MAMA'S MAKING IT: DANI KENNEY

MAMA'S MAKING IT: DANI KENNEY

Sometimes you see a person and you get this feeling; like you need to know them and you think you could become good friends. It must be some kind of energy which you are both riding on. I didn't know that this could also be true for Instagram, as social media has a way to actually disconnect you from real life. However, I came across Dani through a deep scroll one day and fell in love with everything she embodies. She has as esthetic which just makes you smile. Her style is inspiring, her passion is gratifying and moments with her son are totally captivating. I had to meet her; I needed to know more about her journey into motherhood and how she came about making her own non-toxic products. 

When you feel strongly about something, it is beautiful how the universe aligns. I went out on a limb and reached out to Dani, it just so happened she was visiting LA that exact week. After some push and shove between our schedules we managed to connect. She is everything you think you know and more. Between her son Lars and Dani, they could win an award for the greatest pair of smiles; if we ever had a mama yearbook! Turns out we have a lot in common, from family health to a love affair with good packaging. I won't say much more as the interview below says it all... I am here to celebrate today a new feature for 'mama's who are making It', meaning moms who are unsatisfied with the toxic overload saturating our markets and have taken it in to their own hands to source, create and produce their own line of natural and organic products. Let's not forget they are also doing it with little ones, whilst taking care of themselves, their families and managing to stay effortlessly stylish.

Gorgeous Dani, please introduce yourself...

Hi! My name is Dani Kenney, and my company is also called Dani Kenney, because I think that is simple :) ...I make organic skincare and home products for mamas, babes and beyond! I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and I currently reside in Fort Myers, Florida. I turn 33 in three weeks and my son, Lars, turns 1 in four weeks.

When you found out you were pregnant, what was your first thought in regards to taking care of yourself?

The first thing I did was go to Erewhon and go pick up lots of healthy, nourishing (and very fattening) goodies for me and the little guy in my tum! It's funny because we actually wanted a baby so we started being less "cautious" since I thought it would take a while, and wanted ample time to prepare my body first. I had been intentionally doing bone broth and different things beforehand to increase fertility, health and nutrition reserves, but it worked better than I realized it would... I didn't realize it would happen so quickly. So when I found out I was pregnant I was a little shocked but I was happy and just rolled with the timing as being right. I was moving across country in a few weeks and allowed myself to let go of the stress of it. I loaded up on even more good food, and immediately slowed down. I didn't do any vigorous exercise, I just started resting more. 

What were some of your go to products prior to pregnancy that you had to pry your hands off once you read the ingredients?

I was obsessed with Living Libations best skin ever body oil in Jasmine. And Jasmine was one of those no-no oils for first term of pregnancy. I have always been in love with the smell of jasmine. I think it reminds me of California and childhood. So all of my favorite products had jasmine, and I had this sage spray I got in Echo Park, which I loved but clary sage can cause contractions.  I had to rethink my whole lineup. That's when I really got into heavy research, and I consulted one of my best friends who is getting her phd in herbalism right now. I remember being stunned that I couldn't use certain oils, even if natural. 

So you were raised in Los Angeles, worked as a chef and the moved to Florida, leaving everything you knew behind. You were pregnant and disappointed with the products available to you on the market, which motivated you to create your own! How does one even begin this process?

Yes, I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I grew up around the Westwood area and left for college in Boston, then came back, moved up north to Santa Cruz for culinary school, then came back again. I have lived all over L.A. but I'm partial to the Eastside and settled in Silver Lake for the last few years before leaving. I was a private chef to celebrities and was also running a culinary business and flying around the world with my clients- a very fast paced life. My husband had just gotten a great job offer in Naples, Florida (he is in the building and construction field), and we were planning the move there when I became pregnant. So we moved, not knowing too many people, and because I was pregnant I was feeling so tired and reclusive. You very much nailed that feeling in the beginning, when I first moved. I really did feel like I had left everything I knew behind. I almost went into a cocoon of sorts and hibernated a bit while pregnant. I have always been up for an adventure and a move (I just never thought it would be to Florida.) I think most Californians have a natural aversion to Florida, it's like the East Coast warm weather counterpart. It's very different physically, politically, etc. But Naples is very beautiful, pretty quiet and calm, with lots of health-minded people and organic markets, lots of yoga and beaches, and was just apparently voted the happiest city in America, so there's that. I also think that it's important to have an open mind in pretty much all circumstances, and I was willing to move for my family. You know that saying, "to have what you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done," something like that... I feel like I really let go of a lot and drastically changed most aspects of my life to make time and space for motherhood. I had just lost my dad to cancer nine months prior to my move too, so there was just this hibernation period when I moved, where I  allowed myself some time and space to just be. That's also when I had the time and space to work on building a new business as well. A lot of thought and prep went into it. 

I am sorry to hear about your dad. I have empathy for your circumstances. When my mom found out her tumor had grown again after 12 years, I also found out I was pregnant three days prior. I know that feeling of hibernating. Do you have any words of advice you may be able to share for how you pulled yourself out? I lost all motivation, any suggestions would be most appreciated!

Thank you so much. And I'm sorry you have to go through that again and I really hope your mom beats this. As far as advice, for me having my son really helped me put one foot in front of the other. That, and my business, having a creative outlet. Also having spiritual outlets. Also, never underestimate the power of a good cry. 9 times out of 10 when I feel shitty and I'm missing my dad, when I allow my thought to go there and honor those memories and just release all my tears, I can carry on with my day. Unfortunately I've lost a few people in my family to cancer, and as awful as it is, I had practice grieving. So I guess I got okay at moving forward when I had to. But I don't think we ever stop grieving. When someone is in my heart, they're there forever. (Even in relationships and friendships, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for those who I have loved who I don't see anymore.) Loss is just hard period. I was very close to my dad. I guess the upside of an illness is that you can consciously choose to spend as much time with them as possible while they go through it. The thing that always brings tears to my eyes is that my dad didn't get to meet my son. That is super hard. I see so much of him in Lars. But then again, my husband and I joke that maybe it's my dad in there. So I guess another thing that pulls me through is this hope, this idea, that we all still stay connected. That their spirits are around us forever. Even if it's not playing chess in a white castle in Heaven, even if it's just energy. I think we're all made up of energy, whatever that may be, and I kind of want to hold on to the belief that we travel in "soul packs" throughout different lifetimes. That maybe we reincarnate in different forms and play different roles but that we're teammates forever. Lastly, another thing that gets me through it is the idea that life is so short and precious. It's important to make the most of it and live it to the fullest. From appreciating little moments to going on big adventures. I believe in celebrating life daily. That means cooking tasty meals for my family, having champagne for no reason other than it's a beautiful day, having impromptu dance parties in the living room... boat rides. Getting outside. Travel. Friends, hugs, dinner parties... etc.
 

Did you find your culinary skills came in handy whilst mixing and blending?

Oh, absolutely. And actually, even beyond the chemistry and skill set involved in the blending of oils and food based products, I think that the culinary instinct of flavor- which is also connected to smell- also played a roll in developing my scents for the soaps. When I cook, sometimes I feel like a channel, through which this creative force flows through me. It happens with herbs, spices and flavor pairing of dishes. And it happened with the scenting of products too. It's all connected. And I trust the intuition of my palate more than anything. 

At what point did you go from washing your own beautiful bodies to wanting to share this new found passion with the world?

The first product I created was actually my belly butter and I instantly knew I had to share it. It wasn't even that I thought mine was hands down better or anything, but I knew that I made something special with quality ingredients and I wanted to give it beautiful packaging and the whole notion of a line just started to be born then, and started to really excite me. I had originally wanted to start a blog (which I will add more of to the site at some point) but the line just organically developed. In general, I've never been a huge "this is my end goal in life" person. I've always just tried to follow my nose of what interests me. If something stops being interesting, I stop doing it. That may be a terrible lesson for success probably, but I don't know, I just feel like life is too short to do things you don't enjoy, if you have the ability to change them. I've always been creative but that creativity shifts and takes different forms. I'm a Sagittarius rising so I constantly have to follow new ideas, inspiration and adventures. 

I know we are very alike when it comes to style and packaging, it is an important asset to what ever we are buying be it natural or not. Your label is so simple and chic, where did you take inspiration from?

Thank you very much! I always look at packaging, and I suppose I drew inspiration from different ones l like, but still wanted the products to look unique. I wanted something earthy, but sophisticated; chic, yet simple; vintage but modern. I would type out different font combinations on my computer and draft out what the label would look like. I worked closely with my friend who is a graphic designer, and he helped me achieve my vision. I was very specific about what I wanted and would send him ideas and he brilliantly executed exactly what was in my head. 

Can you explain a little about you soaps as apparently you can wash your dishes as well as your privates with it? And what is a wilderness wash?

So because the soaps are 100% natural, it means that you can use them on a variety of surfaces, including skin, clay, etc. The soaps are all oil-based and so they will gently but effectively wash the dishes, and your hands won't be stripped like detergent soaps. And therefore, because they are gentle and natural, you can use them anywhere on your body too. Wilderness wash is just another name for another use for this soap. By wilderness wash, I mean that you can also use it while camping or in outdoor showers-- and you can feel good using it outside because it doesn't have all those crazy toxins that a lot of soaps have. 

Since we are going there... can you elaborate on the Vajay spray and how one would use this?

Vajay Spray was formulated to help soothe women down there after birth. I'm not going to claim healing powers but I formulated this blend based on ancient Native American healing recipes, so I do believe in its abilities. I used this product after my birth and it really really helped me. You can spritz after using the bathroom or also, I sprayed it on those ice packs they give you for your Vajay, and it really helped with the pain, in my opinion. Very soothing. Also, here's some tmi, but I tore in three places giving birth and had to be stitched up (because I pushed him out in fifteen minutes and that will do that!) so this blend was gentle but effective enough to use on an open wound. It's pretty magical. 

I think we should all be using the Bum Balm and maybe we will all have skin as soft as a babies bottom, the ingredients sound so soothing. So what is the deal with baby powders on the market full of talc, why should one be careful  to avoid these? What ingredients have you chosen to supplement and how are these beneficial?

It's cool you say that, because Bum Balm is one of my proudest accomplishments, I love it so much and use it on my face a lot too. The deal with baby powders with talcum powder in them is that, while talcum is a natural mineral, it can also naturally contain asbestos, a chemical known to be linked to cancer. So it's best to avoid it all around. In my baby powder, I use arrowroot as the main powder to absorb moisture, as it is natural and gentle and can even be eaten it is so safe. (But don't eat the baby powder please.) I also grind up lavender and other soothing flowers to make it calming to irritated skin. The flowers are also lovely to have in it because they bring pleasantry to the nose. 

Ok so you have soap, beauty balms, oils, butters, cleansers and tea, let's chat about the importance of organic tea during the fertility period all the way to postpartum and how do you source your herbs?

Tea is amazing. Plants and herbs are so powerful in the body. Our bodies' cells communicate with the cells of plants and when they talk, miracles can happen. And one of the biggest reasons I love tea from the fertility stage to postpartum is that herbs deliver so many phytonutrients. Many people think of herbal tea as boring or just a warm drink, but these little leaves, twigs, flowers and seeds can do way more in one cup than water can. That's why it's such a wonderful supplement to the diet when your body needs to be replenished from building, growing and then birthing a human. The herbs I've chosen for each state of motherhood are gentle, safe and incredibly nutritious to the body. I source my herbs from different organic herb shops around the U.S., depending on who has what available at the time. The herbs I use have all been certified organic, and I choose sources that take care to get the really good stuff. At some point, if we move to a climate where I can grow my own herbs again, I would love to grow them myself. 

What is next for Dani Kenney?

I am working on launching a couple more products for summer... stay tuned!

You have an incredible stunning line of natural products and you've managed to stay super stylish while your doing it! Please tell us how you are making all of this happen with a baby, we are all waiting for the big secret?

Thank you! The secret is being far away from most of my friends and family, so I have a lot of focus. And also, I take my time. I try to get out online orders asap, but I give myself time to fulfill my wholesale accounts because I need it. It's actually incredibly difficult balancing the business with a very active baby, but those two things paired with a little bit of help here and there goes a long way. I also just recently hired help for one day a week, so I make sure to utilize my time wisely that day. But, I'll be honest, it's a lot running a new business and taking care of a new baby. Sometimes I think I was crazy to birth both of them in the same year. But as long as I lift the pressure off of myself and as long as my wholesalers and customers recognize and understand that I'm a mother first, it's wonderful to be doing it all. 

Not sure we can all move away but maybe a studio at the end of the garden, and turning off phones for 8 hours could provide the same effect lol I am so inspired by mama's who are creating, doing and being proactive. It can be such a challenging time but to channel that energy into something for the greater good must be so rewarding. How do you also find time for you and what doe that look like?

Me time is usually in the evening. That's how I do it. When my husband gets home from work, he gives the baby a bath and I have a glass of wine and cook dinner and play music and try to zen out. But I definitely don't have a lot of me-time right now. That's something I want to try to make more space for, it's just hard with a business and a nearly one-year-old. I don't do enough yoga as much anymore, and I miss it. I love kundalini, so I have some dvds I try to pop in when Lars naps, if I'm not blending a product while he's napping! I went to a yoga class two days ago and cried because it just felt so good to be there. Lots more of that nourishing good stuff. Hot baths are also definitely one of my favorite rituals that feel like a dip in instant self love. Most of my me-time ends up happening when I travel, which is necessary for my soul. 

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What does date night look like?

Date night is usually very simple, but very necessary. My husband and I both have a similar philosophy when it comes to this, that you need to give your relationship just as much attention as your baby. If you don't nurture it, it's easy for stress to wear at it over time. So for date night we usually leave Lars with Dan's mom and then go to dinner somewhere. Naples has some amazing Italian restaurants (go figure) so we do Italian a lot. We will occasionally do something different like go on a boat ride or go bowling. I have to say though, we do try to give each other the attention of "date night" at dinner time every night though if we can, after putting the baby to bed. I'll cook while he puts the baby to bed and then we'll eat together at the dinner table and talk or watch a movie together. 

I picture Lars on your hip as you mix and blend, what are some other opportunities you have for bonding time with him?

Actually, it's incredibly hard for me to get anything done when he's on my hip because he's the most curious person I know! He puts his hands on everything so I generally try to get work done when he's sleeping or being watched by someone else. My favorite things to do with Lars are exploring outside. He also has an amazing sense of humor so I love being silly with him. We play a game where I make sounds and he imitates me, and sometimes we just roll around joking and laughing with each other. He's also super into music (yay!) and so we dance a lot together. Those moments of just being ridiculous and having fun with him are my favorite.

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Thank you Dani for taking the time to answer these questions, I adore your honesty. I truly wish you all the best and I am excited for our new friendship to blossom. 

As mother's we are all trying our best. Maintaining a balance is what every parent is always seeking. How does one work and be a present mom? How does one be there for their children and also have enough energy left for their partner? Does one decide to act on a dream project now or when their kids are older? We all struggle with questions, ambitions and goals. Everyone's experience is different so there will never be one definite answer. However, what I take is this: Motivation, Inspiration and Gratitude. Seeing others do it, knowing it is possible gives me inspiration. Knowing that no matter what a persons circumstance may be they are still finding a way to move forward, this gives me motivation. Then knowing that we all mess up along the way, that is it not easy and that social media just makes it look like everyone is doing it perfectly gives me gratitude. I am grateful I have a husband who supports my dreams, I am grateful that all my life experiences have brought me to this very place and I am grateful to know that I am loved even when I am stressed, anxious, nervous, pms'ing or scared. With community around us to share there strength, courage and hope I think we can accomplish anything!! Check out Dani Kenny here or if you shop local take a trip to Dotter in Highland Park

PHOTOS OF DANI BY LAUREN MOORE

PRODUCT PICS COURTSEY OF DANI KENNEY

 

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