cardon's man of the month series, February 2021
In our "Man of the Month" series, we feature people who inspire us and are creating positive change in the world, specifically in the self-care space. This month, we are excited to feature Kay Kim, Co-founder and Creative Director of Rooted.
Kay Kim is the Co-founder and Creative Director of Rooted. He's a lover of all things nature, design, and food. He currently resides in Florida.
What was your path that led you to Rooted?
There was never a singular factor that led me to pursuing Rooted. It was a combination of many things, but mostly my upbringing. I grew up in Maui and Southern California so the ocean has always been an integral part of my life and has played a huge role in shaping who I am today. It taught me so many things like patience, how to let go of control—to truly go with the flow, and to love and respect nature.
I used to work as a creative in advertising—which basically means I came up with campaigns, made things look pretty through design, and wrote jokes for brands/clients. I started off at 72LA and eventually moved to New York to work at agencies such as Goodby NY and droga5.
After having moved to NY, I felt a little disconnected from nature so Ryan (friend + cofounder) and I tried to fill that void with plants in our apartment. The entire process was pretty hard and fragmented because finding plants was one thing, getting them home another, and then taking care of them was a whole other beast. Ryan and I believed we could modernize the plant buying experience by making it more convenient, fun, educational, and accessible. We also realized that no one in the space was doing it with the environment in mind so we eventually quit our jobs and founded Rooted with the mission of reconnecting people to nature.
How did you meet your cofounder, Ryan, and what inspired you to create Rooted?
We met in college through mutual friends. We started Rooted because of our deep connection to and love of nature. We grew up climbing trees, diving in oceans, and climbing mountains. We each had our unique relationships with nature, but the overall feeling was mutual. To us, nothing compares to the natural world—it’s where we seek refuge, find peace, and experience insurmountable joy. All of that paired with an entrepreneurial itch led us to quitting our jobs to pursue Rooted.
Tell us about your past year at Rooted.
This past year (2020) has been absolutely insane. At the beginning of 2020, we had just begun picking up traction with our shop in Chinatown and our B2B service where we managed plant buildouts and maintenance for clients like Sweetgreen, Public Records, etc. We were getting ready for a big spring and then the pandemic hit out of nowhere. For the safety of our staff and customers, we had to shut everything down and let go of almost our entire team—it was devastating. We went into survival mode and shifted everything to digital. As a result of that shift, Ryan and I decided it would be best for Rooted if we started new operations down in Florida so we packed up all of our things into my truck and drove down to warmer pastures. As terrible as this pandemic was/is, looking at it now, it may have been the best thing for Rooted.
What are you most excited for for Rooted in 2021?
We’ve only just begun scratching the surface of what we can do. Our operations aren’t yet fully optimized, but we’re still growing at an exciting rate so I’m stoked to see what we can achieve once we are. Spring is also the busiest time for us and the entire industry!
What’s your personal self-care routine?
My personal self-care routine heavily consists of sunshine, greenery, and the ocean. I spend as much time outdoors as possible, usually surfing or climbing. It does wonders for me physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s my form of therapy and it’s 100% free.
Do you see plants and nature as important aspects of a self-care routine?
Absolutely, the act of immersing myself in nature is extremely beneficial on so many levels. It’s been scientifically proven that being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings.
Exposure to nature not only makes us feel better emotionally, but it also contributes to our physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.
Research done in hospitals, offices, and schools has found that even a simple plant in a room can have a significant impact on stress and anxiety. Imagine if schools and offices were built inside of greenhouses.
Why is reconnecting with nature so important?
It’s only when you connect or reconnect with nature that you’re able to love and protect it. We want people to understand the fragility and importance of nature by teaching them how to take care of plants and ultimately getting them to fall in love with nature as a whole. It’s so much easier to take care of something when you love it.
What’s your favorite Cardon product?
My favorite Cardon product is definitely the Daily SPF + Moisturizer. I use it everyday before heading out. It smells great, is lightweight so it doesn’t feel all sticky, and it protects me from the sun—which is absolutely crucial for someone who frequents the greenhouse.
Plant Care Tips and Tricks
What’s the most common mistake people make when it comes to plant care?
Loving and caring too much. Like all good relationships, it’s important to provide a healthy amount of space and room to breathe for your partner—in this case, your plant. You never want to be overbearing or suffocating. For a plant, specifically, you need to let them do their own thing. They've survived a bajillion years without us humans intervening—they know what they need and know what to do.
I see a lot of plant parents kill their plants by overwatering them because they think that’s what they need. Always make sure to stick your finger in the soil 2” deep before watering to see if it’s fully dry or not. Depending on the type of plant, it’s usually better to water only when the soil is completely dry so as to not risk root rot.
If someone has never purchased a plant (or been able to keep one alive!) where should they start?
I’d recommend a ZZ plant and/or a snake plant—two of the most indestructible plants we carry. They’re extremely adaptable to various light conditions/environments and basically thrive off of neglect. The key to keeping these alive is by simply forgetting about them and then remembering to water them once every 2-3 weeks. Easy.
Thank you, Kay, for taking the time to share your personal journey and plant tips and tricks!
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