“Work Hard, Be Humble, and Dream Big”
Kary Cheng, the Founder, and CEO of GLIST, says the most difficult obstacle she had to overcome has been to learn to trust her instincts instead of letting people around her make decisions for her
Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?
I am the Founder and CEO of GLIST, a premium skincare brand that specialises in sheet masks. GLIST is the first East Asian quality sheet mask brand that has been created exclusively for the region. We combine the best of Japanese and Korean skincare trends, technologies, and principles with centuries-old skincare rituals to create sheet masks that feature a semi-gel cellulose sheet – a technology that is considered by leading skincare experts and biochemists the gold standard for hydrating and treating the skin. Our premium sheet masks deliver incomparable, visible results in just 20 minutes, making GLIST a pioneer in the Gulf skincare market.
My typical day starts quite early as our laboratory and factories are based in Taiwan which is four hours ahead of the UAE. After I’ve finished my work with Asia in the morning, I usually take an hour to meditate and get ready to begin my day in the UAE. Typically, three of my days each week are filled with meetings, VCs, shoots, etc., and two days are for operations-related work. I try to wrap up my work by 4:30 pm, and I try to not work past 5 pm. I used to live to work, but this took a toll on my physical and mental health. Now I am a big believer in having a good work-life balance.
Did you always know that working in the industry you represent was what you wanted to do? How did you decide on it?
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that one day I would own a skincare company! I was one of the founders and a co-owner of a regional recruitment agency in the DIFC, and I was in the staffing industry for over 10 years with experience across APAC and MENA. I once believed I was quite lucky to be able to identify my lifelong career at a young age, but then in late 2021 my mental health hit rock bottom. When this happened, it made me realise that the life I had was not the life that I wanted. I believe that when you work hard to get rid of what doesn’t serve you, you empty spaces in your life for what is meant for you to arrive.
If you know me personally, you will know that I have always been obsessed with using sheet masks. I use them 5-6 times a week! I’ve lived in Dubai for almost a decade, and whenever I travelled to Hong Kong I would fill my suitcase with boxes of products sourced from all over East Asia. Firstly, this was because I couldn’t find a skincare company in the region that produced good quality sheet masks, and secondly, because I couldn’t find anything in the Gulf that matched the Far East product quality I was used to and that delivered results and worked on my skin.
I remember when I arrived in Dubai, to my surprise, sheet masks were not a popular product or a staple product in people’s skincare routines like they were in mine. I said to myself, one day someone will create good quality sheet masks for the region. I never thought that someone would be me.
What first got you interested in the industry you work in?
It is my lifelong passion for skincare, especially sheet masks. When people talk about Asian skincare in this region, they mostly refer to Korean skincare. But let me tell you, places like Japan and Taiwan are huge on skincare and they have a lot of quality products that are never exposed to the rest of the world. As someone who comes from East Asia (Hong Kong to be exact), I feel that it is my responsibility to introduce the skincare rituals and technologies that I’m used to, to the Gulf.
Do you have a role model?
There are many amazing self-made entrepreneurs that I look up to across different industries. I think it is important to learn from every single one of them instead of just having one role model. There is a reason why they are all successful and I take note of what has helped them achieve the success they have, and I try to emulate this in my life and business.
Learning from the best in the industry is very important to me, and this is something I wanted my brand to celebrate. GLIST is a brand that believes in the power of sharing knowledge, and we are committed to not only hydrating our customers but to being a source of education and a guiding force to help people achieve ultimate skin confidence.
What obstacles did you have to overcome?
As with setting up any business and creating a product from scratch, there have been, and continue to be a lot of challenges. But for me, the most difficult obstacle I have had to overcome has been to learn to trust my instincts instead of letting people around me make decisions for me. I’ve also had to learn to be kind to myself. We are our worst critics sometimes and these harsh thoughts can ruin our confidence.
What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the industry you represent? What do you wish you had known?
The advice I have for women wanting to start any businesses is to do market research, plan effectively, and have realistic financial budgets. You are most likely not going to have an income for the first 3-6 months, so you need to be prepared for this. Work hard, be humble, and dream big. You never know what the universe has in store for you. I also think that if you are driven by passion and you’re passionate about enhancing people’s lives through what you do, it is very rare that you won’t succeed.
What do you do to unwind after work?
It is important for me to do regular physical activity. Boxing helps me keep my mind and body strong. I also relax and unwind by taking a long bath and putting on a GLIST sheet mask. My favourite is the GLIST Instant Rescue Purifying Mask because it gives the skin an instant rejuvenated glow.