29 Jun Changemaker Spotlight: Kat Ti Chen Move
“We went with a “for-purpose” business model that generates a different kind of wealth: make a direct impact towards tangible, positive change. Success isn’t really success unless someone
other than us has benefitted from it.”
Lisa & Evangeline of Kat Ti Chen Move
Meet our featured Changemakers of the Month, Evangeline and Lisa Marie of Kat Ti Chen Move, a company creating simple beauty products with greater purpose. In 2017, Lisa Marie and Evangeline committed to making sure their company was a company that not only created authentic, handmade, and sustainable products, but that a portion of all profits would be donated to a nonprofit that aligned with their values. That is how we got connected to these ladies and after a few conversations realized that this was a partnership that was meant to be!
Kat Ti Chen Move has been a REBUILD globally monthly donor since November 2017. This is their story!
Tell us a little bit more about your business and the inspiration behind your work?
Lisa Marie and I founded Kat Ti Chen Move to accomplish two goals: develop simple, effective beauty products while making sure that our success serves a higher purpose. Our years of experience in the “natural” beauty industry taught us that harmful ingredients are hidden everywhere and the consequences of using these materials are not yet fully known. We firmly believe that plant-based products, when used appropriately, are better for every part of us- mind, body and soul. Most importantly, we witnessed how consumer spending habits can have resounding effects across humanity and the planet. We went with a “for-purpose” business model that generates a different kind of wealth: make a direct impact towards tangible, positive change. Success isn’t really success unless someone other than us has benefitted from it.
A quick search into your company and you reveals that you are committed as a business owner to giving back to your community. REBUILD globally experience this generosity when committed to donate a % of sales to our organization. Why is giving back this important to you?
The idea of “giving back” started for both of us a very long time ago, probably before we even really understood what it meant. While we come from seemingly unlike backgrounds, Lisa Marie and I share a similar childhood experience. We were both considered “different” from others around us and were very much made aware of it.
Growing up in New York City as the only child of a single mother in the early 70s, I was nothing like my peers. My mother had to work long hours, often travelling, leaving me to be raised by her elderly immigrant parents. One parent told their child not to choose me as a project partner because, “my parents were never around to help me.” The sting remains with me almost 40 years later because it illustrates immense intolerance and an unwillingness to support someone whose life’s circumstances are different than their own. It is my hope that through giving back I can comfort a child who feels as I did all those years ago.
Lisa Marie grew up the oldest of five siblings in a working class family in the suburbs. Her father, a disabled veteran, became unable to work when his illness worsened. The family was “adopted” by the VA, so that they could obtain food regularly and donated gifts at the holidays. Often ridiculed by her peers, Lisa Marie knows the hardship that comes with not having the basic necessities most of us take for granted. She can vividly recall sitting around the table with candles for lighting when the electric bill could not be paid that month. As a teenager, she took jobs to supplement her household income to provide for her younger siblings. It is only now that Lisa Marie fully appreciates the extreme desperation and willingness to do just about anything when trying to provide for a child. Kat is Lisa Marie’s way of passing on the kindness she received from strangers when she was most in need, but in a way that provides a concrete solution to social problems.
“Giving back gives our work profound meaning and bonds us well beyond friendship and a business partnership. We have a deeply shared value of generosity without any interest in self-gain.”
What do you look for in community partners? What issues and solutions matter to you most?
We spent almost two years looking for an organization that we felt met the number one criteria for an acceptable partnership: the ability to sustain real change by breaking generational poverty and be able to prove it. Teaching job skills is important, but cultivating an environment of self-reliance and independence through dignified employment opportunities was a non-negotiable. We finally understood that our current domestic and foreign aid models don’t work. We believe that investing in entrepreneurship is truly the only way to fight poverty, but must be approached in a non-traditional mindset. Only by supporting innovation and the risk-taking attitude that comes from an “entrepreneurial spirit” can economies begin to harness the innate wealth found in their people, land and other resources.
Our supply-chain model is built upon the same principle. Exploitive employment practices are pervasive in consumer goods manufacturing, from raw materials to finished products. It is nearly impossible for small businesses like Kat to ethically source in the current global market and maintain a reasonable operating margin. We are looking for like-minded individuals to partner together with us to make this model work on a bigger scale with measurable results.
What advice would you give other business owners, large or small, about getting involved and making a difference in communities?
We advise people to put a lot of thought into exactly what they are trying to achieve and why. If you are going to commit yourself to change, it becomes a life-long vocation or calling. Making a difference isn’t something you kick-start and walk away from. It has to become part of your identity, your drive and the reason why you don’t give up. You must believe in the cause and refuse to fail, no matter the obstacles you find along the way. Do one thing every single day to move one step forward. Above all, be authentic. Lisa Marie and I had to ask ourselves, “Will this make our children proud? Will they carry this work on after we are gone?” We will only accept a “yes” as the acceptable answer to both of those questions.