Travel. Meet people. Most of all: breathe.
For Soul Sunday founders Shea Hardiman and Kara Kochalko, that was the plan. The two close friends would grab their backpacks, kiss their go-go-go corporate jobs goodbye and hit the road for a while to rekindle the creative passions that inspired their work in the first place
Six months, twenty-four global cities and thousands of miles later? Mission very much accomplished.
Still, after spending an extra three months in South Africa solo doing volunteer work before finally heading back home, Shea returned to Boston and found herself overflowing "with all this inspiration from my travels and nothing to put it into.” Rejoining the pre-trip corporate world was a non-starter, so what next?
So you get back from South Africa, but while you were there...
"Kara had started working with essential oils to create aromatherapy rollers. That led her to make her own face wash, which is now our Rice Water Brightening Mist. I was very interested in the idea of all natural skincare and started creating scrubs and lip balms, so it wasn't long before we had a full line of products! We decided to bottle and label all our products using the inspiration from our travels to choose color palettes and scents. Kara then created an Instagram and stores started reaching out to us to carry our products; it really blossomed from there. "
In terms of life/work influences, visual and otherwise...
" Travel really inspires us. Visiting different places and seeing different sites; you can't help but take something away from that. Kara has a background in fashion so she is very aware what colors or styles are trending. We try to change our line seasonally, so that it mirrors the clothes that may be hanging near our line on shelves. Overall I would say we have a minimalist aesthetic; we always try to edit down."
Okay, let's talk creative mojo. What helps you get it flowing?
"For me, it's about balance. Having a routine that keeps me grounded, as well as always trying new things. So I try to eat healthy, do yoga and meditate daily... but also gain inspiration from being outside in a new place or around new creative people. I love hearing what they're interested in, and what inspires them. It helps inspire me to push myself."
How do you and Kara work out new ideas? Do you prefer the "drawing board" approach, laying it all out beforehand, or taking a kernel of an idea and getting right to the mixology?
"It really all depends. Some products we talk about, formulate the recipe right then, create it and it's done. Other times it can take weeks to get something exactly how we want it."
And that back and forth, the nitty-gritty process? Do you enjoy it?
"I do, especially the fact that Kara and I are always really honest with each other, and for the most part are always on the same page as far as scents and textures. We have a really organic process; we follow our intuition and push ourselves to stay true to our brand."
If you had to name one favorite part of the process, that would be...
"Seeing the final product bottled and labeled. Watching everything come full circle is really satisfying."
Down the line, in the future, where do you see Soul Sunday heading?
"Kara and I really enjoy the skincare aspect, but know the brand is going to evolve. Soul Sunday is where we get to explore all of our creative ideas and collaborations, so I'm excited to see where it can go. One day, we'd love to maybe bring in some leather goods and design a few clothing pieces."
Switching gears a bit: as a native Bostonian, tell us about growing up in New England.
"Well, I was born in Boston and grew up in Plymouth. I had a great childhood, with a lot of adventure, and always someone to play with since I am one of four. I think of riding bikes around the neighborhood, pretending they were motorcycles, huge games of man hunt and summers on the lake. Our next door neighbors were my cousins, and my grandparents lived right across the street. My parents always made it a point for us to sit down and all have dinner together. Looking back, those are some of my favorite memories. When my parents moved and asked me if I wanted anything..."
You said, of course...
"The dining room table."
Lastly, put on your tour guide hat a second. For our next Firecracker visit to Boston, Shea... any personal favorites to throw our way?
"Living in the North End, I have to say get some Regina Pizza. They also just opened a market in the center of the city called The Boston Public Market, which has a lot of great local artisans. Kara is from Youngstown, Ohio, so I also have to add that we are both huge fans of Whitehouse blueberry donuts!"