March marks new beginnings, new possibilities as we collectively welcome warmer temps and sunnier days. It’s also Women’s History Month — a perfect time to commemorate the achievements of women throughout history. Like Hedy Lamarr, silver screen star and “mother of WiFi”, whose invention allows you to read these words from your phone or laptop from anywhere in the world.
At Earth Therapeutics, we’re celebrating the women on our team, and one in particular, who made it all possible – Sunny Kang, Co-Founder and COO of our parent company, Sunny Marketing.
In the early 1970s, Sunny and her husband, Henry Kang, emigrated from South Korea to the US. In the 50 years since co-founding Sunny Marketing, she has been a fixture in the office and on the warehouse floor. Every morning at 8am sharp, Sunny arrives sporting her signature red windbreaker and ball cap. With charisma and bustling energy, she ensures the well-oiled flow of operations and logistics, putting out fires, boosting morale, and rousing a chorus of laughter with her signature wit.
A Korean woman born in 1943, Sunny never dreamed of stepping out of her traditional role as a mother and housewife and is still incredulous how she ended up an entrepreneur and businesswoman. As she tells it, she started out as the cleaning woman at her husband’s one-room office on Manhattan’s 28th Street and worked her way up. The company grew, and Sunny was confronted with challenges that pushed her to learn every aspect of business from human resources to accounting to international shipping. After five decades, she’s a wealth of business know-how, which she acquired through hard-won, first-hand experience.
Sunny, age 16, at Sook Myung Girls' High School, Seoul, Korea
In 2012, Sunny was the recipient of the Norman Vincent Peale Award for Positive Thinking from the Blanton-Peale Institute. In March 2023, she was elected as the cultural ambassador to educate the public about Yu Gwan-sun (1902–1920), a young Korean female freedom fighter who was instrumental in organizing the March First Independence Movement and is considered the Korean Joan of Arc.
Sunny’s pearls of wisdom
Over the past 50 years, what was the most challenging time for the business?
Whether it was 50 years ago or today, the most challenging aspect of business is always prioritizing mutual respect and clear communications in all partnerships, whether with your own employees, your suppliers or your customers. This is the way we’re able to deliver the best quality product, on time, at the best price and maintain those standards for generations. Once we make a connection, we encourage open communication. Our partners’ growth is our growth. For instance, we’ve cultivated ongoing relationships with our overseas suppliers for 50 years, and in some cases we’re doing business with their grandchildren.
You worked with your husband for 50 years. What advice would you give to women who go into business with their partners?
We’ve been married for 60 years and in business for 50. All the time, we have differing opinions about almost everything, whether it’s which product to develop or who to hire. But I see these constant differences as a blessing and the key to success. You always grow through different perspectives and opinions, as long as you can keep an open mind. In terms of our marriage, once I enter the workplace door, my husband is no longer my husband and I’m no longer his wife. We are completely professional business-people – until we leave the office. This is my advice: maintain your public, professional face at work.
What area is the most difficult in running your own business – and what is the most enjoyable?
They’re one in the same: human resources. It’s hard getting the right people but with cooperation and respect, we’re able to grow together. Over time, I’m able to deduce talent in them that they themselves may not have been able to see. I challenge my employees and encourage flexibility and trying something new, even if they’re hesitant at first. It’s rewarding to see my team grow more confident through their work. I also get to know each person wholly, in context to their home situation, and try to accommodate their role to their day-to-day reality.
Where do you think you got your business acumen/talent?
I started from the bottom in business so I knew nothing. But as a child going to school, I always had the attitude of doing my best at whatever was put in front of me, committing to it and finishing it on time, never late. During my first trade show, I was afraid of saying hello to people who passed by. But once I asked myself, why not?, I simply follow through, which in turn leads me to the next level and then the next, and so on. Through this attitude, I was always learning and growing. Sometimes, I don’t know my age. If I can longer do what’s in front of me, then I won’t do it, but only I will know.
Do you think that women can have it all – a family and a career? What advice would you give to those women who want both?
It’s not easy. The truth is, if the kitchen is messed up, the whole family is messed up. It’s the hearth, and you have to attend to your family the best you can. Which brings me back to my basic attitude. Just do what’s in front of you the best that you can. If you’re at work, commit to your work. If you’re at home, commit to your family. Be humble about everything from washing a pan to leading a company. And rest when you need to. Rest is a wise investment.
What/Who was your greatest inspiration?
Any woman from humble origins who gave it her all to become her destined self.
And Queen’s Freddie Mercury. I watched Bohemian Rhapsody on the plane, and it made me cry. I could relate to the trials he had to go through to express himself and his creativity.
What’s one piece of valuable advice you gleaned from your 50 years growing a business from scratch?
Always be on time, and if possible, don’t be absent. Be present so you can observe what’s going on for yourself. Then you can see reality and act accordingly.
And of course we need to know, what’s your favorite Earth Therapeutics product?
The Tea Tree Oil Foot Repair Balm. It’s a fantastic product. I trust the quality and use it not only on my feet!