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Meet Sara Meredith of Kaya Essentials in Koreatown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sara Meredith.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
In college, the root of any career advice I got from my professors, family and mentors was to follow my passion, but my passion for me then was so unclear. It felt as if I knew exactly what my passion wasn’t. Yes, a variety of topics interested and inspired me, but I struggled to find how I would cultivate that into a career.

As a young teen, I struggled with my hair. It had so much volume, was frizzy and was so thick, so I used coconut oil as a hair mask to maintain it. In the Philippines, my mum and I would boil coconut meat to make the oil from scratch. We would also mix it with other oils or when things would expire, like milk and avocado. I never knew these DIY hair mask memories would later be part of my passion hustle.

When I was looking for a summer internship in my first year of college, I found a research position for a Filipino non-profit, Gawad Kalinga. Suddenly, my passion for coconut oil had a whole new meaning. I learned that 60% of coconut farmers lived below the poverty line in the Philippines. The natural disasters that hit the Philippines, both big and small (on average 20 typhoons a year) damaged their livelihood. There is no national minimum wage and only shockingly low regional ones which meant companies could take advantage of their wages.

Has it been a smooth road?
One of the first things I constantly struggled with was the “business” side of things. I didn’t have the academic background, nor did I have any corporate experience, and looking at traditional business plans were so daunting! I didn’t understand many of the terms and trying to do so only made it more complicated. But I knew exactly how this passion of mine was going to have a social impact – so I created my own social business plan and organized it in a way that I understood. I was also careful in sharing this because people who could only see the traditional ways of building a business challenged my confidence in building my baby. For me looking for answers within myself and learning to trust that gave me the best foundation. It’s a struggle but I always try to remind myself to trust the process and work hard.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the kaya essentials story. Tell us more about the business.
“Kaya” in Tagalog means can do and I called my passion for coconut skincare, kaya essentials because it’s a personal affirmation to keep going when it gets hard. More importantly, it stands for the greater impact we have when we kaya together.

In a nutshell, kaya essentials is a coconut oil skincare line that is handmade with care to give care. All products are handmade by me in small batches at home with simple organic ingredients that you can understand.

I really wanted to continue my journey with Gawad Kalinga and their feeding program captured my heart. It wasn’t food aid, they provided lunch meals for public school children so they can continue to develop their minds and bodies. School attendance with feeding kitchens is high because parents didn’t have to worry about preparing lunch meals, saving them time and money. When I volunteered in their kitchens, you could feel everyone cared about this hope to have the next generation rise out of poverty and achieve their potential. After leaving every kitchen, I always wanted to do more so for every product, kaya essentials provide a meal.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
One thing I really love about LA is how the city has embraced representing Filipino cuisine. LA has such unique yummy creations – we’re so excited to have kaya essentials at KTown Night Market in June, a foodie’s Instagram heaven! Filipino cuisine is also being re-imagined all over the city, I have a piece of home with Cheeri Cheeri Filipino vegan ice-cream to Filipino inspired pasta at LASA. My mission is to do the same in the skincare world with Filipino coconut oil!

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