A nondescript industrial park that sits closer to a landfill than to any shopping mall is probably the last place you’d expect to shop for trendy cosmetics. That hasn’t stopped one local company from becoming a must-visit destination for makeup and skin care.
The company, I’m Mimi International, and its pretty-in-pink retail showroom, Glamour Bento, were founded by Mimi Zhou, who moved to Sacramento from Korea a few short years ago and started out selling Korean beauty products to friends. She founded I’m Mimi International in 2014, just as K-beauty (the name for this sector of the cosmetics industry) was catching on in a big way in the United States.
Today, the company imports makeup and skin-care products from more than three dozen Korean brands and distributes them to major retailers such as Ulta, Walmart and Forever 21 and influential online marketplaces like Soko Glam. Sales were in the single-digit millions last year. Glamour Bento, where lucky locals can check out the goods in person, opened in late 2017.
“The company is something you would totally not expect to find in Sacramento,” says Sahaira Murillo, account executive with I’m Mimi International, which also operates an office near Seoul.
Murillo explains that Zhou’s specialty is “finding really unique items and presenting them to retailers.” She is a master at creating buzz around K-beauty products, like Elizavecca brand’s Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask, a wildly popular foaming mask that is the subject of countless Instagram feeds and beauty blogs. “At one point we were selling 10,000 units of it per month.”
Zhou also has a keen sense of the kinds of items that will catch a shopper’s eye. “Most of our products are a combination of really cute and really functional,” says Murillo. “Packaging is really important to us. It has to be really engaging to our customers.” Think lip gloss in a tiny popsicle-shaped case, or a bath sponge that looks like a slice of bread and can be paired with body wash that looks like grape jelly.
Mimi Zhou and Sahaira Murillo at the Glamour Bento S
Among Glamour Bento’s most popular products are its sheet masks, individually packaged towelettes designed to cleanse and moisten the skin. “We have people who will come in and buy 20 at a time,” says Murillo.
Glamour Bento also carries products made with ingredients not typically used in western skin-care lines, including serums containing snail mucin and cleansers made with fermented grains. “We are ingredient focused, so we make sure that the products actually work,” Murillo says. “The snail mucin, for example, is extremely gentle and deeply hydrating.”
Murillo believes that K-beauty’s emphasis on a complex skin-care regimen is one reason for its popularity. “It’s all about having that healthy complexion underneath, and who doesn’t want that?” says Murillo. “I even had a grandmother from rural Alabama call and say she was really trying to get into K-beauty, could you please help me find a regimen? So we really have something for everyone.”