“What inspired you to start your own company?”
The first question I get asked in casual conversations, during podcast interviews or retailer meetings. I notice the familiar earning for a romanticized story – the “aha” moment that pushes one over the edge to take the leap and start building. I bring up my moment standing in the lozenge aisle of CVS, realizing that the category has been so stale and dull and wanting to disrupt it, then a week later I am in the TSA lane at LAX, getting stopped with my Ziplock bags of measured out adaptogen powders. After some back and forth, I collect my travel bag of supplements: melatonin tablets for jet lag, adaptogen powders for immunity, some aromatherapy oils, liposomal vitamin C, digestive bitters and those basic lozenges I bought the week before.
As I go up the escalator in the Delta Terminal, dreading my redeye, I realize that there has to be a better way – can’t I just combine my whole bag together into one perfect little supplement? And why hasn’t anyone thought about creating a functional lozenge? The format would be easy to carry, by nature it would be slow release and fast acting via mouth tissues with sensory benefits.
Buzzing with this new idea, I cruise to my gate, get on the plane, settle into my seat and wash down a chalky melatonin tablet with water, deciding that a delicious sleep lozenge blend would be the one I would create first.
Yet, this was not so much a supernormal moment of creativity, but a process years in the making. Growing up, I was catching every cold and flu going around and while for most kids the symptoms would last 3-4 days, I would often end up bedridden with serious respiratory infections for weeks on end with frequent trips to the hospital.
In my adulthood, I was finally diagnosed with Reactive Airway Disease, which explained my tendency to catch every bug going around but didn’t really give me much to work with in terms of understanding how lifestyle choices or holistic medicine could help me manage it. I got my inhaler prescriptions, some emergency steroids and I simply moved on. It wasn’t until my mid 30’s when the stress and pace from my job coupled with my physiology left me sick for almost an entire year and all the medications just made me feel jittery and depleted.
So, I decided to take a more natural approach and go back to my roots. After all, growing up in Latvia, folk medicine and herbal preparations were widely used and even often prescribed by doctors for milder cases and for general system support. The overarching philosophy was not to suppress the illness and its symptoms, but to support the body in working through it – a gentler and more holistic approach to treatment, but also one that needed more personalized attention and patience.
In my own search for wellbeing, I started working with an acupuncturist and an herbalist – focusing on the root cause of my deficiencies, stress management and supplementation. The first visit lasted over an hour, and I remember it being the most comprehensive medical history intake I’ve ever had and one that considered both the physiological and psychological states. I was already dabbling in herbs and practicing yoga, but after a few months of custom regimen of adaptogenic and Traditional Chinese Medicine formulas, I started to notice my body changing.
I was thriving and becoming a version of myself that was more resilient, had more energy, slept better and was happier. Wanting to learn more, I started taking webinars, traditional Chinese formula classes at an acupuncture school and then a yearlong hands-on herbalist and herbal medicine making apprenticeship. Some of the tips and recipes instantly became familiar as I could remember my grandma making a black radish honey preparation and honey lemon syrup to soothe my cough. In the summer, we would pick dandelions, which are often regarded as unwanted weeds in the U.S. and dry them to make a digestive tea for the entire year. And on playgrounds, instead of band-aids, every kid knew to pick a plantain leaf to stop the bleeding for scratches or cuts, which grew so abundantly on the sidewalks untouched by pesticides or overly manicured landscaping. Here I was, decades later, re-discovering this magical world of plants all around us as well as growing a new appreciation for my origins.
My journey to healing my immune system was a focus inward and a dedication to putting myself and my health first, but through that I discovered a new passion that was also rooted in my heritage – the world of natural healing, holistic medicine and herbalism. I met new friends and my mind expanded as my herbalist teachers were also proponents of social equity in their communities and access to healthcare, providing knowledge and help to let people heal themselves.
This path led me to start my own company, fully independently in an industry where most supplement options are dominated by corporate giants. I started humbly, on weekends I would head to a commercial kitchen outside of Los Angeles and make the blends by hand – a painfully slow and inefficient process, which was eased by good friends and my boyfriend helping out. We would do everything from sourcing materials to mopping down the floors at the end of the shift and on Mondays I would go back to my full-time job as a Marketing Executive, floating between two separate worlds and pushing my exhaustion to the brim. Three months into it, we got an order from Anthropologie (my favorite store!) and a few other accounts and business started growing. About 8 months in, I found a lovely manufacturing partner to help me scale at which point I could refocus my energy from production to actually marketing and promoting the brand. Now at two years old, kindroot continues to grow and I am still in disbelief when I see my product on Target’s website, Thrive Market’s email or at Foxtrot Market during my recent visit to Dallas.
“So where do you want to take this?”
That is the other question I get asked in every conversation and the answer to which comes with a bit of hesitation. Not because I don’t have a clear vision or a path to growth, on the contrary, I’ve been very strategic and methodical with growing the business and staging our expansion. But because I want to be open to the possibilities of more. Because my principles of authentic growth, working with people I like, enjoying the process and being of service to the community should serve as the guiding principles for the evolution rather than revenue targets or door counts.
Because if my path to wellness and then to entrepreneurship taught me anything, is that when you focus and commit to the journey, everything else falls into place.