Grace Guo traces a line between the outrageously popular “Gangnam Style” music video on YouTube (over two billion views) to her shop, JCK TREND, in Victoria Towers on the northwest corner of East Kirkwood and North Lincoln Street.
Owned and operated by Guo, 23, JCK TREND sells popular Asian-brand clothing and skin care, cosmetic, and body care products. The store, which opened last fall, caters not just to Bloomington’s fast-growing Asian population but to non-Asians who are becoming increasingly interested in Far Eastern culture. According to Guo, more people are watching pop stars such as the Chinese-South Korean boy band EXO on YouTube. When they see that EXO is the celebrity endorser of the beauty care company Nature Republic, they’re more likely to try the brand.
Guo, a China native who graduated from Indiana University in summer 2014, got the idea for JCK TREND while studying small business management and telecommunications. “I always buy these products from websites overseas, but their shipping fees are very high, and it can take one month to be delivered. It’s very inconvenient,” she says. “I think there are a lot of girls like me, and if I sell those products here I can solve this problem.”
While on an internship as a producer’s assistant at the Food Network in New York City in 2013, Guo found many shops carrying Asian brands but most specialized in products from just one country. She saw an opportunity to sell brands from many places, including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
“I pay attention to blogs and product reviews online to see what’s popular among Asians and Asian-Americans,” she says. She also gets recommendations from friends that she then researches online.
Her customer base is diverse, she says, including IU and high school students and residents of varying ethnicities. “I choose mostly natural products, especially the Japanese products, that are very good for sensitive skin. They are very gentle,” she notes.
Guo also sells online at jcktrend.com and offers free delivery within Bloomington city limits.
Even though her business is still in the embryo stage, Guo is hoping to hire employees in the spring, to add a Hello Kitty line, and open another store in Champaign, Illinois. —Cairril Mills