Toni Ko is a serial entrepreneur with a proven track record in developing, launching, and building highly successful global brands. This past April, Ko proudly launched her second company, PERVERSE sunglasses, after she recognized a gap in the accessories market between the expensive sunglass brands sold in department stores and the mass brands sold in retail stores. She designed the PERVERSE collection for those with style and substance, and offers more than 400 fashion-forward sku’s at affordable prices. Ko has opened five brick and mortar boutiques since launching.
Ko implemented the same business strategy when she founded her first company in 1999; the multi-million dollar cosmetics brand NYX, which was acquired by L’Oreal in 2014. She created NYX with the goal of delivering professional, richly pigmented products at affordable prices. Working as a one-woman show from a 600 square foot show room in California, Ko began selling a single item – makeup pencils. She impressively generated two million dollars in sales during her first year, and quickly grew to become a leader in the color cosmetics industry, gaining the respect of such retail giants as Target, CVS and Ulta.
Ko credits her family as the primary influence on her education in the beauty business, having worked in their family-owned beauty supply store in Los Angeles, which her mother opened shortly after they immigrated from Korea when she was 13 years old. By the time Ko was 25, she had amassed over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, and was ready to find her own niche. At the time of sale, NYX had revenue growth of well over 100 million dollars and is currently available in thousands of retailers in over 70 countries.
Ko fulfilled a lifelong dream last summer when she graced the cover of Forbes annual “America’s Richest Self-Made Women” issue. She has been featured in several reputable publications to date, including Entrepreneur, Inc. Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, Marie Claire, and Cosmopolitan.
Ko has received numerous awards, including most recently being honored alongside Rachel Zoe, Abigail Breslin and Tracee Ellis Ross at the National Women’s History Museum’s “Women Making History” brunch. Ko was named Entrepreneur of the Year from the Asian Business Association, received the 2015 Leadership Award from NAWBO, and the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Beauty Bus Foundation in 2013. Also in 2013, NYX was the WWD Beauty Inc. pick for Brand of the Year, a moment Ko heralds as one of her greatest defining moments within the industry.
She started the Toni Ko Foundation in 2014, where she lends support to organizations that help children in need and those that empower women. She discovered the majority of top executives are men, and therefore wants to enable women with the courage to start their own businesses and set higher goals to be the executives. Ko states, “The only way for many women around the globe to be more liberated is to become financially independent. I think it’s incredibly important to lead women in the right direction to achieve independence.”