Founder of Wild Magic Beauty, Stephanie Chen, talks about her inspiration, journey, struggles and milestones of her brand that launched right before the pandemic. Read all about it here!
Hi Stephanie! We’re so thrilled to finally talk to you about your brand. Please share with us how you started your magical brand Wild Magic.
My journey in skincare began in 2014 when I became increasingly conscious about the skincare products my family, friends, and I were applying onto our bodies on a daily basis. The focus on toxic ingredients in skincare and beauty products was gaining so much mainstream traction that I began doing my own research. I found myself spending way too much time in the skincare aisle at stores, reading and researching (on my phone) every ingredient on the label before deciding to make a purchase.
Before I knew it, I was deep diving into the growing world of clean beauty, my mind curious with questions : what makes a formula clean? Why are they not ‘clean’ in the first place? How do some chemicals impact our bodies? How do ingredients work together chemically to benefit our skin? These questions resulted in nights spent researching the science of skincare - I was thoroughly fascinated. The more I learned, the more I began experimenting with my own formulations at home.
"I was mixing face masks out of various clays and oils, creating toners from rice water, serums from fresh aloe vera. I started thinking about how traditional herbs such as astragalus, burdock root, ginseng (all which I grew up eating), could benefit our skin when applied topically."
As a daughter of Chinese immigrants, traditional Chinese medicine and philosophy define a significant part of my life. This holistic Eastern practice focuses on balancing our life energy, our qi, through our mind, body and soul. It is about finding harmony in every process, no matter how chaotic it may feel.
"A vital part of Eastern medicine is the herbs, many which are adaptogenic, meaning they help our bodies respond to mental and physical stress - and essentially adapt to change."
I began to brainstorm ways I could infuse these herbs and this philosophy into a brand that I could bring to the clean skincare market.
How did you come up with the name and branding?
Wild Magic was born out of a vision to create simple, plant-powered skincare inspired by elements from my ancestral wisdom. I believe skincare should be a supplement to what our bodies already do naturally to balance its processes. Because Eastern medicine is rooted in plant medicine, I wanted the name to capture just that - the power and magic of plants.
When designing the branding, I looked at the clean skincare market and saw that many brands opted for lighter colorways, but I decided to embrace the other end of the color spectrum : the darker, deeper color tones. The branding for Wild Magic captures the more mystical side of plants, as if you were walking through a lush, deep green forest before the break of dawn.
What did you do before starting Wild Magic?
Before I devoted myself full-time to Wild Magic, I was a public relations professional in a number of industries including travel, healthcare and tech. Wild Magic felt like a calling for me to embark on the journey of entrepreneurship. For a few years, while I was still working full-time, I managed a little soap business selling handmade soaps at local holiday fairs and craft markets. Wild Magic is very much an evolution of that.
I began building the business while I was still working in PR, until March 2019 when I decided to dedicate all my energy to Wild Magic. I spent the rest of 2019 working on everything from sourcing packaging, developing formulations, designing branding, building the website, taking photos, networking and participating in business plan competitions (the PowerUP! Competition by the Brooklyn Public Library is one that helped me significantly during my creation phase). The vision finally came to life in February 2020.
I currently operate Wild Magic on my own, but with endless support and love from friends, family, customers, and fellow entrepreneurs.
With the rapid emergence of so many clean beauty brands in recent years, how does Wild Magic stay relevant and distinct in the marketplace?
I was born and raised in the bustling streets of New York City, but amidst the city's fast-paced energy, my family embraced the slow and timeless wisdom of traditional Chinese medicine.
"In our home, there never seemed to be a shortage of herbs : ginger, ginseng, lotus, astragalus, burdock, goji berry, angelica root, and more. It felt as though we were living in our own secret garden nestled in the beating concrete heart of the city."
What sets the Wild Magic formulations apart is the incorporation of many of the adaptogenic herbs that I grew up with (in the form of extracts). Adaptogens help the body respond and adapt to environmental stressors, and when these extracts are applied topically, it helps the skin do just that and strengthen it against free radical damage.
I now work closely with a team at a women-owned U.S. skincare lab to ensure the formulations are created with integrity, consistency and efficacy. They are blended in small batches at the lab, which operates 100% on renewable wind energy. Each bottle is then filled, labeled and packaged by hand with love in my home studio.
Please tell us about your launch collection!
The Open Water Cleanser clears excess dirt without stripping the skin of its natural oils. It soothes the skin with burdock root and kelp, both which have historically been used in Eastern medicine to detoxify the body.
Our Earth Mist Toner hydrates the skin and re-balances its natural pH. It is formulated with ginseng and green tea, both which help the skin fight against free radical damage.
And our bestseller, Moon Light, is a facial oil blend made of ten nourishing botanicals including goji berry, sea buckthorn, raspberry, blueberry, and tamanu. The oils are extremely rich in antioxidants and help replenish the skin’s nutrients while locking in moisture. I try my best to source organic/cold-pressed raw ingredients when possible.
Where are your ingredients & packaging sourced from?
The packaging is from overseas but all the ingredients are sourced in the United States, most of which are done so sustainably. I am working to source more ingredients from local/independent farms (still a work in progress).
Given that you’re a one-woman show, what are the struggles and obstacles you’ve had to face in your business and how did you overcome them?
I faced challenges from various angles, so I will talk about a few here.
Supply chain :
I had a vision of what I wanted Wild Magic to be. It would be simple skincare infused with traditional wisdom. The branding would be dark, a bit mysterious. Coming up with the color palette, the mood, the design - all of that came naturally. The difficulties laid in the logistics.
"How would I bring the designs to life? Where would I get the packaging to fit what I envision? This is where I had to learn to build a supply chain."
I started simply by searching the internet and made calls to suppliers both locally and internationally. It was challenging working with suppliers overseas due to language and time zone barriers. But over time, and after jumping over many hurdles, I built a fairly seamless chain made of different vendors, all of which came together all under one roof in my home studio. I assemble each bottle (fill, label, box) by hand.
Throughout the process of building Wild Magic, many people had emphasized the importance of knowing the numbers when starting a business. Without analyzing the costs of everything that I was putting into the business, it would be difficult to sustain. I consulted with a close friend who had started businesses in the past, and he helped me build a cost analysis so that I can determine my startup costs and set up a plan for sales in the first two years.
"We built it together on an Excel spreadsheet, and it is still the document I’m using to this day. It is dynamic in a way that if one number needs to be changed, all the other elements in the document will be adjusted accordingly."
It was daunting for me to tackle the numbers at first, because there were so many different elements to account for. But I knew that if I wanted to make Wild Magic a sustained reality, I would need to. I would allocate a few hours a week on entering costs, tweaking formulas, and calculating what would make the most sense financially. It became a part of my weekly routine.
"I would be lying if I said it’s easy to manage, and there are periods of time that go by where I don’t want to even take one glimpse at the Excel, but it’s all part of entrepreneurship! All the thrilling and mundane parts."
To help finance the startup costs, I also entered the PowerUP! business plan competition hosted by the Brooklyn Public Library. They offered a number of valuable classes and workshops, as well as opportunities to meet other founders. One of the mandatory classes was all about financials, and it was through this class I learned to focus on important elements and functions in my cost/price analysis. Through this competition I was awarded a grant, which helped fund a good portion of my costs.
Aside from the logistics, motivation was and continues to be a significant factor in my entrepreneurial journey.
"I launched Wild Magic at the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak, right before the strict lockdown in New York. This put a halt on a number of the plans I had set in place : brick and mortar retailers were shut down so I could not pitch to them."
I was unable to sell at in-person artisan markets, and some parts of the supply chain were disrupted/delayed.
This put a considerable weight on my motivation, given that I am a one woman-show. I could no longer attend in-person workshops that would connect me with people going through the similar experience of building a business. New York was hit significantly at the onset of the health crisis, and given that I share a home with several older adults, I had to be extremely cautious, took on many personal responsibilities, and before I knew it, my Wild Magic business strategies were placed somewhat on the back burner.
If I had to choose the most difficult part of developing and launching this brand, it would be this - the self-motivation. The drive to keep going even in the face of significant obstacles. Given the collective grief coupled with my own made it exponentially more challenging to get things off the ground.
It wasn’t until the late summer, when I began to come out from what seemed like a long winter, that I began to pick up momentum again. I was able to put Wild Magic back into the forefront and focus on all parts of the startup strategy. I actively reconnected with other entrepreneurs who were faced with similar challenges during the pandemic.
"To talk passionately about the brand I put so much of my love and energy into was what fueled me to continue. To remember why I started."
And I slowly began to come out of what felt like a long, dark winter. I started getting back into a ‘normal’ routine. I re-ignited my running schedule to two-three times a week (which I had paused since March). I got back into yoga and strength training at home. I started journaling daily again. I am spending more time in the sunshine, soaking up all the vitamins and warmth. I am feeding my soul from all angles, and this nourishment translates into increased energy in everything I do, which includes Wild Magic. Rituals are so important to me, and keeping them helps me stay on track and helps me retain clarity.
What is your distribution strategy in getting Wild Magic out there?
Social media is currently my primary distribution strategy, in conjunction with the e-commerce website. Shoppers can buy directly via Instagram or Facebook with the new checkout function. This allows for in-app purchasing.
We’re intrigued to know if you’re currently supporting any charities or social movements?
It was factored into my business plan to donate a portion of the proceeds to the New York Restoration Project, which helps build green spaces in under-served communities. I have not been able to implement this donation just yet based on where I am with the startup phase, but do plan to in the future. Being born and raised in the city, I understand the importance of having access to green space. Studies have shown that green spaces impact both our physical and mental health positively, and I believe it should be available to all, especially those who live in urban areas with limited access.
Fill us in on the exciting events that are coming up for Wild Magic!
I am currently building relationships with other clean skincare brands that I plan to collaborate with for giveaways, Instagram Live events, etc... It’s wonderful to connect with other founders in the same skincare space. We all rise when we help each other rise. I’m excited for what we can achieve together.
I am also working on product ideas for 2021, and perhaps an in-person pop up event (likely outdoors when the weather gets warm). It would be a great opportunity to connect, participate in wellness activities, talk skincare, and more.