Ming Zhao // Ep 16 // Co-Founder & CEO of Proven
Welcome to Episode 16 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have Ming Zhao on this week's episode.
We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
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Ming has a natural gift for business and discovery. Prior to founding Proven, she was the head of business development at NerdWallet, a private equity investor at Bain Capital and a strategy consultant with the Boston Consulting Group. She holds an MBA degree from Harvard Business School and is certified in cosmetic formulation.
Ming has lived and worked in numerous regions around the world, including China, India, Austria, Rwanda, Hong Kong and the United States, and has absorbed the beauty and wellness wisdom from her wanderings. She is also a 3rd generation entrepreneur – her grandfather became a baker/ entrepreneur after trekking 1200 miles on foot to escape a famine. Her father, similarly, made the journey to America from China to expand his computer literacy school, in the process immigrating the family and the then 12-year-old Ming to the US.
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Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, My name is Bryan.
And my name is Maggie
And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals.
We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
Maggie: (00:00:23) Hi, Everyone welcome to another episode of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast.
My name is Maggie
Bryan: (00:00:29) My name is Bryan.
Maggie: (00:00:31) and today we have a very special guest with us today. Her name is Ming Zhao and she is the co-founder and CEO of Proven skincare. Ming, welcome to the show. Can you introduce yourself and talk a little bit about yourself to our general audience?
Ming: (00:00:46) Yeah. Happy to, thank you, Maggie. Thank you, Bryan. I’m Ming, I am currently theCo-founder and CEO of proven skin care at proven we create personalized skincare products that are based on more than 47 factors about you, including your gene expression, your environment, your lifestyle, and your skin concern. I, myself, I am an immigrant. I moved to the States from China at the age of 12, not speaking a word of English. I am also a third generation entrepreneur; both my father and my grandfather were entrepreneurs in China. Um, uh, prior to me founding Proven, uh, in the States and I’m also a mother to a, um, two and a half year old. Uh, so my company Proven, and my daughter are actually the same age.
Bryan: (00:01:41) that’s amazing. Wow. Well, it’s, it’s pretty, pretty amazing to hear that, you know,you’d get, come from a family of entrepreneurs. And how, how was that experience? Like how did that shape and influence you and make, help you become the person that you are today?
Ming: (00:01:57) Yeah, you know, I think, um, the most, um, I think the most, uh, obvious thing is that it made, um, most people in my family pretty fearless. You know, my grandfather was an entrepreneur. He himself actually, um, when he was 19 years old, uh, escapes a famine. So there was a famine where he was from in the middle of the country. His families were farmers. He was the oldest child in the family. He had, uh, six younger siblings and they were, you know, in danger of starving to death, like actually starving to death. So he walked like 1900 kilometers from where he was, to a big city in the Northern part of China. You know, he, you know, bake and sell a bunch of bread, carry the bread, worked a long, you know, a long way. Um, and, um, in the new city, he opened up a bakery, um, more of a bakery cart making the type of bread that they, you know, that they eat in his own hometown. And that’s how he actually supported his entire family, uh, and kept his entire family from starving, uh, sent all his money back home.
And eventually he helped his own family moved to the new city as well. So I think with that experience, you know, my father, um, he, my father was actually among the first generation of entrepreneurs when China first allowed entrepreneurship in, uh, 1980, but when like opened up the economy, uh, you know, so weird prior to that, you know, during, um, during the time of, you know, of Mao, it’s the weirdest thing that entrepreneurship wasn’t allowed, but it actually wasn’t allowed to true communism was that it, you know, none of the, um, none of the elements of ingenuity was allowed. So as soon as Xiao Ping helping open up the economy, my father became the, among the first wave of entrepreneurs to open his own company, which at that time, you know, people really love their iron rice bowl, which were basically, um, guaranteed work and pension for life. But people, you know, once they have a great job.
They didn’t want to leave because it was guaranteed by the government. But my father, wasn’t afraid to leave that kind of situation for something that, uh, you know, that he really believed in. Uh, even though there were a lot of voices around him that said, you know, why would you do this? Why would you do that? You know, things don’t change that much, you know, the type of pressure that people feel now, um, they might’ve felt then maybe even more so, um, so he was not, he was not afraid. He, um, was very determined and, um, and yeah, so, uh, what I would 12 years old, he actually extended the operation to the state. And that’s what allowed us all to move to the US um, at the age of 12, actually to Florida, which is also a pretty random place for, you know, a Chinese family to move to South Florida.
Bryan: (00:05:10) Well, that’s an amazing story too. And to hear that, you know, you came from such an awesome line of entrepreneurship and that’s exactly what we’re trying to capture in the Asian Hustle network. You know, it’s all, a lot of us are, we wanted to be entrepreneurs, we are entrepreneurs we’re trying to be successful. And to hear that, you know, you come from a family that has not walked the traditional path of becoming like a doctor or a lawyer or engineer, you know, it’s really inspiring for us to hear that, like, your dad wouldn’t link for somebody that he really believed that, you know, like taught you these values too, that, you know, entrepreneurship is the way to go and we love it. We love it so much.
Maggie: (00:05:54) Yeah. And I love that because I feel like it’s still relevant today. You know, you talking about your grandfather going through the entrepreneurial route and a lot of people in his generation wouldn’t do the same because they were promised security, right? And that’s very relevant today, too. You know, I think a lot of people are scared to go through entrepreneurship because they want that security and they want a secure job, but it’s really believing and you know, your business and believing that you can do it and breaking out of that mold and breaking out of that shell. It’s really going to drive you forward, which, you know, obviously your grandfather was able to do. And
Ming: (00:06:31) Yeah, I think the most secure thing is to believe in yourself and the capability, you know, there’s no, there’s nothing in the world that promises security, you know, the, the, the government in China did promise, you know, uh, lifetime employment and then, you know, things happen. And then all of a sudden it wasn’t lifetime. So, and you know, now there are companies to, you know, that people might work for a very, um, um, a very stable, big company, but then, you know, things change, you know, things change in such unexpected ways like we’re seeing with COVID, nothing is promised.
The only thing that you could trust is your own abilities, your own efforts and belief that you can do what is necessary. Um, you know, we, we, we now live in a society where, you know, thankfully nobody is going very few people are actually in fear of not being able to feed themselves. Right. Like that was a real concern that my grandfather went through. So, you know, with the, um, with this great situation that we’re in, I think it’s even more so that we shouldn’t be afraid to, you know, to do something a little more daring because you might really surprise yourself.
Bryan: (00:07:43) Yeah. 100% agree with that statement too. And what type of values and lessons is your grandpa and your dad teach you growing up? You know, you’re such a confident and strong person. We want to learn a lot more about like how you became the person you are today. And
Ming: (00:07:58) yeah, my grandfather actually died when I was pretty young. So, but what I do remember about him was that he was always, um, he was always very, um, smiley. He was always highly, he was always very gentle. Um, and he always, um, believe in the good of people. Um, in fact, he, you know, made some money with a little bakery cart that they entire family participated in. You know, some people, um, some of my, um, aunt and uncle, you know, milled wheat, other, you know, uh, the entire process. Um, but he made a little bit of money and it actually lost it because he, you know, tried to invest in other entrepreneurs, um, to, you know, make their own dream.
And then not all of that defeated, but nevertheless, he never really complained about that. He was always just very grateful for the life that he had or the family that he had around him, even though, you know, he’s experienced poverty, he has experienced some affluence, you know, for that time. And then he experienced somewhere in between. He was just, um, in general, all of those situations didn’t affect him that much. It was just the fact that he had, you know, his children and eventually his grandchildren, they were all around him. They spend time with him. And I just remember him being very happy, even though, you know, from a material perspective later on, he didn’t have that much.
Maggie: (00:09:23) Yeah, that’s amazing. And that’s a really important characteristic. And I think that’s why, you know, your grandfather and your father and yourself are so successful because those values were handed down to you now. And it really takes, you know, someone to push through and fight through that adversity and the struggles and challenges in order to succeed. You know, a lot of people will feel like the slightest challenge that they go through. They often feel like they’ve already failed and don’t push through
Bryan: (00:09:51) it’s all about mindset being optimistic, you know.
Ming: (00:09:54) It’s still difficult. It’s still difficult because the thing, it was mindset,unfortunately, you can’t train for it in You know, you can’t, you can’t try to train for it. Like you’re in a gym. You really have to be in a real situation where you need to have a, you know, strength and mental strength and resilience to, to build it. So it’s probably some of the most painful lessons one has to learn. Um, and for me, you know, I definitely try to, um, you know, try to keep that in mind, like for me, um, starting the company, um, you know, having gone through so many ups and downs, it’s really, it’s at times very easy to feel like, Oh, you know, when is this going to, you know, you know, have any results, when is this going to, um, you know, feel like it’s worthwhile, um, which is why I feel like, um, you know, thinking about what made my grandfather happy. It makes so much sense because for me, you know, my, as I mentioned my daughter’s the same age as my company, so when I was starting my company, people are like, you know, that’s a really bad idea to, you know, when you’re pregnant to start a startup at a time.
Um, so many people from with good intention, really good intentions, you know, my friends and mentors that are startup were like, you know, you should really maybe just put something on hold. Um, but we just, we just, you know, both my cofounder and I, in fact, um, my co founder Amy is a computational physicist from Stanford. She was also pregnant. The same time, we started our company is just bad timing, timing, whatever it is. And, um, everybody thought that we were just crazy, you know, to pregnant women, starting a venture back company and, and having a lot of ambition, you know, we, weren’t just trying to start like a little sort of, you know, mom and pop thing.
So we pushed through it. And I would have to say that having my daughter is like a secret spot for me, it’s like a secret weapon because even when it feels bleak and it often does, you know, I think there are more bleak days, especially in the early days, then there are days of Um, and even when it feels very tedious and there are many tedious days as well. Um, most days you’re just crunching through things, checking boxes and just doing things, which could be very tedious even during those days. Um, having my daughter next to me, you know, who was just happy and joyous and smiling. And even when I’m having a bad day or somebody, or if somebody doesn’t believe in me or, you know, people question me my capabilities, my company, um, there’s somebody there who always love me and trust me and thinks that I’m the best in the world, you know, having that kind of support it’s so absolutely necessary. So I actually have the credit being able to continue and to get to where we’re at, because, you know, we have these, you know, little supporters behind us that we did not expect going into it.
Bryan: (00:12:57) Yeah. That makes one heck of a difference.You know, it’s knowing that you have someone depending on you through the darker days and often a entrepreneurship is hard. There’s so many down days, some of the days you question yourself and you look yourself in the mirror and be like, I could have had an easier life, you know?
Ming: (00:13:16) Absolutely. Absolutely. And there are many doubters, you know, like people like, you know, what, whether it’s investors or mentors or, you know, people tack you about competitors or, you know, whatever, there’s just so many, there are many more haters along the way than people who, you know, people who support you. Um, but you know, I think that’s just the normal course of action, you know, any of those successful companies. Right. You know, like, you know, like the, the, the Netflix, the world, like people didn’t believe them in the beginning either. Right. So it was like everybody eventually, um, put the fee was at some point an underdog. And I think for everyone out there, you know, you just have to believe in that. And to know that you’re not think that you’re an exception because people don’t believe in you that’s the norm. People won’t believe in you until they can’t not believe in you.
Bryan: (00:14:03) I mean, that’s, that’s entrepreneurship 101 and the fact that you do have hater, it means you’re doing something right. No one hates you. You’re like, am I doing this right.
Ming: (00:14:09) That’s right, that’s right.
Bryan: (00:14:11) If you don’t have haters you’re like, wait am I doing this right?
Maggie: (00:14:15) I love that you look to your daughter for inspiration and, you know, for a fact that your daughter will never be a hater. So a lot of people find that their children are their purpose and their why. And I love that, you know, it’s, it’s really like our shining light in our life.
Bryan: (00:14:32) Yeah, definitely. We do want to trace it back a bit to, like right before you started Proven, what were you doing? What’s inspiration for Proven as you’re working your professional career and, you know, have been the back of your mind for a while. Is this your first company? Second company or third?
Ming: (00:14:48) Yeah. So for me, um, you know, even though my, I had this entrepreneurial lineage, I guess I didn’t think that I was necessarily going to be an entrepreneur because, you know, we had immigrated to the States. Um, there’s, you know, the states is full of, you know, great, uh, secure, interesting, well paid job. So, um, my initial plan was to, you know, take one of those, um, and, uh, you know, have a great, um, have a, have a great, I guess, relaxing lifestyle.
So the first job I took out of college was I was a management consultant at BCG because I knew I wanted to be in business, but I didn’t know exactly, you know, what, in the general sort of concept of business I wanted to do and someone was told me that, um, uh, that, um, management consulting, you can get a great foundation. So that’s what I did. Um, it was interesting. It really gave me a good, you know, strategic and operational understanding of the general concept of business. Um, but I knew that that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. And at a time I couldn’t put my finger on it. Um, it’s possibly because, you know, as a consultant, you’re kind of an agency, you know, you’re not a person who is actually operating, you’re not a person making decisions, you’re like an advisor, you know? So, um, for me, there was always just a little bit of, you know, like, um, a little bit of urge to try to do more, but you know, of course you, you know, there’s, there’s a limit to how much you could do. And then, um, after that, um, um, a friend who, um, was at BCG before went on to, um, work at bank capital and private equity. And I thought that sounded really interesting.
So I, um, um, you know, he told me more about it and, um, I then joined bank capital, uh, in private equity investing. So I started in a Boston office. This is the headquarters, and then since I’m fluent in Mandarin, still, um, moved to the Hong Kong office, which was just starting at the time. So it doesn’t treat on eight, which means that, you know, it’s really crazy to think of that, that private equity as an industry didn’t really quite know exist much in Asia. And look at, you know, word is now just, you know, 10, 12 years later, you can’t even think of a time when it didn’t exist. You know, that’s just shows you how fast the world changes and adapt to things. Um, so, um, those two years was also a very, um, intense training for, um, understanding business intuition for understanding, you know, what makes a, a business, a great business because, you know, bank capital and other, um, I guess top private equity companies like that, what they do is they try to, um, find the top one, two or three, depending on the size of the market players in a particular market. Um, they know they add more money into it. They help with some operational expertise, um, best practices and try to make those player even more valuable.
So the first step is to find these top players and then understand what made them top players. So that kind of training and learning from these, um, you know, experts in yeah. Experts in business, um, was really, um, valuable, um, the same time, these kinds of roles, you know, in, um, finance really are very intense. They really took a toll on you. So for me, I was working, you know, um, 12, 14 hour days in Sicily and Hong Kong was in my home, you know, as far away from my friends and my family. So I remember waking up one day and feeling like I was really aging much faster than I would have liked, you know, I was in my twenties looking much older, you know, kind of like reminds me of, you know, when Obama first became president or what he looked like. And then, you know, you see photos of after, I mean, before and after, and it’s really that’s what, that’s what I felt like. So, um, at that time, you know, I started buying all kinds of expensive skincare products, the products, you know, regain my youth.
And I felt like, you know, they all promise miracles. They really didn’t do anything. It was, uh, it felt like a conspiracy. It felt like, you know, I was at chunk that along with my other good girlfriends, we all felt like we were betrayed repeatedly by these big brands who are making, um, beautifully packaged expensive products that didn’t end up doing anything. So, um, you know, that sort of planted the seed in my head, this, you know, this sort of, um, this frustration, um, with this industry. And then, um, I, um, after leaving a bank capital and private equity, I went on a little bit of a sort of self recovery, like, um, eat, pray, love kind of journey for a couple of months. And, um, after searching for awhile actually came upon a specialist who created personalized skincare products based on first understanding their skin, understanding your life, and then, you know, putting exactly what’s needed into a few bottles.
And I feel like using those personalized products were the first time that I saw a difference with my skin. So, um, I was like, you know, this makes so much sense because for every, um, for all the care in our body, you know, in our organ, um, it’s all tailored to exactly what you need and what that organ needs. Our skin is our body’s largest organ. Why do we do such a one size fits all generic, uh, marketing focused approach to it. It really makes no sense it’s quite antiquated. And in fact, you know, the thinker industry hadn’t had any innovation for about 60 years, which is just crazy for how big and fast growing and important of an industry it is to its customers.
You know, people consider it essential, you know? Um, so, um, so for me, the epiphany really was taking a personalized approach to skin care. And then later on, I was introduced to my co founder, Amy, who, um, she pushed any of the computational physicists in Stanford. She, um, was introduced to me by my then boyfriend now, husband, who was like, Oh, you know, this is a tremendous technologist. Um, she also has entrepreneurial aspirations and you guys will hit it off. Um, and lo and behold, you know, we became friends. We really liked each other. Our sort of backgrounds had a good, a melding for me with a business background for her, with a technology background. And, um, you know, Amy has also no sort of regular scientist, you know, data scientist. She actually, when she was getting her PhD, she broke the world record for the largest compensational simulation on a supercomputer in the world. So she was kind of like a super, like, like, like a quantum computer before computers. Um, so, you know, the whole, she also had her own skincare issues that she, um, uh, found her own way of addressing. So she had a condition called, um, Atopic dermatitis, uh, which, you know, she’s had for a long time, which is very, um, uh, very irksome and the products on the market really weren’t helping her that much. Uh, and for her, she used her data science background to build a large database that found all the scientific studies from research articles, um, as well as all the consumer testimonials from people using different products and trying to solve this issue.
And then she ran machine learning algorithm through to database to then understand how the individual ingredients affect different people. And that’s how she found a solution for her skin. So for us, when we started Proven with basic combined, our mutually epiphany, the personalization and using data to know how to personalize, to create Proven. So that’s, that’s how Proven first got started.
Maggie: (00:23:25) That is amazing. And I, 100% agree, like being a female and trying to find skincare, that’s perfect for myself. Like, I totally agree with you that like big beauty products tend to not work on anyone. And it’s super, super hard to find the product that works just for you because you know everyone’s skincare or skin type is different. Right. And I feel like I often find myself, you know, looking for skincare products that work for me and they always say, oh, this is good for dry skin, or this is good for oily skin, but it never works out quite that way. And I love a personalization phase to it. I think that’s, that’s really important.
I think you said, you mentioned there are like 47 different types of factors I go into. Right. And I know you mentioned, you know, like weather has a lot to do with it or the pollution in your city. And so I love that you’re taking, you know, those types of factors and really being a game changer in that industry, because there’s so many players in that industry and for you to kind of differentiate yourself from that market and really, you know, hone into what the customer needs is. It’s super important.
Bryan: (00:14:32) Yeah. And I admit it too. I can’t, I know you guys talked to them all I skincare stuff, and most guys won’t talk about it. I mean, it’s pretty hard to find stuff for my skin too. Cause I feel like I’m allergic to like 90% of things out there. So thank you for creating this product. We do wanna emphasize some point in your story as well. I mean the power connection to, you know, it’s just, you never know who you’re in a meet.
I feel like you’re going to spot opportunities with the right mindset and knowing that you want to do something it’s crazy out of the world, how that happens in the world, right. When you want to do something, when you are telling people about it, people start making a connection for you because it’s just like a subconscious human thing is like, Oh wow, Ming, you want to do this? Wait, I know. So, and so wants to do something similar. Maybe you guys work together. You know? So part of that story is like, be open your ideas. Like there’s so much fear that someone’s going to steal your idea and do it so much better than you. That whole part is to me, it’s not something that you should be concerned about because when you create a company, your personality, your mindset, your heart and soul is imprint in this company. And that part not be duplicated. You know, there’s so much stigma that we see an Asian hustle network for before. When we first started the group, people were posting business ideas and people will comment underneath there and be like, why are you sharing your business idea? People are gonna steal it, to me that’s the most ridiculous thing ever. You know, you should be sharing your ideas. So it gets refined because no one can copy who you are
Ming: (00:26:13) Really like, you know, 99.9% hustle. The idea is just, you know, a tiny little thing
Maggie: (00:26:25) Right, right. And I think it goes back to kind of like the Asian culture, right? A lot of Asian people don’t like to share their business ideas because they’re scared that people might steal it. Right. But the truth of the matter is that no one can really do it. Like how you do it, you have your own style. Right. And I feel like a lot of people in the Asian culture, at least like they, they like to keep to themselves. And they feel that if they succeed, they can’t have their peers succeed and vice versa. But we always talk about an age and weight. That’s not true at all. We can all succeed.
Bryan: (00:26:51) And we liked the fact that you’re so public about your company, who you are, you know, you are essential to the brand of the company and this mentality that we talked to, it’s so necessary for the Asian community. You know, we need, we look around for heroes that we need to look up to in different industries. Like we don’t find much Asian entrepreneurs in the public about what they do. Right. And we found this a lot as we’re doing the Asian hustle network podcast, the most of the founders who found their companies like early on tend to be in the back. Right. They’re just like, Hey, look, I don’t want people to know I have this company. Because there’s something there there’s something negative about being looked up to be like, like jealous and all these problems that come with that.
And we talk to them and it’s the biggest thing that they always tell us is they wish they were more public with their company in the past. So like, and they were so into the Asian belief that they never built a personal brand. So companies that we see all around us are actually, some of them are founded by Asian founders. So we never knew, you know, and we love you talking here cause you essentially do represent the newer generation of Asian entrepreneurs. It’s essentially asking why not us? You know, why not me? Why can’t I be public? You know, especially as a female founder and like female minority founder as well. Like you’re super inspirational since you’re here. Like you are pushing for this and we do want to hear more about your experience starting out too. Cause we know like there’s a lot of micro aggressions out there in the business world. Uh, you know, you, you feel sometimes like you are being pushed back a lot just because of the color of your skin, you know, your raise, the way you look, it’s all irrelevant. We do want to hear more about the experience too, so we can help pivot your story to, to motivate a new generation, just push through and kind of know what to expect too.
Maggie: (00:28:58) Yeah. I’d like to add on top of that, you know, I, we really appreciate you being on the forefront of the brand and on top of Bryan’s questions about the, you know, micro aggressions or anything that you faced while being an entrepreneur, even on top of that, on top of being a member of a minority, what about being a woman as well? You know, you know, being a member of minority and a woman, those are two very, very important topics. We’ll love to hear your insight on that.
Ming: (00:29:24) Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think, um, to your earlier point about whether, you know, the modesty, uh, that is so ingrained in our culture or that fear that, you know, uh, once I give my in a one great idea out that somebody would steal it and um, and um, you know, do their own thing with it. I think that all comes down to a little bit of, um, self-consciousness of not believing in oneself because, um, you know, if you really did believe in your capabilities and how great your idea is yeah. There, that you will know that only you can make this thing that you, so belief so much into reality, you know, it’s not knowing the knowledge is really feeling it and feeling passionate about it.
So I think, um, I think we all could do more to just feel more confident in general that, you know, we can achieve what we believe um, regardless of what people say. And I think that’s also, uh, another, another piece to this, you know, as I mentioned, my cofounder, Amy is an award-winning cosmetic. I mean, sorry, as the know, um, a yeah, a record breaking data scientist, you know, she has led, they defined teams at fortune 10 companies and other leading data, you know, startups that have raised, um, a lot of money. And yet when we were starting this company together, you know, people would look at us, you know, venture capitalists, other people look at us like we’re just two girls starting like a small, um, you know, small cosmetic brand.
And we would tell them that there’s, you know, a lot of technology and data science and AI infused to what we’re doing. It’s not just a small skincare idea and they would just not believe it, despite, you know, how revered Amy is, you know, it’s, it’s hard to find somebody who’s more so logically data savvy than she is. So, you know, if somebody like her, um, you know, brush the side when it comes to technology, then who is not brushed aside. And I think that just speaks to the industry in general, where I don’t know if we are, we were dismissed because we were females or because, you know, people know that we’re like new mothers or that we’re Asian who knows what it is, you know, it’s something, or maybe even if, you know, somebody else had this idea, maybe it’s just about the idea. Maybe they, you know, anybody else with the idea, they would have still thought it was, you know, um, farfetched to bring data science and personalization, into skin care, who knows.
But regardless, you know, I’m not going to sit there and try to dissect why they don’t like me. I’m just going to move on to the next person. And eventually I’ll find somebody who understands what we’re doing, who can see the future, you know, who have, um, once, you know, once we share a vision with them who can see that this could become reality. And that’s eventually what we did, you know? Um, we, yeah, there’s been many, um, situations where we felt like, yeah, we felt like we were dismissed, you know, even with other sort of suppose that champions of female founders that, you know, um, not all, you know, not all female VCs like to invest in female founders either. So you think somedy that you found, somebody who, Oh, you know, see eye to eye, you know, that this is a great industry, you know, that doesn’t have a need, I’m sure you’ve had this need. And even then, you know, and that could be even more pressure, more crushing because you feel like these people, um, should have been there for you, but it’s the same thing, you know, they don’t believe in you find somebody else that does.
And if you have enough conversations, first of all, it also ended up commissioning what you’re doing and you just continue to build and build and build. So you have more to show for it. Eventually people will believe in you. And that’s what allowed us to get to where we are today and to continue. Um, I don’t think it stopped, you know, I think even, um, you know, once you get to even a more sort of, you know, illustrious state, like for us, you know, we’ve been on shark tank, we’ve been on the today show. Um, we feel pretty good about our progress. There’s still so much more to go. You know, we are still at the very beginning of our journey, but we still feel like, you know, we are getting initial recognition for what we’re doing and there’s still, you know, a lot of, um, people who still don’t believe or don’t, you know, whatever, but eventually, you know, you just learn to disregard that the people who don’t matter, um, believe in yourself and keep going, keep doing the things that that’s necessary to make the vision into reality.
Bryan: (00:34:13) Yeah. 100%. I agree with that one. So, and what you mentioned in that statement is the abundance mindset. You know, most people stop after the first now. And that’s, that’s a big, no, no, you don’t do something like that. You know, you, you have to keep, like you said before, you have to keep believing in yourself and your vision and you know, like what you’re doing will change the world and no one can believe in that vision for you and you have to keep, your right. You have to keep on having conversations with people. You know, if people don’t believe in you or don’t, and so don’t dwell on it, don’t sit there and feel sorry for yourself, this, the business world at all, you know, all the, most of the time, all you need is one, you know
Ming: (00:34:57) And you know, it goes together, you know, not being afraid to share your your idea in the first place. And then once you hear a couple of no that are like, Oh, this is ridiculous. Still do not let that, you know, making shy from sharing your ideas for us. You know, the idea evolved quite a bit from the very beginning. And it’s only evolved because we talked to more and more people, um, you know, they added in their input as to what would make sense and that evolved eventually evolve into a narrative of a business that made a lot of sense.
And I think most ideas are like that, like in the beginning. You have some spark of genius in it, but not all of it is fully fake. And the only way to get it to a state where, um, you know, it’s, it’s a full fledged business idea is, you know, one putting it in front of real people and have people try it or, and, or it’ll continue to talk to people, experts in industry to get input, to, you know, really listen to what is needed in the market. But as you do that, you will hear a lot of, you know, as well, that’s why they haven’t done anything. That’s why they haven’t started this idea because, you know, they, they, they don’t have the same vision you do. So don’t let that stop you either.
Bryan: (00:36:09) Yeah. I absolutely agree with that statement too. And just have, when we started Asian Hustle Network, some people did tell it, it was a bad idea. I guess crane is group forum. What’s the point of it. Like we ready to interact with each other, you know what? We kind of believe that we wanted a safe space for us to listen to your story, you know, and part was for nurse, but even so it was some people thought that was a bad idea. You start to believe in your vision.
Maggie: (00:36:35) Yeah. I mean, now that our group has grown to over 55,000 members, we’re bound to get people who are never pleased with the way we do things. Right. And that goes back to the same mentality. Right. I think we’re always going to have haters, like we mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, but I think that also drives us forward in doing the things that we love. Right. And it’s really about the mentality to break through that. So yeah, love that.
Ming: (00:37:03) Absolutely. I look at what you guys have built. I mean, people are such fans you know, it’s really hard to find a group where the engagement and the excitement is so high and people support each other so much. So, you know, you really have to feel very proud of yourself and imagine, you know, had you listen to the haters and the note, you know, and the naysayers, this group would not exist. So, and that would have been in the world.
Maggie: (00:37:30) So, yeah, definitely.
Bryan: (00:37:32) Thank you for that.
Maggie: (00:37:33) Thank you. Um, I would love to know, you know, just to get into a little bit deeper, I would love to know, you know, how you guys are using AI and data to determine what type of products like, how does that all work and how does the database work and what kind of output is that putting out for you guys?
Ming: (00:37:47) Yeah, absolutely. So, um, as I mentioned earlier, that Amy had built a database to help to find her own, uh, ingredients in skincare that would have worked for her atopic dermatitis, um, where she gathered scientific studies, where she gathered, you know, clinical trial results, as well as consumer testimonials and reviews. So as we found that, um, and then she ran machine learning algorithms to understand how different individual ingredients affect different peoples skin based on environmental factors, who they are, their, the city, their, um, specific concerns that they’re trying to resolve, whether it’s acne or aging central. So as we started proven, we continue to build upon this database. So then now it is the largest database in beauty and compensating one of thousands of scientific papers. Um, from all kinds of, you know, peer review journals and more than 20 million consumer reviews and testimonials, is there anything that we can find that is relevant that doesn’t read like a fake review we’ve incorporated and Amy has, you know, analyze clean, clean the data, analyze it, um, ran the most sophisticated AI algorithms through it to extract this kind of information.
From that we then, um, you know, Bryan, you talked about when you have a great idea, you know, you start attracting good people. In fact, um, after we got some initial press for our idea, I think we were on tech crunch. The head of dermatology at Stanford University reached out to us and said, you know, I believe that this is going to be the future of dermatology. I want to partner with you. When I first saw that note, I was like; this was a spam message who is like pranking me as if they were the head of dermatology at Stanford. And then it turned out I was a real, you know, when he was, it was a real, you know, doctor who wanted to partner with us.
So we then started working with him to actually formulate the, um, the skincare products based on the insights from the database. So we, you know, we, we asked the database and question, we confirm with Dr. we add other ingredients, et cetera, et cetera. And that process went on for many months. And that’s how we came up with a Proven skin care. First of all, the, a logical foundation, as well as the skincare products that we, um, that we now have. And in fact, the technology that we have, the skin genome project had won MIT AI technology of the year award. Um, thank you. Which not consumer companies, but actually AI companies that are also using AI to solve hard problem. So I think we felt vindicated, um, that people in the beginning who didn’t believe that we can infuse real technology and AI into this because, you know, we not only can create a, um, tremendous, you know, um, technology stack, but also use that to create great skincare products as well.
Maggie: (00:40:51) Wow. That is amazing. That’s super important. I feel like a lot of skincare products are just like a very tunnel vision, you know, none of them really think about incorporating data into it.
Bryan: (00:41:06) We do want to dive into your charting experience to hear more about it. We just wanna hear more about it.
Ming: (00:41:20) thank you so much. Um, so early on in our journey, um, one of the producers or shark tank reached out and was like, you know, we don’t usually feature skincare companies, but yours really special, really differentiated. I want to see if you want to be on the show at that time was very early on. We were still developing product with, um, with a dermatologist. We were like, this is not the right timing. Cause I I’ve seen the show. I know what they care about. They care about numbers. They care about sales. They care about, you know, product being in stores, whatever it is. And um, so I called the producer, you know what, we’ll be in touch later. But then later on like a year later when we had a successful beta with real numbers, um, that producer left the show and I was like, Oh crap. You know? So, um, but then I found out that they shark tank has open casting calls all around the country. So it was like if one producer was interested, maybe others will be too.
So I just went through an open casting call to just earn our way in and you know, yeah. Each step of the way, you know, um, impress them with our story with our company is, and, um, yeah, made it through each step of the way, you know, the first, um, open casting call that person was interested and then the next person was interested and they try the product, they liked it and the next person was interested. And then you had to fill out a stack load of papers. It was so much papers to fill out because you know, also it’s investing, it’s also TV, you know, all this stuff. So it was like a full time job for a couple of weeks to get through all of these, um, all of this paperwork. Uh, and then we finally had a film date and that was super exciting. You know, I was very nervous several months before that because, um, you know, with these things, it feels like it’ll be the life or death of your company if, if it goes well, which is really not a good mindset to have because you know, um, they’re always more opportunities. They’re always other ways to, you know, to, to, to make companies work, but nevertheless that’s how I felt.
So I was very nervous preparing for my pitch. Um, and then the filming, um, the filming was very interesting. I didn’t get a deal with it. The deal itself was it, wasn’t the goal that, you know, went on to have, but still, you know, most of the people that film with me, many of them got deal. So I did feel a little bit like, Oh, you know, I wish somebody on there, uh, offered us something, but still it’s okay. You know, um, just to be on the show is already great. And then after you film, so for me, we filmed in like August of 2019 and we, they don’t tell you whether it’s gonna be on the show or not because they fill many more segments than they actually show. So if they don’t show it and I didn’t get a deal, then all of that work would have been for nothing, you know, flying to Portland to do all open casting call and then doing all the paperwork and all the pitching one after another. Um, and then in April, a couple of weeks before they wanted to air, they email me and were like, we are going to air you like in two weeks. And we’re like, Oh my gosh, and my entire team was so excited because they all knew how much work we have put in, you know, as a company like in designing the billboards and the and all this stuff, you know, um, to the point where my team had stopped asking me, like when we’re going to air, because they don’t want to, you know, have made me sad because we have put in all this work and there was nothing to show for it.
But then when we got that, it was just such a huge relief. You know, it was also right after the initial sort of, um, situation of COVID where we had some bad effects in the beginning for COVID. Um, and we really needed a little pick me up. So that was just a great, um, uh, pick me up situation and here’s my daughter. Um, and then, um, it air and really brought us great, uh, traffic and, um, notoriety. Oh, Oh, is she naked? Okay, Amber. Okay. You’re Oh, you’re sweeping. Okay. Um, and then, um, and then, um, yeah, right after the shark tank error, um, our segment, which we filmed for today’s show aired or shortly thereafter. So we ended up having a tremendous May because of all this great traffic that was coming in and just additional credibility of know, having been, been on these national shows. So it turned out that that hard work was worth it, um, you know, believing ourselves was worth it. Um, and we’re we are really grateful for having had these opportunities.
And as you mentioned, Bryan, you know, I’m also grateful for not having been afraid to, you know, put myself out there to put our company out there. Um, in fact, when, you know, Shark Tank first air, I don’t watch it the first day because it was so it’s weird to watch yourself on national TV. You don’t know how silly they could edit, can make you look. And they make a lot of people look very ridiculous. So, um, there was definitely that fear, but it’s absolutely worth it to get over it and to just, you know, go for it.
Bryan: (00:46:33) Yeah. It’s a really fun experience to me. I can kind of talk from my own personal experience too. Well, I applied for this reality investment show, same thing, casting producing is really nervous, like nerve wracking, you know, and we still to this day, like, don’t know, like if we’re going to get called yet, but we’ll find out like a year from now to see if they’re going to call us, but you’re right. It is pretty nerve wracking. Cause he has, you’re talking to producers are asking you some questions. You’re doing like sound check and doing mic check, testing out your, your camera, your camera abilities per se. So you have to say some, some words, talk about your description and set it into like a lot of footage so they can cut it to send to their producer. It’s it’s an interesting thing, you know, you know, so I do commend you a lot for doing it. It’s very nerve wracking. It’s not as, as easy as you think it is. It’s a lot of preparation involved. So I do definitely understand a lot.
Maggie: (00:47:33) Yeah. That’s very true that you say this is like a make or break kind of thing. I feel like a lot of people go on shark tank have that same mentality, but it’s really important that, you know, although you guys didn’t get a deal, I love that you guys have that mentality that, you know, this is a great opportunity and it brought a lot of awareness and credibility to Proven skincare. So that’s really great.
Bryan: (00:47:56) Yeah. I mean, um, yeah, we knew we were super excited to like continue. Like we want to definitely see more of your success. So how could our listeners reach out to you and find out more about you, Ming?
Ming: (00:48:11) and you can find out more about us at provenskincare.com that’s P R O V E N skincare.com. Thank you.
Bryan: (00:48:18) Definitely. Thank you so much for being on the show. We really appreciate your time.
Maggie: (00:48:22) Thank you so much, Ming. We really appreciate it. Everything, you know, with your insight and your experiences, I think is really refreshing to hear. So thank you for sharing your story.
Ming: (00:48:32) Thank you guys so much. It was so fun to just get to chat with you. I would love to come back for an Encore in a few months.
Maggie: (00:48:38) Amazing.
Bryan: (00:48:40) We love to have you back.
Maggie: (00:48:43) Yeah.
Ming: (00:48:44) Awesome. Thanks. You guys have a great rest of your day.
Maggie: (00:48:46) you too.
Bryan: (00:48:46) you too
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