Jane Park – the founder and CEO of one of the fastest growing beauty brands, Julep – is no stranger to seizing her youth. After studying Public Policy and International Affairs at Princeton and then heading off to law school at Yale, Jane has always been a hard worker. After working as a consultant and at Starbucks, she then took a leap of faith to start Julep, a beauty company that tests new products on a community of monthly subscribers before it is mass-produced. Not only is this a smart strategy, but the products are quality. From nail polish to skin care products to makeup tools to hair care, Julep has your beauty necessities covered.
After having worked in both corporate and start-up settings, Jane is a pro when it comes to running her own business and getting things done. We are seriously inspired by her ability to multi-task, her passion for learning, and her advice to not be so hard on ourselves. She’s also generous with her time and advice. Jane is a true business and beauty rockstar, and we’re thrilled to share her story with you!
Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?
Jane Park: Seizing your youth is about finding the joy in things and having enthusiasm for the daily parts of your life.
CJ: You majored in Public Policy and International Affairs at Princeton. How did you determine what to study?
JP: Public Policy and International Affairs was the major that enabled me to take courses in the broadest number of areas. I could take politics, economics, East Asian studies, and anthropology. It was an awesome non-major in a way.
CJ: After college you went to law school at Yale University. How did you decide to go to law school right after graduating from college and what was your experience like?
JP: I actually didn’t plan to go to law school right away. I applied as a backup idea. I wanted to go to India to work for an organization called Seva Mandir. When I told my parents my plans, they freaked out. I ended up applying to law school and planned on saying that I was going to defer as a way to get around actually having to go. In the end, my parents guilted me into going to law school. I had never seen them cry before!
CJ: What did you learn from law school that helps you as an entrepreneur?
JP: I learned the value of thinking through things and looking at situations from different angles. When you are creating legal documents, you have to think about what the future might hold and look at things from different perspectives. That’s probably the most valuable thing.
CJ: If you could make the decision about whether to go to law school again, would you still go?
JP: If you are thinking about a career like law, you should spend a day with a lawyer and see if you like what he or she is doing with the day. A lot of legal work is actually not with people. It’s just paperwork and it’s not interactive with people, so it is a different kind of environment. Law school was super fun, intellectually rigorous, and we dealt with interesting problems and constitutional issues, but when you graduate, you aren’t on the Supreme Court right away. You are locked away in a room with boxes and boxes of paper.
CJ: After law school, you worked as a consultant and then at Starbucks. Please tell us about your experience working at Starbucks and your major learning experiences.
JP: It was great to learn about how brands are executed at Starbucks. We got to understand how you take a brand and make thousands of people who are trying to bring that to life meaningful to people. Seeing how that operated at scale was really interesting. It was all about people, as well.
One of the best weeks of that job was when I got to work in the stores. I realized how hard it is to be a barista. You think you can mark a cup, but it’s really hard to have a line of people and to remember how to put all of the ingredients in the right order. I finally ended up just cleaning the bathroom because it was something I couldn’t screw up.
CJ: You left your job at Starbucks to start Julep. Were there any skills you wish you had known before starting your own company?
JP: The thing about being an entrepreneur is that every situation is different so the most important thing is to have versatility and flexibility. The best thing to do to prepare is to really work with a lot of different people and figure out how they see the world and how you can influence them. At the end of the day, all an entrepreneur is doing is influencing your investors to believe in your dream and you’re influencing your team to come join you. In order to make that happen, it’s really an intellectual and emotional decision. You have to know how you view the world and understand how others view the world so you can communicate compellingly.
CJ: How do you set goals?
JP: A lot of the times there are a lot of complex big picture dreams. We want to be a multi-billion dollar global beauty company. Life is just a series of days put together. I can do anything for a day and then do that one day at a time.
CJ: Starting and running a company is no easy feat and you are challenged on a daily basis. What do you do when you are unsure of something and experience self-doubt?
JP: I’m pretty transparent with people about things that I am unsure of so they know what I am grappling with and I try to ask for help. In almost every circumstance that I’ve used the words, “I need your help,” I’ve gotten the help. The thing to remember is that you’re not alone. If you start thinking about who you can ask for help, you can come up with a list or find people who will help you with the list. If you’re sitting alone curled up on your bathroom floor, there’s no one who can help you or no one who knows that you need their help.
CJ: You’ve worked in both corporate and startup settings. What advice do you have for a young person to thrive in those two cultures?
JP: Forget about the fact that it’s about you and how you are graded. It was true of me, too. For my first job, I wanted to do a great job. At the consulting firm I worked at, we were graded every three months on our projects so you really wanted to get the good grade. At the end of the day I realized that even in that context, the most important thing to focus on is how we are helping the clients and how you have impact. If you focus on making a real difference, everything else will follow. If you focus on how you are viewed and how your boss thinks of you or your promotion, nothing good comes out of that situation.
Figure out what the company’s goals are, and if you can’t see that far ahead, then figure out what your boss’s goals are. When you’re a junior in a company, you want to make a difference and have a voice, but that’s all “I” “I” “I.” Think about how you can be helpful and most useful. To get a promotion, it’s not about influencing your boss. It’s about influencing your boss’s boss.
CJ: Why did you decide to start Julep in Seattle?
JP: I decided to live in Seattle because of the city itself. I have two kids and Seattle is a great city to live in with kids. What’s great about Seattle is that there is quite an entrepreneurial network and there is also a strong venture capital community. Seattle is the perfect city because you’re close enough to venture capital to get financed but far enough away from the competitive environment every day.
CJ: What is your typical day like at Julep?
JP: There really isn’t a typical day. Today I had a couple of phone calls with prospective investors that were back-to-back. I made my kids chocolate chip pancakes for Valentine’s Day. I saw my kids off to school and made more calls from home. I came into the office and had a team meeting to address inventory questions.
CJ: What has been the best moment of your career?
JP: One of them was when we did our pop-up store in New York. Meeting the maven customers face-to-face was amazing. There were women in tears who expressed their love for their monthly boxes. The level of emotional engagement has been amazing.
CJ: What advice would you give teenagers or young adults who are interested in being entrepreneurs?
JP: The number one question you have to ask yourself is “how do you deal with failure?” There are moments of failure every day and month. If you are somebody who always strives for perfection, this is not a good life for you because it’s really hard to achieve and hard to get there. Whether it is sports or doing something you are uncomfortable with, see how you handle those situations and how you progress. Being mentally strong is an important characteristic to have.
CJ: What motivates you in your everyday life?
JP: For me it’s all about learning. I want to always be learning about people and how to do better. If you want to be better tomorrow than you are today, quantify things in your life. Count and write things down. Whether it is exercise or in a business, if you can count it and measure it, you can make a difference. Instead of having a loose goal, measure it in some way. If you want to write a business plan, how many pages a day are you going to write? How many phone calls a day are you going to make? Break it down into something that’s measurable and you can have success.
CJ: What is the best advice you have every received?
JP: In every context you have to find your own voice and find yourself. When I started working, I had never worked in an office before and I thought there was a certain way I had to be. I was playing the role of a lawyer and wasn’t really being me. There’s no way you can be successful if you’re not being yourself in that context.
CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
JP: My overall mantra is to be forgiving when you make a mistake. Learn the lesson and move on. There is no benefit of raking yourself over the coals or rethinking again and again about how you could have done things differently. Of course there is always a better way to do things. If you’re frustrated and banging your head against the wall, it’s because you have an unrealistic expectation of what you should have been able to do. There is a lot of wasted energy on being too hard on ourselves.