It has been a couple of years since the Korean wave hit Singapore shores, but Korean personalities and products have not gotten any less popular.
Fans of Korean beauty, fashion and lifestyle products would thus be familiar with Ksisters, a marketplace for all things Korean.
Today, the brand has a whopping 41,700 followers on Instagram and rakes in a year-on-year sales revenue growth of 150 per cent.
In contrast to its popularity today, Ksisters started out small as a platform that brought in kids clothes from South Korea.
It was founded by South Korea Jungmin Lee in 2015. She had wanted to spend more time with her children, who were only aged two and three back then, so she quit her full-time job at Procter & Gamble to start Ksisters.
Back then, there were hardly any companies that imported Korean fashion pieces for children. She wanted to introduce cute Korean clothes to her fellow mum friends in Singapore, and at the same time dress in matching outfits with her two daughters.
Inspired by the ‘Korean sisters’
In the beginning, the main motivation for Jungmin was the desire to wear matching outfits with her daughters. After all, the name Ksisters was inspired by the both of them — ‘Korean sisters’.
However, Ksisters now brings in a lot more products from other categories, including K-beauty items like skincare and haircare, to food and even lifestyle and household products like detergent.
It currently stocks products from about 20 to 30 brands from South Korea.
According to Jungmin, the shift was mainly due to feedback and requests from customers who were asking the team to bring in more products from Korea, particularly K-Beauty.
It also has its own in-house brand called Jung Beauty, which currently focuses on hair care products. It is named after herself, and the Korean word ‘Jeong’ refers to warm feeling of attachment felt between people with a close relationship.
The brand has since grown from a K-fashion curation store to curating all things Korean that’s on-trend and suitable for Singaporeans’ needs.
Jungmin told Vulcan Post that she routinely keeps up with the lives of her Singaporean customers via Instagram Stories or Facebook. Through her observations, she tries to determine the unmet needs they have, and use that information to decide on what product category to bring in next.
After finding out the needs of her customers, her team studies the Korean market and searches for brands that are trending or well-loved. They then order samples from the various brands to test internally.
When the team has confirmed that the products are of good quality, they move on to set up partnerships with the Korean brands and launch their products on the Ksisters platform. In the past, the brand has even collaborated with international brands such as Disney.
The longer I do this business, the more I understand how important product quality is. You can tell a good product from an average one, as the former will have a unique selling point that is not easily replicated.
Customers always come back to the same product if it is good because it is one that has really helped or made a change in their lives. So when we are sourcing products, I always make sure to try the product myself and read the Korean customers’ reviews.
Jungmin Lee, Founder of Ksisters
Although the business has significantly grown since its inception, Jungmin still keeps her daughters in mind when curating products for the brand.
For example, when she brought in skincare for babies and children, it took her almost two years to choose a suitable shampoo and conditioner as children’s hair is finer and gets tangled easily.
In fact, for the brand’s first collaboration with Disney last year, they chose Ariel from The Little Mermaid, who is the favourite Disney princess of Jungmin’s daughters.
She also takes into account their feedback for every fashion collection the brand brings in. Their clothes are all designed in-house, and manufactured in South Korea.
“We’ll try on the clothes together and we will look at the functionality of the product, like whether it has zips, buttons or pockets,” added Jungmin.
Building a strong community
Ksisters is known for the strong community it has built with Singaporean mothers and Korean product aficionados.
“I started this big adventure to give back to our close-knit Ksisters community by producing products that work and I personally love,” said Jungmin.
She shared that the small scale of the business at the beginning allowed her to do meet-ups with customers to find out more about what Singaporean mothers wanted, and these customers suggested bringing in K-beauty and lifestyle products.
As the business grew, she started hosting VIP events and pop-ups at department stores Takashimaya and Tangs, which gave her the valuable opportunity to connect with her customers.
I believe building a strong community is also about knowing what customers want. All mothers want the best for their kids, always. Yes, there are things that can be commonly shared in the universal parenting world, but there are different needs resulting from different cultures and weather backgrounds.
Jungmin Lee, Founder of Ksisters
Jungmin is also savvy in understanding what products are more suitable in Singapore’s context. For example, due to the hot and humid weather, Singaporean mothers prefer light moisturiser for their children that can sufficiently hydrate their skin but also prevent an uncomfortable stickiness.
Due to the weather, children here shower more often that in South Korea, so the consumption rate of shampoo and body wash products is much faster in Singapore, leading Singaporean parents to be more sensitive to the cost of such products.
These are just some of the factors that Jungmin takes into consideration when curating products for Ksisters.
Always being agile
Running a business is not easy, especially with two young children in tow, which is why Jungmin shared that she needs an “Avengers team” internally and externally who can handle existing challenges by themselves without her always being present.
When the team was smaller, Jungmin was spending a lot of time of administrative tasks, such as making cross-border payments to her many overseas suppliers — an experience which she found expensive, slow and troublesome.
She was initially using a bank to pay suppliers in Korea but found that there were many logistical issues that resulted in long wait times and extra costs, and she had to take time out of her schedule to go to the bank to resolve them.
She then decided to switch to Wise Business, an account dedicated for businesses, which helped to shave off precious working hours and save her 20 per cent of fees.
This freed up her time a lot, giving her more time to strategise and plan for the company’s growth instead. Another challenge she had was figuring out the best way to market her brand and products, which is why she had to conduct experiments and research frequently.
I am so blessed to have a small yet strong and smart team who entrusted me with their future in Ksisters. I don’t know what they saw in us, but I always think the only way to repay their love is to work hard and smartly to be a better leader too.
Jungmin Lee, Founder of Ksisters
Even though she does not have “a very accurate” answer for what she envisions Ksisters to be in the next ten years, her promise is that “Ksisters will be always agile in learning what customers want”.
“From our big milestones like launching beauty products, our in-house brand Jung Beauty to launching food product category MUKBANG MART, it all started from us trying our best to understand our customers and there is a lot more lined up in the coming years,” said Jungmin.
Featured Image Credit: Ksisters