Have you considered cutting a photo of your bug spray for an Instagram flat page? Probably not. Unless, of course, your spray power is Kinfield's, which is in an aesthetically pleasing bottle prepared for sharing on social media. Although its packaging and branding are some of the main draws for its fans, it is the brand's attention to detail and transparency that seems to be buzzing;
The "clean" personal care launched in July, and as of Thursday, it has been officially blessed by Goop, with which he will launch his first major retail partnership (he acted primarily as a direct consumer in the first few months). Kinfield's product portfolio contains just three products: Golden Hour, a citronella-based insect repellent; Sunday Spray, a moisturizing aloe mist; and Waterbalm, a solid moisturizing stick, priced from $ 18 to $ 22. (There are also some pretty solid merchandise available.) The close lineup speaks to the business founder's mindset, Nichole Powell, whose priority is not just building a successful brand, but deliberately. With Kinfield, nothing is superfluous, and nothing is done without regard to the bigger picture.
"I'm very proud that Kinfield & # 39; s part of this larger consumer movement to make brands more accountable for creating products that are made with safe ingredients and that the level of transparency is actually developing," Powell tells fashionista. "We're definitely not the first, but I like that movement. I think it's very empowering for customers to have the feeling that they can ask brands to be all these things that match their values. It seems to me as if it's the direction the world is moving in and it gives me a lot of hope. & # 39; Forward, the founder shares more about how the business came about – and what we can expect in the future.
Tell me about your own background and how Kinfield has become.
Growing up in Minnesota, I grew up in a very outdoors family, and all the products we now manufacture or think about in the future are things I've used since I was five. After school I was moved to California, which is of course also a very outdoor environment. I lived in San Francisco and spent many weekends taking friends to Yosemite and the kind of trip. Originally I went there to work in technology; I started working at Intuit, which does TurboTax, and finally realized that small business financial software was out of my morning.
I was young and hungry and I wanted to find out what I wanted to do. I took a bit of a mini sabbatical, I traveled for six months. It was actually on that trip that I found the strain of citronella that is now fueling our insect repellent, although I didn't really know it at the time, because I was jumping out and traveling myself and I was writing, and I photography done and just, you know, find myself doing it all. When I got back to the Bay area, I knew at some point that I wanted to start my own business. And instead of starting it right away, I thought, well, I'm going to learn from someone else who built something from the ground up.
And so I finally met the team Modern Citizen, an e-commerce business for women's fashion and was really inspired by them. These are incredible role models for what business leaders can look like, especially as women navigate the San Francisco technology scene.
Eventually, I joined Modern Citizen and was then tasked with building the brand. It was a lot about finding and celebrating your community, which I think is something that speaks to me very deeply on a personal level.
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And how did that lead to Kinfield?
This (community building) is very much something we do with Kinfield right now. Our vision is: How do we get more people out there in ways that could possibly include a trekking to the top of Mount Everest, but is it really about how we take you out there or eat outside? I want it to be a very inclusive community that speaks to the way real people get outside. In service, how Kinfield actually came, I was ready to take a group of friends to Yosemite on this informal weekend. We went camping, and it was people's first time doing it. I wrap up all of these things like beautifully designed, thoughtfully graded, skin care products that are sustainable and then realize all the outdoor products I bring along are exactly the same things I grew up in Minnesota with: bug spray, sunscreen, & aloe gel. So I'm packing for this trip and I'm looking at this: & # 39; Okay, wait: my face came from this incredible online brand, but then the insect repellent is this green aerosol container I don't even know what's in it – why sit do I have it on my body? & # 39; I really wanted to try to understand why we still use the same products.
I started talking to friends and realized that many people were disappointed with the products they use and kind of fell into this space of & # 39; Well, I don't feel like I have to go to REI and buy 100% DEET If I'm just trying to play with my kids in the backyard, or you know, then do rosé in the park with my friends. What do I do in between? & # 39;
At what point did you come to identify this category as a problem you wanted to solve to start the business?
First, I asked myself three questions: is it something the world needs? Is it a viable business? And do I have to be the person to build it? I just realized that I'm obsessed with the problem, to think of different products and think about events we can do to try to get more people outside.
And it just got to the point where I realized I had to chase it. So I finally left Modern Citizen and the first thing I did when I started the business was to fly to Indonesia to get our citronella.
Why was that your point of departure?
I know this is an unusual place to start. But for us, better products should be the basis and they should be made with safe ingredients you can trust, which we can support with scientific research. We need the best active plant we could find. I found a strain of citronella in Indonesia years ago when I traveled there, and as I looked at what was on the market, I realized that most other non-toxic brands are another strain use citronella which is more readily available. But better products start with better ingredients.
It was honestly naive. I've never made products before. I did not know. But I had a laundry list of requirements: I wanted the pesticide-grown ingredients to be sourced in a sustainable way that didn't support the environment or the communities that help grow it, would not harm. I wanted there to be opportunities for women at all levels. People thought I was crazy. They were literally like, & # 39; There is no way. & # 39; But I wanted to look at the fields and actually understand where it came from.
Where did you start building the business yourself?
We really started with the products and then with the build up of like the brand and the back of things. One of our initial barriers was that I felt very strongly about taking on a benefit corporation; we are a public benefit business, and what it means is that we legally acknowledge that we want and be responsible for responsible environmental management. I believe that is really important because as a brand and as a company, we cannot produce in good faith products that are inspired to get people outdoors without paying attention to the impact that our products, our company and our team and our actions have not. to be on the environment at the same time. I wanted it to be something that is very important to our foundation and our ethos as a company.
The initial process was to find a & # 39; legal team that could help me build and build a benefit corporation. Fortunately, I did it all while in San Francisco, and & # 39; a lot of friends of mine started with companies, so I was able to get & # 39; some recommendations there, which was helpful.
What about financing?
I did a lot to draw up a business plan. I'm literally doing Google, & # 39; How do you create & # 39; a business plan? & # 39; Honestly, thank you for Google because I feel like there is so much I didn't know. As a founder, you have to learn to check your ego at the door really fast. If anyone ever tells you that he knows exactly what they're doing, they're probably lying. As a founder, you always do things that are new to you, and get comfortable with that discomfort early.
So I went out and decided to basically do what everyone tells you not to do. It is that I went out as a solo fundraiser before our launch. I know we see in the tech world that a lot of people like & # 39; I & # 39; ve got an idea, and I have $ 3 million for it & # 39 ;, but in & # 39; give them an idea for something you & # 39; such as: & # 39; Trust me, it's going to smell nice & # 39 ;, but you don't have sales. You do not yet have a product to display. But fortunately, I was able to find people who believe in our vision to create this happier, healthier world. After that I was able to do our pre-seed round and that was what really set us up so that we could then build the site, build the brand and do very early marketing, hire our team.
What are some other brands that inspire you and that you see in line with the kind of business you hope Kinfield can and will be?
I love Patagonia. I think they're doing a lot of incredible things right now. And CEO Rose Marcario is a genius. She puts her money and the company's money where her mouth is and puts the desire to save the planet from profits, which I think is really powerful and inspiring. Patagonia and other companies like Cotopaxi demonstrate that you can build a business with sustainability as a fundamental element and see that your community agrees with it.
When it comes to other like-minded brands, I think Outdoor Voices for active clothing has been amazing. What they did to say: & # 39; You can wear this stuff if you & # 39; run a marathon, but you can also wear it if you walk with your dog, & # 39; is really in line with what we do for personal care products. I think that the inclusivity that Glossier also expressed, that everyone can carry it as products, is also in line with what we want to do. It's about highlighting what makes you feel good, that's a common thread for those businesses. And this is something that also resonates with us a lot.
Do you consider Kinfield to be a beauty business? Do you consider it a wellness business?
We consider it skincare and personal care. So sure, we're a beauty business. But we do not go to color cosmetics. All the products come on my skin during our R and D process, and I have super sensitive skin. If so, I would consider it a skin care business.
Tell me a little more about your sales and retail setup. Does the company expand to its own model directly to the consumer?
Yes, we start with & # 39; some retail pilots. We had a golden opportunity earlier this summer to work with the Surf Lodge in Montauk, which we love. And then we start with Neighborhood Goods – when I think about my own buying patterns for these types of products, they are often products I need at the last minute. As you pack for the trip, you realize you need it, and hotels and neighborhood merchandise have been a wonderful partner for us to see how the products translate personally.
We start with Goop, which is great because it contains a blessing and checklist of all the things that Goop looks for in a brand and products. And we want our community to let us know too, where do they want to see us? Where are they trying to buy these products?
Can you tell me more about the meaning behind the brand?
Mentioning a name is inevitably a top post. We went through a lot of psychology about the kind of team and community we wanted to build, and we ended up with the name Kinfield, which I literally had to do with something because it represents your family in a field. It's about this love of shared outdoor gatherings.
It's about grabbing your friend. It's about tours. It's about celebrating those little moments that remind us that we are human and remind us that we are part of this larger world around us. Kinfield just feels like it hits all of this. And it was short and memorable and easy to spell and all the good things my marketing brain also had to see.
What about the packaging?
We end up on the transparent path that you see through all of our packaging because it & # 39; s a little nature-inspired, as you look at the topographic map and you can see the river curl. We wanted the rest of the packaging to be transparent because we are transparent about the ingredients we use.
We had a great internal debate about the use of glass versus plastic. Initially, I thought we would use glass because it is understandable that plastic is really bad. But the thing is that we ship these products because we are an online business, and if they are glass, we will have to wrap them more carefully, which means we use many tons of packaging. Then we also reflect on the use case when people use these products; they throw it in their backpack as they go on a hike. They throw it in the bottom of a cooler; it's a precious environment. You need to make packaging that will withstand both of these things. In the end, we worked with a PET bottle, and what we can do is ship without excess waste. If you order online from us, you get the packages, we get our products in a biodegradable cotton gauze bag and there's nothing to throw away. In the end, it felt like we could get a smaller footprint.
What does the future look like for Kinfield?
From a product perspective, we want to think about every product you use from the moment you walk in your door. From a company perspective and the kind of community we want to create, we are very excited about some of the content that we come up with. We tried to be very considerate of what we create, not just add to the noise. I think it's a priority to spend more time building our community and doing more things in urban parks, taking people outside. I'm really just excited that we can continue to grow in that space.
We plan to grow the team. From there, it's really expanding into the next year, both the product lines we're developing as well as form factors. So, if you like this spray repellent, fantastic, but there are definitely other ways to deploy the active substances, so I feel around there as well.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
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