Steve Bidinger is the co-founder and CEO of Skai Beauty. He has worked in the cosmetics industry and lived in Japan for 30 years; and has a passion for clean and sustainable beauty.
I'm Steve Bidinger from America and currently serve as the co-founder and CEO of Skai Beauty. My journey in the cosmetics world began in New York with brands like Revlon and Max Factor. Over the years, I've worked in multiple countries, but my journey in Japan started when I was asked to restructure Revlon's operations here. My experiences span from sales and marketing to manufacturing, leading me to establish my own brand, Skai Beauty. I've always been drawn to clean and sustainable beauty products, having introduced brands like REN and John Masters Organics to Japan. With Skai Beauty, our aim is to inspire feelings of happiness and being worry-free, focusing on our values or the "3Cs" - clean, carefree, and confident.
Skai Beauty is all about envisioning a blue sky - a symbol of happiness and a worry-free life. Our brand emphasizes natural and organic ingredients, combined with eco-friendliness and sustainability. For instance, our hair care products, crafted in partnership with an Italian maker, use plant-based ingredients sourced from their organic farms. These products, such as our shampoo and conditioner, cater to the frequent hair washing habits of the Japanese, ensuring gentle and effective care. Furthermore, we ensure our products are vegan-certified and environmentally friendly, such as our packaging made from sugarcane-derived bioplastics. Skai Beauty's ambitious plan is to differentiate ourselves in the competitive beauty market through our natural and eco-conscious approach, aiming to expand in major Asian countries such as India, China and Vietnam in the coming years.
Starting a business anywhere presents challenges. In Japan, while I had the advantage of understanding the culture and being somewhat soft-spoken, the nuances of expression and language can pose difficulties. On the startup front, while there's a growing ecosystem in Japan, there's a preference for tech-driven ventures, making it a bit challenging for consumer brands like Skai Beauty. Access to world-class partners can also be a hurdle, given their preference for bigger brands over startups. Additionally, finding bilingual young talent with expertise in beauty and e-commerce is challenging and expensive.
The startup scene in Japan has been evolving, but it still leans towards tech or software-based ventures rather than consumer brands. There's a growing support system, with helpful initiatives like JETRO, Shibuya Startup Support, Black Box, and Take Off Tokyo, yet the focus remains predominantly on tech and SaaS. In comparison to places like the US, where there's broader acceptance of diverse business models, Japan seems to have a narrower focus and few very early-stage investors. However, the tide is changing, and there's increasing support.
When I first landed in Japan in the early 1990s, the sight of Mount Fuji against a red sky left a lasting impression. The cultural richness was evident from my stay at the Imperial Hotel during the Coming-of-Age Day celebrations and seeing many kimonos. While Tokyo's vibrant nightlife was memorable, some of the challenges included the initial hesitance of locals to interact with foreigners and the difficulty navigating the city in its pre-smartphone era. Despite those initial hiccups, Japan's beauty and culture deeply resonated with me.
Today's world offers vast opportunities beyond traditional 9 to 5 roles, especially with advancements like generative AI. I'd advise budding entrepreneurs to remain open to experimenting. Embrace new technologies and be persistent in your goals, even when faced with challenges. And remember, every hurdle offers a learning opportunity.
I absolutely love Japanese cuisine! Except for natto and perhaps unagi. I've relished a wide variety of dishes here, so much so that I joke about getting fat on Japanese food – and it's not from the drinks!
Skai Beauty : https://skai.tokyo/