Tatcha's founder Vicky Tsai reveals why she first stepped down as CEO: 'It felt like a threat'

By Sarah Parsons | Published: 19-May-2022

The entrepreneur behind the popular luxury Japanese-inspired skin care brand left as chief executive in 2018, but made her big comeback to save the struggling brand during Covid-19. Next? She's taking on wellness

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Vicky Tsai, founder of Tatcha, has stepped down as CEO for the second time. After selling the Japanese-inspired skin care brand to Unilever in 2019 for a reported US$500m, she was called back to turn around the flailing brand during the Covid-19 pandemic and an epidemic of anti-Asian hate.

In doing so, Tsai joins an exclusive club of founders returning to the company they created, with other members including Apple's Steve Jobs and Starbucks' Howard Schultz.

And it makes sense to bring back a founder during tough times. Who else knows a brand better than its creator? Especially one like Tsai who famously sold her engagement ring and refused a paycheck for nine years to grow Tatcha into a multi-million worldwide phenomenon. Well, her pre-Unilever investors might not see it that way.

The Harvard graduate led the business to achieve an annual minimum growth rate of 40%. This rapid success attracted investors and she landed funding from private equity firm ​​Castanea Partners in 2017. "We look forward to working with Vicky and the team to support the company's growth," said a managing partner of Castanea in a press release at the time.

But behind the boardroom doors, Tsai claims a different conversation took place. "The very first thing that happened was that I was asked to step down as CEO," she tells Cosmetics Business.

The 42-year-old says that despite healthy sales, along with stellar reviews from her leadership team and management consultants, her new partners wanted her out, resulting in her voluntarily stepping down. Why did they think she was no longer fit for purpose?

"The answer I got was 'if your ego is so big that you

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