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Meet Emily Chae, Jennifer Zhao and Agisae Kim of Naked Frankie

Today we’d like to introduce you to Emily Chae, Jennifer Zhao and Agisae Kim.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Three of us met as friends in high school and college. In 2019, we became increasingly anxious and frustrated about what’s going on with our Earth and our environment (cue Greta Thunberg). With more frequent and dangerous natural disasters, rising sea levels and plastic polluting the oceans, we felt the need to stop giving lip service and start taking action, whether that’s through advocacy, work, or habits.

In Los Angeles, similar to many other cities in the country, recycling facilities and waste management systems are simply not equipped to handle the insurmountable trash that the city creates. Globally, statistics say about 80% of recyclable items are not recycled but are thrown into the landfill or the oceans, rotting for a thousand years.

Refill shop model has gained popularity among environmentalists in the world as a way to reduce everyday waste. Customers can purchase just the products without the single-use packaging by reusing the containers over and over again (think of a milkman from the old days!). We wanted to modernize the traditional refill shop and made it our mission to bring sustainable lifestyle closer to everybody in Los Angeles.

When we founded Naked Frankie, we wanted to expand the community around sustainability to include young people-of-color. This planet is for all of us. We wanted to provide an easy, accessible way to adopt a waste-free lifestyle. We wanted to create an environmentally sustainable option that is also sustainable for everyday, modern life. We built Naked Frankie for those who are busy meeting deadlines, those who require specific products, those who have sensitive skin, those who are indulgent, those who are exhausted from their week, and, frankly, those who are lazy. Because it’s not about one person living sustainably perfectly. It’s about all of us living sustainably imperfectly.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Like for many other small businesses, COVID has been the biggest challenge we faced. Our concerns were not only for the safety of our team but also its impact on the environment. We saw the city government banning reusable grocery bags in the first few months. On any given street in LA, you will find single-use masks, gloves and wipes thrown out. More people are eating take-outs and getting delivery packages, producing overwhelming amount of packaging trash. It seemed like we are in one of the biggest disasters from the climate crisis, but somehow, we are handling it in a way that makes the crisis worse. It felt like no one seemed to care about the environment or switching to sustainable lifestyle.

We were wrong. Yes, people still use single-use masks, gloves and wipes for their safety. Yes, the restaurant take-outs and delivery packages are still booming. But more than ever, people are aware of the climate crisis and are wanting to change the status quo to create a world that is kind to the planet. We interviewed some people in the LA community and many were making small daily changes in their lives to be more sustainable, whether that is trying to cut out meat, driving less, noticing the waste problem and choosing not to “include utensils” in their food delivery orders, or getting a soda machine instead of buying cans of seltzer water. All collectively showed strong support for Naked Frankie to launch and bring refill closer to their lives.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Naked Frankie – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Naked Frankie launched in October 2020. We are a refill delivery service for bath & body essentials. Customers can easily order the products on our website and we deliver it to their door. Once done with the products, customers can schedule a free bottle return service and leave the empty bottles outside their home (just like for the milkman!). We charge a small deposit fee for the bottles and the deposit fee is returned to the customers when they return the bottles.

Unlike other refill shops with household items, Naked Frankie focuses on bath & body products, so whatever hair type you have. We carry our own products as well as products from our partners – Meow Meow Tweet, Bathing Culture, Griffin Remedy, Mrs. Meyer’s and Dr. Bronners. Our partner list is growing fast and you’ll be able to find other familiar names in the near future. We work with brands that share our values in natural ingredients (no harmful chemicals), cruelty-free both for animals and humans, and ethical manufacturing process.

Since we handle products that are in close contact to the human body, we developed a special sanitization service for our customers. In most refill shops, customers are expected to clean the bottles themselves. Our customers just return the finished bottles to us, and we sanitize the bottles for them at a food-grade level. We have a two-stage method that starts with a three-cycle bottle cleaning process and finishes with a powerful UV-C light sanitizer that eliminates 99.9% of viruses, bacterias and fungi. Only then, the bottles are safely refilled for the next customer.

Lastly, we put a lot of thought and energy into sourcing every single part of our packaging to find the most sustainable options. All of them are heavy-duty that upholds the integrity of the product inside and are reusable over 100 times (we tested!).

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We just launched last month and do local delivery in LA! Right now, we’re focusing on spreading words around refill and reusables throughout the city. Our plan for next year is to expand our product line beyond bath & body products to skincare items. Let us know which products you’d like to see in refill!

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Image Credit:

Dolly Avenue

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