Our interview with young entrepreneur Sally Kim and her incredible anti-aging beauty elixir drink Crushed Tonic.
At the mere age of 25, and in less than a year Sally has created a beauty empire worth over $1.5m focusing on the fundamental nutrients in a Korean diet. Sally has an incredible story and her product is truly amazing retailing at Sephora, Anthropologie and selling out almost instantly. Not to mention she has a book on the way, “The Collagen Glow” available online and through Barnes & Noble.
A few years ago, while cooking she suffered severe burns all over her arms. Sally became obsessed with finding remedies to fix her skin outside the realm of painful surgeries and lasers. She was determined to heal her skin from the inside out. Growing up in Korea, her diet has always mostly consisted of collagen rich foods in usual forms than what Western culture is used to. Korean beauty has been all the craze, but it dawned on Sally that part of why Korean’s have such incredible skin is due to a diet that consists of foods very high in collagen. She looked into her own heritage and began creating her own concoctions. In a few months she began to notice radical changes in her hair, skin and nails…thus, Crushed Tonic was born. She recently wrote an article on her findings in Korean nutrition for W Magazine and it went viral. She has been also been mentioned in Allure as a top beauty product.
What’s your background?
My background is in finance and strategy— but I am also a writer by trade.
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Passionate, optimistic, and creative
How did you first launch your career?
I burned myself in a cooking accident, and discovered the power of collagen when I was looking for ways to heal my skin. When I realized how beneficial collagen was for your health, I had to have everyone around me take it!
Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
My grandmother— she has escaped from North Korea when she was 19 without her family, and although she had to start all over then, she kept her head high and persisted through everything else in life.
Why did you choose to work in the Beauty business?
I wanted to bring more focus and attention to ingestible beauty (beauty from within)— the concept that when it comes to achieving healthy skin, what you put in your body is just as important — if not more important— than what you puton it.
Now tell us about “Crushed Tonic”?
Crushed Tonic is an anti-aging ingestible skincare beverage brand. Packed with collagen to plump your skin, biotin to strengthen your hair, probiotics to strengthen digestion and immunity, and antioxidants to boost the mind, every superfood-infused elixir is proven to renew and rejuvenate you from the inside out!
Where the name comes from?
I wanted it to be simple, and to the point, with an emphasis on the drink component.
What was the most challenging part of creating your own company?
Creating a wellness product and brand that would bring wellness to women and men from all of the different walks of life, with different health goals in mind.
Knowing how amazing collagen was, I wanted to make sure that there would be a flavor that worked for almost anybody. I wanted to make sure that there was something that worked for everybody — which is why every crush is so different from one another: one is fruit-based, one is herb-based, and one is root-based. Coffee drinker? Go for original crush. Can’t stomach coffee? Take matcha. Allergic to matcha? There’s turmeric. I wanted to do everything I could do ensure that there would be virtually no excuse of why someone wouldn’t be drinking collagen everyday.
In addition, I wanted to create a product that was almost universally beneficial — and helpful to everybody, in some way or another– which was why I added probiotics and biotin to the collagen formula. For those of you who don’t know, probiotics are GREAT for your health (especially in strengthening your immune system and improving digestion), and biotin is great in helping you metabolize energy (in addition to making your hair thicker and fuller).
Lastly, this is more of a personal agenda– but I wanted to create a gender-neutral brand. Certain skincare brands and protein supplement brands are very gender-prescriptive, and I often felt that many brands’ marketing language / branding aesthetic were alienating. I wanted to ensure that Crushed Tonic could be used by both men and women.
Needless to say, one of the happiest moments I’ve had was when I heard that my friend got both of his parents, and his younger sister all hooked on CT!
What experience did you have before that?
Having worked as an investor at a late stage venture capital firm was a great experience for me to have before founding Crushed Tonic. I was given the opportunity to meet with so many smart, talented entrepreneurs every week— and not only was I exposed to amazing ideas and passionate founders, I was able to roll up my sleeves and brainstorm with them on how to get to the next level. This taught me a lot about how to build an investable brand.
What is different from “Crushed Tonic” to other brands?
Crushed Tonic is a beauty brand that thinks about your skin at its cellular level. Relying on science, research and data, every ingredient is functional—in healing your skin and hair from within.
Where we can buy them?
Online— crushedtonic.com— Sephora, Anthropologie, FabFitFun, and more in the pipeline coming soon!
Where do you see the industry going in five years?
The collagen market is growing rapidly, and so is the ingestible beauty market. I believe Americans will wake up to the power of supplements more in the next 5 years, and there will be less of an educational curve to be met when it comes to collagen. By then, ingestible beauty will grow to be just as important as topical beauty!
Now tell us about your book “The Collagen Glow?” and where we can get it?
It is a collagen-based cookbook, of smoothies, smoothie bowls and soups and a collagen guide 101, a synthesis of research and anecdotes that will help those who have never taken collagen before, to be able to integrate it into their everyday diet. Collagen is traditionally suggested to be taken with coffee and I wanted to set out to disprove that. When you get used to collagen and how to use it, you can add it to anything and everything, watermelon juice, butternut squash soup, and protein bites!
What has been the hardest part of your career?
Manufacturing— as a new brand creating a new product, we had no idea that we would be selling out so quickly. We were so focused on what we would have to do if our productsdidn’tsell, that we had no idea how to solve the problem of when we sold too much. Of course, being out of stock sounds like a great problem to have— but upsetting our customers, or risking a partnership with your dream retailer because you legitimately don’t have product, or having to turn down magazine interviews because there’s nothing you can showcase– was a bit tough to get through. On top of that, at one point, our manufacturer’s machine had broke— but they didn’t want to relay that to us as they were afraid to lose us as their client.Fortunately, we have been since switched to a new manufacturer that was able to keep up, and help us scale quicker, than our former one!
Who are some of your favorite models and designers, and why?
A model I look up to Karlie Kloss. I was incredibly inspired to hear that Karlie had founded Kode with Klossy— a two-week program that teaches girls from 13-18 how to code.
As for designers, I love designers that mix athleisure with street style, like Nehra Simone!
What are your makeup bag staples when traveling?
– Hyaluronic Acid
– Rosewater serum
– Collagen- based Moisturizer
– Jojoba oil
– SPF CC Cream
What are your future goals?
I’d love to give back by mentoring, supporting and investing in female-founded start ups and organizations.
What social media channels do you personally use, and why do you use them?
Instagram— my instagram is where I am inspired creatively and where I can connect with friends
Quora— I love quroa for answering questions about skincare, the Korean “skincare” diet, and asking the Quora community for insights and advice.
I also have recently started a blog—sallyoliviakim.com— to discuss more skincare tips and tricks I picked up on the way.
How’s your typical day?
As soon as I wake up, I make myself a cup of Crushed Tonic. Then, I like to meditate a little, listen to my favorite music, check my emails, and work. Once I’ve gone through the to-do list for the day, I like to cook dinner, and catch up with my friends and family in person or over a phone call. Before I go to bed, I take a hot bath with my favorite candles, and meditate a little!
Idea of a perfect Sunday?
Staying in bed all day, writing and drinking tea— then hot tubing or going for a night swim at the beach.
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
Tim Ferriss— he’s the king of biohacking, and it would be amazing to hear his insights on collagen, and discuss with him all of the other amazing supplements and superfoods out there we can turn to for our best selves.
Best advice ever given?
“Don’t just follow a brand from far away. Reach out to the founder — even if you’ve never met them — and offer to add value in some way without asking for anything in return.”
Don’t be scared to reach out to those who have inspired you, and let them know exactly why you were inspired. They may or may not respond, but if they do, do your best to become absolutely invaluable to them. You will learn so much from simply watching and listening to them, and if they learn anything from you, you’re doing something right. There’s probably at least one way you can try to help them achieve their next goal, whatever it may be—and who knows—you may become so integral to their company that they ask you to come onboard. If that’s not the case, you can still garner a great relationship and get to personally work with your own source of inspiration.
What is on your bucket list?
Sky diving in the Alps.
What is your favorite healthy food?
And your favorite cheat food?
I can’t say no to chocolate chip cookies. Ever.
What music do you like?
Indie Electronica, R&B Electronica, House and sometimes K-Pop!
What quote do you live by?
“Do not judge a person by her past, or her future— judge her by the way she treats you, in your presence”
How important is Social Media for you?
It is important— but not what my life is centered around.
My favorite part about social media is that I can connect with my customers and readers directly and personally— and every note that comes my way (yes, I read every single one)— makes my day!
Where we can follow you?
@Sallsters on instagram
Favorite Food: Korean BBQ
Travel destination: Bali
Movie: Harry Potter series!
Actor/Actress: Ashton Kutcher and Tina Fey