Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price spoke with Eliana Cardeno, Founder and CEO of Kiyomi Beauty, in March 2019. (Read the interview: Connecticut Entrepreneur Launches Beauty Box Subscription Startup.) Since then, the startup has achieved some significant changes to refine its mission to connect culturally diverse women through skincare.

NAN PRICE: We met in early 2019 when you were participating in the reSET Accelerator. What did you gain from that experience?

ELIANA CARDENO: My biggest takeaway was the connections—and friendships—I made with other local entrepreneurs, mentors, and the staff from reSET. I met some innovative thinkers who had a lot of feedback for me and my businesses, which helped me shape what the future of Kiyomi could look like. With the Kickstarter campaign I launched, I will be able to implement some of those suggestions, too.

NAN: And, you also learned to refine your pitch.

ELIANA: Yes. reSET coached us through that, too. It was an amazing experience because I’ve never done anything like it before. It was my first time formally pitching for capital in front of an audience—other entrepreneurs from the area, but also professional mentors and members of the community who I really look up to. It was nerve wracking, to say the least! But it was also amazing.

Out of the 15 teams that began the accelerator program, only seven went to pitch on the final event at the Connecticut Science Center. Kiyomi was one of the seven startups to pitch, which was really exciting—and unexpected. Kiyomi came in third place at the final pitch event—again, totally unexpected!

It was wonderful to get feedback from the mentors and the judges who were listening to our presentations and receive validation for something that was merely an idea a few months before but was finally starting to take shape.

Through the pitch presentation, I was able to show that Kiyomi had consistent growth by its increase in revenue and customers and that there was potential for even more in the future. I could also show that our mission was being implemented and that changes could be made to improve the path we were currently on.

NAN: Let’s talk about the evolution of Kiyomi Beauty since you first launched.

ELIANA: Sure. The original idea for Kiyomi was to have a bimonthly beauty subscription box, through which customers could discover new Korean skincare products. However, I will be pivoting the company in several ways.

First, the original beauty box will no longer be a bi-monthly subscription, instead it will be based on a more quarterly seasonal theme, where every three months customers will receive different and innovative skincare products based on the season or trends. Second, we’ll be introducing a new product option, the Kiyomi Beauty Pouch, a smaller, more affordable monthly subscription box that will contain four Korean face masks. I believe this new option will enable people to try some Korean beauty products and hopefully be encouraged to purchase the bigger beauty box, which has more products and more variety.

Lastly, I am in the process of rebuilding my website, so it is more user-friendly and it allows customers to buy individual products directly. This was the mission from the beginning: To provide easier access to Korean skincare products and more affordable options to customers nationally and globally.

NAN: Tell us one thing you’ve learned along your entrepreneurial journey.

ELIANA: It’s been a wonderful journey, so far. I’m very new to entrepreneurship, but I’m loving the high highs and even the low lows, because I feel like both have helped me get to this point where I am able to say that Kiyomi could potentially be something very big in the near future.

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