Meet Linda Wang – IBA’s Board of Directors

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One of the newest IBA Board of Directors members, Linda Wang, is a true testament to perseverance and an evolution-driven mindset in the ever-changing beauty space. As Founder and CEO of Karuna Skin and Avatara, she skillfully merges her skincare struggles as a child with years of professional business savvy to create results-driven products priced within reach.

As a child, she struggled with skin conditions like eczema, rashes, allergy-related symptoms, et al. At one point during a terrible flare-up, a doctor well-versed in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) prescribed her an ointment with instructions to “wrap the rash with plastic wrap to push the medicine deeper.” It sounded a little crazy to her then, but within a few days, the rash was gone! Little did she know this was her first sheet mask experience. From then on, it became her mission to bring these techniques to the mainstream. By combining Eastern ingredients with Western clinical science, she strives to instill the same compassion she was shown to help others facing a myriad of similar compromised skin concerns. Karuna means “compassion” in Sanskrit and is something Linda feels everyone could use a little more, especially regarding their skin.

Her first experience in skincare began as she completed her Fashion Merchandising Degree at The Ohio State University. Between classes, she worked as a makeup artist at Tricoci Salon & Spa and quickly learned the importance of quality skincare and the difference it made when working with clients. She immersed herself in the ingredient knowledge, assessing the client’s unique needs and building custom routines that best suited their concerns and goals. Not only was it her job to ensure each client walked away looking and feeling their best but walking away with the esthetician-recommended skincare products being carried at the salon.

After a year at the salon, she decided it was time to take the next step forward, build her business acumen and leverage her hard-earned degree. She entered Fashion Merchandising, working up the Retail Buyer ladder for over ten years for well-known apparel brands like American Eagle Outfitters, Guess, and Bebe. However, her passion for cosmetics never faded. During a trip back home to Taiwan, she discovered a series of revolutionary sheet masks that left her feeling as if she had just received a facial without the expense or time commitment. She was instantly reminded of how similar the technique was to her childhood remedy experience, and the idea for Karuna was born!

“I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart,” says Linda. Recognizing that the market for sheet masks had grown saturated in the years following Karuna’s launch, she realized the immediate need to grow and evolve her company endeavors. After handpicking ingredients and materials she knew would make the most impact, Karuna launched in 2009 and is known for being the first to bring Asian sheet masks to the U.S. By 2013, Karuna had partnered with Sephora and was eventually carried in Ulta and a series of high-end hotels and independently owned spas. To cater to a broader audience and age demographic, she formed Avatara in 2017– a line inspired by her young nieces that brought “the fun” back to skincare with quality ingredients, selfie-worthy packaging, and an easily accessible price point. Today Avatara is carried in Target, Walmart, Rite-Aid, and Meijer locations nationwide. Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, Linda remained focused on essential retail channels and committed to keeping both lines affordable with a strong focus on the importance of self-care. In February 2022, she further evolved the brand and expanded Karuna’s offering in an exclusive partnership with Whole Foods Market. She successfully launched the brand’s first complete daily skincare essentials range, The Balancing Collection, along with a robust in-store training program designed to empower associates and their customers to understand their skin better while helping it achieve a state of balance.

“It’s such an honor to be on the IBA Board of Directors!” she continues, “I look forward to partnering with IBA to understand better how I can support their initiatives in serving the beauty and skincare industries in any way I can.”

What would she tell the newcomer to the industry? She recommended, “Do your market research. It’s essential to assess where there’s a unique need or opportunity.”

What market do you want to go into? Which markets do you want to avoid? She suggested, “Keep growing and evolving. See what is going on in the market. In 2009, there was no awareness of sheet masks; then, there was a huge buzz and market saturation. Someone has got to stay in tune with the changes around them.”

 

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