Siqi Mou and Kailu Guan // Ep 25 // Empowering Beauty through AI

Welcome to Episode 25 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have Siqi Mou and Kailu Guan 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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Siqi was awarded Forbes 30 Under 30 (Consumer Tech) in 2019 and Inc Magazine’s 30 Rising Stars Under 30 in 2018, and has been featured in media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, USNews, Marie Claire, Allure, The Cut, WWD, Fast Company, etc.

Siqi Mou is the CEO and Co-Founder of HelloAva. She is a former Bloomberg anchor and also held several positions at Morgan Stanley, PIMCO, The Federal Reserve Bank of New York before starting HelloAva.

Siqi held an MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business, MPA from Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and B.A. in Economics from Stanford University where she was elected Phi Beta Kappa.

Kailu Guan is the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of HelloAva. Kailu is an award-winning multidisciplinary designer.  

Her areas of concentration include human-centered design, fashion design, augmented reality (AR), and wearable technology. She has held several positions at IDEO, Intel and Hermes. Kailu has exhibited her work at SXSW, TechCrunch, Le Révélateur D’innovation Paris and MIT Media Lab. Vogue Italia, WWD, Dezeen, Fashionista, Viewpoint, and Computer Arts are among the publications that have covered her work. She graduated from Parsons and Central Saint Martins College of Arts.
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Transcript

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 Asiansto 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: (00:01:09) And today we have two special guests on our podcasts and they are Siqi Mou and Kailu Guan, Siqi is the CEO and co-founder of hello, Ava and Kailu is the co-founder and chief creative officer of HelloAva. Hello, Ava is a beauty app that uses AI technology to recommend skincare products based on your skin type. 

 

So Siqi is a former Bloomberg anchor and also held several positions at Morgan Stanley, P I M C O the federal reserve bank of New York before starting. HelloAva, Siqi was awarded Forbes 30 under 30 consumer tech in 2019 and inc. Magazine’s 30 rising stars under 30 in 2018 and has been featured in many different media outlets.

 

Kailu is an award-winning multi-disciplinary designer. Her areas of concentration include human centered design, fashion design, augmented reality, and wearable technology. She has held several positions at IDEO Intel, and Ermez. Welcome to the show you two.

Siqi: (00:01:33) Thanks for having us. 

Kailu: (00:01:34) Thank you for having us.

Bryan: (00:01:35) Yeah. We’re super excited to have you guys, and we want to hear more about your story too, so you’ll jump right into it. So we start with Siqi. Siqi want to hear more about your childhood and how you became so successful and ambitious growing up.

Siqi: (00:01:47) Um, yeah, no, I so similar to of, I had a childhood in China where I was like brought up by pretty strict, um, Asian parents. Um, well I think all of us can relate. Um, I think one of the inspiration that has led me to start my own business is looking at how my parents something from zero, literally. Yeah. To where it is today. So one of the vivid memory I still have is when I was a very like young child, like probably when I was like 14.

Um, I started going to these trade shows with my dad in Germany, which we’d go every year, right before my birthday. So then we’ll stay there for a little bit longer and then celebrate my birthday after the show. It was like a salvage tree. Dinner to, um, you know, to celebrate how much sales we created from the trade show.

 

I was so young back then, I had no idea about this business complexity about how to sell stuff or how to build furniture or how to advertise. So, um, uh, but my parents are very busy, so they’re not gonna be able to like leave me in the hotel alone and just like, Most of the changes will by themselves. So they usually took me to the trade.

So I was usually the kid or the trade show when this beautiful blue Valdez outdoor furniture like set up. Would you clients coming in from all over the country coming in and try to sit down and, and talk about, you know, business when my dad. And I would just be there holding candies and chocolate and just giving it to people who come in.

 

But then at a point where we like have so many clients coming in, I know my dad was like, you cannot handle the traffic anymore. And I was just like, Hey, like, how about, let me tell you a little bit about what, um, our business does. So I started learning, I actually asked my dad to teach me

How to introduce our company and how to introduce like this concept auto furniture.And what’s our advantage when people come to, why do they want to buy chairs and furniture and umbrellas from us rather than some of the Italian handcrafted makers? Um, what is it. So special thing about us. So when I was giving people chocolate and candies, um, whenever people start coming to our booth, I started to sell, um, you know, our business, which is an outdoor furniture manufacturer back then.

So that was kind of the initial part about how I get involved into building a business or even just advertising, selling for business.

Bryan: (00:04:13) Yeah. I really liked that story too, because it’s very similar  to myself as well. What’s that for my situation, my parents couldn’t speak English that well, and they kind of just forced me to conversation. They’re like here, I talked to my seven year old son. He knows English pretty well. Right. Okay. What do you want me to say, dad? So very similar.

 

Siqi: (00:04:30) That’s awesome. Yeah. So then you kind of have to, cause I. Sometimes like these selling doesn’t translate perfectly into another language. So you always late, you always have to internalize into your own language, kind of sell it.

 

Um, that’s also a very vivid memory that taught me, like everything is about everything at the end of the route is, um, it’s about selling, whether it’s about you building a business or you’re trying to hire some talents or you’re trying to close a deal or trying to, um, you know, create a partnership.

Always about selling. So that gives me such a, just concrete understanding of how important selling is and why this is the most important skillset for a business woman.

 

 Bryan:  (00:05:13) Awesome. I love that a lot.

 

Maggie: (00:05:15) Yeah. I love that. I also love how everything kind of fell into place for you because it wasn’t like your dad was trying to teach you. Selling habits and selling practices, but, you know, because he was so busy, he needed to take you to the trade show anyway. Right. And for you to be there, to help him, it’s like everything worked out and all of those habits, everything that you learned, kind of trickled down to what you are today.

 

Bryan:  (00:05:35) your lifelong skills, for sure.

 

Siqi: (00:05:38) I’m like the abandoned child who like there’s no, um, care caregiver. And so I adapt myself and I hopefully. My being the chocolate girl or that’s County girl helped my dad close some of these deals.

 

Bryan:  (00:05:55) Yeah. Kailu, want to hear your story too.

 

Kailu: (00:05:57) Yeah. So I actually have a very different, um, upbringing. Um, even though it was kind of unusual, I think, for an Asian family. So I didn’t grow up under like tiger parents. So my parents are kind of, they’re very free-spirited they’re like, okay, you can. Do whatever you want. They didn’t really have expectation of me being a lawyer or a doctor. Uh, and my, my mom was pretty artistic, so she likes to play the piano and she also draws really well.

 

So I think when I was younger, she encourages me to, you know, to draw and to paying and, you know, just do like random stuff. Um, and I’m kind of like, just. The wild kit, you know, just learn the art at a very young age. And, you know, since my mom really encourages me, I just kept going. And I remember when I was in school, um, actually Siqi and I went to the same high school, even though we’re a few years apart, I was always the one who’s.

 

Like, you know, working on design and art for our student government. And, you know, we say Siqi was the one who was, she was the president actually.

 

Siqi: (00:07:09) No, no. When I was running for the government, uh, student government, but, uh, we realized that we actually were a couple of. Like we were in the same year that it would have been me running the student government while she was being the head of design, which is similar kind of, yeah.

 

Kailu: (00:07:30) So, so my parents was near, they were very. You know, like chill. And when I was, when I decided that I need to come to America to, to, for my, for college, just very naturally, I picked a design. Um, and so I went to Parsons for fashion design and, you know, just. Emerge in that like our school world, um, and without any exposure to business.

 

So when I took a year off, I, it was my first time ever, like experiencing how, like my business works, like to be honest. And I remember my roommate back then she started her own startup and she kind of brought me into the world of entrepreneurship. And I remember when I first like, like get my foot. Into the tour.

 

When I heard terms like Andrew and Betsy, I was like, wow, this is so interesting. There’s an Andrew is giving me money. Yeah. I, I was, um, they’re intrigued by how, you know, like selling and like, Buying works. Uh, it sounds so weird, but it, I was very, very intrigued. And then, so it’s been a very natural and curious as I helped her with design work for her, for her company.

 

And that’s basically how I got into tech and how I got into, um, like. Running a business. Um, yeah, so it was kind of like a week reverse. So everyday to this day, I’m still learning a lot about business. And I found that, you know, there are things that you can do in a startup and especially a tech startup that can change people’s lives in a way that design or art cannot.

 

I mean, not to say which one is better, but they’re just very different approach. And that’s why I love what I do right now so much. You know, kind of in between the creative creativity that I have. And, and also it’s a real business that benefits,

 

Siqi: (00:09:30) uh, yeah, same way as well. Like I’m not a creative, I mean, I learned drawing and appealing like terribly when I was, I didn’t pick this as my profession, but.

I love the creative part about being a business owner as well. So I’m learning from, um, from everyone else in my team, especially the creative team that’s led by Carlos to how to be more creative about a solution. So then hopefully that class higher revenue as well. So I think there’s really a complimentary skills that we learned from each other that helps us motivated and roll as a team together.

 

Bryan:  (00:10:02) Definitely. Out of curiosity too. Like how did your partnership come about? Because you understand the partnerships are extremely hard, including my partnership with Maggie here. We’re afraid she’s on some network. I just want to understand, like, you know, how’d, you guys find each other and decide to work together and start a business together.

So that’s, I feel like it’s a really big move and I just tell everyone on the podcast too, or people would tell me in the podcast. And when you’re doing business with someone else, like a partnership, it’s like you’re dating them and you’re married to them. So you have to make sure things yeah.

 

Siqi: (00:10:35) Much more than my own husband.

 

Maggie: (00:10:40)  And you guys met in high school too. So you guys go. Oh, but you did, you guys know each other, at least.

 

Kailu: (00:10:48) I’ve heard of it. She’s so famous.

 

Maggie: (00:10:51) Oh, okay. Okay.  

 

Kailu: (00:10:52) Yeah, but I’m not sure if she has heard about me really not.

 

Siqi: (00:10:58) It’s a great story. So, um, our story can actually be cast into a movie, I think, um, which maybe one day kind of, once we exit our company become a serial entrepreneur.

Our next job should be producing a movie about how we met and. And the building of like a, almost like, like adaptive from a real story, but it, I think it could be a functional, good fictional movie too, but it’s adaptive from a real reality. Yeah. Let me tell you the story. So, um, I kind of like, I mean, she says, she knows about me.

 

I don’t know. Maybe she’s just being nice, but, um, but you went to the same high school and so, and we were a couple of years apart, so I didn’t know. Um, we didn’t know, we tried it that we never met dad. Right. But, um, when we were, uh, we have, we had this like separate paths, cause like I was focused on like finance.

 

I was like the finance geek and Maggie and she’s like the design genius. Right. So, so it wasn’t until I kind of got the, yeah, this is registered and started already a little bit, but then like it’s a very rudimentary product we build and we’ll just like starting the company. Getting some of these early attractions and trying to hustle.

 

Um, so when I was presenting my business at tech crunch back in 2017, which is like pre-launch, um, one of my, our mutual friend who is, um, who was dating Kailu at the point. Um, she he’s also my classmate from Stanford and he was also one of our earlier investor. He was basically saying that, Hey, you went to go meet this guy.

 

Uh, there’s a woman who I invest money in. Um, and then, so, so Kailu was like, cool. I can introduce us. And then Kailu will kind of, um, and then her boy, her boyfriend basically dropped a ball then, and he never introduced us. And also Kailu didn’t also dropped the ball and didn’t remind him, so we never got introduced.

 

But then, um, when we were at Tech crunch, when I was psych. Kind of hustling and trying to present this idea. I got, we’d got kind of randomly like randomly by chance introduced the reframe to also went to this post by another friend will also went to the same high school. Um, Well, our high school by the way is amazing.

So that’s why we have all these brilliant people in the us. Like we have a lot of people who go overseas to, to, uh, to college. Um, so we, we were introduced by her. Um, and the reason we kind of got together was that we, that day we met this founder, who is the founder of Napster. Have you guys. It does not exist anymore, but he was like, kind of like, you know, a golf fodder type of splitter back in the days.

 

Right. So we were talking about him and then Kailu was in the same group that were just like chatting on him. And we spent the entire day entire afternoon together, chatting. And then I was like asking about Kailu about her project, which is, uh, uh, artificial, uh, sorry. It’s a virtual reality project for fashion, that she was also exhibiting in tech crunch.

 

So I was very intrigued by her and she was, she said that she knew about me, but again, I don’t know that she was just being nice. And then she took a photo and then sent a, out to her boyfriend at the time. And it was like, look, this is, um, I just met this girl. She was pretty cool. She went to my high school and then the guy was like, Oh my God, this is the girl I want to introduce to you.

 

So then we realized it’s actually the same person that we’re talking about. And then after that, we kind of like, we just hit it off, you know, where I’m just like, you’re so cool. You’re doing all these like really cool virtual reality stuff so that we got together and start like, you know, we just had dinner at China blue and I were just like, Chatting about some random like tag and startup stuff.

 

And she showed me her, um, her really cool virtual reality fashion design. I was like, Whoa, this is like, how is this world? So, um, so then I was like, Hey, what are you up to these days? Like, do you want to maybe like work on this? Like together, we actually don’t have any designer. I love to like, get your help.

 

So then I kind of started working with me, like kind of casually kind of just, you know, where like, not really talking about co-founders ship at that point.

 

Kailu: (00:15:12) I think we’re talking about like our acne more, we’re talking about the biggest con conversation that we had during that dinner at China blue.

 

Siqi: (00:15:22) How every time that we talk, whenever we start talking about how much act. How much we struggle with our high school acne, we connected deeper. Um, so then it’s like, it’s this mission that we’re trying to do, right. That like deeply connected us. So then, um, we started like kind of working in a more casual, um, kind of capacity. And then, and then later on, the more I kind of got more involved and then I got. She’ll rely on Kailu, much more. She relies on me more as well. So then fast forward, a couple, like a year, two years later, I would say, um, were like inseparable.

 

Kailu: (00:16:02) Well, we’re married right now, paper and also in life.

 

Maggie: (00:16:09) I love that I also suffer from a skin disease. And it’s like, when I know other people who suffer from the same skin disease, I connect with them automatically because I know what they’re going through.

 

And like, we can talk about, you know, what worked for me, what didn’t work for me and like what works for the other person. And it’s like, it’s like commonality that you have with that person. Right. And I think that that’s. Kind of how your relationship has kind of formed by you talking about, you know, what you guys go through and I’m like you guys.

 

Kailu: (00:16:36)  Yeah. And I think having a skin issue is, is much more than, you know, picking about picking products. It’s very psychological. I remember when I was having, you know, when I had acne back in high school, I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want anyone to look at my face. I don’t want to go into the sun.

 

You know, like these kinds of things. You know, especially when you’re a teenager, it really gives you a lot of, you know, a confidence issue. Right. So when we talked about like acne, it’s really more about like an emotional connection that we feel we have, like, you know, like a bonding, just because of the pimple.

 

Siqi: (00:17:12) I would remember talking to Kailu how much about like, you know, when I was in college, when I still suffered from acne, I wouldn’t even. Like, I wouldn’t feel comfortable even going on dates with guys because I felt like they will be staring at my face and just looking at my acne, you know, that was so psychological, like deeply rooted in your own confidence.

 

It was like, um, you know, it was something I really, um, it really hurt you, you know, it really destroyed. So we, we wanna be able to help and empower people that it’s all that they don’t have to go through this again. Um, yeah. So I think. Like people always say, like, those are a problem in Chinese as this busy says something like suffering connects to people, which is like a little, I think, like, I think some of them sometimes like the sufferings and the hardship actually brings people.

 

Together even, right. That’s such a strong bond that allows to, and because of that suffering, like you understand what hardship is. And then when you’re building startups, where obviously you’re going to go through all these hardships and obstacles, because Sarah is like the most roller coaster kind of journey. Right. So I’m already prepared to do that. Cause you, you had this common suffering that connected you.

 

Bryan:  (00:18:27) Definitely. Yeah. So let’s take it back a step and talk about HelloAva They want to hear more about your company, um, what kind of platform that it provides, you know, we’ve heard, there’s so many resources out there and you, you listened to your current, uh, 2017 Tech Crunch pitch that you, that you talked about earlier.

It was absolutely amazing. So we want to give you some time to talk about holiday though and allow our listeners to kind of understand what is your company all about?

 

Siqi: (00:18:53) Uh, absolutely. Yeah. So HelloAva is a skin technology company that uses both artificial intelligence and dermatology expertise to give you the best personalized routine that you need and what’s getting us different and then.

As we said earlier in the podcast, um, I have acne, Kailu has acne, all, we all have acne at some point in our life, but everyone’s acne issue is probably different. And then if you don’t have acne, that’s lucky, but then you might have something else. That’s also unique to you. So everyone’s skin is different and it deserves it.

 

You know, individualized concern and individualized care that you, you should have. That’s tailored to skin. So the way that works, which we made a really fun and easy for the users. So you go through a fun questionnaire and then by the end of the questionnaire, You will get, uh, initial diagnosis of about your skin, uh, which summarizes what’s your skin characteristics and some, uh, and also the weakness and the strength of your skin.

 

After that, you will pay a $10 consultation fee to be connected to an aesthetician who are usually licensed by the New York state aesthetics board. And then she will have. A one-on-one video consultations, or like just like this on zoom or FaceTime with you. And then she will then send you a fully personalized recommendation list.

 

That’s tailored to your skin, purchasing the product, the $10 you paid earlier, it gets credit back. So net out the experience is free and when you’re getting the records and then you get these beautiful shipment sent right to your box, which has all the products you bought and also a beautiful card that has your name printed on it. And I AM and PM routine that is tailored to your needs. So you’re getting, not just the product, but also the care and, uh, like a regimen card that tells you what to do.

 

Bryan:  (00:20:54) Wow. I love that a lot. How’d you guys gain traction for this?

 

Siqi: (00:18:53) At very beginning and tell people the beginning is all word of mouth.

And even today we still rely heavily on word of mouth and all. Um, and then a lot of, yeah, a lot of them come from PR. Like when we started, we have less than a thousand customers and now we’re over 130,000, um, community right now.

 

Kailu: (00:21:17)  Uh, also our Instagram has been a main place for our super gain new followers and also new users. So the pandemic actually has helped us a lot. So at the beginning, I think we had around 50,000. Followers on Instagram, but now since everyone is home and you’re spending so much more time on your phone, um, our community grows so, so much, like so much faster, um, during this past two months, and now we’re at 218,000 followers and.

Yeah. And then we just did a live today, so, and none of the users, we didn’t buy any followers or do anything. Um, but just purely by posting good content, like educational content that helps our users. Um, we’re able to grow our community in a very sustainable and steady pace.  

 

Maggie: (00:22:12)  Yeah. I was just going to ask you guys, like how have things changed since COVID-19, because personally I’ve gone through so many different changes with myself.

Skins because of COVID. And I can’t like for like prescription stuff, I can’t go out to the doctor’s office and get it anymore. So I’m looking for alternatives for my skincare routine. So it’s actually made me and like forced me to pick up on a skincare routine since being in quarantine. So I’m just like wondering, like, would love to know how you guys have changed since COVID like how you guys are keeping up with the traffic.

 

Siqi: (00:22:43) Yeah. Um, so one of the key things that we did is, uh, in the early days of COVID-19 we realized, um, people, the alternatives, those go into the shop and seeing them ontologists or finding someone who can give you facial is no longer there. Right. Realize that how can we, um, help people still fit a bit? Their needs for these when all of these options are not available.

 

Um, so one of the key feature we launched was a video consultation. So that in addition to these quiz and text message consultation, we add a new video constitution that which helped foster these relationships that people can have with. Our skin expert community, um, so that people can get this kind of really good in person personalized and really humanized consultation, and then get fully be like they can like show their face to whatever our skin, extra who’s consulting that, and that has helped so much in terms of conversion.

 

It has actually increased our conversion from, um, from like, Some are like already, like these amount, like from like 50% now to 70%. So, um, I think we, we did a few other things on the, on the marketing side, which Kailu can relay a little more of that helped with the covid as well.

 

Kailu: (00:24:05) Yeah. And I think mainly it’s because everyone right now, you know, like you said, you, you’re not able to go to your dermatologist. Right? And then also you don’t really need to wear much makeup. So I think there’s a good thing that we see that our users, or even just myself, I spend so much more time ticking off taking care of self care, not holistically. Um, so I think skincare is a very important part of it. So, so I think just by, by like my its nature, like. It’s a time that your spend on your phone is much more than before. So, and then people will value the service and value talking to a skin advisor much more right now, because you don’t have much, much else going on. 

 

Siqi: (00:24:40) Telemedicine and digital therapy has been like a really, really popular trends. And I think it’s like money is flowing to these days.

We can call it. We’re not quite like. Well now like telemedicine, cause we’re not in the medical field, but we are definitely additional therapy, um, you know, alternatives or that’s kind of using a digital ways of giving you a therapy.

 

Bryan:  (00:25:13) I mean, even as, as a male. I kind of look into your routines because during this COVID situation is very stressful home. We get a lot of pimples. Maggie always points at my pimples, see like, Oh my God, you have a pimples right?

 

Siqi: (00:25:31) Yeah. Bryan, we actually, on that point we had a lot of male users. So it’s like, it’s funny enough because we never actually advertised all male, but then because the woman, they did it and they’re like, wait, this is such a cool service. My husband or my boyfriend should use that too,

 

Kailu: (00:25:45) so that they can stop stealing my skincare.

 

Bryan:  (00:25:49) Yeah. I mean, out of curiosity too, you’re like, how do you pick up and trends and create new features from that? What is your thought process behind that?

 

Siqi: (00:25:58) Um, I mean, product release is Kailu can speak she’s the creative mind behind it, but. We do a lot of user research and interviews. So, um, I will let you kind of take off there that question.

 

Kailu: (00:26:11) Yeah. Yeah. I think, you know, we, it’s very rare that we’ll base to just sit here and come up with features. So I try not to do it. Um, or at least whenever I have an idea, we’ll run it by our end users. So, so usually the way it works is that we, maybe we talk to our users, um, research on a daily basis. Um, so.

 

I will call them and I’ll have, you know, video chat with them or even just emailed them. And also we, we have this channel on Instagram where our users will DM us and, you know, just, you know, chat with us and talk about, you know, their experience. So I track all of these platforms and, and I will have a list of features and, uh, and request, uh, from our users and basically inspiration.

From just talking to them and what they need, how can we make the product better for them? Uh, and then all of everything does this backlog that we have, uh, I usually will pick a few on, uh, like one or two features every, every month or every. Other week to do a lot of user interviews. Um, so I, so we will have a team design, a lot of mock-ups, uh, and then we will send them to our users and then we’ll have like, let’s sit down time with them.

 

Now obviously happens by zoom and then we’ll have them go through the new experience with design and. And kind of just learn from there and see if this feature actually will benefit them because maybe user a says, Oh, I want this, this feature. But then when you’re testing it, you realize that not a lot of people actually will benefit from it.

Then this might not be a feature that we want to spend our time and. You know, money on, uh, obviously as a startup, you have a very limited amount of resources and you want to use that wisely. So yeah, before, you know, building, building anything, want to make sure that this is something that’s going to help otherwise, we’re just not going to, you know, It will not be the things that just look good or make us feel that this is a better product, but we want to look at the number and look at actually how people are interacting with it before making a decision.

 

Bryan:  (00:28:30) Yeah. Yeah. I like that a lot. I mean, it means that you guys are not being reactive to your planning. You guys are more planning ahead of time. So I think the problem with startup founders and they tend to be more in the react to size, Oh, this is a cool feature. Let’s blow it out without

 

Kailu: (00:28:43) other companies are doing it when

 

Bryan:  (00:28:47) Yeah. And then I know like, you know, being a founder is really tough and we’ve totally relayed talking to a lot of customers talk, getting feedback and whatnot. You also want to talk a little more about your guys’s mental health. You know, that’s just as important as anything because we understand that as founders, you’re always on call and you’re always taking meetings, you’re always reading your reviews. You’re always constantly making decisions. Work life balance is always in flux because you know, there’s no boundaries really. Cause this is your baby. This is your passion. So how do you guys take care of your mental health?

 

Siqi: (00:29:17) Uh, I can think that first and then we can add, um, so first of all, it’s so true. Like. Today I talked about Holly was seven times or people wanted in MasterCard. What is a casting call with this media company? One is with a PA another podcast, and one is like an interview for a, uh, for a whole series. So, um, probably can relate that like I’m like actually almost mouth dry talking about.

Um, so, so, um, I think for me, the biggest thing is. So I recently a little bit background about my personal life. So I recently had a son, um, and he’s seven months old. Thank you very much. And he was more right before the pandemic. So I think what has taught me is, I mean, it has taught me so much like, um, uh, as a mother, a new mother was I still struggling through all of these things, but it has taught me to really.

 

Have to carve out time for him. Cause otherwise it never ends. We’ll never have time for him. So one of the key things I learned is, um, I will block out my calendar literally, and then people can not schedule things with me on like a certain amount of times. I usually, I block out from six o’clock to like, While set fabric bad, 30 to like seven o’clock, which is when he was about to go to sleep.

 

So then I, can I take a bath for him and I can like rock him a little bit and put him to sleep and I can log back on to work more after his sleeps. And then it needs, gives me that like very concentrated time so that I can like focus on him, not think about something else. Um, and then I, I mean, I will still respond to slack and stuff, but I will try not to do that, but I felt like I can devote some time to my son.

And now we’ll come back on later on to make sure that I finish everything I need to fill it. So I think that has actually really helped me in terms of like, you know, um, it makes sure that I’m not missing anything important. Cause I have like schedule something and into the site. My son time, then it’s like hard for me to say no.

 

I try to block it out so that I don’t like over-commit to things. That’s like one of the key tricks I use and another thing which I, um, which I think I quite like is the, the notion of work-life integration. So, uh, I don’t like the whole thing about work-life balance. You stash. Like, I don’t like the whole concept of work-life balance because I think that’s kind of underlined that you have work and you have life.

And the two things are contradictory. So what I’m trying to do, especially as a startup founder, I think this is really helpful is I try to integrate it too. So then it means that they’re not necessarily complex. They’re not necessarily contradictory, but more so complimentary. So we can like have fun things.

Like at dinner, we don’t have like a, something that’s fine with Kailu and the rest of the team, or we can chat about some really cool inspirations, but then that’s also having fun too. So we’re not just like working. Um, so I think some of these ideas that I think it’s like a way of you’re looking at life and work in general, that actually affects your mental health greatly.

 

Bryan:  (00:32:25) Yeah. I mean, I liked the work integration stuff into your life. I do the same thing. If I could combine my work into fun and leisure, that’s where I go, I believe. And I completely agree with the time blocks situation as well. I didn’t have the time block. I sometimes forget the Maggie is also my girlfriend and co-founder so sometimes we just have to time block things out to have a normal day or a normal conversation besides business.

I totally agree. With the mental health aspect, is it it’s not easy too, cause sometimes, you know, you’re like weighing the opportunity costs. Oh man, that, that meeting, I had to take the intrusion to my family tower when I saw important. Uh, how can I make this work?

 

Kailu: (00:33:07) Yeah. And one thing that we do very well in our company is that we do have some together, like a lot, like every it’s never like, Oh, I need to go see my colleague.

You know, it’s almost like. Oh, I need to hang out with my friends once every, so we have a team meeting right now. Like once every, every one and we work together during the day, but then in the afternoon, or like late, late at night, we’ll start with our, our time with seeking sun, like Maxwell. So we got like very distracted after that.

4:00 PM and started to have fun with him. So, you know, it’s really like fun and we really enjoy our time together.

 

Siqi: (00:33:47) And I went Apple picking with Kailu last weekend too. It’s like, I think we’re like friends first and then we let bill companies and we have fun building. 

 

Kailu: (00:33:56)  Yeah. Yeah. I think one important thing that you want to measure if you know your hide, right. People or if you’re working for the right companies that during your spare time, do you want to hang out with these people? And I think we hang out all the time, like me and Siqi, and also with other colleagues of ours, we sometimes go to our aestheticians home and she’ll give us a facial and no one’s talking about playing tennis together.

 

So it’s, you know, it’s, you know, make it fun and. You know, it’s a startup. You, you have to bend to say choosing who you want to work with. And I think that’s such a privilege that you get, you don’t get to do that if you’re in a big corporate. So I think that having fun is definitely very important. And another thing I would say about.

 

You know, mental health is that like, we, even though, as founders, it’s very stressful journey, but we remember you do have each other. Right. So I think the companionship and sometimes just being the sounding board makes it makes things so much easier. Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes Siqi would, you know, call me and, you know, talk about, you know, some financial stuff or investment stuff, you know, am I really the best person to talk about this with like, I don’t know much about, you know, you know, I’m not like the finance junkie that you’re looking for, but then I realized that, you know, the reason why she does that.

 

Well, I do that to her as well. Like I would talk about, Hey, will you like this color better? Or this color better? It’s not necessarily the, like what. We can get out of it, but it’s like you listen and kind of that conversation helps you think through whatever you were going, going through and you’re just having the other person always be there listening.

 

I think it really, really helped. And that’s a relationship that we should utilize better as founders.

 

Maggie: (00:35:44)  Yeah, I definitely agree. I think it’s so important to create that family culture within your organization. Because if it’s like, if you guys can’t do weekend stuff and weekend activities with the person that you work with and have fun with them, and you just talk about work all the time, like 24 seven, it gets really dry.

 

You know, like if you just talk about work all the time, like how can you enjoy like, take some time to enjoy yourself and just like go out with your co-founder with your employees and create that like family culture. I think that’s really cool.

 

Bryan:  (00:36:14) Yeah. And this one conversation I have with my other founder friends is that all the stress that we go through, we chose the stress is self-inflicted you notice in life where you can take a nine to five and work with someone else and just have your vacations in a normal schedule.

But we chose this life. Like we chose the self-inflicted pain. That’s also awesome.

 

Kailu: (00:36:39) Painful. I don’t think it, it shouldn’t be painful.

 

Siqi: (00:36:42) ours and foremost fun. Right. And then ambitious goal that you’re working towards then did you have fun doing it then? That’s even better? We, um, we, we definitely, yeah. We definitely try to reinforce that culture a lot, even outside of our, um, founding team.

And are we trying to. You know what I mean? I think sometimes like Kailu and like some of my, our other employees text me at the most random things on the weekend, and then I’ll be like, ha ha. This is funny. Like we have a, dyssynchronous share something funny or, or surprising about our life or our coerce coast. Cause I think they get it. And then because we’re in this every day, so that’s like such a strong and, and beautiful dynamic that we don’t usually, you know, it’s like hard to get. Um, I think we’re very. Very blessed.

 

Maggie: (00:37:30)  So I would love to know, you know, because you two are such like powerhouse women and you two, haven’t been in the industry for a while now, have you guys gone through like any struggles or challenges in the past while building HelloAva.

And especially because, you know, two women of, you know, a member of minority, especially, you know, where you, did you ever like face any discrimination or like any challenges from other people in the industry?

 

Kailu: (00:37:59)  Yeah, I think for us, we’re not only like minority female founders, but we’re also immigrant. So I think that, um, actually an exit in my, in my perspective, more challenging. So I think first of all, you kind of need to, you know, like not, Oh, I remember when I first started, uh, with Siqi, there are things in the, in the, in the business world that, you know, we need to learn about as founders, but then also it’s our first time ever founding a business in, in the US right. So there are certain protocols that we need to learn and adapt to. Um, so I think being an immigrant is definitely challenging, but then also now we see it as a benefit because we get all these great connections back home. And especially in the tech world, like China’s really like booming. 

I’m so proud of the fact that we’re. You know, immigrant female founded company and, and we’re serving like communities here, but also like around the world. So it’s definitely a learning curve, but I think at this point it is a, I think it is a great benefit.

 

Siqi: (00:39:12) Let me add on to that. So I think the immigration policy of our country, it has been a little bit, um, And Thai immigrants these days, especially with the, uh, I mean, without me kind of being too political, but I think that’s like one of the challenges with trying to hire, you know, immigrants as using H especially H1B visa or own visa, trying to get these great immigrants into, into our company.

So, so that’s an unfortunate, but, uh, hopefully. We will see a better, um, uh, policy that’s coming out of the election, uh, afterwards. So, um, so that was annoying, but, um, we call it fit. So, uh, another challenge is I would say we face is definitely, there is. Um, there was definitely, I think in the, especially in the fundraising world, there was probably biases against women.

So when we’re like doing fundraising and stuff, like I think women would just have to show more data points about our business to show that it works rather than men sometimes can talk about. You know, just an idea and somehow they can raise more money. So what are we’re trying to resolve that issue is we’re trying to find female ambassadors who actually believe in this concept first, before we showed up to them numbers, because we don’t want them to kind of invest in us because we are a numbers is great, but we want them to buy into this big vision and the dream that we have.

 

Maggie: (00:40:39)  Right. Yeah. I love it. I love how you guys are, you know, using those challenges and turning it into something more positive, you know? Um, so we have a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs in the community of AHN and would love to know, like, from the both of you, what is one advice that you would give to an aspiring entrepreneur?

Who’s just trying to start out maybe in the skincare business or just like in tech or just in general.

 

Siqi: (00:41:13) I think for me, um, I would like to talk anything. The one that is you don’t having as a dream or wants to do something to execute. Um, I think one of the biggest like road block that people always face is usually their own voice and theirself because, um, people always doubt too much about, and I mean, I experienced the same it’s that we talk so much, like, can I do this?

Can I do that? And you usually delay that and then you never actually did it. So then nothing will actually happen unless you actually do it. So I think one of the key lesson I’ve learned both in business school and being entrepreneurial itself is the urgency of acting. If you don’t. Have this urgency of doing things and like nothing will ever done.

Like everyone can have a dream. Only the ones that actually get to do stuff actually succeed. So I think it’s so important to actually put into action, like execute on it. It’s all about execution. Everyone again, have a great idea, but then it’s all about execution that will actually set the difference.

The other thing I want to say is that, um, believe in itself and take a chance. And even if it fails, it’s, it’s fine. Like it doesn’t matter.

 

Bryan:  (00:42:27) Yeah. I like that a lot.

 

Kailu: (00:42:30)  Just sorry to add, to add on that. I think it’s very like execute. Um, and I think sometimes like people just like myself tend to have a tendency of overthinking what I am trying to do.

So I would spend more time thinking about the thing then. Then, you know, just go right ahead and do it because sometimes in our head we’re like, Oh, maybe we need to, we need better planning. We need to, you know, talk to more people and, and we can make a decision yet. But I think in the startup world, everything is changing so fast.

You can’t really plan. So right now, even when we’re hired people, I think are valued so much. It’s that like people who give, give us like present fancy cleanse, Don’t tend to be the ones that can actually execute on the ideas. Um, and whatever works in a store in this sort of scenario, just double down on it and trust your intuition.

Sometimes you don’t need like massive planning or like big business plan. If you have one customer through school, get that customer and make, make him or her super, super happy. And then you get a second and third customer coming in. Um, and instead of like sitting here and, you know, flash hour, Beautiful. Um, like investor deck sometimes. I, I, yeah, I think that’s also important, but it’s the third thing that I talked about it sometimes it’s, uh, ignored.

 

Maggie: (00:43:59)  Yeah. Well, how can our listeners learn more about your. Company and, you know, we saw this video, um, I think it was about three years ago where the questioner was happening on Facebook messenger. Um, you know, how can our listeners fill out a questionnaire for your product and you know, how can they learn more about like what type of products are good for their skin?

 

Siqi: (00:44:22) Very easy. So for all of the listeners who are already have beautiful skin or have struggling from, um, from any kind of skin condition, or just want to know if your product you’re using is correct, um, or just want any kind of question related to skin care, please go to hollywood.co.co and then, um, and then you can just click on start questions.

And then you can go through the journey. It’s very simple. It doesn’t take more than two minutes. And the consultation you schedule will be around 10 to 15 minutes. So you can do this literally, like when you’re taking a break from work.

 

Kailu: (00:44:55) Yeah. And you can also find us on Instagram.

 

Siqi: (00:44:58) Yeah. So please follow us as well on Instagram, our Instagram handle is HelloAva beauty and, um, love too. And then you can get all kinds of amazing content on. Uh, how to take good care of yourself. And we have really, really good content and really funny jokes too, about skin.

 

Maggie: (00:45:16)  Well, I can tell that that both of your skins are very beautiful and that you guys are like a prime example of just using HelloAva. So thank you guys for sharing your story. Um, really enjoyed it.

 

Bryan:  (00:45:29) Thank you so much to be in the podcast.

 

Kailu: (00:45:31) Thank you so much for having us. This was really fun.

 

Siqi: (00:45:34) This is so fun, even though this is the eighth time talked about how,

 

Kailu: (00:45:38) but this is the most fun one.

 

Siqi: (00:45:41)  The other one was, I was just like, it’s like mechanics.

I’m like, okay, we’ll help you with that.

 

Bryan:  (00:45:48) All right. Thank you so much. You guys

 

Siqi: (00:45:51) have a good weekend. Bye you guys.

 

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