Crystal Lee is the “Head Peach” of Peachy Skin Bar, Singapore’s First Bespoke Membership Skin Bar
What’s your story?
I grew up in a humble, home beauty salon with my mother who worked as a beautician for over 20 years. Skincare was literally part of my everyday life. I guess growing up so closely in the beauty and skincare environment made me both familiar and passionate about this industry. My journey to becoming an entrepreneur was a self-discovery process. After graduation, I worked in executive roles but I never felt they were fulfilling.
Life’s been a bumpy ride for me. I struggled with personal problems, got beaten down by depression, and my health was affected. When I finally walked out of this dark period, I reflected on what constitutes a happy and purposeful life for me. Around the same time, I was out with my girlfriend and between our chats, she complained about her annoyance for beauty salons’ pushy sales tactics and expensive packages. She felt the packages were restrictive and the constant up-selling made her feel cheated. I too recalled similar personal experiences.
One thing led to another and the problem solver in me was ignited. I had a vision to improve the local beauty industry – to create a brand that injects more positivity over fear of imperfections, provides more inclusivity, like a community, and a safe resting place for people who want some TLC for their skin and soul.
With these in mind, I reimagined the whole facial experience and also removed unnecessary stressors such as restrictive packages and in-room up-selling. I knew starting a business was risky but the thought of creating something from ground zero with my own capabilities and contributing positively to my community gave me a greater sense of purpose. I rekindled my strong passion for business and beauty while taking baby steps towards constructing a healthier and more purposeful life.
What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most is the beauty industry’s potential for transformation. People have been complaining about expensive packages, pushy sales, and decline in service standards in the industry for the longest time. You’d expect, that with technology transforming the way we do business, there’d be a customer led change, but it seems to have gotten worse, with the development of various apps and platforms that lure customers in with ridiculously low prices and then hard selling them once they walk in the door. It’s amazing that while skincare technology has come leaps and bounds, the business practices still seem mired in the 1980s. I hope Peachy Skin Bar’s business model, which emphasizes flexibility and accessibility, resonates well with the modern consumer, and convinces them to re-evaluate the industry’s reputation.
What’s your connection to Asia?
My connection to Asia is deeply intertwined between different Asian nations. My maternal grandfather travelled in a boat from Guangdong and he married my grandmother who was of Vietnamese descent. I was born and raised in Singapore and will be marrying my fiancé in 2020, and half of his family are Malaysian. I also made many good friends in South Asia when I was studying for my Master’s Degree. I’m as Asian as they come.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
My favourite city in Asia for business is Singapore. I’m a Singaporean and there will always be a personal bias to gravitate to my roots.
On a more practical note, Singapore’s efficiency, close connectivity, and high transparency makes it easier for new businesses, like Peachy Skin Bar, to build business in a more structured environment. The government will support local entrepreneurs through policies or subsidies, which works to our advantage. It’s important for new businesses to know their customers well so we decided to start the journey in our most familiar territory.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Get help! This is something entrepreneurs don’t hear enough of, but in my experience, it’s a life changing sentiment. I think we live in a society that’s afraid of failure and vulnerability, where leaders are expected to have all the answers, and seem accountable to everybody. There are just so many blind spots I can’t see how anyone can manage everything single handedly. Getting help is the only way I manage to keep my head above water. No man or woman is an island, and the people who have been there to share the workload, whether an employee, a partner, a vendor, or anyone who has shared useful advice, valuable information, or even a word of encouragement, have made such a big difference.
Who inspires you?
Michelle Obama. She has this inner strength, resilience, and contagious positivity which really inspires me. She is rebellious in her own way, but never overwhelmingly destructive. She is a very progressive woman with an open mind. She shows the world that nobody is too small to make a change, even if the odds are stacked against you.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I was blown away with how Peachy Skin Bar’s vision resonated with so many people from different walks of life. In Singapore, the industry is plagued with bad business reputations for their hard-selling tactics, minimal transparency, and restrictive packages. When we first started, we wanted to solve this problem and profiled our target customers at ages between 20s to late 30s, professional executives. As our concept and design is very different from a normal beauty spa, we thought the younger crowds might be more open to it. After 5 months in, I was surprised to learn our actual customers were much more varied than expected. They loved our relaxing chic facial experience, became Peachy members, and many recommended their friends and family to check us out.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would tell myself to let my hair down and enjoy the process of life more. When I was younger, I was impatient and often pessimistic. My grades were very mediocre and the excessive pressure worked against me eventually, when I developed some health problems in my early twenties. Weighed down by personal problems and an immature mindset, I missed out on the fun part of being a youth. Looking back, I wished I could tell myself to be less critical and understand that life is not a race. It is a journey, an adventure.
How do you unwind?
As the founder of a small business, I have to take on multiple roles and make decisions frequently. To ensure I have better focus, I will dedicate time for unwinding. I love to unwind together with my fiancé. We are very close and after work we do many activities together such as yoga, hitting the gym, reading a book, going for gatherings/dates, cooking, or indulging in Netflix together.
I also love to unwind through engaging activities like learning a new skill. Last year, I spontaneously signed up for Pop Piano classes and I’ve been enjoying it ever since. Who knows what’s next?
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Travelling is like chicken soup for my soul and it makes me feel so modest to realise what a tiny place I occupy in this world. For me, the most relaxing Asian destination is the Maldives. It’s so beautiful and it has a magical way of making you feel disconnected from the world. Before I went to the Maldives, I was worried because I had never snorkelled before, but it turned out to be surprisingly fun. We really never know till we try. That trip was a great escape from city life, connecting me closer to mother nature than ever.
Everyone in business should read this book:
“Contagious: Why Things Catch On” by Jonah Berger is a book that is really full of actionable insights into consumer psychology and buying behaviour that I think has become even more relevant in today’s socially connected, attention scarce world. With businesses all vying for eyeballs, gaining brand awareness, and consumer support amidst the constant stream of noise, is imperative. Perhaps I also find it an interesting book because the subject of consumer psychology and buying behaviour was part of my marketing studies.
Shameless plug for your business:
Peachy Skin Bar is Singapore’s first bespoke membership skin bar in Singapore. We make beauty services accessible with a dash of luxury, fit for the modern urbanites. Every facial session with us is jam-packed with mini massages and treatments that are bespoke for your skin. We have no packages but if you like us, you can become a Peachy member and enjoy a lifetime of amazing privileges. Ditch conventions and unleash a whole new attitude towards skincare. We welcome you to our #ThePeachyClub.
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connects’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’ and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.