By Korin Korman WG’92, Founder of 3000BC
A mentor of mine once called 3000BC “the longest running startup in the history of startups.” At the time, I laughed, but I wasn’t sure whether to celebrate this title, or crawl into my closet, assume the fetal position, and give up. I decided to proudly wear it as my official badge—and today, my startup is still running, and, as my mentor put it, it’s still a startup.
What does it mean to have the longest running startup in the history of startups? To me, it means that even though I founded 3000BC in 1992, the company has never stopped being a startup. It has never settled into a rut; I’ve never gotten complacent or stopped looking for the next way to make my company the best it can possibly be. We have stayed fleet and flexible, keeping the best aspects of a scrappy startup even while meeting with great success—and through some difficult times.
My initial goal was to launch 3000BC, the world’s most comprehensive collection of pure and organic botanical based skincare and body products, with funding from Wharton and my family and friends. I researched and connected with the chemists and botanical leaders in this arena (France, England and aging hippies living in the Pacific Northwest). Encouraged by these early pioneers to branch out and create my own proprietary line, I had to creatively craft a way to fund the R&D required to develop my own skincare line, as I had only raised a limited amount of capital to build out a specialty boutique and stock it with pure skincare collections from the limited vendors specializing in this industry.
I decided that the best way to create the perfect product offering would be to develop it while experimenting directly with the consumer, via therapeutic spa services. I launched the first US aromatherapy based holistic day spa, my beta test site, to test the emerging skincare brand. I endlessly researched the physiological and psychological components of essential oils, crafted botanical essential oil formulations with the lab, and drafted a 100+ product manual on the efficacy of the product line. I conducted massage and facial interviews in my retail boutique, and established the holistic day spa across the boutique parking lot, in a converted townhouse basement.
The day spa industry was in its early stages and I inadvertently rode the wave and helped pave the way for this emerging sector. The 3000BC products were unique, effective and expertly crafted, garnering a large and loyal following. In the late nineties I decided to wholesale the line. It was picked up by prestigious spas, resorts and retailers (Nordstrom, Henri Bendel, the spas at the Peninsula Hotels and W Hotels, Disney Resorts, Beauty.com landing page, to name a few). This progress all emanated from the original $108,000 I raised from family, Wharton, and the wedding jewelry I sold.
Continually striving to reach the next level, now was the perfect time to launch the first national day spa chain. Wharton was a great support assisting me in strategizing the brand expansion by supplying Wharton students to help me design a comprehensive business plan for this new vision. I knew that brick and mortar was difficult to grow and fund, particularly in this type of service driven model, but I was on a mission.
Unfortunately no VC investors I approached shared the same vision. So early 2000’s, I decided to cease wholesale efforts (I didn’t have the infrastructure to support the growth I was experiencing) and self-fund the spa model rollout, without the much needed equity infusion. In 2005, beating the odds and expanding the brand, I transitioned into the WellMed anti aging spa model (probably the first in the country to combine the benefits of holistic wellness and medical based services and products). I relocated my original spa, partnered with a top Philadelphia plastic surgeon and opened a second (4000 sq ft) facility. At this stage I added advanced medical based technology such as the Visia skin imaging device.
Then the 2008 economic recession hit, severely effecting the day spa industry and luxury good brands. I closed the second facility, refocused efforts, controlled costs and pulled through this unfortunate period. As the economy recovered, I started looking for new opportunities to grow.
I was approached by a Wharton MBA in 2011, to migrate into a direct selling model. Knowing nothing about this industry, I immersed myself and team members into a DS 101 crash course, recruited health and beauty coaches, and created a unique approach of scanning consumer’s skin with a specialized light, sharing the information and solving the consumer’s problem with superior product offering. This experience, combined with the technology I had deployed at my spas, breathed new life into my vision, In 2015 I launched Scan Our Skin, LLC (the SOS), which I believe will transform the multibillion dollar anti-aging industry.
My entrepreneurial path has been exciting, terrifying, and full of unexpected directions. Every decision formed the foundation for the next piece of the journey. I’m proud to say that I’ve affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of clients of the years, spawned other businesses sharing my model, and employed hundreds of people.
Is 3000BC the longest running startup in the history of startups? I like to think so. In any case, it’s certainly still a startup, no matter how long it’s been around. And I’m proud of that.
Bio: Korin Korman, a two decade health and wellness industry innovator and botanical pioneer, is the founder of 3000BC LLC. 3000BC, a nationally recognized award winning brand, is a holistic treatment center, comprehensive medical day spa, and luxurious specialty boutique that distributes and markets an exclusive line of therapeutic and clinical skin care. Korin Korman received her BA from Duke University and MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania