Life & Work With Keri Bougie

Life & Work With Keri Bougie

Article originally published by SDVoyager: Click Here to see original article

Today we’d like to introduce you to Keri Bougie.

Hi Keri, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
My background is originally Business & Finance and earlier in my career, I was always corporate-mind oriented. – not entrepreneurial spirited. That mindset took a quick change after having lost my husband very unexpectedly, back in 2014, and at that same time, having three small children (ages 3 years, 1 1/2 years, and 6 months old). My late husband was entrepreneurial and had successfully started two restaurants, one of which had only opened months before his passing, in the state of Minnesota. His business partners at the time were very supportive of me, knew of my business and finance background, and allowed me to step into the day-to-day business operations. This allowed me to be at home with my three little ones at an especially difficult time, while also earning an income to support my family. Having a taste of this freedom while simultaneously being able to earn money, while also being able to be with my kids, ultimately steered me toward entrepreneurship.

I decided to relocate to California about a year after my husband’s passing, as a fresh start for myself and my three kids. I felt we just needed a change of scenery and I was able to convince my business partners that I would be able to manage the MN restaurant from CA.

It was several years after relocating that I met my current husband who shared custody of his two children with his ex-wife. We quickly fell in love and knew we wanted share our lives with one another, along with all of our children. Thus we became husband and wife in 2019 and combined our families to become one family with five children.

Although my late husband’s passion was restaurants and food (he was a chef), and though I proved I could manage the company (I continued to operate the Minnesota business from California – traveling monthly and/or as needed to MN; I even opened a 2nd location during COVID), restaurants were not my true passion. I myself have actually always loved cosmetics and beauty and thus knew a lot about make-up and skincare.

After a thorough search for “clean” skincare products for the kids, and because most of our kids are elementary-aged, I discovered that there wasn’t a whole lot of products targeting the kids’ skincare/personal care/self-care market. I found an abundance of baby products on the market (but my kids didn’t want to use baby products), and a lot of products geared toward the teenagers (acne-focused). A lot of the adult “clean” products I did find had stronger ingredients (anti-aging – retinol, exfoliants, etc.), and the kids weren’t crazy about the scents of many of these products (they felt they smelled like dead plants, mold, peanuts, and a variety of other odd scents). At this same time that I was searching for appropriate skincare products for my kids, I was researching skincare for myself and studied a lot of books focusing on Korean skincare and beauty. I found it very interesting that a lot of these K-Beauty books mentioned how skincare was a big focus in a lot of the Asian cultures and this focus actually started at a much earlier age than here in America. I also fell in love with the Korean term “cho-k chok,” which in Korean refers to fresh, dewy, youthful, natural-looking skin. In combination to all of the aforementioned information, along with having a passion for the beauty/skincare industry, I decided that I wanted to work with my family to develop “clean,” simple, quality, luxurious feeling products that focused upon kids/tweens/teens, to cultivate healthy skincare habits from an earlier age.

The company name “SoChok,” is a reference to the Korean term of “chok chok” but combined with the word “So” as a reference to Southern California (i.e. “SoCal,” since this is a Southern California-founded company). The word “so” also had the intended dual meaning of “so” as in “so very” or “so much.” The Skinlove term came from the idea that I wanted to teach kids/tweens/teens to not just “care” for their skin but to develop habits and learn to “love” their skin. And so, the company SoChok Skinlove was created 2021. We finally fully launched in July 2022.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
From an entrepreneurial perspective, it has not been an easy road, but it has definitely been a road that has been rich in learning. Because I never expected to go into the restaurant industry, I had much to learn with regard to taking over the restaurant my late husband owned and operated. At the time, I also had a team that was unsure of how the business would survive, given my late husband’s passing and me taking over the business, with me not knowing much about the restaurant industry. I was very fortunate to have business partners that believed in my ability to succeed, as well as a team that supported me and rallied for the future success of the business. I relied heavily upon the experts that were already in place, running the actual restaurant’s daily operations, which allowed me to focus on the business aspect of the operations, which was more my forte.

Growth of the restaurant business was also challenging. We opened up our second location, with me not having had any experience in opening a restaurant before and this also happening right before COVID hit. We opened December 27th, 2019 and COVID arrived in the spring of 2020. Navigating the various shut-downs, requirements, governmental programs, decline of business and revenue yet increase in costs, and lack of employees was extremely challenging. We also tried several times to open other locations during COVID (even one here in San Diego), hoping to stay ahead of the game, only to go through those processes unsuccessfully and having lost quite a bit of money and time in the process. I believe however that we survived much of COVID by simply all pulling together, relying upon one another, and rallying as one company. We altogether believe in our brand, concept, quality products & service, and have the end success in mind. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have the incredible support to weather COVID and the failed expansion efforts, at a time when there were so many other small businesses that were unable to survive.

In starting SoChok Skinlove, this too was not a smooth endeavor. Although my consumer knowledge of beauty and skincare was very good, the formula development and product/lab testing required a lot of learning and reading. I spent a great deal of time researching and learning to understand the industry, ingredients, regulations, steps, benchmarks, etc. It took a great deal of time and faith to find and rely upon on experts that I could track down, who were reliable, trustworthy, and who were willing to help. I was extremely lucky to have found incredible suppliers and manufacturers that were willing to help me along the way, despite my naivety to the industry’s inner workings.

While I had experience with marketing and had successfully brought some of our restaurant products to retail market, I had not had the experience of brand development starting from ground zero. While this was a lot of fun, it was also a lot of work and took a lot of iterations and patience to finalize the look and feel of the SoChok Skinlove brand. Understanding and having patience with the supply-chain challenges, as they related to COVID (which caused many delays, and still continues to be the case today) was also very interesting and frustrating to navigate. Additionally, finding money for a brand new concept/business (as many other entrepreneurs can relate), has its’ own unique set of challenges . . . there aren’t too many banks/lenders that are eager to take a leap of faith into a new concept, especially with someone not previously in the industry. Finding seed money continues to be a challenge as I work on developing brand awareness . . . it is a process in which you become used to hearing and/or receiving a whole lot of responses that are “no’s.” I do believe, however, that with every “no,” there is an opportunity to learn and grow.

Needless to say, entrepreneurship is full of challenges . . . but there are also great rewards and opportunities that I would otherwise not have had.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
This is an interesting question, as I never thought I’d find myself owning two restaurants and still being able to be in business for the past eight years, then making the leap to go into the beauty industry and developing a concept that is from my imagination and one that is a passion of mine. So I’m not sure I know what I myself really specialize in . . . Pizzeria Pezzo is a restaurant concept that specializes in artisanal coal-fired and Chicago deep-dish style pizzas. We have two locations, both in MN, and we are a from-scratch kitchen. Both locations are full service with a full bar, and we offer catering and have on-site banquet rooms. The largest location seats about 225 people and the smaller location about 100 people.
SoChok Skinlove specializes in cultivating healthy, clean, eco-conscious skincare and self-care habits for kids/tweens/teens, from an earlier age. I am most proud of developing this brand because it is a brand that I strongly believe in for the benefit of kids/tweens/teens.

Having faced my own personal challenges in life and learning the importance of self-care as a part of not only surviving but also thriving in life, helped to drive the creation of SoChok Skinlove.

I have also gone through the hardship of COVID with my family, seeing all of my kids and husband be stressed, worried, and insecure in this new “normal” that we have gone through in the last couple of years.

I have greatly benefitted from terrific counselors in the past who have helped me to navigate many tumultuous times – from losing my mom at the age of 19, losing my husband at the age of 33, legal and extended family challenges, and learning to navigate raising a family through times that are (to say the least) difficult. One of the greatest takeaways from counseling is learning the importance of reducing stress and living a more healthy and balanced life, through practicing self-care. The term “self-care” means to really take the time to oneself – to indulge in a little bit of luxury and/or relaxation . . . this is what is weaved into the products and presentation of SoChok Skinlove.

If I can help kids/tweens/teens to utilize this tool of “self-care” as a way to navigate life’s challenges – that would be what I would be most proud of. I do believe my life experience and the ability to continue on with a positive and hopeful outlook is what helps to set me apart.

Can you talk to us a bit about the role of luck?
I believe that there is a lot of luck in life and entrepreneurship, but also a lot of intention as well. I once read a book that basically said that successful entrepreneurs are to a certain extent lucky, but they also have more luck because they’ve tried and failed more than other people.

I have certainly had hardship in my life, but so does most everyone. I believe it is what you do with those experiences and how you can grow and continue from those experiences.

I was extremely lucky to have been adopted from Korea at the age of 18 months and brought into a family here in America that loved and nurtured me. My mother especially was one of the greatest people in my life . . . she helped to shape me to the person I am. My brothers have also been incredibly supportive and have loved me dearly. By being adopted, I was given advantages and opportunities that I may never have had, had I stayed in Korea.

I was lucky to have been able to have 3 beautiful children before my late husband passed away. I cherish having them as part of my life, each and every day.

I have had the luck of meeting incredible people along my career journey . . . I was lucky that my husband’s business partners were so trusting and kind, and supportive and helpful; without this, I could very easily have failed at the restaurants. I was also very lucky that such business partners allowed me the freedom to move myself and my family to California, for the benefit of my family personally. We are extremely lucky to have found a supportive community and have thrived living here. I’m not sure that too many other business partners would have been so understanding upon my decision to relocate.

I was very lucky to have met my current husband, to have my three beautiful children while also getting to have two additional amazing kids, and altogether be one incredible family. My husband and family are my greatest treasure and my greatest support.

I was very lucky to have found experts in the skincare/beauty industry that have provided me with expert advice and have rallied for my success. I have faced some manufacturing and supply-chain challenges and have been very fortunate to have suppliers and manufacturers that want to deliver and provide the best service possible, for me to be able to be successful. I could very well have found suppliers and/or manufacturers that didn’t alert me to issues or that weren’t willing to work with me and/or support me as much as mine have. This is especially a luck-of-the-draw for someone that is just starting out.
While I have worked hard to move forward in building a life, raising my family, continuing with the restaurants, and now nurturing my new SoChok Skinlove brand, I feel extremely blessed and/or lucky with what I have been given in life and I continue to be grateful.


  • Face Cleanser – $18
  • PM Calming Facial Moisturizer – $17
  • Face Cleanser & PM Calming Facial Moisturizer – Travel Duo – $21
  • Luxury Microfiber Coral Fleece Face Drying Towel – $14
  • Luxury Microfiber Coral Fleece Towel Hair Wrap – $15

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Image Credits
Napier J Photography
Garrett Richardson

Article originally published by SDVoyager: Click Here to see original article


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