Jina Kim: Circumference

Tell us a little about yourself and your brand/work: 
My name is Jina and I’m the founder and CEO of Circumference, an ethical and sustainable beauty brand that’s founded on a belief that personal beauty should never come at the ugly cost of our health and the health of our environment.

After helping launch a sustainable fashion line many years ago, I decided to shift my focus toward another industry that I felt was largely neglected from the conversations around sustainability — beauty. And after 2 years of research and development, I launched Circumference in 2018 with a mission to implement new and innovative sustainable practices in the beauty industry.

We believe the only way to create truly quality skincare is one that has a much deeper impact than skin itself. Our brand begins and ends with sustainability in mind and we work to continually innovate and improve upon not only the efficacy of our products, but our infrastructure, to minimize waste and our footprint while never compromising on quality or the health and well-being of those that make it all possible.

Online at: CircumferenceNYC.com

Where are you based: NYC, NY

How did you get your start in your industry? Have you always been in your profession?:
Prior to starting Circumference, I worked in fashion as well as at creative agencies. Beauty was a completely new endeavor for me which naturally came with incredible new challenges. But in a lot of ways, being new to the industry became an advantage as it forced us to think through each problem with a fresh eye. We had no preconceived ideas around how things were done. We started with a fresh slate and it forced us to question every aspect of the industry and find new solutions that made sense for us and our mission to build a truly sustainable beauty brand.

When did you decide to go out on your own?  Will you tell us a little bit about that time for you?:
While no amount of experience can truly ready someone to start a business, I felt like the experiences I had prior helped equip me with the tools to get things started. I had just helped launch a sustainable fashion line and was fortunate enough to work across virtually all areas of the business — from manufacturing to brand development/strategy. Having that type of exposure was truly invaluable for me because it helped build a rough framework for how I can pursue things on my own. However, beyond the logistical challenges of starting a business, the big moment wasn’t until I started to feel a deeper conviction and passion toward what I felt needed to change in the industry. Once I decided I was going to pursue this, I just took things day by day and knew all the small logistical challenges were a means to an end. I let that conviction really drive me through the uncertainties and found myself becoming more and more confident in my pursuit.

What advise would you give to your younger self now?
Be open minded and willing to absorb and learn as much as possible, but have the confidence to trust your instincts and perspective. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, speak up and be loud because your experience and perspective is always valuable if you speak your truth. Your perspective will not always be welcomed by others and many will try to tear you down. But you started this business because you felt there was a need to invent, re-invent, or correct the flaws within the industry.

You have a great mission in mind — so don’t let anyone disrupt that!

What advice do you give yourself daily?
I remind myself to not be too hard on myself and to be patient.
I’m a new mother of a 4-month-old baby and the founder of new business. While it’s been incredibly challenging to manage both, I wouldn’t change a moment of it. In just a short 4 months of being a new mother, I’ve learned to be more patient and thoughtful in the decisions I make. I have to continue to remind myself, I’m not always going to get everything right. But as long as I am mindful of the decisions I make and take something away from each moment, both success and failure, I’ll always be just a little wiser for it!

Does anything come to mind that you would want to share with young entrepreneurs thinking about starting a business?
Absorb everything and be ready to learn, even those you disagree with. It will all help strengthen your own perspective and will ultimately help define your voice. In a world where new businesses are popping up every day, it is more important than ever now for you to have a strong, unwavering voice.

Describe your design ethos:
Beauty products tend to be flashy and try to be as “eye-catching” as possible with a lot of embellishments. This practice is common, not just in design, but in formulation and marketing. It’s a practice that’s prevalent within the industry to help products standout more than their competition on the shelves. Unfortunately, such practice has created an incredible amount of waste in packaging with plastic decorations that serve very little purpose in the actual product itself. I subscribe to the idea of removing the excess and being mindful of the details that ultimately help enrich the customers’ direct experience of using the products. In that sense, we want every moment to never be disrupted by frivolous embellishments. Just you and your product in front of you.

How would you describe your personal style and what 1920 style do you think represents that best? 
I’d say my personal style leans a bit toward simple and versatile with some eclectic twists. Especially as a new mother, I find myself reaching for clothes that make my life just a little easier and my mornings faster. So my wardrobe primarily consists of high quality basics that I’m able to easily mix and match.

I’m in love with the 1920 Easy Crew T! A good quality, classic crew T is about as versatile as you can get. Should always be a staple in every closet!

What inspires you most about what you are doing?
Our brand’s mission isn’t always welcomed by the industry. We’re often met with resistance because we tend to be more transparent about uncovering the flaws that we find in the industry. And not everyone is open to admitting that a beloved industry such as beauty can be filled with such detrimental practices. It’s a harsh reality that we can’t hide from anymore.

In light of that, what inspires me are the people who are not only ready for this dialogue, but are leaders within it. I meet so many that are passionate about building a more sustainable future and are leaders in finding new ways to achieve it in their own industries.

If Circumference can be a small part in facilitating that conversation and using beauty as our platform to tell a story around sustainability, then that is the most inspiring part of it all.

Words to live by:
Someone else’s success is not the lack of your own. I strongly believe that there is plenty of room in the world for women to uplift one another and help each other succeed. As modern women, it’s so important for us to focus on the positivity and value of one another instead of competing with each other.