Most know Victoria Tsai as the visionary founder, CEO and product developer for Tatcha. But few know the married mother of an eight-year-old sold her engagement ring to start her skin care company out of her San Francisco garage. In 2009, while traveling in Kyoto, the Harvard Business School grad had an unexpected connection with a modern-day geisha. That chance happening inspired Tatcha, which is based on generations-old Japanese beauty rituals. Just months later, Tatcha was created with only one product: blotting papers. It became an instant hit. In 2015 the brand was listed the second fastest-growing, privately-owned company in the U.S. led by a woman by Inc. Magazine. Tatcha was also listed as the fastest-growing independent luxury beauty brand in the country. Another huge success came in 2016 when Four Seasons Kyoto Spa partnered with the brand. “I think of Tatcha as my love letter to Japan,” said Victoria, who only started taking a salary last year. “It meant the world to me to bring this brand home.” Tatcha continues to be a leader in innovation, while maintaining a beautiful balance with its ecommerce and prestige retail distribution presence. Somehow, Victoria, who spends 90 percent of her time on the road searching for ideas and skin care treasures, found time to talk with CEW’s Beauty Insider.
Beauty Insider: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
Victoria Tsai: Hiring for culture. There’s no shortage of talented people with great skills in the marketplace, but culture fit is what allows our team do to their best work. We are a values-driven company: we focus on loving our clients; our craft; our colleagues; our community.
BI: What is the biggest mistake you’ve made?
VT: I made a hiring mistake that impacted the brand and the team. I was so eager to fill a key role that I rushed through the due diligence. If I had just checked off-sheet references, I would have avoided the mess. I take my time with key hires now and do my homework.
BI: If you could change one thing about your brand, what would it be?
VT: The story behind Tatcha is true. Because it is a real story, about real people, it rings true with our clients for authenticity but it also takes a while to explain who we are. We are working on sharpening the brand story without losing the truth of it.
BI: What product (not your own) is your favorite and why?
VT: Drybar’s Dry Shampoo changed how I travel—it has made my life so much easier.
BI: What’s something no one tells you when starting a business?
VT: How important it is to invest early in technology and systems. We got lucky and implemented a scalable enterprise resource planning [ERP] system when we were tiny, which has allowed us to scale without the typical start-up hiccups on the operations and finance side.
BI: Best advice for newbies entering the business today?
VT: Go for it! But have a reason for being. Clients can tell what’s real and what’s not. There are so many beauty brands out there, and your reason for being is what sets you apart.
BI: What’s your greatest accomplishment thus far?
VT: Funding 2 million days of school through our partnership with Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program.
BI: What’s a mantra you live by?
VT: If it was easy, everyone would do it.
BI: If you were to write the note found in a fortune cookie, what would it say?
VT: Beauty begins in the heart and the mind.