Welcome to the Emirates Woman weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesswomen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
This week we chat with the Founder & CEO of skincare and sheet mask brand GLIST, Kary Cheng. As a fundamental part of Cheng’s skincare routine, Sheet masks have helped her achieve the ultimate skin confidence and she hence founded a brand that could deliver the rejuvenating results she wants so customers can feel confident in their own skin.
By simplifying people’s skincare routine, these powerful sheet masks overcome various skin concerns and are now making a difference in the region step by step.
To delve further, Emirates Woman spoke to the founder to understand how she converted her passion into a full-time business.
What was your favourite subject at school?
World History. Before I took my GCSEs I mainly studied WWI and WWII. I believe that studying history allows us to observe and understand how people and societies behaved and how they transform. However, in East Asia we didn’t get a chance to study much about this region’s history, hence why after moving here I read a lot about this region, particularly the Ottoman Empire. I find it very fascinating.
What was your first job?
My first job was working as an Accounting Assistant & Corporate Secretary in a small accounting firm in Hong Kong. I studied accounting after my GCSEs so it was a dream come true when I landed this job.
What brought you to Dubai?
I have always wanted to leave Hong Kong so I could travel and see the world and in 2013 I was given the opportunity to do so. I was working in a recruitment agency in Hong Kong which was headquartered in the UAE and they offered to relocate me. Although most people around me found it interesting that I chose to come to the Middle East when most of my peers and friends were moving to the UK, this opportunity was another dream come true for me.
What inspired you to enter the beauty space and launch GLIST?
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would launch a beauty brand! I have always been obsessed with skincare, especially sheet masks, as they play a big role in the skincare culture I grew up in for both men and women. After leaving my corporate job, where I was a company partner, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next in my career. But I am a big believer in when something is meant for you it will come to you naturally at the right time. I’ve lived in Dubai for a decade and every time I travel to East Asia, I’ve always had to stock up on sheet masks and bring them back to Dubai with me as I’ve never found a brand or mask that matches the quality that I’m used to. So, I thought to myself, now is the time to put my passion into action and create something that is missing in the market here in the Gulf. No other skincare brands in the Gulf specialise in sheet masks and there are also very limited sheet mask products in the Gulf. Compared to East Asia, we lack options and quality in the UAE, which is why I decided to create GLIST. I want to bring the best technology, trends and rituals from my home in Hong Kong to my second home here in the UAE.
Talk us through the inspiration for your products.
GLIST has combined the best of Japanese and Korean skincare trends, technologies, and principles, with centuries-old skincare rituals, to advance a skincare staple. The inspiration behind GLIST is to introduce one of the most important steps in East Asian skincare to the Gulf region. As a bespoke skincare brand, we currently retail four products. This includes three masks – the GLIST Ultra Hydro Plumping Mask, the GLIST Anti-Wrinkle Reviving Mask and the GLIST Instant Rescue Purifying Mask – as well as the ultimate sheet mask companion, the GLIST Hair Slide. All GLIST products have been created and are made in Taiwan. I chose Taiwan specifically because Taiwan has always been a leader in East Asian beauty and skincare. Taiwan was Japan’s colony for 50 years and they are still heavily influenced by the Japanese culture in many ways, including of course, the beauty industry. Taiwan’s skincare technology is highly comparable with Japan and Korea, Taiwan is just not as well-known when it comes to skincare. Coming from Hong Kong, and sharing the same language and culture as Taiwan, I feel that it is my responsibility to represent them in the skincare industry in the Gulf. It also gives me the opportunity to educate more people that aside from K-beauty, we also have T-beauty. GLIST sheet masks feature a semi-cellulose gel, semi fibre material – a technology which has never before been retailed in the region. I decided to use this technology for the masks because it encourages the deep absorption of the mask serum into the pores for the best and long-lasting results. When you put the mask on your face the sheet is wet in jelly form and as time passes when you’re wearing the sheet, it turns to a white colour which is the fibre part. This transformation of the sheet shows that the serum has been absorbed into the skin, instead of being left on the mask or evaporated into the air. The GLIST Hair Slide is probably one of the best inventions from East Asia. It is made from velcro so it is very light and versatile, you don’t even notice that you’re wearing it. It is the best skincare/make-up companion as it firmly holds the hair off the face without leaving any creases in the hair like other hair clips do. This product is also the first of its kind to be retailed in the region.
What are the key elements of your role?
As the Founder and CEO of GLIST, I have been involved with the creation of the brand, the development of the products and the setup and management of the business. As the creator of a skincare brand, I’m also passionate about sharing knowledge with GLIST customers as I believe that knowledge is power. I don’t want to just sell a product – I want to help people understand skincare. As consumers, we have so many options available to us and it can be so confusing to know what products to use on our skin and what we actually need to use. Through GLIST, I want to help people understand the fundamentals of hydrated and healthy skin so they can achieve ultimate skin confidence. I also want to promote self-love in a different way and empower people to love their natural-looking skin because in the skincare culture I grew up in, we celebrate natural beauty and believe that less is more.
Talk us through your daily routine.
I usually spend an hour each morning dealing with our laboratory in Taiwan as they are 4 hours ahead of Dubai. Afterward, I take an hour to get ready for the UAE working day (I usually make a banana smoothie and then meditate for 20-25 minutes. I try to not fill my calendar with a lot of meetings and believe that it is important to take regular breaks throughout my day to go for a quick walk, read or do something that isn’t business related so I can keep my my fresh and focused. I finish my day no later than 6pm, unless something is very urgent. I used to live to work, but this took a toll on my physical and mental health and now I am a big believer in having a good work-life balance. In the evening I either see my friends or catch up with some Taiwanese shows.
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What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
Do your market research, plan effectively and have realistic financial budgets. When you’re starting a business, you are most likely not going to have an income for the first 3-6 months, so you need to be prepared for this. Work hard, be humble and have gratitude daily. If you are driven by passion and you’re passionate about enhancing people’s lives through what you do, it is very rare that you won’t succeed.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Your perception of me is a reflection of you.”
And what is the worst?
“You can’t have it all.” I believe that we CAN have it all as long as deep down we believe we deserve it. Don’t settle for anything less.
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
To follow my instinct instead of letting people around me make decisions for me. I used to let people make a lot of decisions for me because I was scared of making the wrong decisions. I have now learned that I should only trust my instinct, it is there for a reason.
What are the future plans for your brand?
I have big plans for GLIST! After just two weeks of launching in the UAE, we have started shipping to KSA and Qatar and we are working closely with our shipping partner to get our products to the rest of the GCC. I am also in discussion with my laboratory and chemists in Taiwan about developing our next product line, which I am aiming to launch before the end of the year. I can’t wait to share more with you.
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