THIS MONTH: We're interviewing CEO and co-founder of Honey Belle, Iris Cherng. Inspired by her parents who are both holistic doctors of natural medicine, Iris dove into the world of clean beauty to create affordable products that aim to heal, protect and nourish the skin.
Were you always passionate about beauty as a child?
I was never quite a beauty enthusiast growing up but I've always been into self-care and was obsessed with finding new ways to take care of my body and skin. My parents both practiced holistic medicine, creating this passion for self-care through the form of physical wellness from a young age.
Tell us your story on why you started Honey Belle. Be sure to include all the nitty-gritty details -- we love to hear it all!
My mom, a holistic doctor of natural medicine, started making her own creams and lotions for herself in 2013 when she began developing skin allergies to department-brand products. Shortly after that time, I developed psoriasis. This made me more aware of the ingredients in my favorite cosmetics and I realized most natural and organic products were out of my budget, especially as a broke college student. With the help of my mom’s holistic knowledge, I turned to the kitchen to formulate natural recipes to treat my own skin problems—psoriasis, acne, scarring, blackheads, dark circles...the works!
Honey Belle is growing so quickly! You have an entire team behind you now and it couldn't have been easy. Tell us your experience of rising to success.
Honey Belle quickly growing meant I had to grow up too. I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. When Honey Belle consisted of only me and Calvin in the beginning, we had to be resourceful and split up responsibilities—for example, I managed all the marketing by myself, while Calvin handled production. Now, we have a team we can collaborate on new projects with, or count on to have deals with dream retailers come to fruition, to spearhead innovative marketing campaigns, etc. Having a team who fully believes in Honey Belle and its potential is so exciting and key for our growth.
Tell us about your experience in making your first product. What was it?
Aside from being my mom’s production assistant for her skin salves and healing lotion, the first product I actually experimented by myself was lip balm! Lip balm is such an essential self-care item for me, I always had to have a lip balm in my pocket or purse at all times! It was a bit challenging to find the perfect recipe, especially during the summertime, the lip balms would melt as I applied it onto my lips through the hot summer days. It probably took me at least 10 rounds of trials before finally finding our perfect ratio of oils and butters.
As a woman, how have you found the experience of setting up your own business and what advice would you give to others wanting to do the same?
Since Honey Belle simply started out as a hobby, I didn’t know everything there was to know about running a business when it became a full-time gig. My advice is to keep believing in yourself and reach out to share and connect with others! Especially as a woman with no business background, people will doubt you and hesitate on what you’re up to. That’s your cue to believe in your vision even more. It’s also great to become a sponge and be open-minded to see what you can learn, and educate yourself about the industry you’re eyeing. As an entrepreneur, you will have to learn to wear many hats. And persistence is key! There is no success without action.
What was your biggest challenge with Honey Belle?
The biggest challenge with Honey Belle is creating, paving, and walking on a path that I’ve never walked on before. With growth, there comes different challenges, issues, and problems that arise. I’ve learned to trust the process, even when it feels like the lowest of the lows, and trust in myself and my team members. I’m always experiencing something new that arises, and what helps is asking myself the question: “What is it that I’m committed to?”
Instagram: @irischerng and @calvindhang
Your fiancé, Calvin, is your co-founder. How do you balance your relationship and business, all whilst keeping it professional?
Working with Calvin on Honey Belle is so rewarding! Initially, it was challenging to discuss major business decisions together due to the personal emotions we would bring into the conversation. Calvin and I quickly realized that separating our business and personal lives would be the most ideal thing to do, so both our business and personal relationship could continue flourishing and not interfere with each other. However, that backfired on us, because we were spending more time as business partners than as romantic partners. In recent years, we’ve learned to integrate being a couple as part of our business relationship, and it has just been so incredible growing and facing challenges with him along my side! I couldn’t be any happier to be marrying this amazing man. We are so much more powerful together than we are apart.
Is there another clean beauty skincare brand you absolutely love? If so, why?
I admire so many other clean beauty brands in the market. They empower me with their similar goals and intentions of sharing clean beauty with the world! I love creating relationships with other natural and organic brands because at the end of the day, we’re all on the same team and in this together. Some brands that I love are Youth to the People, Cocokind, and Indie Lee.
Where do you see Honey Belle in 5 years?
In the next 5 years for Honey Belle, I see a world that is educated, is conscious, and is aware of their product and ingredients they use on a daily basis, and also about the environment. Honey Belle will be distributing products internationally (even more so!) and sharing our mission in celebrating natural skin, to connect real people to real products that work. I would also love to transition the brand to become entirely sustainable, not just with the products, but also how the company is run!
Lastly, what is the most important thing you've learned since starting your business?
The most important thing I’ve learned since starting Honey Belle is that people are not always going to believe in you, so you have to keep believing in yourself! Especially during times when it feels like no one has your back, don’t let people and their opinions bring you down. Once you believe you can accomplish something, that belief and thought starts pulling you into action—thus creating results and manifesting your goals into reality. Always always ALWAYS believe in yourself, no matter what.
Follow Iris on Instagram @irischerng
Discover Honey Belle www.honeybelleshop.com
Listen Humble Beginnings Podcast