I was happy to welcome Korie at my space a couple of Tuesdays ago. Korie is the founder of Kore Herbals, a plant-based skincare brand, based in Portland, Orgeon. Ever since our first conversation early summer, I’ve felt a connection with Korie's brand. Korie’s belief in her project and her mission is incredibly refreshing and I couldn’t be more excited to share her journey on Bottega Stories.
Grab a cup of tea and a short break from your daily hustle, I am sure you'll find this story inspiring.
For a recap of our summer photoshoot featuring Kore Herbals, visit our Work page.
+ Where were you born, Korie?
Seoul, South Korea
+ How long have you been in the US?
27 years, since I was 3. My parents are American.
+ What do your parents do for a living?
My mother is a teacher, focusing in character education for young children and my father is an entrepreneur, he started a real estate company when he was 30. He is also a musician at heart.
+ Why do you do what you do at Kore Herbals?
A big part of this work is the plants, I want to reconnect humanity to the plant world, and I feel I can do that through beauty. People want to feel beautiful, they want to feel radiant. Knowing that the plants can sustain beauty for you, and sharing that through my products is really important. Through sourcing ingredients for my products, I am also creating jobs for people, local farmers and beekeepers that in return help me keep my business sustainable.
+ Who is Kore Herbals’ ideal customer?
My target audience are people that want to have a natural organic, sustainable lifestyle. Luckily that is popular right now! But that should also include making choices that are sustainable for the planet.
+ How did you start creating your concept?
It started from a personal need, I used to have really bad skin, so bad that it was detrimental to my social life. High school is hard, people judge you harshly. My mom took me to the only natural esthetician in town and I was really lucky to be using plant-based skincare from the age of 14.
My skin got better but after wearing thick chemical foundations for years, it relapsed in my early twenties.
I decided to detoxify it and purify it instead of continuing to “cover myself up”. I simplified my cleaning routine, using only water and natural oils, such as jojoba oil/almond oil. It took 6-8 months for my skin to detox. It was a self-love practice to appreciate and nurture my skin, that is how my interest in plants, their spiritual and emotional healing, started.
Soon after, I was accepted as an apprentice in Tennessee to study the subtle healing energies of flower essences. Then I went to Philadelphia to study herbalism. this time I was more focused on how to make medicine and nourish the body with plants.
After some time, I knew I wanted to make natural products that would make people feel beautiful. I started experimenting in my kitchen and my very first products came to life: a mascara, a tinted lip balm and a foundation.
I was working on those products for personal use, but then my friends started using them and then they asked for custom blends for their skin issues, so we started using ingredients we had at home to create products for their specific skin type and beauty needs. We did coconut oil pulling and used charcoal for our teeth, even before coconut oil and activated charcoal were a thing!
+ Tell us about an aha moment you’ve had in your entrepreneurial journey
Bloomstruck was an idea I had before creating Kore Herbals, and it came about after an aha moment. When I was working in retail and an older woman came in and asked me if we carried salt scrubs, I said we didn’t but suggested she could create her own, and I started tossing recipes at her. Suddenly, she asked me to come to her kitchen to teach a class and hang out with her friends! That was my aha moment, when I realized people had a desire for handmade beauty and found value in what I had to offer. She never contacted me but I feel she was perhaps an angel in disguise that drove me to begin teaching classes.
+ How long ago did you launch your brand?
It had been in the works for three years, but it’s only been 6 months since I made it available to the public.
+ What is your bestselling product?
Anoint Herbal Skin Wand
+ What are your best sales channels?
I have an Etsy shop, and most of my sales through Etsy come from organic searches, people that go on there and search for the kind of products I offer, then they see my products and decide to buy. I am also trying to do a lot of pop-ups and I’ve found that people love getting to meet the maker, they like seeing the product in person, they engage and ask questions. People want to be guided through skincare, which is also why I love to teach herbal skincare classes. Instagram also plays an important part in getting my brand out there.
+ What is your favorite brand?
Mountain Rose Herbs. They are an organic, certified farm that provides local herbs, clays and teas, and they work with sustainable farmers. They are a zero waste company. They also support multiple companies, one of them is a seed bank, they’re saving seeds from endangered species and cultivating responsibly with these healing high demand plants.
Sourcing through them keeps me at great peace with my brand. Knowing that I’m part of the web that is making it all unified. Plus, I know they enjoy sharing their knowledge, they´re not trying to withhold any information. It is a greater idea of everyone sharing their gifts and supporting small brands like mine.
+ On a personal level, how do you support yourself?
My main financial support is my day job, working with Animals.
+ How do you get funding for your company?
The income I get from Kore Herbals pays for my studio space and between 25-50% of the ingredients that I need, so I am currently supporting my business and inventory with my personal budget, which doesn’t always give me a lot of room to do anything else but focus on business. Some months, I’m feeding my brand about 50% of my personal income without knowing that it is going to succeed, that’s how much I believe in it!
+ How do you stay motivated and positive about your brand and its future?
I stay motivated because I’ve developed a spiritual, personal relationship with plants. The plants were here before us, they basically sustain life, to use them in my products and honor them in that way is so fulfilling... It is almost ceremonious, it’s like a relationship so revered that you don’t question keeping it alive. It’s so much more than just a product, it’s about the essence and the vitality that plants offer to humanity.
My studio is like my church. I get the dandelion, I get the rose, I get the yarrow and they all have different personalities and energies, and I like to think they’re in partnership with me to create each product.
+ In your entrepreneurial journey, what do you think has been the best resource you’ve found?
Finding community. It really started when I was teaching community classes in Northwest Portland, then I got the opportunity to speak at yworkshops’ launch event. I think as an entrepreneur, putting yourself out there and making yourself available to be found and seen is really important, people are out there looking for your product but if you don’t show up they can’t find you.
+ Where do you see Kore Herbals in the future?
I love to teach, I’d love to be a platform of inspiration and encouragement especially for women, I believe Kore Herbals encompasses that. I’d love to have some sort of academy or school, I envision it as mostly women gathering and talking about plant medicine and our relationship to nature as humans, and how we contribute to the Earth and help to care for it. I think there’s the demand for a school that teaches botanical skincare.
+ What is next for Kore Herbals?
Offering wholesale, starting to facilitate classes and gatherings focusing on sustainable beauty and intentional relationships with nature. Now that I have a creative work-space studio, all of that seems more feasible.
The difference between fear and excitement is a very thin line. I choose to be excited.
+ What sort of resource/opportunity are you currently looking for to grow your business?
An affordable pop up location where I could show up every day, sell my products and host classes and community events, herbal workshops, and create a very interactive community with events and collaborative retail. When I say affordable, I’m thinking maybe have a space with other makers and/or local businesses, a studio-retail space that we all share where each maker takes on the responsibility of covering the registry so that the others can work, or take a daytrip, or simply rest, with the knowledge that the person in charge is just as caring of the business as the rest. That would be a resource that would change my business.
+ This was a super inspiring talk Korie, you know I admire your passion and drive. Is there anything else you’d like to share to wrap it up?
i am always open to collaboration and community offerings and gatherings contact me if you have ideas, everything has started through collaboration and has become so beneficial!