This week we catch up with the dedicated and creative duo behind eco-conscious brand Ksoni, Joti Sohi and Banasa Williams. They reveal how their brand came to fruition (it has been a rapid process from their first meet), what you should include in your diet to boost you hair health and what other environmentally friendly entrepreneurs have inspired them on their journey. Click here to shop the range, or read on to learn how they have managed to set themselves apart in the beauty and wellness industry.
You guys have been super busy since launching Ksoni. Tell us how it all started?
It all started as a twinkle in July 2018. We had been connected by a mutual friend to discuss retail opportunities for a food product (gourmet samosas!) Joti was working on. We hit it off right away and by the end of the meeting we had moved on from chatting about samosas to a complete tangent concerning what we thought was a gap in the sustainability market for bathroom products and we had our individual drivers.
For Joti it was witnessing an immense amount of plastic waste during a dive trip in South East Asia in 2017 after several years working in large consulting firms with huge eco footprints. She returned to the UK with a renewed drive to cut plastic out of her life after seeing first-hand the impact it is having on our beautiful oceans. After making a number of easy changes in the kitchen like cutting out single-use plastic bags and using refillable cleaning products, she realised that there are very limited options to cut plastic in the bathroom, especially in the shower.
For Banasa it was working in health & wellness businesses throughout her career. She observed growing numbers of consumers who wanted to purchase products that made a positive impact on the environment but felt they were lacking in options that actually worked for their diverse bodies or lifestyles. Having made her own natural shampoos and conditioners for several years, she also wanted to overcome the stigma around eco-friendly products being of lesser quality than their mass produced counterparts.
Within months we had decided we would launch a natural beauty brand together, setting ourselves a huge challenge to launch a plastic-free product, which is no easy feat in the bathroom! From there Ksoni was born.
Where does the brand name come from?
Kṣoṇī means “earth” in Sanskrit. It serves as a constant reminder that our collection serves to benefit both the individuals who use our products and the planet we wish to preserve through the reduction of plastic waste. We both have a connection to Sanskrit, Banasa as a certified yoga instructor and Joti with her Indian heritage. We believed this common ground was a great way for us to both feel connected to the brand we created together.
And tell what inspired such innovative packaging?
It was a journey of about a year that took us down many different paths before we settled on the humble aluminium can. After considering a refill model and a myriad of other different packaging options we knew the can was a no brainer based on the following:
1. It’s an existing package that we are all familiar with and have been using for decades
2. Aluminium is a fantastic sustainable and circular material
3. It is infinitely recyclable – in the UK when you recycle an aluminium can it back be back on shelf again as a new can within 6-8 weeks, this really embodies the circular economy which is our end goal
4. The infrastructure is currently in place to recycle every can – unlike plastic which we has such high volumes that not all can be locally recycled
5. Aluminium has the highest recycling rate of any household item – there is little to no confusion as to where an aluminium can goes, into the recycling bin of course!
6. 70% of the aluminium ever made still remains in use today – aluminium can be endlessly melted down and reused with no loss of inherent properties or downgrade in material integrity, unlike plastic which can only be used about twice before it is down-cycled
Does it cause any challenges when it comes to the shelf life of the product (once the can has been opened)?
This is a great question. We tested the products ourselves and among family and friends and found that the cans worked great in the shower. As long as you have a shelf or a shower caddy to keep them up right, you can just pour and place back on the shelf. The can has a small enough opening that water getting in from the shower is quite minimal and if you knock over the can if you quickly pick it up the loss of product is quite low.
However, upon launch late last year it was evident that the most consistent feedback was that people wanted to be able to close the can for more comfort and convenience. We were able to quite rapidly (and successfully!) design a bespoke cap for our cans which is made from recycled wood chip and a corn starch based PLA (compostable/biodegradable) which can be used over and over again with our products. To see how the cap works check out the video here.
What dietary requirements do you think are vital to promote healthy hair?
We believe that the key to promote healthy hair and body is a well balanced diet. This means a good balance of protein, carbs and fats. We personally love to eat the rainbow when it comes to fruit and veg which helps ensure we are getting a good balance of vitamins and minerals. However if you feel your hair needs a boost some foods which are a staple in our diet and can play a key role in helping restore some balance and strengthen you hair include:
1. Lentils – protein is essential to ensuring your hair is strong and healthy, after all it is made of protein and if it’s running low on that hair will be brittle, dry and weak
2. Blueberries – rich in Vitamin C which helps product collagen and in turn strengthens the hair from the root
3. Sweet potatoes – a great source of Vitamin A which can act as a natural conditioner for your hair
You guys have not known each other for that long… how do you find this impacts your approach to working together?
Most people are quite surprised to find out that we only meet in 2018 (not even 2 years ago!), especially since we are both from Toronto. Somehow it just works. We knew right from the get go that we had a shared vision to build a brand that was sustainable, accessible, convenient and for a more diverse audience.
Our approach to tackle business challenges isn’t always the same, we come from two very different backgrounds (marketing & finance/accounting) but we are respectful of each other’s view and we are both always open and keen to hear a different approach than our own. We really enjoy spending time with each other, professionally and personally so consider ourselves very lucky to have serendipitously crossed paths one summer day in 2018.
What other activities outside Ksoni do you both enjoy which have positive impacts on the environment?
Outside of Ksoni we have a shared love and passion for fitness. We are often finding new classes and studios to experience together that will push us out of our comfort zones. This shared interest is one of the ways we initially bonded and still incorporate into our company culture. We think of sustainability as a holistic effort, and a healthy mind/body/soul connection helps us to be better prepared and aware of our impact on the environment on a day to day basis.
Do you feel creating Ksoni has made you more aware about ingredients/materials we should try to avoid altogether?
Yes, absolutely! Having made the jump for making natural products at home to producing products on a larger scale our philosophy is “keep it simple”, we aim to include only ingredients that are necessary in our products whilst still ensuring that a wide variety of hair and skin types can benefit.
Upon creating Ksoni we also became more and more aware of the plastic problem, the more we learned the more we were committed to creating a brand that is plastic free. This came with many challenges and we came across multiple naysayers who were convinced we needed to use plastic in some way or form but we stuck to our guns and are very pleased with the outcome!
What has been the most interesting fact you have learned on your journey to creating a completely plastic free range?
We went down many a rabbit hole on this journey and continue to do so! One of the most interesting things we came across and continue to come across are all the amazing entrepreneurs out there working to repurpose waste to create new, sustainable and circular materials.
Some that come to mind that we love include Piñatex who have created an innovate textile from pineapple leaf fibre (which was previously just thrown away) and chipsboard who are utilising food waste (including potato skins) to create innovative new materials. As a brand we are always doing our best to keep up to date on the latest developments and thinking about how Ksoni can be at the forefront of these new materials and innovation.