This is the fourth article in a seven-part series interviewing independent small business owners in the apothecary space.
KaKyung Cho of Bar Soap Brooklyn is a heavy hitter in an industry previously unbeknownst to her and during a time where most would think twice before opening up a business without prior experience. Conversing with Cho in the short time it took to conduct the interview, one could already tell that she was extremely serious about her business venture down to the smallest detail. Every meticulous decision was interdependent and indicative of her next move for the sake of providing a valuable product for her growing audience. Exhaustive research of ingredients, experimentation, trial, and error dictates an average day for KaKyung where her studio in Brooklyn also resourcefully doubles as her chemistry lab and living space.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your life before Bar Soap Brooklyn?
Hello! My name is KaKyung Cho, and I was born in South Korea. I was into arts and crafts as a child. I came to America to study in 2001, and majored in Fashion Merchandising and Textile at the Fashion Institute of Technology. After that, I was a textile buyer for seven years.
What inspired you to start a business in soaps and self-care?
I am a hard working person, then and [still] now. I had health issues physically and mentally from chronic fatigue. I am always looking for non- invasive, self-care solutions, so when I found a piece of Dead Sea soap, I really enjoyed using it on my skin because it resolved [my] skin troubles immediately. It gave me comfort and [confidence from its efficacy].
I am more of a player than a spectator, so I had to learn how to make soaps, then slowly stretched myself to other things like lip balms and lotions.
“I am more of a player than a spectator, so I had to learn how to make soaps, then slowly stretched myself to other things like lip balms and lotions.”
We love your Equilateral pyramidal soaps. What is the story for this collection and is there a function behind the shape and ingredients/color combinations?
[The] triangle represents a “balance” for me. Healthy skin comes from balanced eating, good sleep, and mental status. Thus, I believe in simplicity, comfort and intimacy in product making.
Simplicity arises in the choice of ingredients. I am convinced that the simple and natural ingredients should be used for my body care products. My product design policy is [to avoid] gimmicky designs and ingredients, and do my best in choosing the best available/natural ingredients.
Comfort arises from familiarity and a caring spirit. Just as a mother’s cooking can make one comfortable, I hope and wish that [my] hand-blending and crafting will bring trust and comfort to those who use Bar Soap Brooklyn’s products.
Finally an intimacy factor arises when one uses products from Bar Soap Brooklyn. I am a compassionate person and although you and I may have never met, the products are made with the best intentions, as gentle and kind for each person; all I wish is to give as many good, relaxing moments possible.
Tell us about your experimentation process.
When I started making lip balms, of course they were not up to par and [were] terribly hard on the skin. A very honest tester threw the lip balm into a garbage can in front of me and said it had to be better. I appreciated her critique till this day because she helped me perfect the recipe by [trial and error]. Secretly, today, the lip balm is what people praise and run back to me for. It is crafted with pride and you will find it’s one of the best that you can find.
What advice would you give young entrepreneurs hoping to break into the body care industry for the first time?
My advice is little more general: I worked in another industry for seven years and when I resigned, I felt a kind of respect from everyone compared to the time when I [first] started out. I recommend working for somebody else first if you do not have any experience. Reduce your cost by learning from other people first!
Secondly, choose something that you are very passionate about enough that you may share with other people.
[Lastly], please read FDA regulations on cosmetics/personal care and follow the rules!
What’s next for Bar Soap Brooklyn?
It really depends on my need. I might need some crazy eye shadow tomorrow!
Morning bird or a night owl?
What are you listening to right now?
Tame Impala’s “Currents.”
What’s your signature scent?
Heaven on Earth, it’s accented with geranium, based on lavender.
Which Olympic team is your favorite?
USA women’s gymnastics. Laurie Hernandez caught my eyes with her cuteness!
Thanks so much to Kakyung Cho for taking time to tell us about her wonderful soaps. You can purchase Bar Soap Brooklyn online and in select boutiques across the United States.