Rise’s Radical Renegade is a monthly series featuring interviews with trailblazing career mavens. Meet Kiok Kang, founder of Glowing PR – a boutique-style PR agency dedicated to creating organic relationships with unique beauty brands.
Why did you start your company and what motivates you every day?
It all started with my first internship over ten years ago at a boutique beauty agency that represented brands such as COSRX and KNCBeauty. It was a quintessential start-up – just the founder, his assistant, and me! The founder granted me a lot of trust and exposure in my role, like when I was sent to The Four Seasons Beverly Hills to live-tweet and engage with followers at a time when the industry still considered Twitter as an emerging platform. From there, I continued to delve into PR over the years, absorbing everything that I could in beauty PR, specifically.
I launched Glowing PR Agency two years ago for several reasons – one of which was my fatigue with the corporate culture of previous jobs. I wanted to work in my own way with a more hands-on, personal approach. Ultimately, we operate as if we’re a brand’s in-house PR department, available at all times to advise and answer any questions about influencer relations, trend forecasting, and more. We’re also very protective of our clientele because we want to ensure that the relationship is mutually fruitful, especially when collaborating so closely through in-depth services and shared goals.
Our “magic touch” comes from a combination of organic relationships with influencers, celebrity make-up artists, hair stylists, as well as working with key digital publications. Thankfully, our company has grown completely by word of mouth over the years. It was also important for us to offer digital-only press services from the start, since that’s where we saw the future of the beauty industry. Now, we represent brands such as CLE Cosmetics, BYCHARI, and Vegamour.
A motivating factor in Glowing PR Agency is my Korean American heritage. I’m proud to say that our current team is comprised of all Asian American women, too. In business, women are already underrepresented – let alone being an Asian American in this space. It’s important for me to uplift others and build this space along the way.
What are some of the major lessons you’ve learned along the way?
I’ve learned that developing and maintaining organic relationships is crucial. It’s important to cultivate the relationships that not only benefit the brands, but also the influencers. Lately, I’ve noticed that everyone outrightly asks for sponsorship – that’s simply how the industry has shifted, and that’s okay. Therefore, when we do have a budget to work with, we’re very intentional. We ask ourselves: Who do we enjoy working with? Who’s the most professional? Who’s the kindest? Whose followers are most engaged and enthusiastic? This is why organic, solid relationships are the most important facet of PR.
Tell us about a setback you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?
The most challenging time of my career was when I left my corporate job. It felt daunting to leave the steady 9-to-5 to start building my own business from scratch. In a corporate job, there are so many available resources, such as health insurance and 401(k) options. As a business owner, you have to figure it all out yourself.
From the very start of Glowing PR Agency, I was careful to make intentional and calculated decisions. I hired an attorney to properly set up my business, whether that was in hiring, registering trademarks, as well as scaling the business as a whole. I also wouldn’t have been able to make it even two years into my business without the help of my community, especially their referrals, confidence, and support.
My job description and emotions may fluctuate on a daily basis, but I’ve embraced that the beauty of owning a business comes with these ups and downs. Today, I may feel dejected, but tomorrow, I could feel inspired and ecstatic about working on an upcoming product launch. Overall, I think that it’s so important to rely on your community, to be unapologetic about asking questions, and to also set up a strong infrastructure for your business.
We all know how difficult work/life balance is. How do you draw the line to create separation in these two spheres?
When starting a business, your work and personal lives become so fluid without any delineation. In the beginning, I found myself working ten hour days from my bed without a single interaction with another person. Ultimately, investing in my own office space became my physical distinction between work and home. Though it was a costly upfront expense, it was worth every penny, since it created a professional environment every time I stepped foot into the office. I’ve set up the necessary boundaries by creating dedicated spaces for work and home.
We love to support women-founded ventures. Is there a company/product that you’ve come across recently that you think more people should know about?
The Be Rare Foundation by Ashley Villa extends grants to female entrepreneurs and creatives to pursue their mission-oriented projects. Ashley is an attorney and manager to the crème de la crème of YouTube talent: Jackie Aina, Jenn Im, Chloe Morello, and more. She’s someone I admire on a personal and professional level. She’s kind, ambitious, and a trailblazer who’s paving the way in the ever-changing social and digital world.