own it. And if you don’t have anything different to do or say, it’s better to not do it at all! 

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