Erica Choi is the founder of Superegg, a wellness-rooted skincare brand inspired by holistic Korean beauty philosophy. Launched in late 2020, Choi’s company is among a new crop of influencer-founded brands shaking up the beauty industry.
While working as the digital art director at the luxury retailer Barneys New York, in 2014, Choi tapped into her interest in visual storytelling and entered the emerging creator space. Under the moniker @eggcanvas, she began growing her audience on her blog and Instagram — the latter of which now sees a following of over 382,000. What started as a creative outlet for Choi, who still had a corporate job at the time, eventually became a side hustle for her. She landed opportunities to partner with lifestyle brands across fashion, beauty, and the hospitality industries, with clients ranging from Tiffany & Co. to Mercedes-Benz.
Beyond brand deals, however, the content creator is looking to build something more personal. Leveraging the synergy between her design career and content creation, two years ago, Choi made the leap into entrepreneurship as the founder of Superegg. Her goal is to bring thoughtfully formulated products that are good not just for the skin, but also the planet, to skincare-obsessed and sustainably minded customers.
Below, The Leap speaks to Choi about how being a content creator has allowed her to gain the skills, insights, and connections necessary to become a successful brand founder. She also talks about the challenges that come with being a creative, and how she persevered to push her passion project forward and to create her dream brand.
Taking the first step toward your entrepreneurial dreams can be very intimidating. What was going on in your life as you’re thinking about creating your own brand?
There was a great interest in my design career and six-year tenure at Barneys, and my social media platform @eggcanvas as it grew. There weren’t many people who were both content creators and corporate full-timers back then. Instagram and my blog were my creative outlets. Even though I was headfirst in giving my all to the company, I also loved documenting my travels, photographing my favorite spots in the city, and capturing imagery through my lens for brands outside the multi-retailer space.
My two jobs worked together in synergy and gave me insights into both worlds, which allowed me to grow within the organization. I was working 24/7, but I loved it so much. My career and role at Barneys were always my priority, but I knew there was something else brewing deep down inside.
My dream was to create a brand and community based on my values, and be able to pour my heart and soul into it and share it with others. Barneys was an institution, but the teams were small and mighty. Having to wear so many hats with an entrepreneurial spirit within the corporate realm has prepared me for a founder’s life.
What were you most scared of? What were you most excited about?
Uncertainty and instability were definitely a bit unnerving for me, but at the same time, it was also the most exciting. It was a chance to set my own schedule — although sometimes, it feels like I am working 24/7 — and give my everything into something I cherish so much.
Was there one specific moment that prompted you to leave the corporate life to pursue entrepreneurship?
Although it was heartbreaking to see what had happened to my Barneys team (Editor’s note: The retailer filed for bankruptcy and announced to shutter its stores in 2019), it was also a significant moment when I felt another door had opened. After over a decade of working to help grow other brands, I knew it was time to grow something I truly believed in.
The Barneys corporate office closed at the end of 2019. And although the pandemic and lockdown complicated and delayed our launch by a few months, we finally made our debut in December 2020.
What part of your experience as Barneys’s Vice President of Digital Design helped you when you’re creating Superegg?
My familiarity with the luxury fashion, beauty, and hospitality industries, as well as being a content creator of my platform @eggcanvas, came together for the opportunity to create my dream brand — a company rooted in my philosophy of holistic wellness. This meant a brand that is aesthetically pleasing, incredibly high-performance and effective, sensorial and luxuriously experiential, while still doing good for the environment.
Graphic designers are storytellers. And with this skill honed over the past 15 years, I can now tell my story in a clearer way. My experience has given me an understanding of operations and great insight into consumer behaviors, marketing decisions, and the brand-retailer relationship. However, I owe much to my corporate career as it has helped me learn not only about brand building, but also about team building and honing in on the leadership skills needed as a company founder.
I also obtained my esthetician’s license, so there could also be legitimacy and understanding to give another layer to my passion for skin and skincare.
You mentioned that while working your corporate job, your social platforms were your creative outlets. At what point did your hobby start generating additional income for you? How did you land your first brand partnerships?
I believe it was a few years in, but 2014 was when I set up my blog because I realized I could tell more of my visual stories in a long-form format via a site. IG carousels, Stories, etc. did not exist yet, and brands were seeking out [blog posts by influencers] as well.
[More recently,] brands would reach out asking to work on specific campaigns or projects together. It could be as simple as one post on Instagram, or several postings on different channels throughout the season. Because I had a 9-5, I feel very fortunate to have been selective with the brands I wanted to work with.
I don’t remember exactly, but I believe my first partnerships were in line with talking about my corporate career and showcasing the brands’ products around my city.
How were you able to get brand recognition in your first year running Superegg?
With limited capital as a small start-up, you really need to be creative. I share my vision for the brand using my platform @eggcanvas, as well as reaching out to other talented and influential professionals I admire to see if they would like to experience the products for themselves.
The strongest platform has been the @superegg channel [on Instagram] and telling our story in the most honest and authentic way possible via words and visuals. I have built many relationships throughout my career in design, fashion, and beauty, as well as with publicists and media, so I’ve connected with my friends in that world as well.
You’ve been able to leverage your social media presence to build your skincare brand. As a creator, what are your top tips for cultivating an engaged audience?
It’s about sharing what you are most passionate about and what gets you the most excited. Authenticity is an overused term, but as long as you are truthful to yourself and in what you share, you and your audience will find each other.
What’s a typical day at work like for you?
Every day can be pretty routine, or it can be quite drastically different. As much of my work can be done remotely, such as shooting and posting content, engaging with our community, or answering emails — many times, the difference is just the setting.
Since I started content creation almost a decade ago, my days have been committed to creating, but now it’s combined with creating for Superegg. I create everything from photographs, to planning content for the brand’s social accounts, to ideating and developing future product launches. Responding to emails also takes ample time. I correspond with customers, partners, vendors, influencers, press, operations, and much more. I plan the marketing calendar that can involve different partnerships, holiday promotions, and events.
I enjoy working from home because I can see when the light is best in my space and take product photography. Sometimes, I will step out for an hour or two for a meeting, or a weekly yoga or pilates class in the neighborhood.
Becoming a full-time entrepreneur can be stressful. Did you experience any burnout during your first few months?
I’ve always been extremely passionate, so I’ve dealt with burnout many times in my life. However, trying to be on top of so many variables that were out of my control when developing the brand was another story. It taught me to take it one day at a time and to take care of my mental, emotional, and physical health first. I know I need to be my best self so I can be in the best position to help others.
Can you go into detail about the aesthetic of your brand? Is there an ideal customer or niche you’re trying to target?
With my background in design and as a brand rooted in well-being, I wanted Superegg products to portray a feeling of serenity and ease in its user’s space. The brand is heavily influenced by the egg — not only does the egg offer great nutritional value for the skin, but it is also a symbol of balance, and our skincare is about helping you achieve beautiful healthy balanced skin. The egg also represents birth and is a reminder to celebrate life.
I hope Superegg users allow themselves the time to apply the products as everyday self-care rituals, and to emphasize these small moments that bring you joy. Superegg is a brand for all those who appreciate aesthetics and design, and seek closeness to nature but still want efficacious and cutting-edge innovation in their products.
What was the greatest lesson you learned during your first year as an entrepreneur? At what point did you have a “there’s no turning back” moment?
There were abundant lessons I’ve acquired from starting a business. I’ve obtained knowledge regarding details that go into packaging, formulations, financials, legal contracts, and so on. I feel like there were many personal lessons learned as well. The sheer amount of patience I need to give myself on a daily basis is innumerable.
Every day, there is a new battle. As a Virgo and an extreme perfectionist, it is very hard to let go sometimes. As an empath, I have to distance myself from comments that don’t mean well, or people who may try to take advantage of a small business. But the most important thing I am learning is to win some and lose some. I am learning to give myself some grace. Thinking about how much is in the works at any given time, and how many people depend on us makes me believe there is no going back now.
Was there anyone that helped you through the process in your early days of entrepreneurship? What was the best advice you received?
It really takes a village. Talking to fellow entrepreneurs and loved ones has helped immensely. You need to remind yourself that you are not alone. The advice that gave me the most strength is to manifest my vision, and celebrate the small victories that get me closer to my goals.
Do you have any words of advice for anyone wanting to leave the comfort of their 9-5 jobs to pursue starting their own business?
Unless you have a financial cushion, slowly start building your idea while you are still working 9-5. Of course, putting your all into your new business can possibly give you that powerful ambition you need to kickstart it, but I think stability is also necessary for your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
It’s extremely costly to do anything now, from sourcing materials to human resources to marketing, so it’s important for your new passion project to give you joy, not burnout, especially so early on.
Connect and reach out to as many people in the industry as possible to gain as much advice as possible. There will be a lot of nos, but sometimes it only takes that one “yes” to propel you forward.
Above all else, stay curious, never stop learning, and believe in yourself.