Livia Wang describes herself as a treasure hunter. As Access Corporate Group’s chief brand officer, Wang spends her days trawling for treasure-troves (of the business variety). Some days, they come to her: entrepreneurs looking for investment to scale up and expand internationally. Other days, she seeks them out by scouring social media and using consumer research to find undiscovered gems. On her best days, she stumbles upon them serendipitously, such as with Thalissi, the Spanish cosmetic brand that makes the spa-grade body serum she’s applying as we speak over Zoom. “We’re always looking for products that fill the white space in the market, solve a problem or make life better. You know you’ve found a good product when you can’t stop using it and talking about it,” says Wang, speaking from China where she is now based, after having moved to Australia in 2008 to study public relations.
It was in Australia that Wang launched Access Corporate Group in 2017 with three business partners. Since then, the brand management company has grown to represent 30 businesses, employ 1500 people globally and reach 10 million consumers annually. In the same way she’s grown her own business, Wang has introduced local Aussie brands to the world stage. “Spotting a startup with global potential takes sound research but, really, it’s a gut feeling,” says Wang. “When we’re looking at investing in a business, we put ourselves in the consumer’s shoes and ask if we would buy the product and if we would recommend it to a friend.”
If the answer to those questions is yes, Wang knows she’s onto a good thing. Discovering business gold is a satisfying feeling. “It’s a mixture of fulfilment, happiness and pride, as well as hunger to go the next mile,” explains Wang, who felt those exact emotions in 2017 when she discovered ingestible beauty brand Vida Glow.
Wang partnered with Vida Glow when the business was “really small” and trying to crack into the supplement market in China. Today, Vida Glow is a world-renowned brand selling one unit of their now-iconic Natural Marine Collagen every four seconds. Wang helped to build Vida Glow into the empire it is today by investing financially, providing logistical, tech and warehouse support, and tapping into the global market using her contacts.
“Since we started working with Livia in 2017, Vida Glow has had exponential growth, thanks mostly to our success in China,” admits Vida Glow co-founder Anna Lahey. “Livia has a great understanding of the China market and she’s shared her intimate knowledge of consumer needs and trends with us. We know that having strong brand authenticity and DNA is imperative for brand success.”
As well as Vida Glow, Wang has partnered with Napoleon Perdis cosmetics, Lovekins organic baby skincare, Robert Oatley Wines, Doverist activewear and Eimele metabolism coffee, which Wang drinks every morning. “We’ve now sold two million units of Eimele products in China,” says Wang, who follows her coffee with a YouTube dance routine before starting her workday of back-to-back meetings. “I usually do 15 meetings a day – it’s not healthy, I need to cut down. But… I draw inspiration from them.”
In her meetings, Wang is often asked for her entrepreneurial advice. She gives the same answer every time: “There are so many challenges in businesses, you have to be in it for the long haul. You have to really love what you do and be passionate about your work. You can’t fake it.”
As it goes, Wang’s passion is treasure hunting – and she’s damn good at finding hidden gems and polishing them into valuable assets.
HOW TO NAIL AN ELEVATOR PITCH
Ask the golden question
“A business is nothing without a product. Ask yourself what your product offers that sets it apart, and how your product will solve a problem, help people or make the world a better place. The last thing the world needs is another product, so if you’re planning on launching one you’d better make it good,” advises Wang. “Don’t dream small, dream big. Make an impact! Do good! Change the world!”
Put the customer first
“At the end of the day, business isn’t about PNL [profit and loss], it’s about people. Instead of looking at the numbers, entrepreneurs should focus on consumer demand. Everything you do should be consumer-orientated.”
Forget the fluff
“One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs make is delivering a beautiful, expertly designed presentation that analyses the market and presents a business case, but doesn’t introduce a standout product. If you fail to secure an investment, don’t keep tweaking your presentation, work on your product.”
“I encourage all entrepreneurs to be confident, authentic and down-to-earth. If you’re trying to be something you’re not, investors will see straight through it.”
Treat business like marriage
“If you truly believe in your business, then you should look for an investment partner in the same way you would look for a husband or wife. It has to be a mutual partnership with transparency and equality.”
This story originally appeared in the November issue of marie claire Australia, out now.