Every month we spotlight an entrepreneur behind a badass sustainable business – and every month we are completely floored by the incredible advice and vulnerability that come from these hardworking hustlers.
Check out all of them on our Brands that Bloom Series Page!
This month is no different. Our Brands that Bloom spotlight is on Gabree Kwan, the mega-mind behind Rune Holistic Skincare.
RUNE is one of the brands we’ve been watching since inception. It is less than a year old and growing so ethically!
We reached out to Gabree and found out that she’s a serial entrepreneur with a deep connection to Traditional Chinese Medicine and Planetary Herbalism. She shared her story, her awesome vision for RUNE, and some really sound advice for entrepreneurs everywhere.
Interview with Gabree Kwan; Owner of Rune Holistic Skincare
Did you always want to be a business owner? How did you decide on creating a skincare line?
I came to the States from China in 2015. When I was in China, I worked in IT corporations in the tech city, Shenzhen for years. I’ve participated in an accelerator program as a partner of a tech startup so I’m quite familiar with the venture capital world and was chasing after capital for quite a while.
My husband and I founded a music events related company before we decided to move to the States. Then, I started another project after the move, selling organic skincare products online from the States to China as well as advocating green beauty and sharing this knowledge. People say entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, I guess that’s true.
When I started the organic skincare project for China, I also started schooling with the accredited organic science school based in London, Formula Botanica. The original purpose was to understand more of the industry and the science behind the products.
When did you officially launch as Rune Holistic Skincare? Where did the name come from? Tell us about your vision.
Rune Holistic Skincare was officially launched in May 2019 – it’s a very young company. The brand is named after my daughter. I like that the name is kind of exotic. It reminds people of the ancient Scandinavian language written on rocks and it also resembles the pronunciation of the Chinese character “润”, which means to embellish, to moisten, to nourish.
As an herbalist, I wanted to create a high-end skincare line that well represents the term “holistic” and that actually works.
We see so many skincare products marketed as natural, organic, green, clean, etc.. But the standards to these terms are not clear, especially ‘holistic’. If you search on the internet, there are all sorts of explanations on what holistic means in skincare. The word has become more and more popular among marketers.
However, nobody seems to be properly explaining what holistic stands for when it’s being referred to products. Taking a holistic approach means taking all aspects into consideration: the body, the mind, the environment. In addition to pampering the skin, we also need to look at our physical health, state of mind, and our lifestyle. When I formulated RUNE, I realized I might be working on something that had never been defined before.
For me, instead of trying to fix one problem after another, holistic skincare needs to look at the overall health of the skin to correct imbalances. This enables the skin to become strong enough to fix itself, more resistant to adverse conditions so the skin can eventually present its best self.
How do you formulate holistic into your products?
First of all, I do not and will never create a hundred products that solely tackle one problem – dryness, lines, blemishes, sensitive skin, age spots, acne. Our products aim to feed the skin with the most nourishing foods according to different constitutions (skin types) to promote the ultimate health.
Secondly, the plants as ingredients in our products are extracted in traditional herbalists’ way – instead of using isolated properties, which often can be too concentrated and may cause damage with long-term use, I use only whole herbs to ensure safety (properly concentrated), stability (more available in reality) and maximum results (because of the synergistic actions within the herbs).
Rune Holistic Skincare is High Performance
With so many natural skincare products on the market, it’s still very difficult to find the ones that actually work. When in fact, natural anti-aging skincare products can truly be so effective in transforming the skin, so elegant in its texture and aroma and so high quality as a whole.
High-performance cosmetics are composed of both an effective delivery system and the high content of cosmeceuticals. They are designed to harness the power of active cosmeceuticals to treat the skin at a much deeper level than a regular skin cream ever could. I tested and tested on the best system to match a selective combination of herbs. You can see that each one of our products contains an abundance of plant essences to truly make a difference in the skin’s appearance.
Another challenge in creating natural skincare products is skin feel.
I believe skin feel is a very important factor in creating a great anti-aging product. Nobody wants to slab thick, oily creams all over their face. The whole experience matters in a skincare regimen. The effectiveness of the delivery system for the herbal properties depends on it, too. If you are constantly reminded that a thick layer of lotion is on your face, it really does just sit on top of your skin.
Now we have four completely customizable products in the line, including a serum, an elixir and two moisturizers for various skin types. Proceeding into the future, I’m developing luxurious mask products as well as cleansers so it’s going to be a complete line but absolutely not overwhelming.
My vision for RUNE is becoming a platform for us to embrace and celebrate holistic living. I actively share knowledge about traditional health and healing on our social accounts. We can’t talk about skin health without talking about overall health. There are many things that I hope we can achieve through RUNE in helping people understand more about the traditional ways. We will take one step at a time.
How does Planetary Herbalism play into how you create your products?
Planetary Herbalism is “a global approach that integrates herbs and traditional assessment methodologies from around the world, especially Western, East Indian Ayurvedic, and Traditional Chinese Healing systems.” – Michael and Lesley Tierra.
I’ve been studying herbalism and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) for years. Learning about holistic healing makes me feel empowered. I’m studying to become a practitioner in alternative medicine.
From TCM, I’ve learned how to treat diseases with herbal medicine, acupuncture and moxibustion, as well as the philosophy of healthy living. Planetary Herbalism has shown me all the fascinating medicinal herbs from all over the world. Having the knowledge of pairing herbs for different purposes is crucial to effectiveness and safety.
Rune Holistic Skincare products are formulated based on the understanding of herbs, skin science, holistic health and the chemistry behind the products.
Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew when you started Rune Holistic Skincare?
In previous business ventures, I was stuck in the thinking that venture capital is crucial to building a startup. That could be true in the industries that I was in before, but not all of us have the opportunity to obtain that kind of resource. We need to have the ability to make do with whatever we can come up with. There are always local programs that support startup businesses that we can explore. I’ve been working closely with Startup Alleghenies and Altoona Blair County Development Corporation in my area. They’ve been a great help from early on.
Having worked in the internet industry for a decade, I am, although not an expert, no stranger to online marketing. It really comes down to the daily effort, unless you have a ton of money to throw into advertising.
Building a business is a part of living a life so I don’t allow myself to struggle in the process. For me, struggling in business is more psychological due to unrealistic goals. I would say the biggest challenge is waiting for things to happen after all that has been done. It’s hard not to think maybe there’s more that I should do to see results sooner.
I try my best to pull myself away from worrying and focus on other aspects in life for a while – I have a family to take care of and a lot of studying to do! I’ve been building up followers completely organically up to this point and it’s been an extremely rewarding experience in many ways. I know all of my followers and I love the interactions we have with each other. I’ve learned so much from watching them. I met you beautiful ladies of Dandelion on Instagram. It feels like magic!
Any words of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs out there?
There’s so much that I want to say when it comes to starting and running a business. What I’m about to share here is going to be a little unconventional. Start lean, practice persistence and patience, know your core.
Having worked in the internet business for a decade, I learned that chasing capital is the normal way of entrepreneurship. I would come up with an idea believing that it could fill a void in the market, then I would set up a startup company and start convincing people that it would work. There were so many successful examples, books and blogs out there teaching how to get investment, how to become an entrepreneur in the dazzling way. However, this whole experience with RUNE has taught me to go completely in a different direction. 3 points to sum it up:
To start with, starting a business, you need to already have an income, or you are supported by someone. Or if we are talking about fairy tales, you need to have very deep pockets or you have investment lined up that can also cover your personal expenses. New businesses take time to build. Not having to worry about the living basics is a key element to ensure that you can get through the lonely and slow phases a little bit more at ease.
Equally as important, when you’re working with minimal capital and every penny counts you get to fully utilize all the resources you have and make only smart decisions suitable for where you are at.
Being lean teaches us to simply be grateful for what we have gained and to value even more, every little progress that we make. There’s a lot of happiness that comes from building a business in this way. And happiness fuels endless energy to create a great business and great brand culture.
Persistence & Patience
Starting from scratch, we all have to go through the lonely phase when we are trying so hard to convince people that our products provide great value. There are no standards on how much effort is required to get there, nor a guarantee that our efforts are going to pay off at all.
As frustrating as it sounds, there are no short-cuts in building a solid business. I’ve stopped looking for short-cuts and instead, invested that time into getting down to the basics. The ladies here at Dandelion are the experts in marketing. They know what works. My humble advice is, simply make reasonable targets (this could mean different things for different people) and do not beat yourself up if the targets are not hit – they are based on conjecture anyway.
Don’t let other people tell you how much more you need to hustle in order to be successful.
Being holistic comes from every aspect of living, including working. If your business is truly where your passion is, then you won’t mind spending your whole life nurturing it. And it’s nature’s way that destroying happens fast, but anything of good quality takes time to build. Just like how it takes just one night of temperature drop to turn all the leaves yellow and for them to start falling, but it takes the whole winter to restore energy, spring to sprout and shoot, summer to grow and flourish. So, I wouldn’t go against nature by rushing and pushing so I can have something sooner than when I’m supposed to just because I want it. That’s something called desire, which can easily lead to anxiety that consumes our hearts. In the future when it’s time to accelerate, investment opportunities can often present themselves and we will get to make up the terms.
Pay the most attention to the core of the business
The core is the products. Marketing is important but solid products absolutely come first. If the products speak for themselves, you’ll be able to focus on communication and outreach.
I do everything I can to perfect my products at RUNE. All of my confidence going forward comes from the positive feedback from customers. Providing great value to my customers is the least I can do to thank them for their money and time.
Wrapping it up, my advice for building a business is all for preventing you from stressing too much so it’s sustainable for you. The process really is the point. And results WILL follow.
You can follow Rune Holistic Skincare on Instagram @runeholisticskincare
Want to be featured in our monthly Brands that Bloom post or do you have a fav brand you want to know more about? Hit us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll reach out and get the skinny for you.