Well Woman Weekly: Nichole Powell on Starting a Business, Uncertainty, & The Great Outdoors

Every Friday, we send out a weekly roundup of what’s new on Blood & Milk along with articles you may have missed from the archives. We also include an interview with an inspiring woman, and this week we’re excited to feature Nichole Powell. To get the newsletter, sign up here.

Nichole Powell is a Minnesota native and the founder + CEO of Kinfield, making great essentials for the great outdoors. She believes in kindness above all, and would spend every waking moment outside if given the opportunity (and the right weather). She splits her time between Brooklyn and San Francisco.

Kinfield has been such a pioneer in the personal care space. Sustainable, plant-based and products we desperately need. How in the world did you get this all started?

It sounds wild, but the first thing I did when I went full time to work on Kinfield was get on a plane to Indonesia! My family thought I had lost it. I didn’t know the first thing about making products, but my inexperience was actually a blessing. The best natural repellent that I had ever found was made with essential oils from Indonesia, so my thinking was—okay, I’ll start by sourcing the citronella, and then find a lab to help me make it into a real product. Little did I know that almost no one makes products like that!

But I wanted to stand in the fields where our citronella was grown, see how it was processed, make sure that the highest standards for transparency and quality were being met, and only then would I feel like I could say honestly that we were making a quality product that was unlike anything else on the market. No one is ever really prepared to start a company—you just start, and figure it out as you go. Piece by piece. I’ve always found that being curious, asking a lot of questions, and surrounding yourself with people who are far, far smarter than you are, will almost always point you in the right direction. From there, it’s up to you to just keep going. 

So much of Kinfield’s mission is about being outdoors. What kinds of things are you doing to bring the outdoors inside at a time where we’re spending much more time in our homes? 

There are still so many ways to stay connected with the outdoors, even now. I’ve been making time in the mornings to doodle little botanical drawings inspired by my houseplants or the fresh flowers that I get on every grocery run. I’ve been learning from Wendy Hollender’s The Joy of Botanical Drawing. It’s especially delightful to study a particular plant or bloom over a period of a few days, and watch how it shifts and changes—a subtle and beautiful reminder that life continues, even beyond the feeling of an infinite present that we are experiencing now.

I also love using nature soundtracks (Calm makes great ones!) and essential oils to evoke the feeling of being outside through sound and scent. Birds chirping and the fresh scent of bergamot is such a wonderful way to wake up in the morning!

We’re all dreaming when we can escape our homes and get back to our favorite activities. What are a few things on your list once it’s safe to re-enter the great world again? 

Hugs. Gatherings around campfires. Group hikes. Dancing with all my girlfriends. Travel. I feel like I’m going to hug the first TSA agent that I see. I can’t wait to stretch into the world again. I had a bunch of trips on my wishlist for 2020 that are still on pause—to New Mexico, to Oman, to Austin, to Chile, back to Big Sur—and I can’t wait to start planning those again. But really, what I’m looking forward to the most is getting to see my people again. 

What’s a day-in-the-life for you during pandemic life? How are you staying sane and calm in the midst of uncertainty?

I’ve tried to approach every day with a curiosity mindset—how am I feeling today? Why might that be? What can we do with that? Some days feel calm, focused, productive, while others feel lethargic and frustrating, and rather than try to force anything down I’ve just treated it all as an opportunity to listen to myself.

I’ve stopped using an alarm clock entirely, and make a point to start my morning with a meditative stretch and a matcha before jumping into the day. I’ve been able to make mornings my sacred time to wake up and work at my own pace, and I try to move my body for a little workout when I can. And every weekend I make a new version of my “breakfast cake”—a lemony olive oil cake that’s delicious with berries, or a sweet glaze, or whatever else you might be feeling that week. Balance! 

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