In 2009, Vicky Tsai had quit an
unfulflling job, her bank account was
dwindling, she was newly pregnant—
and she’d just run out of the Japanese
blotting papers that helped her persistent dermatitis, a skin disease. When
Tsai started looking for more of these
papers, she learned about their origins
as “beating papers,” material used to shield gold
as it’s hammered into hair-thin gold leaf. The
beating process changes the papers’ properties
and makes them uniquely absorbent. Curious,
Tsai went looking for their source—and came back
inspired to start her cosmetics company, which
had about $50 million in retail sales in 2016.
I WAS LOST, AND I knew the answer wasn’t going
to be in my apartment in San Francisco. I had
never spent time in Japan in a meaningful
way, so I just thought “Why not?” You get to
a certain point where you have nothing to lose.
I spent my frst day in Kyoto. The hotel
assigned me a driver, named Toide-san. He
took me around to all these diferent temples—
but I kept throwing up, because I was pregnant.
Halfway through the day, I asked him to drop
me back at my hotel, where I went to sleep.
When I woke up that evening, there was a
package waiting for me from Toide-san. Instead
of picking up another ride, he had spent the
afternoon burning CDs of every picture he had
ever taken of Kyoto, before bringing them back
to my hotel. He’d left a note: “Since you couldn’t
see Kyoto, I brought Kyoto to you.” That was
the day I fell in love with Japan.
The Japanese have a saying: Ichi-go, ichi-e.
It means “Just this one moment, once in a
lifetime.” You’re never going to be able to re-create this moment—so how would you treat the
people you meet, or your work, right now, if you
put your whole heart and mind into something?
At that time, I didn’t necessarily see the
beating papers as a business. But I knew I
needed this—these papers, this beauty, this
philosophy—in my life. If it made a diference
to me, maybe it would make a diference to
other people as well.
I called my husband and told him I thought
we had something here. But we had no money.
I told him that if I sold my engagement ring, I
could buy the minimum order for those beating
papers from the gold leaf artisans who created
them. I came home, sold the ring, bought my
frst batch of beating papers, and set up a simple
website. That was the beginning of Tatcha.
A Visit Gone Wrong
Brought Her Peace
Vicky Tsai A Tatcha
BLAKE M YCOSKIE
moved by the
diffcult life of
many of whom
had no shoes.
That was the
genesis of his
and its buy-one,
WOMBI ROSE AND
trip in 2014,
an idea for a
day, they came
across a type
of card that
used kirigami, a
kind of origami
that cuts the
than just folding
it. The result was
• Postcards Delivered
When Vicky Tsai got sick while
visiting the streets and temples of
Kyoto, Japan, above, her driver
brought them to her.
LAUNCH 30 - INC. - NOVEMBER 2017