In Conversation with Kristine Keheley of Taos AER

Kristine Keheley_Blog Header

Describe Taos AER in a few words?

Taos AER is a new lifestyle brand elevating everyday essentials with intentional design and innovative, responsible performance. Our goal is to bring uplifting and meaningful experience to daily use products.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

I’d been developing clean personal care and cosmetic products for other national brands 10 years prior to co-founding Vapour Beauty, and most recently Taos AER. I wanted to see things that didn’t yet exist. I had ideas about plant–based ingredients that wouldn’t leave me alone. My motto is to Create the Invisible World and I love the journey from inspiration to finished product.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I’ve been a professional fine artist for 30 years, so by definition I started out as an entrepreneur. Art is all about going from an idea to an experience, or tangible object, that has a unique voice and strength. I see product development as very similar.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I’ve known since I was 2 that I’m an artist, so in that respect it’s been a very natural progression. Creativity, experimentation and resiliency are the qualities that have always led me.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

Our plan was always to raise the experience for personal care to be more experiential. I mean think about it, today’s consumer demands transparency and wants to be more involved in the beauty brands they support. Why should this be any different for body care and other commodity type products including deodorant?  We have recently launched a subscription plan for our consumer to be convenient and allow us to be able message directly and learn more about what is important to our customer.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

I’m an unconventional creative so it’s pretty “normal” for me to go way out there and that love of experimentation means that I endure plenty of failure. The challenge is to not shut down or turn away from the process. I want to continue to dare and be bold and create something new out of nothing.

One experience stands out: I had a hard deadline on a formula that was not behaving. It kept failing stability one way or another. Even worse, I had created something so unique that I didn’t have anyone I could ask for help or dialog on ideas. It was just me shut into my house alone on a Friday staring down the barrel of an isolated blizzardy winter weekend with all my failed formulas. I analyzed the math and the physical results over and over and by Saturday afternoon had hit a serious wall. It was bleak and terrifyingly solitary. At a certain point I knew I had to find the courage and self-belief to just relax and allow myself some time and space. That’s just the nature of the creative process. You get stuck and then you unstick yourself. Or you could give up and never arrive at the breakthrough. After that brief pause for breath, after almost 2 full days of examining that failure, it was like having a fever break – I finally saw how to change the ratios in the formula. It was a moment. I suddenly clearly saw a shining light and the direction forward. 

That was how Taos AER deodorant was reformulated with its current ingredients. You can’t give up. I believe there is always a creative solution and breakthrough on the horizon.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

Endurance. My whole journey with Taos AER and Vapour Beauty. I just keep going no matter what. I haven’t had an easy road, but I always seem to have new product ideas and solving those mysteries excites me enough to continue.

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

I respect experience, creativity, resilience and strength of character. Right now I’d ask: “What has been your life’s biggest adventure thus far? When were you bravest?” That seems like a rapid way to get to know something personal, but it’s also pretty practical – it can lead to an understanding of someone’s creative problem–solving skills and self–reliance. 

Taking a bit of time on the process and including a couple existing team members for their perspective. Culture and collaborative fit is so important. Hire for the present in terms of what someone can be thrown into immediately to help a team succeed. But also what is their growth and adaptation potential? How much do they love this? What is their desire to learn and stretch their abilities? Are they kind? Is there a spark of humor? And finally, do I instinctively trust them?

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

The personal care/wellness industry is ascendant and has added some new twists due to the pandemic. Products need to work, be environmentally responsible, but the consumer wants more than that baseline. There is a rising understanding of the need for a holistic view of health that includes mental and emotional well-being. The desire and need to be uplifted in troubled times is real. How do we address emotional connection with each of our products?

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

Expanding the vision of the brand into additional lifestyle categories. I’m intrigued by the thought of our products being a structure for people’s days. A set of personal rituals. I want people to experience a true moment of beauty from these ordinary experiences that they used to take for granted.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

There is no more small talk. We’re in it. All of us. So let’s go deep. I’m speaking up over and over again in favour of beauty, quality and integrity – personally and professionally. My creative integrity has many forms, from products to paintings to transformational experiences. Those creations can be singular, but their unifying source is my connection to the truth of the Universe and wanting to contribute responsibly.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

The obvious for me is that it’s a game of endurance. It’s a never–ending challenge so relax into that and believe in yourself. Accept that times like we’re in now are cyclical and inevitable and we don’t have time for fear. If you get quiet enough you know what to do.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

The rhythms of contact and solitude. We all have what we have this year. “What are you going to do with what you have” has never been a clearer self–examination. Every day I have to calibrate myself. Meditation classes have been profoundly moving and helpful. That’s the most practical thing I do.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

I believe in it like a myth. No seriously, you’ve got to try. Balance is dynamic for me. I don’t respond well to rigid habits. I get it all in there but as I need it, when I need it. Sleep and time with loved ones are a priority, as is time spent outside. The beauty of the landscape recharges me every time.

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

The extent of my travels and risk taking from an early age. I was born into a life of travel and that adventure is how I became my own friend and a good friend to others. I’m definitely at my best on the road.

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

  • Stay neutral as much as possible. 
  • When you’re overwhelmed make an old school list and knock it out one by one as calmly as you can. 
  • Lastly, allow the creative to come into the ordinary I guess – there is always a creative solution.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

It means showing up every day with passion, boldness and a mind open to new possibilities.

Share it!

Posted in
Tags

Leave a Comment





How to achieve a life of financial freedom with Alisha Pennington of ATvantage Athletic Training

Describe your business in a few words? Empowering, Dynamic, and Comprehensive. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I have been a business owner in a very niche industry (athletic training) for almost 10 years, so I have experienced the freedom and flexibility that comes with being a business owner. My…

How Jenny Strebe used positive affirmations and crystal healing to create her modern haircare brand AIIR Professional

Describe AIIR Professional in a few words? A modern haircare brand that is focused on well being through positive affirmations & crystal healing. What made you take the leap to start your own business? As I was driving every aspect of my stylist business and social media facets, the peace and relief I found in…

How FLyQuest CEO Tricia Sugita is using the esport platform to affect real change and make people happy

Describe your business in a few words? FlyQuest is an esports organization competing in the franchised League of Legends League Championship Series (LCS). What made you take the leap to help transform FlyQuest into the organization it is today? One of my primary goals throughout my career in esports has been to create a community…

Lauren Montgomery, founder of Monty’s, on making simplicity the new sophistication through her line of plant-based dairy products

Describe your business in a few words? Monty’s makes clean and craveable plant-Based essentials like cream cheese and butter that nourish your mind & body. With simplicity and nutrition at the core of the brand, Monty’s selection of cream cheeses and butter are made from real-food ingredients and crafted using time-honored techniques like fermentation. What…

How Maradith Frenkel turned bamboo into pajamas for the whole family with Little Sleepies

Describe Little Sleepies in a few words? We make buttery soft bamboo sleepwear that your whole family will love. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I saw a white space in the market after I had my son. I absolutely could not find a sleeper that checked all of the…

Erin Coles couldn’t find exactly what she was looking for in a band for her wedding so she launched her own — The Metropolitan Players

Describe your business in a few words? The Metropolitan Players is a wedding band collective based out of NYC – so we provide incredible music for weddings! What made you take the leap to start your own business? When my husband and I were planning our own wedding, we couldn’t find exactly what we were…

Azora Zoe Paknad on creating a new entry point to sustainability with Goldune

Describe Goldune in a few words? We make sustainability less beige! What made you take the leap to start your own business? I was into the sustainability world, personally and professionally, but I didn’t see myself in any of the dominant narratives I saw on Instagram or online in general. On one end of the…

Elisa Marshall on creating warm, French-inspired spaces with Maman, a collection of NYC-based cafés and venues

Describe your business in a few words? Maman is a New York City-based collection of cafés and event venues, offering family inspired recipes with French influences in a warm and welcoming home like environment  What made you take the leap to start your own business? Before I opened Maman, I had many passions and there…

Kim Hehir, co-founder of Brutus Broth, on enhancing your dog’s health through specially formulated bone broth

Describe your business in a few words? Brutus Broth is the latest innovation in pet health, made with human-grade bone broth that has been specially formulated to enhance any dog’s existing diet by adding beneficial nutrients, amino acids, and joint protecting supplements. What made you take the leap to start your own business? Sue’s dog…

How a lack of female empowerment in the real estate industry lead Marina Shiferman to create her business, The Real Estate Academy

Describe your business in a few words? I teach women how to buy and own real estate correctly so they can be the bad ass queens of their own lives. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I was a realtor for 10 years, I loved it but something was missing.…

Carla Olivia on revolutionizing the beauty bar experience with DashBar

Describe your business in a few words? DashBar is beauty made efficient! We are one stop beauty and wellness for the modern woman. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I have been an entrepreneur since I was 22 years old. I started my first business because a great opportunity was…

Christina Matteucci (a.k.a TeucciMama) on her 19-year tenure as the ultimate Number Two

Describe your business in a few words? I’m Christina Matteucci, Executive Director of David Beahm Experiences and proud “Number Two” to celebrity event designer David Beahm. I’ve produced legendary soirées all around the globe, but it’s my unique, 19-year tenure as the ultimate Number Two that qualifies me as a sought-after speaker and coach. In…

Niki Shadrow Snyder on coining the term “givefluencer” and making an impact with the Project Pop Drop foundation

Describe your business in a few words? My husband and I started the idea for the Project Pop Drop foundation on our first date. Our business sponsors a monthly drop off at a different homeless shelter each month. We spearhead these donation events with our children, and with local businesses and schools. We call this…

How Natasha Case of Coolhaus is disrupting the dessert space with cutting-edge ice cream creations

Describe Coolhaus in a few words? We are an innovative dessert company, specializing (for the time being) in ice cream/ice cream novelties. We are known for thinking outside the box, super unique partnerships, a truly cutting-edge brand identity and an inventive way of entering the marketplace with our trucks, brick and mortars, and now national…

How Jennifer Jolorte Doro used strategic partnerships to build Nouri from the ground up

Describe Nouri in a few words? Supporting people to feel their best. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I wanted something of my own. I’ve worked for many successful entrepreneurs and I knew I could do “it” my way and really enjoy it. What was your background prior to starting…