Founder Profile: Regina Ye, Founder of ZIRUI - Boston
Hi Regina! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Regina Ye and I am a 21 y.o. female founder in Boston. I started ZIRUI, an on the go beauty and care packaging platform when I was a junior in college, to redesign beauty packaging and create more effortless and efficient beauty routines for modern people.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I graduated from Mount Holyoke College last summer as a Computer Science major. Previously I was actually a philosophy major in a different liberal arts college in Santa Fe, NM. And in between I took a year off traveling to various parts of the world including some remote villages in Mexico to do volunteer work, and then I interned for half a year in Berlin, Germany.
What led you to start ZIRUI?
I started ZIRUI from a personal pain point and my love in beauty and traveling! Growing up I travelled a lot and often had to move with big suitcases full of beauty and care products that ended up leaking and breaking during trips. I remember once after the carefully wrapped travel bottles leaked again during a trip to Texas, I decided it was time to do something about it. My background in UI/UX design made me think the problem lies in the packaging, so I asked more friends and random strangers in the mall to understand if this was an actual pain point and then realized the pain existed in a way bigger extent that I thought. Then I started my pursuit of ZIRUI.
When you came up with the idea for your product, what were the next steps you took to execute your idea and ultimately start a business?
I started writing down a lot of my ideas and started talking to potential customers to see if it was actually a pain point that had a market or only me as the audience. Then after validating the need, I went to the school lab to use 3D printer to print out some basic prototypes and started to play with the models to refine the designs. I also filed a patent right away in the winter following my fall semester.
Starting a business while in college sounds both creatively inspiring and stressful. How did you balance starting ZIRUI with your other educational responsibilities?
It was a really stressful and busy time so I really tried to pick classes that truly interest me so it did not feel like work. And I tried to spend a condensed time doing work so I would have a whole evening or a day freed up to do ZIRUI-related work. It was also helpful that my school has an entrepreneurship program, so I would take one entrepreneurship class each semester to be able to work on ZIRUI and get academic credit as well. I do think my friendship suffered a bit in my senior year though, my friends would complain about how hard it was to even meet me for lunch. And I also vividly remember a few days of sleep deprivation.
As a product based business, what were the logistics of making your cases?
Coming from a software background, I was not familiar with the steps and work involved in making a physical product at all. I was really just lost after the 3D printed prototypes, it was like “OK, what next?” I had to really learn the basics which are not really out there and as accessible as how to build a website or how to build an APP. I asked a lot of friends and friends of friends, or any remote connection I could make to gain a clue on the process. And finally I found a prototyping agency abroad to help with the process. And then it was another year of signing with the factories, negotiating, production etc. All together it took two years from idea to product.
ZIRUI is really focused on travel and making the process of packing and traveling easier. Do you want to further grow your brand with more travel products?
Yes, ZIRUI will have a beauty care line, and the goal for this year is to keep building out that collection to help people better pack with beauty and care products. The next step is for us to partner with beauty brands and coming out with our own label of products that are made for on the go. The other side of the business is to offer travel-friendly products beyond beauty and care as well.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
I truly believe in it. I had a very clear vision when I started, and throughout time I have deviated a few times from the starting point, yet every time I do, I feel something is missing and need to go back to the original thing that excited me. I am really happy when the customers tell me they love the product and what they want us to do to improve.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
I am trying to reconnect with some of my hobbies I had much younger, such as playing the violin, painting. I have also been just getting into boxing, and I have been going to classes in a local Boxing gym. It is really fun and always boosts my energy and mood.
What are some of your favorite places in Boston?
I love the North End and the waterfront. I like going to the cute cafes and bakeries in the North End, the little Italy of Boston. I also really like Boston Athenaeum. It is a private library that has a gorgeous view of Boston and I would just go there on weekends to read and to hide away from some hustle and bustle of the city.