Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
For Material Kitchen co-founder Eunice Byun, the kitchen is the heart of the home, and cooking together is the ultimate way to honor tradition and connect with loved ones. As a mom of two myself, I love this idea but have always found it challenging to get my kids involved in the kitchen.
Luckily, Eunice had this problem too, and set out to design a collection specifically for kids. With tools that fit tiny hands perfectly – like a mini whisk ($20) and petite spatula ($20) – kids can actively participate in basic kitchen tasks, exploring flavors and textures along the way… and hopefully have some fun too! After testing out the full Kids Set ($45), we loved it so much that we convinced Eunice to sit down with us and answer a few questions.
Thanks for joining us today. Other than your impressive career as co-founder and CEO of Material Kitchen, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
EB: Hi! I am a San Diegan living in NYC – sixteen years so far and going. I’m also the proud mother of two daughters, wife to a fantastic home cook who is by day in finance and by night a whiz in the kitchen, and the co-founder and CEO of Material. Growing up, my parents owned a restaurant, so I grew up in the kitchen always surrounded with food and people.
Ah, growing up in a restaurant kitchen has always been interesting to me, and I love how it influenced you to start your own kitchen brand. You obviously know what you’re doing! Can you describe what it was like to launch Material Kitchen?
EB: It’s equal parts exhilarating and a what-the-heck-am-I-doing feeling. You learn how to problem solve real-time and get comfortable with a lot of unknowns. Earlier on in my career this would have been terrifying, but I like the challenge of entrepreneurship as it keeps me on my toes.
When launching, we leaned on our friends and family to share insights, test products, and provide lots of emotional support! But I’d say one of the most important things we did was find a supply chain partner that understood our vision, standards and values, which allowed us to rely on their 20-year expertise in kitchenware to avoid rookie mistakes in manufacturing well-designed products.
That’s amazing. We love well-designed, high-quality over here at TQE. Personally, I’m super excited about your most recent launch – kids cooking utensils! My three year old loves them. I’d love to hear more about how this came to life.
Material Kitchen’s gorgeous (and teeny tiny) line of kids kitchen utensils
EB: During the pandemic, and like so many other families, we cooked a lot with our kids to pass the time. What I found meaningful was how cooking gave them a safe space to try things on their own and be okay with messiness and uncertainty. I thought equipping them with their own tools – designed for their little hands – would further this sense of confidence, ownership and experimentation. So, we dug in as a team and settled on designing mini-sized versions of some of our bestselling tools.
This is such a great story. It seems so simple, yet it’s really innovative. There’s nothing quite like it on the market. As you think about the future of Material Kitchen, what else are you most excited about?
EB: We recently launched in Nordstrom stores across the country, but we’d love to continue expanding how we engage and interact with our community in person and via offline moments. We also have many other designs in new categories that we can’t wait to bring to market, so stay tuned!
I love that you mentioned community. One thing we love about the DTC space is the sense of community brands are able to build. How do you think about this?
EB: We are beyond grateful for our community of home cooks and design lovers. We often find that those in our community are the ones in their respective circles discovering new things and sharing them with others. We love that they are not shy in sharing about us with their friends and family, and definitely not shy in sharing with us their product requests or feedback. We reach out regularly to customers to learn more about their likes and dislikes, and love delighting them with small upgrades or surprises.
But I’d say the thing I love most about our community is how they show up to support causes and organizations we partner with. Every year, we run a Kinder Kitchens campaign where we spotlight community organizations that are serving an underrepresented community through the kitchen, and to date, our community has helped us raise over $100,000 in donations benefiting organizations such as Heart of Dinner, Drive Change and Star Route Farms.
Wow, that’s amazing. How incredible to be able to have such an impact. I’d love to switch gears and hear a bit more about you. What do you look for when shopping? Any trends you’re following?
EB: I appreciate brands that have a point-of-view, a little twist that makes it different from the rest.
I love seeing the diversification and creativity of media mixes right now. It feels less reliant on one big social media platform and more tailored to each brand and their community.
Totally agree. It’s refreshing to see brands trying new things and taking creative risks. OK last question (and my personal favorite) – what are your top five most used products?
- Material Coated Pan
- Hydracy water bottle (gifted to me by my best friend who was concerned I was not staying hydrated enough!)
- New Wash
- Blue light glasses (because of the sheer amount of time I spend in front of a screen)