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Community Highlights: Meet Kazuyo Takeda of G.K.P.

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kazuyo Takeda.

Hi Kazuyo, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I was born and grew up in Japan. I went to college in Canada, where I studied both biology and fashion design. After college, I worked as a designer, creating women’s clothing and accessories for brands in places including New York City, Milan and Tokyo.

Eventually, I took a break from work for about ten years to focus on raising my kids. During those years, staying home being a full-time mom, I spent much of my time in the kitchen, cooking and baking. I realized there were certain kitchen items that should have existed but were missing. They weren’t really available on the market.

Compostable trash bags were one such item. I felt guilty every time I used conventional plastic bags for my bins, so I felt there was a need for ecologically-friendly bags that can biodegrade but also look good when you walk into the kitchen and notice them wrapped on the brim of the bins…something that can match the accents in the rest of your kitchen or just brighten up your day when you notice it.

There were compostable trash bags available on the market of course, but the choices were very limited and they were always the same color–just green. I thought it would be nice to have a bit more variety, something different, a bit more personalized: sustainable, practical, and beautiful trash bags. If these aren’t available, I thought to myself, why don’t I try to make them?

Creating biodegradable and aesthetic trash bags was always the initial motivation for starting G.K.P. Because of my studies in biology, perhaps, I was always interested in how science can help in tackling environmental issues. I thought that if I were ever to make something, start a company, I would absolutely have to create a product that was sustainable and environmentally mindful. That concept totally inspired me. In that sense, designing these trash bags seemed to be the right thing to do and it almost felt like a mission for me to create them. However, I needed some startup funds to make it happen. That’s where aprons came in.

Aprons were another one of those products that I couldn’t really find on the market–at least not in the particular iteration that I was looking for. So I was making a few aprons here and there, for myself, for friends, or for family. Everyone gave me positive feedback. Then I realized I could maybe start selling aprons to fund my bag project.

It made sense to me start my business with aprons because it was something that I could completely create on my own–relying on my past experience as a designer but also working from home, which was important since I was a full-time mom. 

Every time I had a new idea for kitchen items, I had been jotting them down and sketching them in a notebook, hoping to start things at the right moment. Finally, that moment came at the end of 2017. I started selling aprons to people in my immediate community, initially by word of mouth. Soon after, I opened an online shop where my aprons were more widely available to customers.

When I started making the very first aprons in 2017, I opened an Instagram account for G.K.P. regularly posting pictures of new creations. IG has always been our main marketing tool and it’s our business has grown thanks to our online presence. Through social media, I reached out to a few chefs and started sending out sample aprons. I had seen them on shows like “Chef’s Table” and found their work philosophy and in some cases, their approach to life very interesting. I had no expectations about them answering or anything –and thought that if they simply wear the aprons and enjoy them, that would be more than great as far I was concerned. But, to my surprise, they all reached out with very positive feedback…they loved our aprons! When they started to tag us on their posts, things really started picking up. Nancy Silverton, Grant Achatz, Niki Nakayama, Dave McMillan and Dan Barber are some of the chefs that were especially encouraging and inspiring.

This year, on Earth Day, we finally produced and test-launched our first batch of trash bags. Although they were early-stage prototypes and we’re still looking to improve a few things, it was very exciting for me to see the bag project come to fruition after all this time. I don’t know what the future holds in store for G.K.P., but my goal will remain the same it was as in the very beginning: to create good kitchen products that are ecological and can inspire everyone’s kitchen experience every day.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Of course, the pandemic has made things difficult for all of us in a variety of different ways. This is a hardship that will mark an entire generation. Raising the necessary startup funds to make your projects come true, especially initially, is also a struggle that many people, including myself, face. But one of the challenges I didn’t expect or anticipate was that of time management. As a working full-time mom, it seems 24 hours a day is never enough. Sometimes I have to work on weekends and it can be frustrating for me not being able to spend time as much as I want to with my family. I’ve been constantly learning how to manage my time better and spend it more efficiently – always trying to balance professional priorities and what’s really important in life.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about G.K.P.?
I’m the founder of G.K.P. and I’m also the head designer of the company. We are based in Santa Barbara, California. We aim to create kitchen products that are sustainable, practical and beautiful.

Our flagship aprons are carefully and proudly handcrafted by skillful local artisans in Santa Barbara and LA.

Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
I believe it’s important to have conviction and believe in what you do. Sometimes things don’t go as smoothly as we’d like, but it’s important to be patient and stay the course and to focus on what’s in front of us. I personally think these daily, small, and constant efforts are the key to getting where we want to be. Of course, having clearly defined goals and visualizing them is absolutely necessary, but if we only focus on the goal, the winding path to it may seem too long and it’s easy to get discouraged – we can’t suddenly leap and land where we want to be. With steady efforts though, we get there eventually, often before we realize it-one step at a time or in the case of G.K.P., one stitch at a time.

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