More Responsible Living is an organization that I founded a couple of years ago. Our mission is to promote and share more socially and environmentally responsible practices including growing and purchasing local organic food, and choosing plastic-free and reusable packaging.
Over the years, I have been inspired by a handful of people who model this philosophy. Kristal Muhich of the Kauai Juice Company is one such individual whose business model and products exemplify everything it means to be a socially and environmentally responsible business. This is a mindset and a lifestyle that I truly admire! More Responsible Living believes that the Kauai Juice Company is a model for others who wish to do business in this current state of environmental affairs. We love everything about Kristal’s business model. This is why the Kauai Juice Company has been chosen to receive the first More Responsible Business award.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Kristal and discussing how her company sets the bar for a responsible, sustainable business that holds community first. As you will see in the interview, Kristal’s company sources local products that put the health of our island and it’s people first. Kristal is an inspiration. Congratulations.
STARTING A SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS ON KAUAI
Monika (More Responsible Living): I met you at Salt Pond years ago with a mutual friend. You were drinking kale mango juice and contemplating creating a kombucha delivery service. My how you have grown! When did you decide that you wanted to branch out from creating kombucha alone?
Kristal (Kauai Juice): Well, I’ve always been a huge advocate of juice cleansing and fasting. It had helped me so much over the years. Honestly, it was when I learned about cold pressed juice that I decided to expand. Never before had I realized that you could bottle juice after juicing it a certain way and it would still keep it’s integrity and full nutritional value. Once I learned that and saw what other companies were able to do I knew I wanted to bring it to Kauai so that other people could experience the same benefits that I have had.
M: It must be pretty rewarding to operate a business with a sustainable model, especially when it has been embraced by our community. Can you offer any advice for other businesses hoping to open / operate a sustainable business?
K: My advice is to start small and reinvest everything you can into the company. These days, I see so many people wanting to have huge business’s and make it big right away. Your company will only be as strong as your foundation. It takes years to understand your craft, but that’s what brings so much value to your customers, and you should never short change your customers on value. iI never took out a loan for the company and I only had $400 to start it. I had no formal education, no connections, no mentors, no family, and especially no family money when i started. So, if I can create something from that situation then I believe anyone can do anything they set their mind to. Just start small and give it your all.
M: What an inspiration, Kristal!
M: I am an avid juicer and I appreciate your style of juicing. Can you tell the rest of us a little more about why you choose to cold press your juices and use local, organic produce?
K: Well the connection to the land and farmers is key. Besides the fact that local produce holds more nutrient value, by purchasing local and supporting organic farming methods you are circulating wealth in all sorts of ways into the community you live in. When going into business, I encourage everyone to think about how they can funnel more abundance into their location and to the people they love.
M: What criteria do you use when you are choosing other products lines (beauty, sunscreen, supplements) to carry?
1.) I have to of tried it personally and found it beneficial.
2.) The cost needs to match it’s value.
3.) The company itself have to align with our own values when it comes to sustainability and ingredient sources.
WASTE MANAGEMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE & CIRCULAR ECONOMY
M: One problem I see today in business is that the manufacturer, retailer, or producer, places the burden of waste disposal onto the consumer. This has created such a disaster for our society. You have made every effort to not only package your products in glass bottles that are readily recyclable at the public waste / county level, but you also invite your customers to return them to your stores for a credit toward future purchases, thus participating in the waste disposal /recycling /reuse process. Don’t think I didn’t notice the metal caps (thank you!) As an active Surfrider volunteer and activist, I also know that bottle caps are one of the most commonly found items during beach cleanups because they really aren’t readily recyclable. What motivated you to create a program that invites customer participation in the disposal / reuse of your packaging? And how do you think this benefits both your business and our community?
K: The motivation came from when I learned that recycling centers are pretty much junk, in that a lot of our waste has been bought over seas, so it’s not even recycling locally. It is shipped off ( creating more waste ) and then purchased by people ( some of which are known crooks ) in other countries. After that a lot of times it isn’t even recycled there, itʻs just dumped back into the ocean or landfills. If people actually studied what has happening with our trash they would be appalled. So, if American recycling facilities still aren’t the answer then i think the answer is in the consumer. At some point we have to stop pointing the finger at everyone else around us and start taking actions that create positive impacts on our planet. No one is perfect, but we can’t expect everyone else to solve this problem for us, at some point we have to stop buying so much crap and buy items that leave little trace behind. I wanted a business that people knew when they shopped there that they were part of that solution, not the other way around.
M: New information about climate change suggests that too much carbon is in the atmosphere, and we are losing the carbon in our soils due to industrial agriculture. Regenerative agriculture restores microbe populations in the ground, sequesters carbon from the atmosphere, and can reverse climate change. Practices that reverse climate change include planting trees and employing regenerative farming practices on the field such as composting, which ultimately makes more nutrients available to the plants that are grown. Do you compost your juicing scraps?
K: Of course!
M: I am always blown away when I walk into one of your stores. Your staff are smiling, glowing and ready to help. Social responsibility is also important when running a responsible business. Why do you think your staff is so happy?
K: I think a big reason they are happy is because our customers are truly great to work with. It’s amazing when you go into a business and you are kind to the staff it’s awesome how you can see them be kind right back. Also our customer values are really rooted in non judgement with what people are going through in their life. Nutrition for a lot of people plays a huge role in how they feel day to day. We aim to be a positive place they can walk into even when they are feeling not so good.
M: What do you think are the biggest challenges to running a sustainable business on Kauai?
K: Finding talent for open positions, the obsurdly high cost of overhead and cost of goods, as well as the challenge of not being able to get reliable local produce daily.
M: Hear that farmers! Covid has shown us about food insecurity, but it’s about having local, organic food available regularly right here, right now! By the way, I also learned that Kristal and her company have a history of giving back to the community. Now that’s what I call social responsibility!
M: I do a six week cleanse every year where I do a complete elimination diet. The trouble with this is that it is very hard to find food when I am not home. Kaua’i juice is literally the only place that I can stop to pick up food while I am out. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that your store exists. What do you think your customers appreciate most about your store?
K: Awe, that it seriously so great to hear. Everytime things seem to get hard it is truly remarks like that that keep me going. Knowing that people use us to feel healthier and happier means the world to me and my staff.
I like to think that people like the accessibility most in our store. We try so hard to keep our items super fresh while also not running out of inventory. It sounds basic and not that deep, however our shelf life is so short and our margins are so tiny it’s been near impossible to learn a system that can keep our inventory on the shelf. To me, being able to provide a consistent product is of huge value to customers, they know they can depend on us when they are sick or whenever they need us.
M: Environmental health and human health are intimately connected. I love that your business recognizes and promotes this fact. Would you like to elaborate on how your products promote the health of our local environment as well as supporting human health in the community?
K: As mentioned above I truly think that we need to take our health into our own hands. Also if we want our external environment to be thriving we, first need to look inward and make sure that we are healthy and thriving as well. Because of our ingredients and how we make our juice we will always be in line with that.
M: Tell us a little more about your fermented products and why they are so important for overall health.
K: Fermented products are amazing for your gut microbiome: the happier your gut, the happier your mood. And lets be real, happiness is what life is all about!
M: Do you feel like local folks might recognize that your products can help people get / stay healthy during a pandemic?
K: I like to think so, but i also encourage people to take their health into their own hands. We are here for them when they realize it, but I never like to push people into buying our products. It does sadden me that with all this news coverage there is zero talk about how diet effects your health and immunity. There is all the talk about masks and social distancing, but not anybody talking about how to boost your immune system and keep inflammation down. If there is a silver lining I’m hoping people can start seeing through the mainstream media and start doing their own research on how to stay healthy.
M: How has the pandemic affected the Kauai Juice Company?
K: We are lucky to have received the PPP loan which kept most of our employees on payroll and our doors open. We are praying things will get back to normal soon so that we can start focusing on how to rebuild everything we’ve lost. Also just praying that the business’s that had to shut down will be able to reopen.
M: How did this business shape who you are?
K: I started this business 10 years ago and for a long time it was all I knew. It was so much work for so long, I just didn’t even have the capacity to see what was going on around me. Luckily, I’m passed that phase and am really appreciative for not only going through it but now having all the knowledge I have because of it. (I am) truly honored that Kauai has allowed KJC to thrive and expand and because of that I will never be the same. I owe so much to this land and to it’s people.
In response to winning the More Responsible Business Award:
Thank you so much for all of the support over the years. It truly means so much. I hope that we can continue to be a thriving example of how you can be both environmentally responsible and still expand a business. Thank you for seeing what we are doing fully, appreciating it, and spreading the word. thank you thank you
M: You are truly an inspiration. Any new ideas for Kauai juice in the near future?
K: I really want to expand on our food selection. It is just really challenging to make quality organic food at a cost that is accessible to our customers. I don’t want to price people out but, I refuse to put sub par items on our shelf. It’s been a hard predicament I’ve been in for a long time. Hoping soon I can figure out some ways to make it work!
M: Congratulations Kiystal, and thank you Kauai for supporting responsible businesses like Kristal’s. The actions that we all take make us who we are. Keep supporting local businesses and we will thrive.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is my opinion. I have not been paid for these opinions, nor have I received any free samples or other products to review. I personally shop at Kauai Juice Company and recognize and recommend this business based on their integrity. Readers are free to form their own opinions.