Youn Chang is the Executive Director of Supply Chain at Glossier. She got her MBA from Wharton at The University of Pennsylvania. She worked at GE and Apple before finally pursuing her love of beauty at Glossier. This interview was conducted at the beautiful Glossier Office in Soho, and ended with a delightful visit to the bustling Glossier Showroom. Read about her career and current position below! (**Youn recently founded oral hygiene brand, OJOOK. Use code THESTYLE on their website for a complimentary intention toothbrush ($8 value) with your order!)
Walk me through your career path.
I was always into beauty and anything that’s colorful, creative and artistic. When I graduated from college, I had the choice between a L’Oreal marketing internship or working in finance at GE. I chose GE because it would be a full time job vs. an internship. I worked at GE for 6 years and had the opportunity to travel around the world. After this, I was ready for something more than finance. I decided to get my MBA and think through what I wanted to do. While I got my MBA, I had an internship at Sephora and Amazon.
After finishing graduate school, I went to work for Apple as Global Supply Manager. I worked on anything that had a display screen: iPhones, iPads, etc. and worked with product development. My husband and I were looking to move to New York and I decided it was time to translate my passion for beauty into a job. I reached out to Emily Weiss, the founder of Into The Gloss and Glossier, via email telling her I had been following the company closely and I noticed a lot of “out of stock” notifications online.
I know that it is challenging to keep products in stock and I asked her if Glossier needed help. This led to an interview and I landed a job as the Director of Supply Chain. I am now in charge of the physical product process with everything from development to our warehouse. In more details, I work with vendors, negotiate cost and contracts, influence how much product to make & store and decide where to manufacture to bring our product vision to reality.
What interested you in the beauty space?
I think I’ve always been obsessed with aesthetically pleasing things and colors. When I was 2 or 3, my dad gave me the 64 color crayons, and that is still my favorite thing to date (I still have it!). I value things that are made with intention. I majored in business, and at the end of the day, people always come back to what they like, so I’m in beauty.
I especially like beauty because it’s fun and it’s still something you can afford. Glossier is so simple and intuitive; you know immediately how to use it. The products don’t require explanation and it’s community-driven. We make the products together and it’s very approachable. The pricing is right and the products are well-made.
How long is the process from concept-to-shelf for a product?
We are probably shorter than bigger companies, which can be 15-36 months. For us, it’s about 12-18 months.
How do you decide which products to create?
We want to create essentials first. We started with skincare, and launched into daily makeup. Product calendar is more community and creative driven. We also go to trade shows and see what trends are in the market.
We marry input from our community, our creative vision (we are the editors) and what’s going on in the market. We don’t want to go into anything that’s gimmicky, complicated or too trend-driven. Our products are non-seasonal and are essential for your daily routine.
What goes into creating a product?
Inspiration can come from anything! Sometimes, we post things on Into The Gloss and gather feedback from the customers. We ask what dream products they would like to see. We look at all of the feedback we receive and refine it to a few options. Once we decide what to make, all cross functional teams work together.
We figure out the best way to contain the formula via packaging. We work with the marketing and creative teams to figure out how to best deliver to the market. Sometimes we launch on Into The Gloss or have a surprise launch on the Glossier website. We have a lot of different channels to work with. It’s a lot of people working together on the products including external people.
How would you define your role as Executive Director of Supply Chain?
Make sure we have great products developed and that we aren’t out of stock. I rely on cross-functional team’s expertise, because they know the best when it comes to developing product. For supply chain and operations, I help with negotiations with the vendors to make sure we have a good margin to support our growth, make sure we have enough capacity and that we are working with best-in-class people.
My current top priority is to not have inventory issues. I try to work with our vendors to shorten lead-time. At the end of the day, I do anything and everything to make sure we have the best product made and enough to fulfill customer demand.
What does your day-to-day look like?
I spend about 50% of time with my vendors and about 50% with Glossier team. I could visit a vendor site or attend a work event to discuss business & how we are growing. It’s important to cultivate those relationships with vendors. I could attend inventory working sessions to make sure when we go international where I should send the products and how many of them we should send.
It’s lots of planning ahead. It could be a recruiting meeting to discuss open positions with HR or I could be interviewing someone. We have product development meetings to go through timelines for future launches and I also review product development budgets. My day starts at 9am and can go until 9 or 10pm on busy days. I’m so passionate about what I do, so it’s not tiring.
What have you done to set yourself apart?
My mom’s advice. “Know what you want. Say what you want nicely, and persistently.” I always try to be nice to other people. People want to work with people who are pleasant to work with and I want to be one of those people.
Sometimes I have an opinion on something and feel strongly, but I try to see both sides and try to understand the other person’s point of view (POV). At the end of the day, we are all working towards the same goal.
What does your team look like?
Supply Chain, Quality and Operations Project Management team.
What skills are necessary to be in product development?
I think it’s balancing the art and science of the role. You must have a sense of trends, how people use things and what they need, while aligning it to the brand. You need eyes to have good product and what to make.
Sense of brand awareness is key. Having strong vendor relationships is important. You should be able to evaluate the performance of a formula. In terms of manufacturing, it’s all about how to scale up with consistency.
When you came to Glossier, how did you prepare for your new role?
I focused on thinking of what I can bring to the table. What process and expertise needs to be filled. Also, I’ve always been an avid beauty customer and have spent a lot of time looking through YouTube and discovering what’s new.
Where do you get inspiration?
I love arts. I am a member of The Whitney, Guggenheim and Lincoln Center. I go to grocery stores; the trends in food also translate to beauty: honey, apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, turmeric, etc can become beauty products.
I also draw inspiration from people in the office. I get inspired by other cultures and traveling, for example, I follow people in Korea and see what they put on their face & how they apply it. There is a lot of inspiration everywhere. I try and think outside the box for what can I put on my face? It’s really anything I eat or consume.