Episode 30: Jane Park, CEO and Founder of Julep

Meet Jane Park. CEO and Founder of Julep Beauty. Listen as she discusses the gift of time, emotional responses in the workplace, and her vision that beauty can be fun and fearless for all women.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty, hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHey everybody! I am so excited that the universe has aligned our schedules to be together, because today we are joined by Jane Park. She is the CEO and founder of Julep. Jane, thank you so much for being on Where Brains Meet Beauty.
Jane ParkHi! I'm so thrilled to be here.
Jodi KatzSo, it's taken us some time to get our schedules connected and I want to tell you something that I've learned. It used to be, early in my career, that when meetings would get canceled on me I'd get really upset and I would take it so personally, like, "They don't wanna talk to me, I'm not important enough." Did you ever feel like that ever in your career?
Jane ParkYou know, I don't know. I can't remember. Now I see it as such a gift of time, both when I'm giving and receiving. Also as a woman, I feel like I never want to have people feel guilty, so I love it when I get to ... when somebody cancels on my and I get to give someone a free pass to say, "Look, it's fine, it happens to all of us." I love those opportunities. When somebody cancels on me now I'm excited. It's like I can pay the universe back in some way.
Jodi KatzYeah, it used to be such ... Because I think I always came from a place of self-doubt, I was always overthinking and not feeling really comfortable in my skin, it's taken me awhile to get there. Now, when someone cancels on me, it's like, "Wow! I can ... " If I'm working from home, I watch a show I have on DVR. It's like free time. I'll do something else that was on my list that I thought I was never gonna get to. I feel like the universe always gives this to me on a day when I am overloaded, when I actually need a little break. It's incredible.
Jane ParkIt is, and what's great is, like everything else in life, it takes confidence in order to have the ability to be generous. It's hard to let somebody off the hook and appreciate the gift of time if you don't have the confidence to understand the broader picture of the universe for what it is. It is great to have the confidence not to read the wrong message into something. One of the values I was really passionate about, that's including when we were coming up with our values at Julep is, it's called "assume positive intent." It's not just, "Give somebody the benefit of the doubt," it's actually a more active exercise than that. Just stop and try to think about what the very best reason could be that this negative thing happened. Either somebody's canceling on you, or ...
Even the other day, I was so annoyed that somebody had left a dish in the sink, and I tried to stop and say, "What is a really good reason?" Well, maybe a really good reason is that they were running to finish something super important at work and instead of leaving the cup in the conference room, they at least brought it to the sink. I was just imagining this person who was trying to juggle so much and maybe running home to be with their kids, or whatever it was, and I immediately felt like, "Ah." There's something really calming about just assuming that other people are trying to do their best. A lot of the most annoying, irritating things can be managed emotionally if you stop and imagine that that person is just trying their best. They might be screwing up, but maybe they're just trying their best.
Jodi KatzThat's really beautiful! Tell me again what you call it?
Jane ParkAssuming positive intent.
Jodi KatzI love that. I think that would work-
Jane ParkIt's really hard. It's a super hard thing to do.
Jodi Katz... work for people in traffic, right? Instead of assuming I'm going slow, maybe I'm nervous. Maybe I'm about to have a baby. Assuming that people have other things ...
Jane ParkI'm always imagined that. When somebody is being crazy on the road, I think, "Maybe it's my dad. Maybe he can't see very well and he's 75."
Jodi KatzIt makes it ... I would think that for people who never worked at Julep before and come into that culture and hear that, there must be a little bit of a sigh of relief, even if the can't articulate it, that this is a tolerant workspace. Right? Because you're really expressing tolerance.
Jane ParkIt's really important ... Yeah. It's actually super important, not only for people from different backgrounds but from people from different functions. So, when Accounting tells you that you can't do this customer gift card program, right? Or there's all these challenges with it. Instead of thinking that they're being jerks and telling you "no" because they like being mean, if you stop and think, "Well, they want our company to grow, too. This is my teammate, so if they're saying no, it must be a good reason." Or, "How can I structure it differently so we can both get what we want?" Maybe they're protecting the company. Everybody has the best interests of the company at heart, but when you have different functions ...
Product Development feels like nobody understands what they do in terms of timelines and developing innovation. Software engineers I hear feel like nobody understands what they do, what it takes to write code and create a customer experience. And it's true. None of us really know what it's like to do the other function, so we have to assume that everybody is just trying their best, because you can't ever know what it's like to have to be accountable to accounting rules or have to meet a software development project timeline.
Jodi KatzI love this. Where did the idea for this get started?
Jane ParkIt really ... One of the most amazing things about starting a company is that in the small, limited part of the world, we're kind of creating our own rules and we are creating our own universe. I'm super proud of the products we create and what we do for our customers, but in some ways one of the most profound things about starting Julep for me was creating this mini universe. If you think about the number of hours you spend at work and how the norms of your workplace really impact your life, in some ways so much more than federal laws, or ... There's some big things, like "Don't run over people" or paying taxes that where the big-picture government impacts your freedom, but really day-to-day how you feel about your life and how you interact with people is so much more governed by your workplace, in many ways. It's something that I wanted to be really thoughtful about. If we get to create this universe, what do we want it to look like?
Jodi KatzThat's so incredible. It makes me think of something you told when we first spoke, is that you don't feel any pressure for perfection. Does that still resonate with you? That thought?
Jane ParkOh gosh, every day, and I feel like every day it comes up in conversation in some way. One of my managers was really having a hard time writing reviews. It's not that she doesn't want to or she's being lazy, it's just that she takes it so seriously that she feels like it has ... It's giving somebody input on their performance and she has a real mental block against making progress on that. At least once a day, there's something that that drive for perfection is doing where it's preventing me or someone else from being able to make progress, right? I think it's really important, instead of trying to be perfect, what I love is when people try to be better. If you are doing reviews better than you did last time, then you're making progress. You're trying to move the dial. Because, at the end of the day, there really isn't any such thing as perfect and certainly in the beauty category.
I think it's really harming to women. I think the idea of "perfect" was put out there by people who don't want women to be successful, who don't want us to be confident because if you ... As soon as you give up on the idea of "perfect," the whole world opens up. Then it's just lots of different opportunity to do things differently or better. There's nothing as world limiting and that will close you off as a strive for perfection.
Jodi KatzMy feeling about perfection ... and this is coming from someone who was seeking perfection most of her life. Maybe for the almost 42, for maybe the past five years I haven't been seeking it, I've been trying to unwind it. It doesn't make any sense, and it shouldn't even be a word, that's how crazy the idea of it is. Right? It shouldn't even be a word in our vocabulary, because it doesn't exist or make any sense.
Jane ParkIt's so true. It's like when you are trying for the impossible, it's actually not motivating. I think that's the thing. I have no coordination and I suck as an athlete. I have no ability to do anything competitively that's athletic, so I'm curious what people who are competitive Olympic athletes would say, but I would think that everything I know about human nature ... It's like, you get better by figuring out what you did and then making an incremental improvement, and then you make an improvement on that. That we as human beings, we should constantly be measuring and observing and self-reflecting, and then trying to take a step for the better. Definitely I know a lot of women who go home at the end of the day, and they're like, "Dummy, dummy, dummy! I shouldn't have done this, I shouldn't have done that," spend so much time beating yourself up for every little thing that you wish you had done differently. It's not productive.
What I always love to tell people is, "You can either ask for a do-over from the people who are involved in the situation you're beating yourself up over, or just equip yourself so the next time this kind of conversation comes up, you will be prepared." Use the information. I think as long as you absorb the experience and try to think about what you'd do differently, that's what that experience was there for, because you definitely can't turn back time and go back and do that specific moment again.
Jodi KatzRight. I've started to think of it like the universe puts things in front of me, challenges in front of me that it thinks I'm ready to learn from. I don't always learn the first time and I don't always learn the second time, but maybe by the third or fourth time. At this point I'm trying to really being open to the stuff and that the experience. Even if it went south and didn't feel good, it was there for a reason. I needed that learning, I needed to overcome something there. Then there's real value in that moment, right? I can see the learning, I can see the opportunities, and I know then next time I will probably behave or respond differently. I see these things as real true opportunities, when things don't feel like they're going my way.
Jane ParkI think that is the whole enchilada. That is how you create meaning in your life. It doesn't just happen, meaning isn't there proactively. I think it's the way you reflect on what happened and what you are going to do differently, that's where all of the meaning lies. If you don't have that, it's hard to have your true North. If you're striving for something that's not attainable like perfection, then it's hard to create meaning out of that because you're just a constant disappointment to yourself.
Jodi KatzYes, and we want to feel good and joyful, right? Isn't that the goal? We have limited days, we don't get to be here forever.
Jane ParkI really believe in laughing at work. A friend of mine just recently told me that he works somewhere where people don't laugh at work, and I think that's crazy. It's a question that I always tell people now, to find out about if you're joining a company. Ask them if they laugh regularly in a meeting.
Jodi KatzOh my gosh.
Jane ParkIt'll tell you a lot.
Jodi KatzSo what does that look like at Julep? What does laughing ... How does that joy come through in the workplace?
Jane ParkI think, for me, the sense of humor part is about self-awareness, it's about poking fun at ourselves. It's reflecting on, "Oh, well let's not do that again!" Or "Remember how well that worked the last time?" That being able to take a lesson and make sure that you can look at it from a lot of different ways. Humor is a lens, right? I really believe if you can look at a moment through a lot of different lenses, that's how you get smart and again, how you construct meaning for yourself. Laughing together is such a great way to connect and say, "We are all in this boat together physically. We are seeing it in the same way, we're all see how absurd this is." Whatever the situation is.
I think that if you are not laughing, it means that you're scared. The human condition is one where we are connecting. I feel like there's such a powerful urge for us to connect and laughter's such a great way to do that, so if you're not doing that it's like, what's going on? What is stopping that? Usually it's that people are scared. They're scared to be themselves. It's an important thing for women in particular to find their work voice, to find their voice that is who they are, their authentic selves, because you can't be powerful if you're not really being who you are. When I first started working at an office building I didn't even know if ... I was this quiet Asian girl, I didn't know what to do or say, I never cracked a joke, I never smiled. It's hard to do stuff together with people if you're not bringing your whole self into the conversation.
Jodi KatzI love that you said that. It makes me think of ... I've had my business for ten years, and I think I was playing and pretending that everything was super cool and amazing and great for, I don't know, seven of the ten years? Six of the ten years? Really, I was like, "Everything's amazing! Insert hair flip here." That's just the way I was acting. It wasn't, it really wasn't. There were some years where I was doing fine, there were some years where our part-time babysitter made more money than me. It wasn't all amazing, but I just pretended it was because I thought that that's what the world expected. They wanted the agency to look like an agency and look flashy and all this stuff.
It wasn't until I guess I reached a breaking point and I started being really honest with my potential clients, mostly founder brands, and I was like, "This freakin' sucks, I'm on a roller coaster, I can't get off the roller coaster, blah blah blah." I started to be really honest and very vulnerable. I didn't chose to be vulnerable, I think I was at a breaking point, but everything changed for me. My work voice, as you say, is just honesty. "This is hard. I'm lonely, I'm sad," or "This is amazing and this is fun!" And knowing that every day can be different. Nothing changed for me until I was really ready to be honest with the world.
Jane ParkI think that is such an important lesson. I've raised a lot of money from Silicon Valley venture capital firms and when you are chatting with other entrepreneurs, especially the bros ... The bros are always killing it. I have a joke where I say, "It's amazing everything is alive at all, because you'd think that all these bros were killing everything. Everything is dead."
Jodi KatzThat's awesome, oh my God.
Jane ParkHave you noticed that? It's like, "How is it going?" "Oh, we're killing it." It's always that, right? So, yeah. It's not until you are honest ... It turns out that being an entrepreneur is super lonely. Sometimes I call it a mental illness because why would you choose it? And it's not ... I used to think, when people said it's lonely at the top, it's lonely because you're flying on your private jet and you're out of touch and you're counting your diamonds and drinking champagne. It's not that, it's lonely because you don't have the right to connect with ... to share your burdens with people. You can't have the CEO complaining about their lives to an employee. It doesn't work that way. You have to serve your team. And so, it is ... That part of it, being the last catch-all, the last line of defense, can be a lonely experience when you feel like it is all riding on you. The only way to crack that ... I think it was Brené Brown. I love her. Have you read her books?
Jodi KatzNo. [crosstalk 00:18:05]
Jane ParkShe has actually ... If you're interested in vulnerability, she has a fantastic TED Talk on shame. Basically her thing is you can have ... Guilt is productive, it's like, "Hey, I did this thing wrong. I'm going to do it differently next time." But shame is guilt when you are alone, when you're not letting the light of connection come in, when you're not sharing it with anyone at all. Shame is really destructive. It kills your self-esteem, it kills your energy. Think about all the times when you are in a shame spiral, where you just feel so bad about yourself. The way to break that is to shine some light on it, to get somebody else's perspective.
She literally says, when you're feeling that way, you pick up the phone and you call a safe person and you tell them what you did, and you try to cultivate that voice in yourself. What would you say to a friend if they said they did this stupid thing that you feel so ashamed of? Most of the time you would say "It's okay," you would give that person license to forgive themselves and to learn and move on. There's something when you are alone, as you often are as an entrepreneur making decisions and it's all on you, it's easier to fall into shame, because you are alone and shame exists only on it's own island.
Jodi KatzHow have you built relationships around you that are those safe people? Where have you found the right people that you can talk to privately and openly, when obviously you can't tell your team that you had a shitty day or made a shitty decision, right? Who do you find for that?
Jane ParkIt really is ... It's trial and error. It's reaching out to people and seeing how they respond. It's also being clear that's what you need yourself. So say when you call and you're like, "I need some support here. I need to talk to you." I always think it's amazing when people do have the resources to enlist the help of professional therapists. On and off I have really benefited from a leadership coach. It's hard to find the person who's right for you, who's going to be smart enough and insightful enough and not just give you crap exercises like, "Breathe," who's really going to understand where you're coming from and help you try a handful of things that can really change the way that you function. It's trial and error, though. If you reach out to someone and they make you feel like crap, journal it. Make a mental note. Don't do it again. Don't go to that person who says, "Really? You have that challenge? That's crazy. Everything I do is roses and absolutely perfect. When I go to the bathroom I crap diamonds."
Jodi KatzI think they call that "going to the hardware store for milk." Right? Going to somebody who can't give you what you need. What you need is the food store, not the hardware store, if you need milk. And learning about that. It takes time, though.
Jane ParkIt does, and you just have to acknowledge that not everybody is wired that way. It's sort of looking into the universe for what you need explicitly. And then also trying to cultivate that voice inside your own head and being that person for other people as well.
Jodi KatzIf somebody's jumping into this podcast and not really familiar with our series, I think they'd probably think our conversation is very "woo-woo." Like, "Universe!"
Jane ParkShould we tie it down to something?
Jodi Katz"Connections!" But this is all ... I never spoke this way until I really started wanting a ... live a more joyful life, quite frankly. I just had regular conversations, but when I really started wanting more out of my life and feel more joyful in all of my days and more relaxed, I started to talk with people who talk like this and now it makes a lot of sense to me. For someone who is not indoctrinated in what we're talking about ... How does someone take a step forward into trying to find more joy or more laughter that doesn't feel as "woo-woo" and overwhelming?
Jane ParkI think it all starts with self-reflection. Figure out who the people and what the experiences are that lead you in that. Because we all have them, and I think it's really chronicling them that will help you see them more. It is ... I'm hoping this isn't too out there, but one of the things that doing that, keeping a gratitude journal, it's so basic but it really works. One interesting thing about that kind of exercise is that suddenly you see more reasons to be joyful elsewhere as well that you might have missed. It was something that ... I actually started with my kids, so if you're a parent and looking for a specific strategy ...
There was an article from the Yale Psychology Department awhile ago that talked about how the only true way to change behavior is to provide positive reinforcement of the opposite of the behavior you're trying to eradicate. It's not just, "Hey, you're doing great." For example, if somebody is late nine out of ten times, the one time that they are on time you heap praise on them. It feel weird. You're kind of like, "Augh, you were late the other nine times!" But if you really want to get rid of that behavior, what works, what research demonstrates is the most effective thing is to look for that opportunity and positively reinforce when that behavior, the negative behavior you're trying to get rid of isn't there. One interesting thing that does, though, when I've tried to exercise that with my kids is that you start seeing more positivity. In your head you might have though, "That person is late nine out of ten times," but when you're looking for opportunities to positively reinforce ... Often I find, "Oh, actually they were on time five out of the ten times," right?
Jodi KatzYeah.
Jane Park"It wasn't as bad as I thought. Look at all these other things they're doing well. They were late because they are the one who always brings the cake for birthdays." It's an eye-opening way to see things. I think it's a small change that everybody can make today. You don't have to see a therapist, you don't have to change your job, you don't have to start a company. It is something you can start doing right now, is to think about the things that irritate you about the people or situations around you, and then start looking for the positive opposite, and chronicling it and commenting on it, and hopefully all of those ... the positive opposites will continue to grow.
Jodi KatzYou stated that so beautifully, and I hope we have a lot of listeners paying attention because it is one of the easiest things you can do to make yourself feel better and through osmosis makes everyone around you feel better. I didn't live my teens or twenties in a very grateful way. I was just like, "I want to make more money. I want a cooler job. I know more than my bosses," right? I think I was ... acted like an obnoxious jerk most of the time. My guess is I was equally rude to my friends. I really didn't feel connected and. I knew I was searching for a connection in the world, but I definitely didn't know how to find it.
It really took me a major life event ... I wanted to be a parent and I wasn't getting pregnant, and I had to go through IVF and it was the worst. I'm sure there's more awful things, but this was pretty awful, thinking I'm never gonna be a mom. That was really what pointed me on the path to learning more about myself and wanting to live in a different way, because I was facing something that was like a crisis. Have you lived your whole life in this really meaningful, grateful, joyful way? Or was this something that you had to find?
Jane ParkNo, I think I found it in different ways. One thing for me that was different is that I was born in Korea. It's funny, a lot of our beauty products are Korean beauty inspired or from my heritage. I always like to say, "I've been Korean all my life, but it's only been the last few years it's been cool." What that means is that my parents were immigrants and I was always navigating different worlds. My parents had this thing where, when they walked in, they wanted all of us to drop what we were doing - I have two younger sisters - and just come to the front door. You would think ... They were like, "The world will fall apart, the heavens will open up if you don't do this," right? It's little things like that. And then you go to your friend's house and you realize, "Oh, Americans don't do that. The world doesn't fall apart."
That's actually one custom I really like. When I come home from an overnight trip somewhere, I would love it if my kids came to the door to say hi, instead of staring at their iPhone. I think part of my observations about the world came from the fact that ... "Well, this is weird. Here's one set of rules, here's another set of rules." It gives you a little bit of confidence. Well, it turns out nobody really knows what they're doing. I think that was the biggest gift of my life, is to understand that there can be more than one set of rules and that gave me the freedom to think nobody really knows .... There aren't ... You just do the best you can. You make up the rules as you go. I think you don't understand that as ...
Most people come across that later in life. Maybe one day travel or they work or they get married and they have to deal with somebody else's rules and they struggle with that. I think immigrant kids deal with that in a much more visceral way. Every day they're crossing that boundary, multiple times a day. I think that's a ... It was a tremendous gift in terms of my worldview, that I think I got from the fact that all of the rules at home were totally different than all of the rules everywhere else.
Jodi KatzRight. And now you're writing your own rules at Julep.
Jane ParkYeah, and that takes awhile, right? I think we all ... I don't know. I'm so passionate about this because I ... Totally, I just remember coming home on the subway and banging my head going, "Dummy, dummy, dummy, why'd you do that?" Or "I wish I hadn't done this." Or I'd see my friends doing that too. I had a friend who was so smart but paralyzed. It was like, she couldn't apply for a job or really ... It was hard for her to make any forward movement, so I think these are all things that you see and you try to figure out. There must be a better way, and its easier to see it in other people sometimes. My empathy and need to shake her out of it, it was like, "You are smart! You can do stuff! You're amazing!" When you're doing that for a friend, it opens your mind to, "Oh, well maybe I need some of this too."
Jodi KatzYeah, I think that I've learned how to be kind to myself ... And not kind to myself like getting a pedicure kind, like really emotionally kind to myself by watching how I behave when my kids are struggling. I say those nice things to them, I rub their back, I give them hugs, I reinforce how great everything else is and that this one shitty thing happened but it's just one thing among many. Then I'm like, "Oh! I can do that for myself!" By the practice of doing it with the kids, I'm learning how to do it for me.
Jane ParkTotally. You know, one of the most interesting insights that I have come across recently is that I really believe that grown-ups have the same emotional responses that kids do, they just know they can't pitch a fit, right? We don't ... I used to think that we would change-
Jodi KatzSome of us, some of us know that. Not everybody.
Jane ParkI used to ... Yeah. Especially in politics these days. I used to think that when you grew up, I would ... "This kind of thing won't make me mad anymore," or that your response would change. But what I'm realizing is that our first responses don't change, just as grown-ups we understand how to moderate them more or to articulate them, to use our words. It's a super helpful construct, because when you are presenting something that is gonna cause emotional frustration, it makes me realize how much people are ... That they're going through the work of moderating that reaction.
If a kid is gonna be frustrated about a situation of change ...When you walk in, this is something I do a lot, like, "Hey guys! I know we worked on this project for six months, but I had this idea! Let's do it this way instead!" If I did that to my kids when they were four they would have thrown something at me, they would have thrown a temper tantrum. I think that's the way people respond on the inside, they just know they can't throw themselves on the floor in a work environment. It's super helpful to realize that, 'cause just knowing that that's the emotional response and then you rationally work through it in your head. But that's been a big a-ha. We don't really change the way we respond, whether that's joy or laughter or anger or frustration. The responses are what they are, and I think we don't change that. We just change how we can articulate them and work through them.
Jodi KatzJane, I've enjoyed this so much. I love hearing about the way that you think. Thank you so much for sharing with me and our listeners today.
Jane ParkI know! We talked a little bit, threw a few beauty words in there, but this was super fun.
Jodi KatzThis is awesome. And if you want more great stuff like this, please subscribe on iTunes, so Where Brains Meet Beauty, and follow us on Instagram at @basebeautycreativeagency.
AnnouncerThanks for listening to Where Brains Meet Beauty with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

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