Stories are there to be told! Everyday we show you what we love, while we believe the story behind these items can be just as inspiring. Today it is time to get to know a little bit more about kiyoko, founded by two Amsterdam power ladies Merel Groeneboom en Evelien Emondts. The first product they launched is a 100% natural lipbalm, but there is more to come… We asked the two founders about their inspiration, future plans and many more. Sit down, relax and meet kiyoko!
Let’s get back to the beginning of kiyoko… How did it all start and what was the turning point that made the brand come alive?
It all started when we were traveling through Central America. Really early during this trip we started fantasizing about starting our own business, as we really dreamed of a work situation where we could do our job anywhere in the world. The fact that we were traveling at that time, something we’d wanted to do for a really long time, stimulated us to go further than fantasizing. Once we got home from our trip we started brainstorming and made it happen! At that time we already had an idea (we already knew we wanted to make a lip balm as a first product) and started working on a business plan for the brand kiyoko. About 1.5 years later we had the release party of the kiyoko lip balm!
Can you tell us more about ‘the idea’ behind kiyoko?
Kiyoko is a lifestyle brand that represents purity, design and quality. All kiyoko products have two important things in common: they meet to our standards of quality and design. Additionally, the kiyoko products will always have a link with japan as that country really inspires us.
Who are the girls behind kiyoko?
We met at the University of Amsterdam, during our studies Communication Science. That was a little over 10 years ago and we’ve been friends ever since. So we have the same background study wise and we also work in the same field – at communication/marketing agencies. We do have our own expertises though, which we can very well combine for kiyoko. We still have jobs next to kiyoko, so we work in the mornings evenings and weekends and when needed during lunch time as well.
Why did you decide to name your label kiyoko?
Kiyoko is a japanese girls name, which we chose because Japan really inspires us. Also, and very important, this japanese link reminds us of how it all started: traveling will always be important to us, and when we were traveling in Central America, Japan was on the top of our wish list as a next travel destination.
Where does the inspiration for the kiyoko concept, and ofcourse the lipbalm, come from?
Japan is an important inspiration, but also traveling, because that motivated us and will always keep motivating us. The whole concept of kiyoko is really personal and a product of the two of us combined: our characters, the things we appreciate and love. We will always create products that we crave for ourselves, that was also the case with the lip balm – we missed a lip balm that was of 100 percent natural ingredients and looked appealling at the same time. Two factors we find very important. Besides that we love to tumblr, so that’s also a source of inspiration. But in the end our products are a translation of our vision on design and quality.
How does the creative and production process of the kiyoko lipbalm looks like?
The creative process already started while traveling, we had a lot of time to brainstorm. When we got back we met with a friend of ours who is a great designer and photographer. He understood our plans and started translating those into a design. It didn’t take long before we had our final design, as we knew we wanted something clean and minimalistic. At the same time we met with the owners of this great factory in the netherlands that’s specialized in natural products. we told them our wishes and that was the beginning of a process of trying and testing the lip balm, which took about a year. As soon as we finally found a good producer for the tubes as well, we were able to place our first order. everything really made sense as soon as it came together (design, packaging and product) and it was exactly what we had in mind. As for the further branding of the product (boxes, stamps, cards, etc.) we did it all ourselves. Trying to spend as less money as possible really makes you creative, and a good network helps of course.
What was kiyoko’s most memorable highlight?
We had many highlights (release party, selling the first lip balm, having our first wholesale order, being sold out within a year, deciding to start creating a second product) but we have to mention Colette here as well. We had some goals when we started, and we joked that we also wanted to be sold at Colette. something we considered as ‘sort of impossible’. However, before the end of our first year, Colette had already placed two orders. That gave us so much energy!
Any cool new, secret stuff coming up that you are willing to share with us?
Most definitely, our second product is stocked at our office as we speak! But more about that really soon… We can already tell you that it’s not a beauty product.
Where do you see kiyoko 5 years from now?
We’re pretty much go-with-the-flow-types, but we’re ambitious so we will always try to make the best of everything. If our second product is a success as well, we will for sure start creating more products. So in 5 years there will hopefully be an entire kiyoko line of cool products and happy customers. At this moment we don’t mind combining kiyoko with our current jobs – but of course we’d love to be able to work on kiyoko full time from our own office. But that’s a goal we want to reach way before those 5 years. Oh and we probably won’t have to fold our boxes and label the tubes ourselves anymore 😉
Photography: Simon Wilson
Copyright: Eric Young