Welcome to a new feature on Youth Beyond Enterprises! As an Ace woman, I’ve made it my mission to highlight the fantastic Canadian Asexuals out there who are killing it in their respective industries and communities across this nation. It also keeps in line with my mission to be a resource for young leaders, professionals and entrepreneurs, because who better to give insights than the people living their truth right now?
First up to answer my callout to participate in an email interview is – Justine of Kitten Komforts out of Vancouver, B.C.! I will say, I have never met Justine, but these answers made me feel like I had met someone who gets me. WELCOME!
Question 1: Describe yourself in only 3 words.
- Persistent, caring, smart.
Question 2: Tell me more about your business(es) or initiatives? What kind are they?
- Kitten Komforts is a queer-owned local small business whose owners pride themselves on the quality of their hand-made vegan artisanal soaps, bath bombs, and bath salts. We’re stocking up on various pride flag soaps, and for every pride themed soap sold $1 is donated to a relevant local, grassroots organization that supports that community! At the moment, we have the rainbow flag as well as asexual and aromantic themed soaps, but we’re always working on perfecting the vibrant colours of other flags. We have unscented products for those with scent sensitivities, so please come check us out at kittenkomforts.ca!
- I (Justine) first met my cofounder, Irene, at university, then in the Vancouver asexual and aromantic community. Bonding over their shared nerdiness, they decided one day to learn how to make their own self care products. Irene, as a chemist, is the saponification master. I, the physicist addicted to bath bombs, quickly mastered the skills of bath bomb making. Before we knew it, we had great recipes and too many to use themselves! Thus, Kitten Komforts was born; a company that will always embody our roots in the queer community and our not-so-inner nerdiness.
Question 3: Where does your drive come from? What are your sources of inspiration?
- Irene is one of my main sources of inspiration. She drives me to be a better human being not by pushing me, but rather by enabling me. She regularly asks if she can do anything for me, and then if what I ask is something she finds easy enough or has enough energy for, she simply does it. This unconditional care gives me space to feel loved, cared for, and to have the best possible help in being the best possible version of myself. I can only strive to do the same for her <3
Question 4: Considering how fierce competition is among your industry, what are your competitive advantages? What makes you stand out in the crowd?
- The most important thing is that we’re not trying to stand out in too big a crowd. We’ve chosen to focus our efforts into the communities that we really resonate with. We are selling our products mainly to locals, to nerds, and to queer people around the world. But we are not, for example, trying to be an international brand for everyone. It’s important to us to be true to who we are; we stand out in our niches, because we belong here and we know our communities. We aren’t trying to break into any new markets, just exist in communities that we already exist in!
Question 5: No two days are often the same for an entrepreneur, but what does a typical day look like for you?
- Personally, it starts with the basics; feed the dog, make myself coffee and breakfast, and then check emails and communication channels. Next, I wake up. Once my brain is awake, I make my plan for the day, and that’s when things get varied. No two days are the same. For me, the consistency of my morning routine is what sets me up with a strong foundation for the rest of the day though. That and good sleep. The world is a better, easier place when you’ve had enough good sleep!
Question 6: What do you do daily to grow as a person?
- I don’t. I personally don’t expect myself to grow daily; this philosophy is not sustainable for me. With a history of burnout, I have had to work on recognizing that some days, surviving is the best I can do, and that’s ok. We all grow as humans, whether we want to or not; we grow in our own time. We can cultivate the direction we want to grow in, but we cannot force growth faster than it’s going to happen naturally.
- I take inspiration from Mecius, who tells a story about a farmer who tries to help his plants grow by pulling on the sprouts, only to pull too hard and kill all the plants. It is an ancient Chinese story, but has salient resonance with today’s burnout culture. I strive to grow in the right directions, but I accept that growth does not happen daily.
Question 7: What tricks have you discovered to keep you focused, productive and achieve a decent work/life balance?
- Personally, I struggle a lot with imposter syndrome. Whether or not it’s true, I often think that others could do what I’m doing better and thus I shouldn’t be doing it. The most helpful thing I’ve found for this is to repeat certain phrases back to myself, such as: “Maybe someone else could do this faster, but they aren’t doing it right now. I’m here, and I’m doing it, so let’s just get it done.” No one has to be the best in order to be useful. You don’t have to be the best in order to be great. There may very well be someone out there who can do something faster or better than you can, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it anyways.
Question 8: What popular advice do you agree/disagree with?
- I disagree most with advice that tells women to act like men in order to be successful in the workplace. There is good advice that falls in this category in general, but I find it imbalanced; there is a lack of advice that tells men to act more like women. What I think this creates is an environment where women are encouraged to be more assertive and “lean in”, but men are not encouraged to stop and practice active listening, or to “lean out”. There is a time and place for both, and I wish this was recognized more in workplaces.
Question 9: What’s your favourite metaphor to describe entrepreneurship or leadership?
- The farming metaphor from Mencius is still in my mind, and I really do think it is a great one for leadership too. I often see people under my care as mentees; I want to provide as much support as I can to help and encourage them on their way. However, I don’t want to smother them or pull them up by the roots. If I think about the people that I’m leading as plants, I strive to provide a trellis, water, and generally good growing conditions, but I also strive to know when to step back and just let them grow into themselves!
Question 10: What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your career? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?
- I don’t know if there is only one moment or one thing that is definitively the toughest of my career. There are many things that have been tough in different ways.
- The one I will single out here is struggling with health problems. I’ve had what feels like more than my fair share of both mental and physical health challenges. The only way I’ve been able to get through them is to give my body and my mind time to rest and heal. Trying to push through has always resulted in burn out, and never produced good quality work.
- Sometimes, you just need to recognize that your body and/or mind need time before they can produce the kind of work that you want. And there’s no shame in that; we don’t have to produce in order to be valuable and worthy. We all have good and bad periods. Some more than others, but that doesn’t make those people less valuable or worthy of feeling important.
If someone wants more information, what is the best way to contact you?
The best way to get our attention is through the contact form on our website, kittenkomforts.ca, or through instagram, @kittenkomforts.
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I need help raising the profile of Aces in Canada, because there are about 365,000 of us, and we deserve to have our voices heard.
I’m looking to connect with Canadian Ace business people, community builders and/or entrepreneurs for the My Day interview series. Even if you’re none of these, and still want to participate & tell your story, the more the merrier! There are no questions about sexuality, nor do you have to disclose it unless you want to. Privacy is key, and I respect you all completely as fellow humans.