By Christine Roach
With Crystal (Balcom) Ju’s fear came a sense of longing. She longed for adventure, for travel, for fulfilling work. Her ambition and bravery led her down a path she never imagined – owning a successful international business in South Korea with her husband.
Fresh from EWU graduation in 2010 with a car packed full of clothes, college furniture and mementos, Ju drove home to Seattle. On the way, she talked to her father on the phone. Through tears, she explained her nervousness: how was she going to find a job? What was she doing with her life?
Fewer than two months after graduating, Ju found a job, though she didn’t find it fulfilling. She worked for a major shoe company in customer service, proofreading and matching shoe orders for other companies.
“When I was in university, I wanted to see the world,” she said. “I wanted to go and do something and have an opportunity to just do more. I started looking at different opportunities to pursue that while working at Steve Madden – at the time I wasn’t married, I didn’t own a house, I didn’t have children, so it was the best time to go and see the world.”
With encouragement from her sorority sisters who were teaching English in South Korea, Ju gave in to her wanderlust and left her comfortable life in Seattle for a life of adventure in South Korea.
“I felt like at the end of the day when I’m 50 years old, and I look back at my time, what’s going to be more meaningful – this shoe company getting their correct shoes or me helping children learn English? For me, that was a big deciding factor,” she said.
“Beauty is much different in Korea than in the U.S. My Korean co-teachers would add face mist throughout the day. I was like, ‘What are you doing?’” she said, laughing. “I wash my face with cleanser and maybe put on a cream. What is this face mist?”
Ju received her first beauty box on her birthday, complete with a five-step kit. Beauty boxes are popular among the Korean beauty market, containing several samples of products.
“I just thought, ‘What am I going to do with all of this?’” Ju said. “My friend showed me the steps in which to use them, and I just saw my skin become more clear and a little bit brighter.”
Ju was hooked. The regiment became part of her daily routine. She was able to unwind for the day and take time for herself; it was therapeutic.
Introducing Korean products to her friends in the U.S., the idea for Brush and Powder was sparked by a friend’s request for snail cream. Ju brought her home some samples since some Korean beauty products aren’t available or affordable in the U.S.
“My friend went to a skin care party, and she said that the woman who was running it pulled out a black light and ran it over everyone’s face to show them how dry their skin was,” Ju said. “When the woman put the black light over my friend’s face, the woman told her she’s never seen someone with such supple skin.”
This inspired Ju to find a way to provide affordable Korean skincare products on the market.
“When I heard her story, I knew this is it,” she said. “I know about Korean beauty, I know people love it, and now is the time to get started.”
Brush and Powder began by selling beauty boxes and retail items to customers globally online. Within a few months of starting their business, Ju and her husband were selected by the Korean government to receive special training for new entrepreneurs.
Ju’s husband attended classes to learn about how to sell products on eBay, and the program supplied Brush and Powder with an office to work from and helped pay shipping costs for the first six months.
The program helped Brush and Powder get on its feet, with Crystal and Drake as an unstoppable team. As a native English speaker, Crystal, and, as a native Korean speaker, Drake, are able to easily conduct business in Korea, which also allows them to see the trends first and contact companies quickly to receive the latest, trendiest products.
Initially starting out selling beauty boxes and retail items, Brush and Powder has grown to sell items for wholesale distributors. Ju wanted to make Korean beauty easily available to other people who want to start a business and earn extra income, too.
Since selling wholesale, Brush and Powder has had businesses from all over the world – U.S., U.K., Australia and Spain – contacting them to receive a supply of products.
“We want our business to be a little bit different. The whole reason we grew our business into wholesale is the idea of other people – it wasn’t just about growing our business. The first thought was how can we help others?” Ju said. “That’s what’s different about us – we don’t want to just grow our business so that we can benefit, we legitimately want to be able to help others.”
Ju plans to continue to grow her business, and possibly branch out to the U.S. with plans of moving back with her husband in the next few years.
Ju’s cheery, can-do and fearless attitude have made her, and Brush and Powder, an international success. Saying yes to opportunities has led Ju to live a life she never imagined.
“Graduating and seeking something different, something out of my comfort zone that would possibly bring a lot of wonderful life experience has led to all these different things for me,” Ju said. “Just saying yes, trying something new and taking advantage of opportunities that come my way has led me to own an international business with my husband, which is something I never thought would happen. It’s really incredible.”