Gowoonsesang Cosmetics is Korea`s leading small and mid-sized exporting firm that has presence in the Southeast Asian and Chinese markets. It created a brand story of "A functional cosmetics made by Korea`s famous dermatologist."
CEO Ahn Kun-young who founded the firm was a skin specialist at a famous dermatology clinic Gowoonsesang. In 1998, he opened the dermatology clinic in northern Seoul to focus on beauty treatment instead of cure purpose. He got an idea from his patients suffering from skin problems (whom he calls customers) who nevertheless told him they were interested in cosmetics.
"Customers who came to my clinic for skin problems affected by cosmetics asked me `which cosmetics should I use.` This enabled me to make cosmetics that people with weak skin can use without anxiety."
Ahn developed cosmetics for acne and sunblock purposes. He prescribed materials that don`t strain skin, and produced cosmetics on an OEM basis.
He then saw possibility of growth in this market, and officially founded Gowoonsesang Cosmetics in 2003. Under the brand name Doctor G, the CEO wanted to embrace positive words such as gorgeous, great, good, and etc.
The firm soon grew into an exporter thanks to a person who was a small-scale trader. Among customers to the clinic, the mid-aged woman bought cosmetics worth 1 million won (937 U.S. dollars) every time she visited. Ahn later found that she took them to small cosmetics stores in Hong Kong and sold them to their owners. The product gained good responses there and the customer connected Ahn to Sasa, the largest cosmetics retailer in Hong Kong, in 2007.
Ahn said, "Sasa visited our firm and we made an official contract. Sasa began selling our products. Back then, the Korean Wave was sweeping in Southeast Asia and China thanks to Korean drama Daejangeum. Thanks to the viral effect of our story `The cosmetics is prescribed by a famous Korean dermatologist,` the reaction of the cosmetics market heated up."
In 2008, a year after entering Hong Kong and Macao, the company reached 1 million dollars in exports, which further increased to around 6 million dollars last year. Exports accounted for half of the firm`s total sales. Ahn aims to achieve 10 million won in exports this year. Destinations have expanded to 12 countries including China, Thailand, the U.S. and Malaysia. The number of employees has increased from 25 people in 2007 to 47.
Gowoonsesang Cosmetics is preparing advancement into Russia and Poland this year. Though it is already an exporting firm, entering the European market has special meaning to Ahn. "A significant number of global cosmetics firms are European, meaning Europe is like a major league in the cosmetics market. Doctor G will officially make itself known in the home of cosmetics," he said.
Gowoonsesang Cosmetics is expanding its product lines. It recently developed medical devices for acne. Already obtained the related patents, the company is planning to export 100 units of them to China.
"Our firm couldn`t have grown this much if we had settled down in the domestic market. We were able to strengthen our competitiveness because we tried to find overseas markets," Ahn said.