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Women in Aesthetics: Kang Sunyoung: Fueled by Adversity

  • 2024.04.11
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Kang Sunyoung, chief executive officer (CEO) of SHENB Co., Ltd. – also known as ‘Sunny’ – begins her days with peaceful prayer as part of a longtime spiritual pursuit of peace and beauty. “When I wake up early and go to the temple, my mind calms in silence.
 Kang Sunyoung, chief executive officer (CEO) of SHENB Co., Ltd. – also known as ‘Sunny’ – begins her days with peaceful prayer as part of a longtime spiritual pursuit of peace and beauty. “When I 

wake up early and go to the temple, my mind calms in silence. Praying hard for something clears my mind and heart,” she shared. In addition, Sunny also works with flowers or draws oriental paintings, which brings her joy. “I have exhibitions of my paintings every year.”


Sunny’s journey is a testament to resilience and determination. While carving her path in the business world as a woman in her 30s, she encountered formidable challenges. Originally, Sunny harbored dreams of becoming a physician or social worker as a response to her innate desire to serve, but she found herself hampered by financial constraints. Undeterred, she pivoted towards the beauty industry and skincare, driven by a strong interest in skin treatments and services. Sunny’s journey was filled with genderspecific hurdles, as she navigated a landscape that often sought to limit and confine women.

“Early on I was closer to beauty than medicine, and when I saw a need for innovative products in the aesthetic industry, I envisioned myself developing and launching them,” she said. She reflected on the resilience it took to overcome the gender biases and adversities she faced. “Being a woman was a constant source of frustration,” she began. “I was not treated or evaluated fairly. Even if I had great ideas, I had to work harder and be more persuasive. Looking back, I am not sure how I managed it all.”

Sunny started SHENB in Suwon, Korea with just one engineer. Early product development was fraught with obstacles and setbacks as she learned to navigate the landscape of business as a woman. Three years of clawing for every inch of progress eventually led to the launch of the Crystal Peel machine in Korea in 2002. Having spent some time in the U.S. during her education, she boldly strove for the international market. Limited funds meant no grand showcases of hype-driven product launches. But 

with the support of friends Sunny managed a low-cost booth at an exhibition where, despite her limited proficiency in English, she managed to communicate her passion and drive well enough to garner some attention. This marked the beginning of product exports to the U.S., New Zealand and Australia. With those first obstacles in the rearview mirror, SHENB experienced a semblance of stability for some time. Sunny continued her push in re

search and design (R&D), introducing new products like a compact Diamond Peel device and a follow-up to the Crystal Peel machine.

Home shopping was gaining traction in Korea at the time, providing opportunity for a new sales pathway through partnerships, but an unexpected bankruptcy hit when a partner absconded without paying for products. Her four loyal employees stood by her, offering support while the intrepid CEO personally approached companies, renegotiated payment schedules, sought assistance and managed to lay the groundwork for recovery. “Even now, I remember with gratitude those who supported me during that period of uncertainty.”

In 2005, SHENB had established itself as a credible entity, and Sunny obtained a Medical Device Manufacturing Certification. Leveraging her experience in high-frequency products, she continued her quest to develop impactful medical devices. With the introduction of SilkPeel in 2008 (with CE certification in 2009) she was able to form a dedicated research department, earning certification as a technological small and medium-sized enterprise in 2010

Then came VIVACE. Developed in 2012, VIVACE microneedle RF holds special significance for Sunny and SHENB. The CEO paid meticulous attention to every detail, from design to needle production and energy output. Post-launch, VIVACE underwent evaluations throughout Korea, paving the way for entry into the U.S. market. There, Sunny tackled the FDA certification process, and in 2015 the device received FDA certification. The result: rapid growth. VIVACE’s simple and functional, yet robust design earned kudos throughout the industry, leading to record sales for three years in the U.S. Awards and accolades followed, boosting SHENB’s legitimacy. It was a triumph for Sunny.

Following this success, Sunny and SHENB continued to develop new products including an air pressure solution injector, SHEMAX PLADUO, which utilizes both argon and nitrogen plasma; and two successors to VIVACE: VYBE and VIRTUE RF. The company proudly exports its products to 83 countries worldwide, including the U.S.

Motherhood and family life have been a challenge for Sunny. Beyond the strain of balancing these with business leadership, the influence of the traditional but limited ‘housewife’ images in her culture still have impact. “Serving your husband, raising children and being faithful to housekeeping was the common – and considered the ‘correct’ – image of women,” Sunny explained. “These prejudices were among my greatest challenges to becoming, and remaining, a CEO. While there is much heightened awareness of sexism and preconceived notions about men, women and accepting equality and our differences, there is still a glass ceiling for women. In the medical aesthetic device field, I am the only female CEO of a cosmetic medical device development and manufacturing company.” And SHENB is on the cusp of a leap forward as demonstrated by the introduction of two new products at its third annual Global Vision event, which took place in January 2024. “Although I could not become a doctor, I am fulfilling my dream by providing better products to doctors that will help make the world beautiful and happy,” Sunny expressed. “We will continue to shape the future through continuous technological development, talent cultivation, relentless research and a focus on beauty as our mission and vision.”

When asked for a final thought, Sunny had this to say: “I am grateful for the many people – both those who made it difficult as well as those who supported me – who have played a crucial role in bringing me where I am today.”



Next The Aesthetic Guide -SeptOct 2023
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