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Meet Asa and Tamar McKee of Khala & Co. in Frederick

Today we’d like to introduce you to Asa & Tamar McKee.

Asa and Tamar, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
We started in British Columbia in 2016 making beeswax wraps for ourselves when our kids were born. We were seeking ways to reduce plastic and food waste in our house, and decided to explore DIY options. Encouraged by family and friends, we branded these wraps “Khala Cloths” and went on to win the “Most Exciting Brand” award at the 2016 Green Festival in Portland, Oregon. Emboldened, we relocated to Boulder where Khala founder, Tamar McKee, is from. We felt as though Boulder was a perfect incubating ground for the company to go somewhere and fill a Rocky Mountain market niche. When we won the 2017 Esprit Venture Challenge by the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, we got that affirmation and crucial seed money to set down company and family roots back in Colorado. In 2018, we went from making just beeswax Khala Cloths to invented a 100% plant-based, vegan version of Khala Cloths. Also, with this expansion, Khala began to embrace more creative and colorful design options for our Khala Cloths, not only custom designing our organic hemp-cotton fabric with original artwork in full color, but also co-branding our Cloths in partnership with other fellow 1% for the Planet organizations. In 2019, realizing that we could branch-out and make even more products that helped people reduce plastic and food waste, we expanded into “Khala & Company,” adding reusable produce bags in our signature prints, cloth coffee filters and more to what we offered as “zero waste provisions.” Also, in 2019, we partnered with fellow 1% for the Planet non-profit partner, National Parks Conservation Association, to help commemorate their Centennial Year with product and monetary donations combined with cause marketing and advocacy. One day before the 50th anniversary of Earth Day 2020, 1% for the Planet gave Khala & Co. and NPCA the “People for the Planet ~ Partnership” award.
“National Parks Conservation Association is so appreciative to partner with Khala & Company, who shares our desire to protect and preserve our National Parks and join us in speaking up for these special places.” – Theresa Pierno, President and CEO National Parks Conservation Association

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Entrepreneurship always guarantees a wild ride. Whether that is more enjoyable and successful, or troublesome and struggling is always a matter of what day it is! In our first two years as a Colorado-based business, Khala was growing according to all the baseline measurements of a successful start-up, and we were ramping up for a year three that was going to be our biggest year yet. Then, COVID-19 hit right at the end of Q1 2020, and that scrappy, start-up existence we thought we were about to break away from became one of our best and worst assets to weather this hit. With all our spring and seemingly all of our summer in-person markets cancelled, which for the past two years have been high velocity cashflow for growing Khala & Co., we had to seriously pivot and re-embrace e-commerce, wholesale, and emergency loans. We are by no means out of the woods, and every day challenges our problem-solving capacities.

Please tell us about your business.
We are proud that we have been environmentalists and lived storied lives before becoming entrepreneurs and starting our own business. This gives us a freshness and a little bit of a renegade approach to how we run and, currently, keep Khala alive. Our dedication to always putting the planet first – including the environment and future generations – has guided and dictated every move this company has made, from how we source, make, sell, and spend. Because of this fundamental integrity to make a product to sell a cause not appropriate a cause to make a profit. We are different from other “beeswax wraps” either made by other companies or household DIYs because infused in everything we do from our wax recipes to our fabric designs. We are doing this as a gift to the Earth and our children and offer our zero waste provisions to others with the same intent.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
We would have built an e-commerce presence on par with the success we saw with in-person markets. We would have also made the transition to DIY for home use to incorporated business more strategically, but we really didn’t think Khala Cloths would have blown up like they did, and by the time we realized we had a serious business on our hands, we started learning B-school lessons on the fly!

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Khala & Company

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