Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in skincare but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with En Tsao, Founder of Even Keel, located in Brooklyn, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Even Keel is a handcrafted soap house and apothecary in Brooklyn that infuses eastern roots with western herbs to handcraft a conscientious line with a principal focus on our earth's natural clays, oils, and botanicals. We bridge the gap between form and function, where we focus on the aesthetics of the product without compromising on our promise towards a truly natural, non-toxic, and synthetic-free ingredient list.
Our customers are usually pretty conscientious about living an eco-friendly lifestyle. We're often told that we were purchased with the intention of being gifts, but upon arrival, they would want it for themselves because the box smells so beautiful, and they are in disbelief that everything is 100% natural.
Tell us about yourself
It started close to a decade and a half ago when I made soap in college for part of a thesis project, but I only started to really get into it when I was a book designer for a publishing house. I was pretty burnt out from the advertising industry, and the slower pace of publishing allowed me to explore deeper into natural soap. This quickly led to formulating my own recipes for products that I would often use at home – I wanted to challenge myself to create every product to be free of the 12 things that were most unsettling to me:
Animal testing, Animal products*, Artificial coloring, Fragrance oils, Filler ingredients, Mineral oils/ Petroleum, Parabens, Phthalates, Sodium Lauryl/ Laureth Sulfate, and Synthetic preservatives. *except beeswax, which we use only in our lip/perfume balms as they hold natural antibacterial qualities without the use of a lab-based ingredient.
I unknowingly started creating a collection and decided to start selling my small-batched products at markets and pop-ups, which slowly led to a studio where I now have an amazing team to assist in our batching / production, as well as a small storefront! Exploring and working with my hands outside in nature helps re-inspire me to continue what I do.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Surviving through the pandemic!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Carving out personal time for yourself. As the brand grows, the noise gets louder from more directions, and while it's obviously wonderful to see your company grow, it gets more difficult to step away and create personal boundaries. Just when you think you have found the right balance, a new challenge pops up to disrupt your "routine"... going with the ebb and flow of life gracefully is something I try to strive for every day, and being a small business owner definitely keeps me on my toes to try and stay even keel (no pun intended!)
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
To be honest, if I had known what I was up against when I first started, I'm not entirely sure I would've... but so glad I did because I've learned so much more about myself during this journey! It's a lot easier when you've got a momentum going, so I would say:
- Just dive in, the water is going to be cold, but you'll learn to enjoy it.
- A motivational friend (or two) and a good relationship with your gut (feeling) is a great pairing. Sometimes we get complacent, and others might spur new thoughts, but it's important to know your limits and find that perfect middle ground.
- Still working on this every day, and not to sound cliché, but Be Present. I often find most of my days to be so inundated with emails, texts, meetings, problems, deadlines, etc... and it really helps on those days to bring yourself back to reality and remind yourself what's truly important: health & happiness.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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