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“Inclusivity and diversity is needed in today’s global beauty world, hence my goal to help make K-beauty diverse for people of colour to also be a part of it,” she told Inside Retail. “We are open to all people of colour who love K-beauty, especially Africans.
Here, Dr Okafor chats with Inside Retail about her K-beauty journey.
Inside Retail: Can you tell us about your K-beauty business?
Dr Grace Okafor: Beauficial is dedicated to bridging the gap that exists between South Korea, Africa and people of colour.
I came across K-beauty in 2013 when I received a free mask sheet from the Korean language teacher at the Korean Cultural Center in Abuja, Nigeria. However, trying to get access to more proved very difficult. This made me realise that even though South Korea is connected to Africa in the areas of electronics and cars, its beauty industry does not have a bridge connecting it to Africans.
So I decided to come to Korea for a Masters degree in International Trade and Business with the aim of establishing a bridge connecting Korea to Africa after graduation. Arriving in Korea in 2015, I quickly discovered that K-beauty had no provision for people of colour in its cosmetics as the main market was Asia. We decided that not only will we build a bridge connecting Korea to Africa, we will also include diversity in K-beauty by creating a K-beauty brand that is made specifically for dark skin tones and people of colour — Dr. GIO Cosmetics.
I have partners who are working with me in making our goal for diversity and diversification be a success. The company Beauficial Inc was launched on the 1st of January 2020, while our first brand, Dr. GIO Cosmetics, was launched on the 1st of January, 2021. Currently we only operate on D2C online. We are currently located in Korea.
IR: Can you tell us about your products?
GO: Our products are cruelty-free and meet all the standards of the Korean government regulation. One of the great points for K-beauty is not only the regulation by the government to ensure it is safe, but also its heavy reliance on nature to make natural products.
IR: Can you tell us about your customer?
GO: There is a growing demand for diversity all over the world. As an African with a melanin skin tone, I believe every person of colour wants to be included in products made by beauty companies. Diversity and inclusivity is what we demand for.
IR: Tell me about how you are attracting and retaining customers.
GO: We are just focusing on diversity and there is nothing hidden about our strategy. We are just making K-beauty diverse and it is attracting attention because we are the first and only black-owned Korean beauty cosmetics brand that is making skincare-infused, cruelty-free K-beauty cosmetics products specifically for dark skin tones and people of colour.
As a company that is less than three years old with a brand that is less than a year old, we do understand the importance of mother nature. So together with our partners, we create products that use natural ingredients which K-beauty is known for.
IR: Are there any e-commerce or consumer trends that you are interested in right now?
GO: Looking at consumer trends, people want to see what they are buying and want honest reviews, not paid sponsorship. A growing number of influencers are giving their fans honest reviews about products which is a main trend in today’s beauty industry.
IR: What were the major challenges that your business faced during the pandemic?
GO: The pandemic affected everyone and I believe is still making it difficult for international trade and e-commerce companies who rely on flights for logistics. We have learnt to adapt and change our strategy to the events happening around the world which we have no control over.
IR: What are your future expansion plans?
GO: Currently we hope to open our first offline store in Nigeria in 2022. The goal is to continue spreading knowledge about K-beauty and helping Korean companies get to know more about the diverse ethnicities and skin tones around the world.