How an ‘accident’ helped the creators of the Mighty Patch unlock Amazon success

Ju Rhyu Hero Cosmetics

The tiny, translucent disks are increasingly adorning the faces of Gen Z and millennials when a pimple appears, and over 1 billion of the brand’s signature hydrocolloid patches have sold thus far. Manufacturer Hero Cosmetics also recently netted a partnership with content creator Alix Earle. 

Founder and CEO Ju Rhyu told Fortune she came up with the idea for the brand while living as an expat in South Korea while working for Samsung in 2012. At the time, only two types of hydrocolloid patches existed in K-Beauty: medical and cosmetic-oriented. The entrepreneur wanted to bridge the gap and bring pimple patches to the U.S., seeing an opportunity in the $3.9 billion K-Beauty industry.  

So in 2017, when she was 37 years old, Rhyu launched her brand along with cofounders Dwight Lee and Andrew Lee, capitalizing on their corporate expertise and a cool $50,000 the trio had pooled together.

After agreeing that Mighty Patch needed to be cash flow positive and profitable, the trio set out to find a manufacturer. Rhyu compiled a list of potential business partners, and told the Female Startup Club she found the companies from the boxes of acne patches at a local pharmacy. 

Of the 10 manufacturers Rhyu contacted through cold emails, only two responded. She said the final match was “luck,” and Hero Cosmetics still works with it today who. Rhyu says the manufacturer makes “the best quality patch in Korea.”

The Big Launch

Armed with a business partner and a mission to disrupt the Band-Aid aisle, Hero earned its first 10,000-unit order.

In 2017, Hero began selling the Mighty Patch, including on e-commerce giant Amazon. But the company initially couldn’t get the product featured on Amazon Prime, which can increase orders by 25% as members get free shipping and other perks.

A breakthrough came after some trial and error. 

“The pricing actually was kind of an accident, because we were selling on Amazon,” Rhyu said. “There were already some players that were a lot cheaper at around $5. And actually wanted to place our products at $9.99. But the funny story is we couldn’t get Amazon Prime. And we were sort of playing around with different things to see how we can unlock Prime. And one of the ways was we increased our price [to] $12.99.”

Rhyu chose to stick with the newer price tag after selling out in just 90 days. And in 2022, she shepherded a $630 million acquisition with Church & Dwight.

Breaking into the beauty industry

Pimple patches may have only recently become a beauty staple for Americans, but they’ve existed in South Korea since the early 2010’s. 

When Hero Cosmetics first entered the market in the U.S., Rhyu said there were only a few competitors on Amazon. Now, the beauty industry is flooded with all types of pimple patches. Brands like Starface have introduced bright colors and cloud and star shapes to the beauty aisle, while Neutrogena and CosRX have created their own translucent hydrocolloid disks. 

But Rhyu says Hero’s decision to keep patches discreet allows them to reach a broader range of customers.

Rhyu also credits Hero’s success to their special formula, “When they use ours versus competition, I think they can tell the product difference.” She adds that Hero’s expertise in the acne patch category created a lot of trust and is part of the reason why they stay number one to this day.

“We want to be very inclusive and accommodate everyone from the 14-year-old to people in their 50s,” she says, adding that bright shapes and colors may be fun for younger generations, “but it won’t work for everybody.”

Rhyu says her success isn’t determined by her company’s revenue, but by changing the narrative around acne. 

She credits social media as a key factor in Hero Cosmetics’ popularity, emphasizing the virality of “the peel off” when content creators remove their Mighty Patch and reveal the “gunk” underneath.

“That type of content goes viral a lot and that virality helps with education,” she says. “Social media, obviously, has been so crucial to the success of our business.”

She says she feels “proud” when customers wear the product in public since Hero aims to make acne “more acceptable.”

“I love seeing people wear them to the office or just out and about,” she says. “What it means to me is we’ve done our job, that we’ve really sort of broken down the taboo aspect of acne and made it okay.”

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