Hey there, friend! Another week has come and gone - and as crazy as it seems to me, so has another month.
And with the close of a month comes another Vendor Spotlight!
Last month we sat down with Chantine from Soap & Clay to chat about all the soapy things, and this month we’re hanging out with Kendra from KV Apothecary, who handmakes our calendula salve, reef-safe refillable sunscreen, and refillable bug spray.
Kendra is absolutely lovely and I always get so much joy from chatting with her.
So grab a seat, pour yourself a glass of wine, and let’s dive in!
Quick ‘lil side note: Throughout the interview there are few mentions of another recording we did of this interview. Kendra was actually the first interview I did for this series, but I totally messed up the Zoom recording because I had no idea what I was doing. Oops! So this is actually the second time we did this interview. It’s all basically the same stuff, just with a couple mentions of “the first time we recorded this.”
AT A GLANCE:
1:35 // Who is KV Apothecary?
2:24 // How did KV Apothecary get started?
4:42 // Which products does KV Apothecary make for A Drop in the Ocean?
5:12 // What sets KV Apothecary apart from other herbal makers?
8:25 // Where does KV Apothecary get their ingredients?
12:59 // What is Kendra’s favorite part of what she does?
14:45 // What’s something Kendra’s proud of?
17:02 // What’s something people might be surprised to learn about Kendra?
19:43 // What is Kendra’s background?
22:47 // A little chat about packaging and how we get our products from KV Apothecary.
Got a question for future vendor interviews? Drop ‘em here!
MENTIONED IN THE VIDEO:
KENDRA VARADI: Because I know there are crazy health benefits for it, for everything. Your circulation, your nervous system, just... And mental-
KRYSTINA JARVIS: And just being in water, too. I mean, just that on its own and then add in the cold. And the cold.
KENDRA: The cold. Oh, you should do it.
KRYSTINA: Okay. Alright. You've convinced me. You've convinced me, I'll do it. I'll report back.
KENDRA: Yes. Let me know.
KRYSTINA: Okay. Health benefits! See, it all ties together.
KENDRA: Right, right.
KRYSTINA: Yeah, we've got the natural products that benefit us and then nature benefiting us.
KRYSTINA: It all ties together.
KRYSTINA: How are you?
KENDRA: Good, how are you doing?
KRYSTINA: I'm good, thank you. I'm very excited that we're doing this, second time around. We had to do it again, but we're going to get it right this time.
KENDRA: That's right.
KRYSTINA: Yes, yeah. So this is going to be the second in our series of Vendor Spotlights for A Drop in the Ocean, so this is just an opportunity for our EcoWarrior community to get to know the people behind the products that we have in the shop and just get to know you a little bit.
KRYSTINA: Yeah. So you are the founder and owner of KV Apothecary. Would you like to introduce yourself and your business and tell us a little bit about yourself?
KENDRA: Sure. I'm Kendra. I started the business in 2014 while I was bartending and not using my degree. I started making products for myself initially, because I'm very sensitive. And then I had people start asking me for things and I just really enjoyed making products and just learning about plants and all their magic. So I've just kind of been rolling with it ever since.
KRYSTINA: I love it. So how did you get started? You said that you started for yourself because you have sensitive skin, but how did you learn about these different things and how did you really get interested and get started in it?
KENDRA: Okay, so mostly books. I am so bad at technology and I didn't have any training upfront. So I would just come up... I don't know, people would ask me to make stuff, or I'd just want to make something and I would just look it up. Herbals, paper. Paper books. And I just slowly started making things and messing around. So a bunch of it was trial and error with getting the consistency and the textures down and all that kind of stuff. Luckily everything is natural and good anyway, so even all the things that I even messed up on a little bit I would still use and my family would still use, too. So, yeah, I think that's it. I just started making stuff and the more people I would meet at farmer's markets and things the more ideas I would get for products, because people's got problems.
KRYSTINA: Yeah, just out here solving everybody's problems.
KENDRA: One salve at a time.
KRYSTINA: Yep. And your calendula salve was life-changing for me. I told you this story in our first recording of this. Your calendula salve was basically the first thing I ever bought when I moved to Tacoma. Because I had just moved across the country, I hadn't unpacked anything yet, and it was winter so my skin was crazy, crazy dry. And I went to the Night Market, and I'm just walking around looking at everything going on and I hear you say, "Oh yeah, this is really good for eczema." And I was like, "What?!" And you were helping somebody else and answering questions and I just patiently stood there and then they walked away and I was like, "I heard you say you have something that's really good for eczema. What's that? I want to buy it."
KENDRA: I love it. You're my favorite customer.
KRYSTINA: Yes. Both amazing products. I just had somebody reach out to me that they just ordered the sunscreen the other day and they are absolutely loving it. So, yes, just so you know, people are loving your stuff.
KENDRA: Well I love to hear that.
KRYSTINA: So what would you say sets KV Apothecary apart from other herbal makers?
KENDRA: My practicality?
KRYSTINA: Okay. Tell me more about that.
KENDRA: Everything has a certain specific use. I don't do anything just for special scents and froufrou stuff. I don't know. So everything serves a purpose. And I don't add... Especially with the medicinal salves I don't add a bunch of stuff in just to put it in there and make it more fancy. I just put in what it needs to help heal and then that's it. And that is how I keep my costs down for my products, because it's really important to me that most people out there can afford to buy natural, organic product. So that, I would say, is what sets me aside.
KRYSTINA: Yeah, I love that most of your products only have a few ingredients in them. And they all work so well.
KENDRA: Thanks. Thank you. Yeah so it is the base oil that I use. And then with the essential oils that I use, I mainly try to use essential oils that are really high... Like, the plant is really high in volatile oils. So it takes less plant to get a lot of essential oils from it.
KENDRA: So it takes less plant material to make. Am I making sense?
KRYSTINA: Yes. I'm following you. I had never heard of this before, but it makes a lot of sense.
KENDRA: You can cut this out. Yeah, so I use a lot of lavender, cedar, rosemary, those. Because it's less plant used, which we all love, right? And then it's also less expensive, too, and it still has the same effect.
KRYSTINA: Yeah. That's so interesting. There's so much that goes into these things that I just never even think about. Yeah, I love it.
What was the first thing that you ever made?
KENDRA: I think it was the body balm.
KENDRA: Or maybe the lip balm. The lip balm I did actually for Christmas gifts because I used to have this weird obsession with old, vintage Avon bottles.
KENDRA: Do you remember that they came in the matching fancy boxes?
KRYSTINA: Oh yeah.
KENDRA: Just weird, wackadoo shapes. So that was the first thing I did was just Christmas gifts for people. And then when I was really considering like, "Okay, starting a business, really going to do it," it was the after shower, the body balm.
KRYSTINA: Okay. And that's one that I'm really excited to try.
KENDRA: So good. It's still, like, my number one seller. That one and the calendula, I think.
KRYSTINA: Yeah. Well I need to order some more stuff from you so I think I'll also get one of the body balms and I'll try that out. Yeah!
So you kind of touched on some of the sustainability aspects of choosing the oils and keeping your costs low with your ingredients, where do you get a lot of your ingredients from?
KENDRA: So, kind of all over. I grow some stuff here in my yard. And then I have another friend down the road who grows for me. Jim Davis, we talked about him last time. So he grows. And Mountain Rose, Pacific Botanicals, I have a few go-to, really good, ethical companies that I order from, as well.
KRYSTINA: I love that you get stuff from your neighbors. It's literally just grown in their yards and then you make amazing products out of it and it's so local and herbal and I love that.
KENDRA: It's Jim, he's the best. And he'll just send me pictures of his beds, like growth that happening. Like, "Oh they're coming up! Check out this motherwort!" He's really cute.
KRYSTINA: This is so amazing. How did you form that relationship? Was it just because you were neighbors and it just kind of happened naturally?
KENDRA: No, he's just a regular at a bar that I used to work at, and, I don't know, once you become a plant person you meet more plant people. It's like we find each other. So yeah, we just started talking, and his lot is huge. It's in the middle of Tacoma, you'd never know the space that's back there behind the bushes. As you're driving down this busy road, it's just... But he's got, I'm so bad with space, I don't know. It's big. It's a really, really big city lot. And him and his mom do the garden together. It's so big. His yard is probably the size of a football field. It's just in a very odd shape.
KRYSTINA: Holy moly.
KENDRA: It's huge, and it's right off of Yakima. But his mom is like, 90, maybe. And they let me just come by whenever, I don't even have to tell them, which is great, too, because I have kids. So they're driving me crazy, I can just be like, "Oh let's go here and you can run around and play," and I can also harvest some things and get some stuff done. But yeah, his mom's always there and they're just really sweet. They're really good people.
KRYSTINA: Yeah. That's so sweet. I love it.
KENDRA: Oh, Tacoma.
KRYSTINA: Love Tacoma. Love it. Tacoma has such this small town feel sometimes, and I absolutely love it. You're in a city, but it feels like a very tight community.
KENDRA: Yes. I moved here from a super small town in South Dakota and I was like, "I'm leaving." I moved in high school so I, like, hated my parents. No, and then it's like, "Oh, wait, this place is incredible. What was I thinking?" No. And I've never left.
KRYSTINA: Yep. Such a great city. And the amount of support that Tacoma has for small businesses, too, blows me out of the water. I cannot get over it.
KENDRA: I just got cheek tingles when you said that, because I know... And I think I could cry. I'm sorry, I'm feeling lots of things right now. But I'm just so grateful for the support here. I wouldn't exist without the community here. I can't.
KRYSTINA: And I feel, too, like there is just kind of this network of community members and small businesses where everybody knows each other. So I used to do pop-ups every week, or every other week, at Gather Juice, and they had some of your products on sale at the shop and I remember talking with Gretchen one day about all of the amazing products that you sell and how much we love you and how much we love your business. And I just love that community aspect.
KENDRA: I love Gretchen.
KRYSTINA: They're both so sweet.
So I guess kind of on that note, then, what is your favorite part of what you do?
KENDRA: Helping people. I just get to make people feel better who have been dealing especially with skin issues, or... I make elixers and tinctures, too, so people dealing with stress and anxiety and just being able to give them something that helps. I love it.
KRYSTINA: Are you doing any in-person events right now, or is it all still online?
KENDRA: No, it's all online. Hopefully, maybe this summer. Is summer coming? It's like, look out the window.
KRYSTINA: Yesterday it looked like it was coming. Today not so much.
KENDRA: No. But I hope to do a few. Because, you know me, I've got a couple jobs, things happening. And so it's like I'm just trying to do... I just want to do everything all the time. But hopefully this summer will allow me to do that.
KRYSTINA: Yeah. Does that impact... How to phrase this question? Because you were talking about how you like helping people and finding solutions to their skin problems or these kinds of things. But then do you still get that interaction with your customers that you were getting in person?
KENDRA: I don't. No. People message me, which is really great, on Instagram. But it's not the same. And I'm a people person. I need to have that interaction. So, yeah. COVID's been tough.
KRYSTINA: Yeah. Yes.
So what is something that you're really proud of, whether in your business or personal life or both? What are you proud of?
KENDRA: What am I proud of?
KRYSTINA: It's a good question I know.
KENDRA: Just being here. Existing.
KRYSTINA: I feel that.
KENDRA: But that's it, I think. It's been such a year. Especially from a business standpoint, because so much has happened since 2014. Just personally in my life, lots of ups, lots of downs, and it's just here. Still chugging along. Still doing it. Making things happen.
KRYSTINA: Yeah, and then especially making it through COVID. Ish. I mean, we're still in COVID. Hopefully one day we'll actually be out of it, but making it through 2020.
KRYSTINA: Nightmare of a year.
KENDRA: And 21. We're in 22 now.
KRYSTINA: We are. Yeah.
KENDRA: Yeah. See, still here. So, something to be proud of.
KRYSTINA: Yes. Yep. You have two beautiful kids.
KENDRA: I do, thank you.
KRYSTINA: Yes. They're so sweet. I love when we ran into each other by the water that day and your kids were just having a blast. Having the time of their life.
KENDRA: Dude, they're nuts. And my older one, who's four and a half... Because that day I remember I saw you, it was kind of chilly out. He just immediately takes off his shoes and his clothes. We were just at Dash Point last week and I didn't even... I'm still walking to find a spot and I look back, and it's, like, fifty degrees out, overcast, kind of drizzly, not a nice day, and I look back and he has his socks and shoes off and is starting to take off his pants. I was like, "Rowan, no."
KRYSTINA: It's a little chilly for that today.
KENDRA: And then people look at me like, "Oh, his mother." And I'm like, "I can't." He's one with nature. Dude, there's nothing I can do about it.
KRYSTINA: What is something that people might be surprised to learn about you?
KENDRA: Oh my gosh, okay, so we talked about this in the first video, right? And it's how many random jobs I've had throughout my life. And then after I talked to you I was like, "Oh my God." I just kept thinking of more and more and more. I was like, "Oh I left so many out." And also, "What is wrong with me?"
KRYSTINA: Well hey, nobody is going to see that other video so tell us all the jobs! Let's hear it.
KENDRA: Okay. Oh and because I started so young. I've been working since I was like, 11. Should be retired by now, but I will never.
KRYSTINA: I feel the same way. There's probably no chance of me ever retiring.
KENDRA: No. My retirement plan is... My goal is to be a campground host / park ranger, maybe.
KRYSTINA: I can totally see that.
KENDRA: Something where I can hang out but then also like, take care of stuff and make friends.
KRYSTINA: Yeah. I love it.
KENDRA: That could go off, I'm so sorry.
KRYSTINA: No, this is great! But, I mean, that's the whole point of this, is just to get to know you as a person. Get to know how lovely you are.
KENDRA: You're so sweet.
KRYSTINA: Okay, so tell us about these jobs.
KENDRA: The jobs. Okay, so I started when I was 11, because like I said, I grew up in South Dakota. That's fine there.
KENDRA: So I used to mix mortar and haul rock and stone and do tile jobs and stuff. Oh my gosh, there's so many, like clean hotel rooms, I worked at Arby's, I was a nanny. Dude, now having children, thinking about being a nanny... I was a nanny two separate times in my life, but one time I was, like, 13 taking care of two kids under four all day long. I could never imagine leaving my kids right now with someone... Like, what? That's insane. But I did it. So that. And then bartending, serving. I made donuts for a couple years. Was a social worker, so Remann, the juvenile court system, foster care. Just got into real estate. There's still more. I don't even... This. I'll come up... Oh I used to wrap chocolates, that was fun. I don't... They'll come to me. I'll be trying to go to sleep, midnight, and I'll be like, "Oh yeah I forgot that one."
KRYSTINA: Yeah. What is your background? What did you go to school for?
KENDRA: So I have a degree in social work. So I have that, and then as far as the herbalism aspect, I did a two-year apprenticeship.
KENDRA: Yeah, and that was with... Oh, so amazing. There's this lady, Corinne Boyer. Look her up. She's written a few books. She lives out in Shelton on this big piece of property and a little log cabin that she built. She's magic. I don't even know how she exists. She's incredible. But yeah, I used to drive out there every Friday. I would just go up there for the whole day and it was a little group of maybe 10 of us ladies. One year there was a guy, but mostly women. I loved it.
KRYSTINA: That's so cool.
KENDRA: It was plants, people, it was like a therapy session every Friday afterwards. I was like, "I think I need something to fill this void."
KENDRA: It was so good.
KRYSTINA: That sounds like it would be a really fun time.
KENDRA: And there's just something wonderful that happens when women just sit together. Every day we'd go out there and we'd talk about stuff, do a little check-in, and then we'd just go and harvest and then come back and make something. And then as you're making and creating, just naturally conversations come up and it's... My heart misses it.
KRYSTINA: Yeah. Is there a way to do something like that again?
KENDRA: Yeah. For me? Personally?
KRYSTINA: If you wanted to, yeah.
KENDRA: I would love it. Depending on schedule and time. I know. Me and my friends always talk about that, too. Like, "What if it's just like once a month? Just one time a month, we can do it."
KENDRA: Just to get together and make or craft or whatever. Anything. Not craft. I'm not that kind of... I don't know what I'm saying. I'll make a necklace out of roots that I did up. I'm not going to knit something. I'm not that talented.
KRYSTINA: I mean, I would not be able to make a necklace out of roots that I dig up, so that is talent. That is definitely talent, for sure. I always say that I'm creative but I'm not artistic.
KENDRA: Yes. That's me.
KRYSTINA: And I feel like to be an entrepreneur you kind of have to be creative in some way. You know, if you're creativng something from nothing. Especially you. You're literally creating things with your own hands. If you don't have any creativity then that would make it really difficult.
Well is there anything else that you would like to add or anything that you would want to say to our EcoWarriors?
KENDRA: I don't know.
KRYSTINA: I know, that's not a fair question when you've had six hours of sleep over the last two days.
KENDRA: EcoWarriors... From a small business point, I don't really do packaging. That might make all your friends happy.
KENDRA: I feel like some people don't understand it. I just sent out a gift with Christmas tissue paper. I don't explain myself, I just wrap it up and then go. And so I think some people are probably like, "Uh, what is this?" But I feel like packaging is such a waste. It hurts my heart. I don't like it. So that's great.
KRYSTINA: And the really great thing about working with you, especially because you're so local, is that the sunscreen and the bug spray, I will just drop off an empty glass container on your porch and then you fill the container and then bring it to me and so there's no waste involved. There's not even any plastic involved, it's just this glass container that we just keep swapping back and forth. And it's great.
KRYSTINA: But, yeah, I totally get the using random things for packaging. Are you familiar with the Who Gives a Crap toilet paper brand?
KRYSTINA: Yes. So I love using the paper wrapping that the toilet paper rolls come in as packaging. And I just got an email from somebody the other day that was like, "I just got your order and I love that you used Who Gives a Crap packaging in my box because I also got my order of Who Gives a Crap toilet paper that day." So they got all this stuff. I'm like, "Well, yep."
KENDRA: Oh, that's awesome.
KRYSTINA: Yeah, just random stuff. Whatever I've got lying around.
KENDRA: And as a small business, especially with making natural body products, I feel like people expect more of that kind of stuff and I'm like, "Nah. Nah. Can't do it."
KENDRA: I can't do it. I've done wholesale before and they've asked for more stuff for the shelf and some kind of weird unit and I'm just like, "No. You don't need it." Yeah.
KRYSTINA: Nope. Sometimes I'm packing up orders and I'm like, "This is not a pretty unboxing. Somebody is going to get this and it's just going to be this brown paper stuffed in there." But it's sustainable.
KRYSTINA: I'm not going to go out and buy new materials when I have a neverending supply from (A) getting product in from vendors, and also my customers and my friends. They bring me boxes and packaging, too, so I've never had to buy packing paper. I think I've bought boxes twice in the three years that we've been in business. The only things I really have to buy are the labels and the tape.
KRYSTINA: Yeah. So it also keeps costs lower.
KENDRA: It's so good. It's win-win for everybody and the planet.
KRYSTINA: It is. Exactly.
KENDRA: Yeah, I know. I've been using these envelopes... I have one friend who used to work at this bag company and he gave me a sample box of, like, 5,000 bags. So I'm working on that, and he just had it and gave it. I had another friend who cleaned out a warehouse and found boxes and boxes of old padded envelopes that, why not? They look whack because I think they're from like, the '60s. They look old. But they do the trick so I'm like, "Well, that's what you're getting."
KRYSTINA: Those could either just be thrown away and then you have to get new ones or just use what you've got.
KENDRA: Oh and your people might want to know, too, I have people in town when I do my local drop-offs, I have them return bottles and tins and stuff to me, too. So we just kind of do a swap, just keep it going.
KRYSTINA: Yeah. I think I might actually have some empty calendula tins for you.
There's lots of sirens happening, can you hear them?
KENDRA: I can, yeah.
KRYSTINA: Yeah. Oh, there it is. Fire truck, going that way. Anywho...
Well, where can people find you if they want to check out what other kinds of products you have, where can they find you?
KRYSTINA: Excellent. Are you on social media?
KENDRA: I am. I think I gave you my new Instagram handle.
KRYSTINA: You did.
KRYSTINA: I love it.
KENDRA: I feel so silly. But, yeah, it covers everything! The small business, real estate, kids mayhem, all in one.
KRYSTINA: Yeah. Every time you post something I'm like, "This is just the best feed."
KENDRA: Thanks, I'm so bad at it.
KRYSTINA: I love it. I think you're great at it.
KENDRA: I'm trying to get better.
KRYSTINA: Yeah. Well, you know, if you don't do it, you're not going to get better.
KRYSTINA: But I want you to know that I love it. I think you do a great job.
KRYSTINA: Yeah. Excellent. Well, thank you.
KENDRA: Is that it?
KRYSTINA: Yeah. Thank you for joining!
KENDRA: Oh, thank you for having me.
KRYSTINA: Yeah, of course. Yay! And then I guess we'll talk soon.
KRYSTINA: Yeah. Excellent.
KENDRA: The more people you know and the more you know about them the more naturally empathetic you become.
KENDRA: And so that comes from that, I guess. I don't know what I'm saying.
KRYSTINA: It's a Thursday at noon. It's lunch time. Why did we pick this time?
KENDRA: Oh gosh, I know. I've gotten, like, six hours of sleep the last two nights combined. I'm not functioning full capacity right now. I'm very sorry.
KRYSTINA: Well I appreciate you being here.
KENDRA: No, thank you! I'm so happy to be here I just feel off and I'm like, "Uhh... What am I talking about? I don't know.
KRYSTINA: What's happening today?