We spoke to Kiana Baldon, the mastermind behind ‘JENTL, a vegan body butter brand that puts quality ingredients and feels above all else. She covers being a small business owner, the journey, what drives her, and provides a unique perspective on what self care really means.
We moved around a lot since my parents were in the military. After being born in Germany, we moved to Hawaii, and made roots in Atlanta, Georgia. When I was younger, I would make dirt pies and mix all of the seasonings in the cabinet with the powdered washing detergent. Clearly, I have always liked making a mess. My degree is in Hospitality with a minor in Sociology. Somehow hospitality has translated into ‘JENTL, so it all worked out.
The more these conversations happen, the easier it will be for people to feel welcomed in having them with each other. This go round, the Black Lives Matter Movement drastically increased the reach of black owned businesses, small and large! It’s a beautiful thing to witness, especially because it is so necessary. With that, a number of companies have pledged to source a percentage of their products from the black community. While a step in the right direction, it is important to note that no one wants to be anyone’s affirmative action. Those days are over. We (the people) care about who, what, and why we do business with people, what they stand for, etc. “Just cause” does not fly.
This is “gentle before ‘JENTL”. I was working full time, in school, with a full-time internship. Things felt wildly overwhelming and I was having a difficult time showing up for myself, others, and my obligations. So, I crafted an extended shower routine; it became the highlight of my entire day. I learned very early on that self care is not just a bubble bath. Self care is rooted in the conversations that we can be honest in having with ourselves. Conversations we don’t have the courage to have with others. At some point in our lives, we all have to get our voices back, find our footing, and do the real work. ‘JENTL, the product, became the embodiment of these ideas and beliefs. Before there was ever the thought of a business, there was a need for connection. ‘JENTL has become a tool in my life, and hopefully for others as well.
Our mission is to create a nurturing environment that honors transparency and vulnerability through intentional connection. Focused on holistic wellness, our lines are designed to emphasize the importance of each of our relationships while also highlighting the sustainability initiatives within our community. Our core values are sustainability, compassion, self-discovery, and community. When I think of sustainability, I view it through the lens of an ecosystem. When we take care of our communities in their entirety, they run, operate, and perform better. Outside of physical product, sustainability initiatives, the absolute key to sustainability is you. When you are healthy, that which surrounds you is typically a reflection of that.
‘JENTL is the phonetic spelling of the word “gentle” in the dictionary. It is a play on what was once considered a weakness of mine i.e. being “too” sensitive or “too” emotional. When somebody says that, they are really saying you respond physically to how you feel. But that was also my superpower. Being gentle does not mean being overly soft or timid. It is identifying things for what they are, and moving through them honestly. It’s overwhelming when you want to do something and release it into the world. You want it to look and feel just right.
The first thing I ever tried to make was natural deodorant…horrible idea for the thick of summer. My friend was being supportive and wanted to try it, but her armpits reacted to the baking soda in the deodorant and turned dark. Fall rolled around and I wanted to try my hand at something else. Body butter! The first time I made it, it was really thick. The next time, I made it as a whipped consistency and that was it. Anytime you create something and put it into the world and people accept it as it is, that’s their way of saying “I accept you”. You don’t have to pretend or hide certain parts of you. On June 3rd (which was ‘JENTL’s birthday), I cried four times, like sobbing tears, I was so happy. It’s rewarding, what I’m doing is actually what I’m supposed to be doing. My favorite body butter is Citrine. Easy. Hands down. Citrine is a blend of sweet orange, lemon, and tangerine. It just smells like pure energy, euphoria and joy. Have you ever had Pez candy? THAT FEELING! It’s incredibly nostalgic; I associate it with childhood.
The ingredients were my main focus, especially because I went so long without having branding and packaging. I needed to make sure that the ingredients I use are potent and clean. I feel like the more you manipulate something, the more you take from it. ‘JENTL, in its entirety, has always been about intention, especially with the message behind it and how it’s created. In terms of sourcing, I try to remain aware of the pay disparities that exist across socioeconomic classes, I personally do not mind paying more for ingredients if that means it is fair trade and the workers have health care. Working with ethical and reputable companies is important.
The base of all the products includes shea, cocoa, and mango butter. Each exists to provide varying levels of moisture retention in the skin to ensure it is being locked in and not evaporating. That is why people wake up the next day and their skin is still moisturized. At that point, the oils and butters each perform at their own speed. Mango butter is really good for combating eczema and dry skin, and it also cleans the surface of your skin. It unclogs your pores so your skin is receptive to whatever is applied topically. There’s a comedogenic scale for oils and butters that ranges from 0 to 5. Zero means it won’t clog your pores, five has a very high likelihood of clogging your pores. Shea butter is at zero. It’s very common and accessible. For sensitive skin, I would not put anything with cocoa butter on the face because it has a rating of four. It’s more likely to clog your pores. It’s a really helpful scale, especially when trying new products. It’ll explain why your skin reacts well to some products and poorly to others.
Nothing has to be single-use, especially if you have control over it. Glass lasts longer, can be reused seamlessly throughout your home, and you can travel with it. ‘JENTL has a love note on the back of each of its jars, it says: “‘JENTL is your cue to show up for yourself and others by fostering a sense of learning, growth, and consistency through vulnerability. You are unlike anything the universe has ever known.” Being able to have something physical that carries a thought or an idea is cool. So why not upcycle it? I’ve seen people make candles, store aloe vera gel, and make travel jars out of their jars!
I learned that self-care is the stuff we avoid. Writing is one of my biggest forms of self-care. That’s one of the ways I was able to be honest with myself because you don’t have a defense up. You’re writing to yourself, for yourself. Sometimes writing something down physically and having it to look back at helps. I don’t journal every day, but I do write on something, it might be a sticky note, a text, or an email I send myself. Every few pages “grateful” is scribbled at the bottom. Sometimes that’s all I can say, and that’s enough.