Kevin Miao went to the United States in 1995. He majored in law but instead broke into the cosmetics industry.
By 2004, Miao was already a burgeoning businessman in the US. He also has a strong sense of social responsibility and compassion.
He made outstanding contributions to help victims of 9-11, and he was invited by the President of the United States George W. Bush to attend the Summit of America’s Business Leaders. There he met the most important person in his career – professor Avram Hershko, a Nobel laureate in chemistry.
Hershko told Miao that he owned the patent rights for medically proven nano hydroxysome transdermal delivery technology. If it could be used in cosmetics, it would possibly be a breakthrough in the industry.
Miao was excited about the technology and thought it might be a great opportunity for him to make something happen.
Two months later, he returned to China. He attended a cosmetics expo in Guangzhou with a friend who ran a salon in the US.
“I stayed there for just 20 minutes. Then I decided to invest in the cosmetics industry,” he recalled. “My friend couldn’t understand – he said the cosmetics industry in China was such a mess, as illustrated by the expo.”
“I told him that was why I can do something here. There’s an opportunity.”
When Miao returned to the US, he took over a factory in New Jersey founded in 1967 for research in biotechnology and cosmetics. He named his new company “Virgo” for the horoscope sign denoting a personality seeking perfection. Then he asked Hershko to be a shareholder by offering his patented technology.
Miao started to build Virgo as a brand in 2004 headquartered in the US. Four years later he brought it to China and set up an office in Shanghai. When asked how Virgo could compete with big names like Dior and Chanel, Miao answered it was technology and service that made the brand stand out.
“That’s how I position Virgo – ‘cosmeceuticals’ with technology from a Nobel laureate – along with a whole set of professional services and specific distribution channels like fancy salons and spa clubs.”
Miao said cosmeceuticals – those with potential health benefits – are now a big hit in the industry.
As well, the cosmetics industry in China was not well regulated, lacking high-quality services and professional practitioners.
So he decided to offer cosmeceuticals with more advanced technology. He also asked for tighter regulation that made products more accountable to customers.
Miao trained practitioners in every distribution channel but needed to be creative.
He said many of the local makeup doers were not well educated, so reciting regulations and manners to them could be useless. Instead, Miao used debates and mock court trials to help beauticians remember regulations and master the proper way to communicate with customers.
“It was very effective. One day a manager of a local salon came to thank me because after the debate he could communicate with customers very confidently,” he said.
Miao is a dreamer, but he is also flexible. When he first came to Shanghai with his Western way of doing things, he encountered difficulties and failures. Soon he changed to fit in by hiring a local team but still used Western ways to run the company.
He said there were a lot of temptations and distractions on the way toward his dream. People contacted him trying to buy the rights as the agent for Virgo in China. Some advised him to move the factory to China for its cheaper labor and resources. But Miao refused.
“If I were going to maximize the profits, I might ruin the image of my brand, which is counter the dream I have held for so long – to build a Chinese-owned cosmetic brand that could dominate the global market.”