Founder Feature - Catherine Choi of SoYoung
May 06, 2021
We are beyond excited to be launching our new series - Founder Features. In this series, we'll be interviewing founders from many different companies we love and admire and getting to know who they are, what they're about, and all the ins and outs of each of their journeys.
To kick us off, we spoke with Catherine Choi of SoYoung. SoYoung is a female owned brand of thoughtfully-made lifestyle goods on a mission to make personal wellness sustainable, stylish, and self-empowering. Keep reading to get the inside scoop on Catherine and her incredible journey.
Hi Catherine! We’re so thrilled to chat with you and share a little behind the scenes into your world with our customers. First up, mind sharing a quick bit about yourself and your background?
It’s my honour and pleasure! A little about myself: I am first and foremost an explorer of personal growth, which has created great opportunities in my life, one of which is SoYoung.
Aside from this, I am a mother of 3 humans and 1 dog, wife, sister, friend, neighbour and all out regular person.
Can you share about what drove you to create SoYoung?
Over 20 years ago, I got clean from a drug addiction that started me on a powerful journey of personal healing. I had lived a good portion of my life believing in my own lack, with an overwhelming sense of unworthiness. In small steps, I worked through my doubts and fears and found the courage to think bigger, believe in my own capabilities, and pursue a greater vision—a vision that led me to create SoYoung. It is my deepest hope that, through our products, we empower others to overcome their own limiting beliefs and access the courage necessary to pursue their own best life.
What is one lesson you have learned the hard way while creating SoYoung and how has it impacted the way you have continued to build your business?
So many lessons, but if I had to choose one, it would be that growth is a double edged sword and that there has to be a clear purpose and intention behind it.
Do you have a daily routine or rhythms that you follow (i.e. - starting or ending every day the same) or do you take things kind of day by day? What does “a day in the life of Catherine Choi” look like?
Over 5 years ago, I found myself on the edge of burnout, trying to run SoYoung while also parenting my 3 children and maintaining household responsibilities. I was unhappy and stressed out and had the realization that this is how illness starts.
With that clarity, I made the commitment that my self-care would come first, no matter what. So I started meditating seriously (not dappling, like I had been). Meditation has been and continues to be my foundational practice upon which all other practices are built. Today, I do a combination of breathing practices, meditation, cold showers (and more recently - hot/ cold contrast showers - they are amazing!) as well as yoga and exercise in my daily practice. I don’t do everything every single day, but some combo of them, as it calls. Mornings are most important, it’s less important what I do but that I do something that allows me to connect with a deeper sense of self and my body.
Do you have a favorite grounding recipe or go-to “comfort food” - almost a ritualistic food or bev that you come back to when you need to find your center?
For me, it’s Korean food. There is no greater comfort to me than the soups and stews of my childhood. I need my fix at least once a week. Pre-Covid, I would meet up with my best friend for Korean every week. I really miss that, and it’s one of the first things that I’m going to reimplement in my life post-Covid.
What’s one thing you’ve personally learned in this past year and how have you used that lesson?
100% resilience. What this year has shown me is how adaptable we are and to look for opportunity in every situation. Even just the act of showing up every day when things are hard is a deepening of our resilience and leads to wisdom.
If you could go back to the beginning of your business and do everything over again, would you change anything? Why or why not?
Yes and no. On one hand, I would say it has unfolded perfectly, big mistakes and all.
But if my goal was to build a financially viable and successful business (which is one but not my only goal), then I probably would have been better off to strategize about the market that I was targeting. I started SoYoung as a kids lunchbox and backpack business, which is hugely seasonal and introduced so many challenges right off the bat that I hadn’t thought of.
If your future self could look back to this moment right now and tell you one thing, what’s something you would hope she would be able to say to you?
I would say “It all makes sense looking back. Have faith in the process.”
We often say “Wellthy is the new wealthy” and we’re really focused on this idea of feeling truly well in all senses of the word. What does “wellthy” mean or look like to you?
Love that word! Wellthy to means having a clear definition of what is enough and living by that benchmark instead of striving for more, more, more and never feeling satisfied. And it means deriving a sense of fulfillment and value from intrinsic elements such as relationships and actions.
Lastly, we like to ask all of our founder friends, why blend in? What stands out to you as the most important quality it takes to “make it” as a founder?
I think there’s no one size fits all, but in my case, what’s been vital is a greater sense of purpose tied to my actions that has allowed me to stick with it despite the ups and downs. The value of the relationships that I have developed with fellow entrepreneurs, team members, customers, and people in general is so meaningful to me beyond any dollar amount, as is the ability to inspire and support others through the business. This is really what it’s all about and why I show up every day. That’s how I define “making it.” Although it’s never really made…