On this wonderful Friday, we get to share with you all our super interesting and inspiring conversation with Jeff Kurosaki; Co-founder of vegan beauty brand; Meow Meow Tweet. The brand has gone from strength to strength this past year and Jeff gives us the low down on how he and his partner Tara balance the business, whilst ensuring a work/life balance is key.
Hi, Jeff! Tell us a bit about your childhood and background and how you feel that has influenced you today?
I grew up in Hawaii which is a melting pot of cultures. Growing up in such a diverse environment set a precedent for being open to new experiences and later seeking them out.
When did you decide to start up Meow Meow Tweet and why?
Meow Meow Tweet started as a social art project in 2009 that evolved into a means to support our studio practice and make things that reflect our values. It occurred to us early on that making a living wage from performance art would be extremely difficult and we didn’t want that pressure to influence us as artists.
Why did you set up the business as vegan and cruelty-free?
We strongly believe in veganism and running/supporting cruelty-free businesses. Tara and I are both vegan and believe that no life should be compromised for human consumption. In a country where we have so many options and the privilege of choice, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be making ethical decisions.
What’s your absolute favourite product in the range?
My current favourite is our Rose Cacao Sugar Scrub. It’s floral, chocolatey, and leaves my skin feeling invigorated with just the right amount of scrubbiness and combination of butters and oils! If you have ever experienced scrubs that are either too oily or not scrubby enough, then you’ll know what I mean when I say that Tara formulated the “Goldilocks” of scrubs.
What were your biggest challenges in starting up a vegan beauty business?
Our biggest start-up challenges weren’t necessarily related to running a vegan business. We mostly struggled with the fact that we didn’t have the capital to do everything we envisioned right off the bat. We had to plan, save and wait for a lot of things. Earlier this year, we launched a stick deodorant in biodegradable tubes which we’d been dreaming about for a long time, but the tubes themselves were crazy expensive! Bootstrapping can be frustrating if you’re impatient, but it’s super gratifying when you can finally make something happen!
What is your one health tip?
Learn how to manage your stress because it can be really harmful to your physical and mental health!
What’s your biggest beauty tip?
Sleep. You can’t stock up on it!
What’s it like being vegan where you live?
When we lived in Brooklyn, it was very easy to be vegan. There was no shortage of vegan restaurants, and I rarely found myself having to ask for a dish to be modified because I simply didn’t eat at non-vegan establishments or ones that didn’t offer vegan options. Since moving to upstate New York it has been more challenging in terms of convenience. We do have a local food co-op that stocks the most amazing veggies and fruits, so I find myself doing a lot more cooking. I love cooking so this has been a plus!
Why do you think there has been such a rise in veganism over the last few years?
In an ideal world, I’d like to chalk up the rise in veganism to an increasing consciousness for the lives of animals. For me, that’s a true vegan. I partially associate this rise to the trend in alternative diets. You see all these products now with marketing for “plant-based diets”. I’m all for people making healthier choices, but I’m more for people first making ethical choices.
What inspires you?
Animals, a good music show, and cross-country road trips.
What’s your average day like?
Well, typically our cat Chester will paw at my face because he’s hungry. He’s the sweetest, softest alarm clock. We like to get in early so that we have some time to ourselves before our workers come in. We are so lucky to have an efficient and fun team! The work day is filled with answering emails, filling orders, making products, and answering more emails. I should note that we all have lunch together which is a nice break in the day to catch up as a group. By the time we get home, we let our cats out for their outdoor time, make dinner and cuddle together on our sofa. I also try to make time to write/play music and we’re working on setting up a screen printing studio in our basement.
Do you think you have a work/life balance?
We experienced a lot of growth this past year which has made balancing work and life difficult. I would say that we’re currently not balanced, but we’re actively making decisions and looking ahead with the goal of balance in mind.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is being able to work alongside Tara.
What words do you live by?
My mom tells me her and my dad championed the saying, “Be the duck.” Meaning, let all the negativity in the world roll off your back rather than hold on to it. I try to tell myself just that when I encounter something difficult in my day.
What’s next for Meow Meow Tweet?
We’re working on getting through the regulatory process to sell in Europe (so much paperwork!). Other than that, Tara’s got a special product for next summer that she’s working on and I’m working on some fun packaging and drawing ideas for various little projects. On a grander scale, we’re working on that work/life balance!
Find Meow Meow Tweet products here.
If you are a vegan business, individual or blogger and are interested in being interviewed as part of our interview series, please get in touch at contact@.
All images via Meow Meow Tweet.