Fern Koh is the founder of Fernberry Skincare. A chemist, Fern personally formulates her company’s line of ethical beauty products manufactured in Japan with natural ingredients. Prior to starting Fernberry, Fern developed beauty products for luxury brands including Calvin Klein, La Mer, and Marc Jacobs.
What do you sell and to whom?
Our line is for those who are looking for effective hydration products and who are drawn to brands that focus on using quality, natural ingredients. The Fernberry range is formulated for those who have sensitive skin and are wary of using harmful chemicals. Our packaging is designed to be travel-friendly, which makes it easy to replace bulky items while on the go. All of our products contain a next generation hydration ingredient that rapidly delivers moisture to the skin.
What is the dramatic difference you offer your customers?
At Fernberry, our research and development process deviates from the typical, industrial approach. We develop products patiently, one at a time. By giving each product our full attention, we make sure that product safety and quality are of the highest standards. We blend natural Japanese ingredients with the famously pure water of the Okayama Prefecture. Our products are repeatedly tested under different conditions and environments. Only when they have passed stringent safety and quality tests are our products offered to customers.
We want to give our customers the experience of truly connecting with the products they use. Whether it is connecting with their skin’s original, youthful complexion or connecting with the healing qualities of traditional ingredients, it is all about the customer’s experience. That is why we slow down and carefully select the kind of ingredients and formulations we offer our customers.
What compelled you to start your business, and how long have you been in business?
While developing products for other brands, I discovered a super-moisture ingredient derived from hyaluronic acid called sodium hyaluronate cross-polymer. This ground-breaking ingredient absorbs 1,000 times its weight in water. I started my company with a vision of developing a natural and ethical skincare brand that could deliver incredible moisture replenishment and immediately visible results.
What aspect of your business life causes you the most fear and trepidation, and how do you keep your fear from overwhelming you?
Finding a balance between staying on track and facing ever-changing, unforeseen situations. I try to stay aware of possible changes that could happen, since I know that there may be the need to change plans at any moment. Thus, it is vital to always have a back-up plan in place.
What about your business is the greatest source of personal pride? Why?
I’m proud when a customer lets us know how much they love our products. It is an indescribable feeling to see the excitement in a customer’s eyes or hear it in their voice when they tell us how our products have changed their skin. It still feels surreal to know that Fernberry products are able to help people. Sometimes, we even learn from our customers about additional benefits our products can bring—benefits that we never anticipated!
What are the smartest and dumbest things you’ve done in business?
The smartest thing I’ve done while running my business is to never give in to peer pressure and rush in to product launches, for example. I believe in planning wisely and acting patiently. Similarly, Fernberry believes in making choices in a very intentional and deliberate way. We believe in eschewing consumerism and connecting with the products we use intentionally choosing what we want and how we want it. Whatever we do at Fernberry, we are going to do it extremely well, and we are going to enjoy every step of the journey.
One of my biggest lessons I’ve learned is to write down all the holidays of the different countries that my business has operations in. One time, I almost couldn’t make important deadlines because several countries happened to be “taking turns” going on holiday!
What advice would you give your younger self?
Discover self-development books earlier!
If you could ask your true business peers one question, what would it be?
What is your biggest fear in running your business, and what have you done to overcome it?
What does success mean to you?
To me, success is to have self-satisfaction: a good balance of happiness, love, career success, and giving back. Growth is also part of being successful. I believe that the success of Fernberry is in seeing our team grow together and connect well internally. My success is the success of the entire Fernberry family. I cannot imagine life with all the money in the world and neither happiness nor a sense of fulfillment.
What is the one tool you can’t live without, and how do you use it in your business?
I can’t live without guides to doing all sorts of things. I like to be self-sufficient, so guides like self-help books, DIY blogs, infographics, and video tutorials are all treasure to me.
Where do you go and what do you do to really unwind?
Anywhere that has internet access, a body of water, and the sky!
What skill, interest, passion, or hobby do you have that surprises people, and why are they surprised?
I constantly read self-development books that address how to deal with a lack of self-esteem or how to interact with people. This surprises people since I’m quite a “people person”. But to me, there’s always room to learn, and I’m learning every day!
What else would you like us to know about you?
The inspiration of our first product (Replenishing Smoothie Conditioning Foot Cream) was when one of my best friends said, “OMG! Can you please make a good foot cream? I can’t ever find one that is RIGHT. Everything seems to be missing something!” So I said, “Okay sure I’ll make a foot cream that will blow your mind!” So I did as a way of fulfilling a promise to a good friend. Now I can show people that there actually is a better product than what they use now.