We had the good fortune of connecting with Yu-Chen Shih and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yu-Chen, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
To be very honest, my thought process behind starting my own business was simply driven by the desire to solve a problem. When I was a student at Pepperdine, I attended a talk by Naveen Jain (founder of InfoSpace, Moon Express and Viome) which changed my whole perspective of entrepreneurship. I used to think that starting a business was very complicated, and I would never be qualified enough to be an entrepreneur. In his talk, Mr. Jain said, “Entrepreneurship is very simple. Identify a problem, then create a solution. If you create an effective solution to a problem that many people face, that in itself is a successful business… The best person to disrupt an industry is someone who knows nothing about it.” As a mixed-race Asian woman with a lifelong passion in beauty, my biggest issue was finding a foundation product that works for my skin tone and skin type. Most foundations on the market broke me out, and it was virtually impossible to find a shade that matched my natural complexion. I also felt that there wasn’t a brand that really spoke to me, and I was constantly made to choose between style and suitability. After years of waiting (in vain) for the beauty industry to come up with a solution to my problem, I decided to do it myself by creating my own cosmetics brand.
What should our readers know about your business?
Orcé Cosmetics is a luxury beauty brand specially created for the unique skin tones and skin concerns of global Asian women. Most (if not all) brands on the market create products with the Caucasian consumer in mind; we dedicate our R&D to studying Asian skin and creating effective solutions to tackles issues commonly faced by Asian complexions. The greatest lesson I’ve learned thus far is to stay true to your vision. A brand that caters to a minority group like Asian women tends to be frowned upon by large retailers and even investors. I’ve been told time and again that we are limiting ourselves by serving a specific demographic group (that is not white). What these people don’t understand is that Asian women have been systematically overlooked by the beauty industry, despite the fact that they spend more on cosmetics and skincare than other demographic groups. Asian skin is structurally unique, and often considered the most problematic due to its tendency to scar, pigment and be very sensitive. This was a struggle I faced my entire life up to this point – I had always felt like I was excluded from what was considered beautiful due to the lack of options for someone who looked like me. There have been moments along my journey where I considered caving in to the pressure of conforming to what retailers and investors want, so I can access the doors of opportunity that they offer. Then, I realized that if I did, I would lose the very reason that drove me to create Orcé.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
Visit a farmer’s market on Sunday – I like the Mar Vista Farmer’s Market. Brunch at République, Square One Dining, Bianca Bakery, Breakfast by Salt’s Cure, Otium and The Ivy. Shop at Melrose Place, Rodeo Drive, Abbott Kinney, Westfield Century City and The Grove. Afternoon tea at Peninsula Beverly Hills, Alfred Tea Room and Urth Caffe . Hike to the Hollywood sign, Griffith Observatory and Escondido Falls. Bike from Redondo Beach to Manhattan Beach and check out the cute shops along Manhattan Beach Blvd. Dinner at Ten-Raku Korean BBQ, Bestia, Boiling Crab, Little Sister, Redbird, Rosaline and Mori Sushi. Drinks at Bibo Ergo Sum, Apothéke, Black Rabbit Rose, The Normandie Club, Bar Centro at The Bazaar and Melrose Umbrella Co.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
This sounds a little cliché, but I truly wouldn’t be here without my father. I don’t think I’m anywhere close to success, since Orcé Cosmetics only launched in February 2019. However, my father was the one who encouraged me to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. Growing up in Singapore, I was taught to be extremely risk-averse. I was also raised by a very traditional Taiwanese mother who believed that a woman’s greatest success is finding a good husband. I never dreamt that I would ever start my own business; I didn’t think I was smart enough or qualified enough. When my parents visited for my graduation in 2017, my father stumbled upon a book that contained a business plan and marketing plan for a cosmetics brand specially created for Asian women (I was using it as a coffee table book in my apartment as I never thought I would do anything with it after graduating). He confronted me the next day and pushed me to set up a meeting with an attorney to register my company. As I second-guessed myself and argued with him that it was absurd for me to start my own business, he was unwavering in his belief that I could do it and I had to do it. He had faith in me, even before I learned to have faith in myself. For that, I will forever be grateful.