I’m the Founder of NYX Cosmetics Tony Ko and This Is How I Work
Tony Ko sold $ 2 million worth of cosmetics in her first year of operation before hiring a single employee. She turned her NYX Cosmetics company into a half-billion dollar business before selling it to L’Oréal. We spoke to a multimillionaire entrepreneur about her early start, her biggest mistake, and her venture capital fund for women-owned businesses.
Current computer: Mac Current mobile device: iPhone XS. One word that best describes how you work: multitasking.
First of all, tell us a little about your past and how you got where you are now.
I started working in the family’s cosmetics business when I was 15 years old. The year I turned 25, I left the family business to start my first company, NYX Cosmetics, which I started at 26. I was married to the company for 15 years until I sold it to L’Oréal in 2014.
The sale of my company allowed me to become a serious real estate investor, which is why I now own over half a million square feet of leased space in Los Angeles. I also founded Butter Ventures , which invests in women-owned businesses.
I was born a serial entrepreneur and very creative at heart, so shortly after the NYX sale, I started a sunglasses company called Thomas James LA that offers amazing quality fashion sunglasses at an affordable price of just $ 19 a pair.
What were the defining steps in growing your business from one woman to a big brand?
Financial security is incredibly important. Obviously, if you have no finance, you will not be able to pay off your wages. When I started my first company at 26, I moved into my parents’ house so I didn’t have to take money from me to supplement my living expenses. The first three years I lived without a paycheck and put every dollar I earned in my business. This helped me build a very solid financial foundation.
The biggest headache you face when running a company is not having enough money to buy inventory, pay rent, pay employees, etc. business. If you donate a little in the foreground, you can grow exponentially in a few years.
What was the biggest mistake you made and how did you deal with it?
When I started my sunglasses business, I got too big. I hired too many people, bought too big programs, spent too much on launching, etc. The key word is “too much”. It took me about six months to realize that we were on the wrong track, and I quickly took action, started downsizing, and started switching to leaner, more manageable programs. I had to make quick decisions and act quickly.
What has changed in the beauty industry since you started?
The real question is, what has NOT changed? The beauty industry has changed so much that I honestly find it difficult to catch up. Sales channel, marketing, social media, consumer behavior – everything has changed! Traditional ways of thinking are no longer relevant and need to adapt or fall behind.
What do you consider when deciding to invest in a company?
First of all, I need to like the product they are selling and I need to know that an entrepreneur is willing to invest 110% in building a successful company. I need entrepreneurs who do EVERYTHING. I have to see a combination of a great product and a great entrepreneur.
Tell us about a recent work day.
I was recently on a business trip in Asia, where I traveled to seven different cities in four countries in 14 days. When I returned to Los Angeles, I started working 12-14 hours on weekdays.
My working day starts as soon as I open my eyes in the morning because I buy goods from Asia. I have emails from vendors to watch out for early in the morning because I like to reply within 12 hours, so I don’t waste an entire day on email correspondence.
After that I pack up and go to the office. When I get to the office, I check with my co-workers the open projects for the day, and then I usually find some time sitting at my desk to go through additional emails, scheduling, scheduling, etc.
I usually make appointments for lunch to make better use of my lunch break. After lunch, I work on creative concepts, product development, and send the necessary emails to suppliers in Asia towards the end of the day, because that’s when they start their day.
After I leave the office, I either pack up for dinner or head home to spend time with my dog Bruce. Then you find myself texting or reading at the computer again.
What apps, gadgets or tools can’t you live without?
I cannot live without a notebook and pen. A real paper notebook and a thin pen – MANDATORY! I still love to record.
How is your workplace arranged?
I still work at my L-shaped desk, which I have owned since I started my first company in 1999. I don’t think I will ever be able to part with this table. I always have stacks of papers and samples on my desk. I clean it all the time, but it builds up pretty quickly.
What’s your favorite shortcut or trick?
Simplified thinking! Don’t hesitate.
Tell us about an interesting, unusual, or challenging process you have at work.
We don’t have many meetings at my company because I think too many meetings are counterproductive. Also, I have an open door policy for everyone, including me.
How do you keep track of what you need to do?
For appointments and itineraries, I use the calendar on my iPhone. I check my schedule the next day before going to bed every night and check it again in the morning. For projects, I always make a to-do list.
How to recharge or relax?
Journey! I like to travel. Worldwide.
What’s your favorite side project?
I absolutely love looking after chickens in my backyard and vegetable garden. I love giving my friends eggs and vegetables from my garden! You can call me #FarmerCo.
What are you reading now or what do you recommend?
I just finished reading Tara Westover’s Enlightenment and it was amazing. Now I’m reading Whale for a Billion by Bradley Hope and Tom Wright, which is very interesting. However, if there is one book that I would recommend all entrepreneurs to read, it would be James Collins’ Book from Good to Big .
Who else would you like to see to answer these questions?
Kerrigan Behrens, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Sagely Naturals.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Focus only on the goal. Everything else is just noise. “
What problem are you still trying to solve?
Trying to use less screen time on my iPhone. UGH!!