Vancouver entrepreneur in a hurry to make his mark in the marketplace

July 23, 2015

By Jenny Lee, Vancouver Sun |

Just two weeks ago, young cosmetics entrepreneur Kevin Liu, 25, was on the phone at 3 a.m. He was trying to get a crucial product shipment through U.S. Customs when his wife signalled him.

“Everybody was on the line — the buyer, FedEx. At the last moment, I said ‘Excuse me. I am in labour with my wife.’ ”

By 11 a.m., the rattled entrepreneur’s first child, Emma, had arrived. A day later, mom and baby were home, and Liu’s first U.S. eye cream shipment had arrived safely at Ross Stores’ California warehouse.

Liu is a man in a hurry.

“I’m the first among my friends to get married,” acknowledged the co-owner of one-year-old Adorlée Beauty Inc. “I got everything done. I’m ahead of the game.”

The fledgling company’s eye creams are already in 1,600 stores through test market contracts with the 1,200-store Ross chain in the U.S. and a 400-store discount clothing and home fashions chain in Canada.

Son of a successful Chinese cosmetics distributor, Liu arrived in Canada as a 14-year-old when his family immigrated from Harbin, a northern Chinese city famous for winter ice sculptures. Liu attended Magee Secondary in Vancouver.

“I couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak Cantonese, so I was in the middle,” the Mandarin-speaker said. His grades languished until he learned enough English to decipher when his assignments were due.

Then he turned his attention to getting a job.

He started by washing cars — 320 tire rims a day “because I was new. Good squat exercises.” He graduated to stocking supermarket shelves, and then took a job at a gas station.

“I wanted to fit in to society, to gain working experience. I heard a lot that western culture focuses more on experience, not so much on math skills as in China,” Liu said.

Knowing his family’s move to Canada was for his benefit, Liu felt an intense responsibility to do his parents proud.

When he applied to university with a 92 per cent average, he applied to UBC Okanagan by mistake. “How come school is (such a) drive every day? It was a silly mistake.”

In his first year at Simon Fraser University, his parents installed him in a Burnaby apartment and temporarily flew back to China. “I partied a lot and invited friends to come over and go for trips to Banff.”

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