Creator's Talk | kiyoko

For today's Creators Talk I have interviewed Evelien and Merel from kiyoko the brand. I found them via Instagram and loved their lip balm by design and purpose. I started research and fell in love with their vision and philosophy so I had to contact them to find out more.

NO.1 Hi Evelien and Merel, you’re creatives and entrepreneurs. First tell us a little bit more about you and your background story. So that we can get to know you better.

We’re both from Amsterdam, where we met during our studies about 11 years ago. We became friends right away! We have a background in marketing and communication, and developed a great love for branding – in the broadest sense of the word. kiyoko is actually a business we manage on the side, next to our ‘regular’ jobs: we work on kiyoko in the early mornings, evenings and weekends – but we love it! We’re often together anyway to practice sports, have dinner and catch up with our friends. So we easily combine our social lives with kiyoko!

NO. 2 When did you come up with the idea to start your own business and was there a key moment you knew that starting a business was what you wanted to do ? If yes, what did it feel like ?

We came up with the idea of starting our own business when we were travelling in Central America more than 4 years ago. We wanted to be our own boss, of a business that we could work on from anywhere in the world. We thought about several things we could start, but the best idea was a lip balm. We missed a lip balm that was both attractive and of 100 percent natural origin. So we decided to create our own! Right after we came back from our trip, we started with the business plan, and it felt great from day one. Making work of your ideas/dreams is the best feeling in the world.

NO. 3 What does it feel like now ? I’m sure there are many chances and challenges about being your own boss. Tell us a bit more about them.

It feels great to have built up a brand that totally matches our personal and creative vision ánd notice that other people love what you do as well. Of course it is challenging at times - but since we are always together in this, there has never been a point at which we did not know how to move. There is a solution to anything, that’s what we truly believe and has been proven for sure, and we motivate each other when needed.

NO.4 I think we can all agree that you get to call yourselves risk takers when I say that you swapped your lives in Amsterdam for a huge trip abroad. Tell us a bit more about that trip and how that resultedin a business plan.

Traveling is our favorite thing to do in the world and we dreamt about going abroad for a longer period, but due to circumstances we didn’t do so during/right after studying – like most people do. Even only the fact that we actually finally did go, despite of already having started working life and houses etc., gave us such an energy boost. This really gave us the spirit that you can achieve anything; you just have to do (or try!) it. Of course this was ‘just’ a long trip abroad, but such simple things can inspire you. From day one we felt so free – just like probably everyone – and we wanted to have that feeling for the rest of our lives. So during this trip we realized it would be perfect to start our own business on which we could work from anywhere in the world: our idea of freedom!

NO.5 Speaking of business plans. Let’s get to the business side. Can you tell us in short what was involved in your business plan ?

We kept our business plan quite short, as we wanted to put our energy into action and not stay in the theoretical phase too long. Also because we’re very much a niche brand. Of course we described our idea, researched the market and target group, and made financial calculations. Also we put a lot of thought into our mission and vision – those two are so important! But with a personal brand such as kiyoko, those are also easy to formulate. Besides our business plan, another important starting point was our brand book in which we determined what kiyoko the brand stands for and tried to create the right vibe of the brand.

NO.6 Who else is involved in Kiyoko ? Is it just you at the moment or do you have any employees ?

We work together with what you could call a ‘board of advice’, with people who inspire us and can help us whenever needed. So someone with financial/entrepreneurial experience, someone with graphic design skills, our producers with years of experience in their specific fields. Also, at this moment we have 2 wonderful girls who assist us with sales & marketing and with our social media - which is really great. It’s inspiring to hear their vision and see their approach, especially when you’re so used to running your business in a certain way.

NO.7 What is your creative vision? Do you feel like there are maybe two sides of you ? The creative one and the business one ? 

You are totally right with this, we both absolutely have a business side and a creative side. The balance between those two might actually be our strength. But we must say that we’re more focused on the creative side, as we are not driven by commercial goals and we just love to be creative – but it is of course important to sometimes take a step back and look at your brand from a business / strategic point of view. Especially because we grew so rapidly and our ‘side project’ quickly turned into a real business.

NO.8 Do you have any plans and goals for the future, maybe for this year ? At the moment I think there are lip balms and sweaters in store. Are there any new products planned for the future ?

Yes you’re right, we now have a lip balm and a sweater. But we can’t tell you too much about this, we like to surprise with our brand. We always look forward and think ahead – that’s the fun part about entrepreneurship, trying to stay innovative. But just stay tuned, we have something fun for the summer coming up!

NO.9 So now let’s talk a bit more about the production process. Where are your products being produced and which steps are involved. 

Our balm is produced in a small factory in the Netherlands, specialized in natural cosmetics. We developed the recipe together with their team and tried and tested it for a year our selves. A process that never ends, we still look for improvements. So the current batch is already an improvement of our first batch. The tubes we buy at a different supplier and the labels are being printed locally. For our sweaters we worked together with a friend in the fashion scene, who helped us with the process and another friend who is a great graphic designer. The sweaters are made from 100% natural cotton and produced in Istanbul.

NOW THE FUN PART

MEREL

NO.9 If I was an animal I would be... a tiger.

NO.10 If I was a word I would be... hello!

NO.11 If I was a colour I would be... black.

NO.12 I used to... travel at least 2 months a year.

NO.13 My favourite Instagram accounts at the moment are... kiyokothebrand, love.watts, officialseanpenn, moodmail, actually i have too many favourites.

NO. 14 I draw inspiration from... music, people around me, tumblr, good weater, LA, old photos of my family, fragances, magazines, actually from every thing around me!

EVELIEN

NO.9 If I was an animal I would be... a monkey.

NO.10 If I was a word I would be... free.

NO.11 If I was a colour I would be... dark blue.

NO.12 I used to... wear my big brother’s old hip hop sweaters.

NO.13 My favourite Instagram accounts at the moment are... those of my friends and kiyokothebrand.

NO. 14 I draw inspiration from... looking around, hearing other people’s opinions, music and traveling.

Thanks for your time Evelien and Merel and I wish you both all the best!!

Check out their website and store over here.

@kiyokothebrand on Instagram

So that was this week's Creators Talk. I hope you liked it. Again I can't tell you how inspiring this is to me. Hearing other peoples visions, stories and plans just empowers me so much to do my own things and continue with my business.

Viviane xx