Pretty When We Win is a series that seeks to reconceptualize pretty by draining it of its negative power. This first iteration highlights inspiring stories of entrepreneurs who identify as women; it hopes to encourage contemplation of the word pretty and explore how we use it in our daily lives.
I first heard about JUNIPER and YU through—you guessed it—Instagram. It was hard not to fall in love with this brand, its story, and its founder!
Kristine Sarmiento started her company with the goal of helping people feel good, inside and out. JUNIPER and YU, with its focus and deep appreciation for holistic wellness, is the embodiment of Kristine’s belief that “beauty is a state of body, mind and soul.”
Kindness, compassion, and authenticity mark every interaction I’ve had with Kristine. I’m so thankful to have built a rapport and friendship with her over the past year, and I hope you enjoy reading about her journey as much as I did.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Kristine, and I’m the founder of JUNIPER and YU, an online clean beauty and wellness shop that’s largely inspired by traditional beauty rituals and healing practices of Asia and beyond. My holistic and integrative approach to beauty and wellness played a huge role in my personal journey to better living and it’s what inspired me to build my business. I curate products from small, independent and minority-owned brands which is an important aspect of my work. Through my business and personal life experiences, I hope to inspire others to make healthier changes in the way they take care of themselves- both inside out and everything else in between.
Please name a woman who inspires you and why.
My mom. She’s my inspiration, my biggest advocate, my greatest encourager, and my rock. As an innovative entrepreneur in a male-dominated industry, she taught me how to set and achieve goals, face risks, and not be afraid to make mistakes. Her unending love, support, and guidance pushes me to be the best I can be. I wouldn’t be where I am now without her, and I really owe it all to her. Love you, mom!
What made you want to switch careers? What served as the impetus to start your business?
When I graduated from school, I put so much pressure on myself to find that “perfect” job. With an advanced degree in Strategic Communications, I was on a mission to land on a job I’d be proud of. I ended up working for large corporations, but something just wasn’t feeling right. The high stress environment, cut-throat culture, and unfulfilling work caused me a lot of personal distress. I was overworked, had little sleep, and felt alone in the workplace. I became disillusioned because of my inner struggles of doing what I “should” do (based on society’s expectations) instead of doing what I want to do. I was a total corporate misfit. As months turned into years, I slowly forgot who I was and questioned why I was there. Prioritizing my health and wellness then was an afterthought. I was just too busy searching for clarity and purpose in my career. My stress and anxiety levels were through the roof to the point where I became physically ill. I was in and out of the hospital being treated for health issues that someone my age shouldn’t be dealing with. This was the major turning point in my life and it’s what served as a catalyst to make a drastic change.
What was the hardest part of starting something on your own?
I was so afraid to start something new. I didn’t know where to begin and I wasn’t sure if I was even doing the right things and taking the right steps. I was afraid of putting myself out there and risking everything I had to start something new. There were so many “what ifs” and “buts” that constantly ate away at my thoughts. I’d say the hardest part of starting something on my own was feeling absolutely terrified but doing it anyway.
The world needs more women like you. Your ideas, creativity, talents, and skills are so valuable, and you have the potential to make a difference in our world. If you’re afraid to start something new, it’s okay to feel that way. Honor your feelings and emotions and do it anyway. Don’t let fear keep you from doing something that you’re meant to do.
What keeps you up at night?
Learning to own and appreciate my accomplishments instead of downplaying them. At times, I notice that I can be too self-critical, and I don’t give myself enough credit. I think a lot of women can really relate to this struggle I experience.
What struggles have you encountered that you feel are unique to women entrepreneurs? What’s the toughest part of being a woman entrepreneur?
Learning to own and appreciate my accomplishments instead of downplaying them. At times, I notice that I can be too self-critical and I don’t give myself enough credit. I think that a lot of women can really relate to this struggle.
What kind of weight does the word pretty carry for you? What does pretty mean to you?
The weight of the word, “pretty” hasn’t been a heavy one for me. As a Korean-American girl growing up in a predominantly white community, I knew I was different but accepted myself anyway. In fact, I embraced myself and my differences even more because of it. I was proud to be different. To me, the word “pretty” means to be unapologetically YOU. It’s about being your authentic self and embracing every facet of who you are. It’s about accepting and loving yourself—flaws and all.
Where do you find strength?
My biggest source of strength comes from my family. Their unconditional love and support keeps me going and keeps me grounded too.
What inspires you?
I’m a big travel nut, and I love immersing myself in new cultures and experiences. I find so much creative inspiration when traveling because it gives me an opportunity to learn and celebrate different cultural traditions and practices.
What’s your favorite way to connect with your clients/partners/customers?
Meeting them face-to-face is by far one of my favorite ways to connect with them. Beauty events and pop-up opportunities have given me the chance to meet and get to know my customers on a deeper level. Some of my customers have actually become my friends which has been one of the most rewarding outcomes of my work.
Can you offer some advice to other women who are looking to start their own business and/or make a career switch?
The world needs more women like you. Your ideas, creativity, talents, and skills are so valuable, and you have the potential to make a difference in our world. If you’re afraid to start something new, it’s okay to feel that way. Honor your feelings and emotions and do it anyway. Don’t let fear keep you from doing something that you’re meant to do. You’ll never know unless you try. Here’s a favorite quote of mine I’d like to share with you. I hope it ignites a light within you like it did for me.
The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being the person you thought you should be to become the best version of who you really are.
For more from the Pretty When We Win series, visit the Entrepreneurship section of The Mocha Minimalist.