HOW JULIANNE GOLDMARK TURNED A LOVE FOR KOREAN HAIR CARE INTO YOUR FAVORITE ACCESSORIES BRAND

In ELLE.com’s series Office Hours, we ask people in powerful positions to take us through their first jobs, worst jobs, and everything in between. Below, we spoke with Julianne Goldmark, who founded hair accessories brand Emi Jay as a teenager in 2009. Over a decade and a total brand re-launch later, Goldmark introduced Angelstick, Emi Jay’s first hair styling product, last year. “Making that decision to start formulating and creating a product like Angelstick was a huge risk, because you don’t know if a company that’s been known just for accessories is going to be necessarily taken seriously when it comes to hair care and hair styling products,” she says. The risk paid off: Emi Jay’s community quickly fell in love with Angelstick. In anticipation of Emi Jay’s first hair care product Dream Crème, which launched this week, Goldmark tells us all about the evolution of her company, what it’s like working with her mom, and how her Korean heritage continues to inspire her.

My first job

My first job was a camp counselor at a day camp. I had to wrangle kids and make snow cones and play games all day. I loved it because it was in the summer, and I did it with some friends growing up. I did it multiple summers in a row, and I always looked forward to it.

My worst job

I tried to start a dog washing business. I made fliers for it and everything. I thought it was going to be easy. but neighborhood friends and family friends ended up bringing their big dogs. So I had to figure out a way to wash multiple large dogs a day. As you can imagine, it was not very cute. It was messy and wet. I want to say I was 12, so I was old enough to know that this probably wasn’t going to be my best skill, but I still tried it.

My job before Emi Jay

I started Emi Jay when I was pretty young—I was 14. We’ve been in business for 14 years now. But we have gone through a lot of evolution and change. When I left college, I wanted to figure out if Emi Jay was truly my passion and if accessories and hair was where I wanted to be. So I took on another job working for an interior designer, and then I did some freelance marketing work for a couple of brands.

What hair means to me

Self esteem. Self-expression. I always say that you could be wearing head-to-toe sweats, and you can make such a statement with your hair. Whether it’s a slicked-back bun with a clip or little pieces in the front or a ponytail or even just flat iron waves, there are so many ways to express yourself through your hair. And obviously there’s very out-there ways to express yourself through your hair, whether it’s dyeing, color, or more intricate accessories.

My worst experience with a hair accessory

Growing up, I had very thick hair in comparison to my friends. All my friends would use the skinny little cute hair ties, and I used the big ones, and they would snap all the time. I remember being sick of it. So it was nice that, years later when we made our hair ties, it was not possible to snap them.

On the evolution of Emi Jay

Initially, we started making hair ties, and it started as a passion project. I would sit on my bedroom floor after homework, and I’d dye underwear elastic, and then I’d add gemstones to it and go to the fabric store and get all these different pieces of tulle and rhinestones and hot glue a bunch of stuff together. I started to give them to my friends at school and sell them just as a fun little thing. Then, it turned into making a website and turned into more of an organic small business. At the time, Instagram didn’t exist.

In 2019, we decided to rebrand and shift away from what we had known for so long, which was just hair ties and headbands, like super basic everyday hair ties that didn’t dent your hair. It was an elevated alternative to a drugstore hair tie. That’s when we came up with the idea to bring back the claw clip in different sizes and variations and some beautiful shades. They did amazingly, so we decided to make the shift into claw clips, and then it transitioned into brushes, and now hair care. It’s definitely been a journey. I always say that there’s Emi Jay 1.0 and Emi Jay 2.0. Because to me, I feel like we’ve only been doing this for maybe four or five years because of how much we intentionally rebranded and restructured.

What it’s like to start and run a business with my mom

Working with any family member has its ups and downs. Of course, I think that especially growing up as a teenager, and throughout my 20s, spending pretty much every single day with my mom has been such a blessing and such a unique experience. It’s been interesting, and I would say at times hard, to navigate a mother-daughter relationship. But at the same time, [I know] that we both want what’s best for one another and what’s best for the company. And we both have so many of the same ideas and creativity and attention to detail that it all works. It all makes sense. It’s like a really special and unique bond that we’ll always have.

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Why Emi Jay is launching hair care

From brushes to clips to scrunchies and Angelstick, we want things to be simple and easy. When I’m getting ready in the morning, I like to get ready in 10 minutes. I know a lot of our customers are either moms or working moms, they’re on the go, they’re in school or in college, they’re traveling, there’s a lot of things happening at once, and we always say that our products are made for girls with places to be.

I love a hair treatment that I can either do really quickly and wash out or keep in my hair all day. I love Dream Crème and the formula because you can leave it in for five to 10 minutes and wash it out, and your hair’s revived and refreshed. But then you can also keep it in and clip it up with one of our clips all day long and wash out at the end of the day. So it’s super on-the-go friendly. It ties back to effective products that can be integrated into your everyday routine.

How my Korean heritage influences Emi Jay

Ever since I was younger, my grandma was very into hair. She would always teach me to brush your hair 100 times every night. So I always gravitated towards hair, accessories, hair products—anything for the hair. And I grew up going to the Korean markets, and they always had the cutest accessories and the cutest brushes. I remember the tiny little brushes that had sparkles, little flowers, and doodads. As a kid, I was annoyed that my grandma would drag me to the Korean market. I was always like, “I don’t want to do that. I want to go to the normal market.” I didn’t have that proudness that I have now. But I would get there, and I would be enamored with the brushes and the little clips and accessories and little combs and stuff they would sell there. That excited feeling, fawning over these products, is a huge part of what I want our customers to feel when they get their Emi Jay package in the mail. In Korean culture, hair health is a huge thing. Scalp health is a huge thing. As we veer into hair care and hair styling products, I definitely keep that in mind.

My hopes for Emi Jay

I would love to reach a wider demographic, age-wise. I feel like a lot of times, people maybe associate the brand with being young or aimed toward the center of a certain generation. But what I’ve learned a lot through our research is that it’s actually a lot of moms and daughters that are buying our products. Creating and emphasizing that our market is for everyone is something I want to focus on.

Our most surprising fan

Harry Styles. The girls in our office were like, “We need to get our clips to Harry Styles.” So we sent some over to his team. You never know if they’re actually going to get it or what’s going to happen, but then he wore one of our Super Bloom Clips like a week after we sent it.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

2024-06-14T12:03:22Z dg43tfdfdgfd