We are happy to introduce En, owner and maker behind Even Keel. We are ecstatic to have Even Keel in our line up of makers as our first Asian-owned brand, but definitely not the last! En is originally from Singapore and has been living in New York for the last 13 years. We hope you’re as excited as we are to get the back story behind this brand.
How did Even Keel come to fruition? What were your initial thoughts and intentions for your brand and how have those ideas maybe changed or transformed throughout the process?
I started making soap in college as a hobby, but stopped once I graduated and started working in an advertising/design agency; the late nights and long hours behind the screen led me to a very unhealthy relationship with stress for a few years. When I finally transitioned into book publishing, the slower pace allowed me to re-work my hobby back into my life. During this time I became more concerned with my health and started incorporating what self-taught herbal knowledge I had into my soap recipes, which slowly led me down the path of just making recipes for everything I would generally buy to treat myself — candles, diffusers, bath salts, etc… except I get to dictate and KNOW that everything is 100% natural and from sources I would feel comfortable personally using.
How has your cultural background or how you were brought up play a part in where you are today? Has it?
Initially, Even Keel was inspired by my mom’s herbal concoctions when I was a child and my initial recipes I created had many eastern herbs in it, it was a lot easier when I was frequently visiting Asia in the beginning years. However, I quickly realized a lot of the similar herbs I was sourcing locally came packaged dried and many from unknown sources in China, so I slowly turned my attention to what’s readily available to me here — things I can find wildcrafting while hiking, herbs I can source from reliable places where I know their growing practices are ethical and organic. Hence, Even Keel was inspired by my “eastern roots” and re-worked using “western herbs”.
What difficulties have you found in pursuing your business and how have you overcome them?
Like many other small business owners, it's difficult for me to stop working as work is never done. I’ve always been an anxious person and starting a business definitely didn’t help with that as it comes with many unknowns and new challenges. I’m an anxious workaholic! Which is ironic because my brand stands for being even keel. Being Even Keel is something that I constantly strive for and in many ways, the brand has taught me to face my biggest flaws… I think over the years, I’ve become better at taking things in stride and I’m consistently trying to practice being in the present.
What has given you the most joy from starting Even Keel?
Getting feedback from happy customers, they are one of the biggest emotional support that has kept me going over the years. Becoming friends with other makers/small business owners is another one.
How would you say your business makes a difference in our everyday life? Or if it doesn’t already, how do you think you could adjust your business plan to make more of an impact?
I try to create products with the guidelines of "Form" meeting "Function", where the product isn't just created with visual aesthetics in mind (using color from natural ingredients to create a pleasing color palette to our products), but also in its beneficial function as a wellness and beauty line that centers around good ingredients and minimalism, the idea is not to have a complex list of ingredients but to break it down to simplicity.
As a conscientious line, the goal was to do our utmost best to make our packaging compostable/recyclable.To keep with good production/packaging processes, we recycle all our “specialty" waste such as sticker backing/nitrile gloves with Terra Cycle. I also try my best to give back where I can and this year we will be donating 5% of our annual profits to The Rainforest Foundation and another 5% to the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. I also re-batch all our leftover soap to functional bars again and donate them to the Spooner House, The Umbrella House, Chips Soup Kitchen.
Did you ever think you’d be here now running your own business? Was there always this vision to be an entrepreneur?
Not at all, Even Keel was definitely something that started out as a passion project. I’m always surprised after each year ends, how much things have changed since the last!
What is the reality behind running your own business? If you had to give advice, what would it be?
To enjoy the process, and try not to get caught up with the elusive “finish line"
Introvert or extrovert?
I’m definitely an introvert.
Books or Movies?
Movies, my favorite is Tampopo.
If you had to give advice to your younger self what would you say?
Advice to my younger self would be to be more confident in my thoughts/feelings and worry less what others may think.
We sure hope you enjoyed getting to know more about one of our brands, Even Keel and the woman behind it. Shop Even Keel in the Marketplace.