Welcome to Byrdie's new series, The Hustle. We're profiling BIPOC women and woman-aligned folks in the beauty and wellness industries who are usually behind-the-scenes. From the cosmetic chemists formulating your holy-grail serum to CFOs driving the biggest beauty companies forward, these women are the definition of career goals, and they're getting real about the journeys that led them to where they are—the highs, the lows, and everything in between.
Working at a skincare brand wasn't something Cheryl Kim had her sights set on. Before joining the team at Knours, which develops non-toxic products for hormone-related skin concerns, Kim worked in finance and fine jewelry. But in 2019, she pivoted and joined Knours as their sales and marketing director. While the industry was new to her, Kim found joy in helping the purpose-driven skincare brand grow. Over the past two years, Kim has leveled up and now serves as Knours' chief brand officer. Throughout her tenure at Knours, Kim has juggled projects across product development to content creation. But most notably, she helped guide the company through one of its most important transitions, a rebrand in 2020.
Ahead, Kim opens up about the brand's refreshed positioning, how motherhood changed her definition of beauty, and the products that get her through each week. Keep scrolling to get to know Cheryl Kim.
Tell me about your background. What were some of the roles you held before landing at Knours?
I started in finance, specifically equity sales, and after many long years of hating my job (as cliche as it sounds), I quit to pursue my real passions. I was at a crossroads for a while, trying to decide between going to culinary school and delving into fine jewelry and gemology. I ultimately chose the latter with the encouragement of my husband, who's been working in Manhattan's Diamond District for over a decade. After a role as a Sales & Communications Manager for a very prominent and private jeweler, my husband and I joined hands to launch our own bespoke fine jewelry atelier in the heart of the Diamond District in 2016.
You first started at Knours as the Sales & Marketing Director. What were some of your responsibilities in that role?
At a small company such as Knours, your role is a million things all at once. I worked closely with our then-consultant to fine-tune our pitch deck and eventually pitch it out to buyers at a number of retailers, maintained close rapport with current retailers, worked on product development pipelines, oversaw marketing campaigns/giveaways/social events, sought out different brands and partners for collabs, led ideation for content creation, worked with our designer on marketing/packaging materials, etc. The list goes on!
You were then promoted to Chief Brand Officer. What does your day-to-day look like now?
It's pretty much the same. But with the title comes responsibility. I do feel a much more personal connection to the brand than ever before. I present myself differently, my mindset and attitude have shifted, and Knours is like my own personal project now. Our purpose as a hormone-conscious brand is to encourage women to know and appreciate their bodies and skin by embracing the different cycles we enter hormonally.
I feel as though I embody that mission now as CBO. As a mother who has gone through these cycles, it makes it more of a personal mission to help normalize conversations around menstruation, maternity, and menopause and all the various relevant topics—ranging from feminine product accessibility to endometriosis.
You played a major role with Knours’ rebrand, which debuted in March. What was it like taking this project on? What prompted the brand refresh?
Our brand had a slow start with a few years spent figuring out our priority as a "hormone-conscious" brand, and we experienced a very important transition in 2020. We'd been internally calling it an "evolution," but you may consider it a slight rebranding or repositioning. I think our founder Julie Chon had a brilliant idea and direction when she first founded Knours, but it's not always the easiest to communicate that idea to the masses. There are so many new platforms, trends, and conversations that brands need to be fully aware of when building their foundation.
Our team spent truly meaningful time putting our heads together to focus our story and mission to be able to communicate it better, develop innovative and beautiful products, and essentially, build an improved brand that would resonate with women of all ages who struggle with their hormones and their bodies and ultimately, their skin.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
I'm extremely passionate about helping women appreciate their womanhood intimately. Our periods, pregnancy or the emotional road to becoming pregnant, and perimenopause are sometimes the least "beautiful" physically. Still, they are also some of the most beautiful and empowering moments we can have as women. So when we get DM's or emails or reviews from consumers saying they love our brand story, it's very meaningful and rewarding.
There are so many great skincare products out there, but when you're using a Knours product, you're agreeing with and supporting our movement. We're sharing real stories, spreading knowledge, and creating conversations that didn't previously have a place in the beauty industry. We're much more than just skincare. Knours is also clean with a very specific purpose; we don't want any of the ingredients in our products to disturb or toxicate your endocrine system and its role in regulating and producing your hormones.
What's the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part is creating really beautiful, really effective, and innovative products that meet the highest standards of 'clean.' Plus, getting people to love the products as much as we do.
What are the three biggest career lessons you’ve learned?
I've learned that taking on a challenge is never not worth it, your team is 99% of the job, and you should be the change you wish to see.
When work feels stressful, what do you like to do for self-care?
I cook myself and my family a big meal, or I'll treat myself to a massage and spa pedicure.
What does beauty mean to you?
Beauty to me means feeling well and finding yourself smiling naturally because you're well. Before I became a mother, beauty to me was what it is for many young women today—the unrealistic standards you see prevalent on TV and social media. Constant struggles with my skin and my weight led to a lot of unwellness, and I don't think I ever looked at myself then and saw "beauty." Becoming a mom and appreciating my skin, body, and what it can accomplish changed that gradually. I'm saggier, wrinklier, and heavier than I've ever been before, but I feel beautiful. I think the genuine, unselfconscious smile on my face shows it.
What are your current favorite beauty products?
Obviously, our Sweet Rescue Bubble Burst Serum ($38) because my skin is unpredictable in the summer heat, and our serum has been a lifesaver in calming it down while keeping it hydrated (but not oily). I also can't live without our Double Duty Mist ($36). The mini version is always in my purse. Mascara is my must-have makeup product, and my current fave is Missha's Ultra Powerproof Mascara ($15). I'm also really loving the new Bisou Balms ($25) from Violette_FR.