Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms Meet a Mom series, where we celebrate our amazing local mamas while providing inspiration to moms alike! As we’re in the thick of “lock-down” mode in all parts of the state and country, now is literally the best time to keep the spirit of “mompreneurship” going full steam ahead. This week’s Meet a Mom is Michigan transplant, Karen Orlich. Karen is the founder and CEO of k.o. ecolife, maker of THE POWCH!™, a reusable, collapsible food and drink pouch-bottle. Her website is also a sustainable living blog, providing readers useful tips to greener living and healthy lifestyle choices. Plus, don’t miss the exclusive discount below. Welcome, Karen!
Hi Karen! Please introduce yourself. Where are you from?
I was born in Cadillac (a small town in northern MI) and developed a love for nature at a very young age. After graduating from Michigan State University, I moved to Chicago for work and have been here for over 20 years!
You’re a mama! How many kiddos do you have and how old are they?
I’m a proud mama of a 9 year old son.
What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?
Seeing the world through the eyes of a kid again—learning how to live in the moment, making fun a priority, and acting silly like no one is watching.
Any mom “hacks” you can pass forward?
Gotta mention THE POWCH!™ (the product I invented) here as my best hack for making everyday life easier…. It’s a reusable, collapsible food and drink pouch-bottle. More details below…
Any favorite apps right now?
- Spotify – I love music and use every day for mental breaks, meditation, and drowning out background noise when working in shared office spaces.
- Hootsuite – Free app for business, social media scheduling. I also use to search hashtags for curating health, fitness and wellness articles to share with our community.
- abcya for ‘fun’ kid learning app. My son actually says, “yay!” when I give him screen time for this!
We all have ’em, what is your least favorite mom job?
Dealing with kid wrath when screen time is over.
One thing people would be surprised to know about you…
I really have no ‘surprises’ hidden but I aspire to be able to do 10 pull ups in a row (I thought this would be easy but it is so NOT)…and complete a triathlon when I turn 50. I’m putting that out to the universe now so I bring it to fruition!
It’s time to reminisce. What was your most memorable family vacation and why?
An all-inclusive resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico for obvious reasons! But mainly because it was with my son’s best friend and his parents who are also our good friends. And, the Kids Club (aka any time child care) helped a lot too!!
You are a mompreneur! Tell us about your business!
Yes! I am the founder and CEO of k.o. “knock-out” ecolife, which was inspired by green living with a gut wrenching desire to make a difference. As I mentioned above, I invented THE POWCH!™ It’s a reusable, collapsible food and drink pouch-bottle. One of my favorite uses is providing a convenient, on-the-go snack option. It can hold smoothies, applesauce, yogurt, etc. which are all easy to eat with the built in straw. Or, you can fill it with solid foods like trail mix, apple slices, and carrot sticks. It then collapses to two inches once you’ve eaten the contents. I always have one in my bag or purse to use as a lightweight water bottle (great for travel!) or leftovers at restaurants (I despise styrofoam and wasting food).
THE POWCH!™ is proudly ‘Made in USA’ using recyclable, eco-friendly materials and environmentally friendly processes. And, every sale supports kids and the environment through our Giving Back program (we’re currently partnering with Purple Asparagus which educates kids, families, and communities about eating that’s
good for the body and the planet).
THE POWCH!™ was created as an eco-friendly alternative to the 2.5 BILLION disposable food pouches that end up in U.S. landfills each year. Its uses have expanded to a collapsible drink bottle, hot and cold compress, toiletry container, condiment dispenser and more! Pick up a few for your family! Use coupon code CNSM20 for 20% off your purchase. Code valid until 4/30/2020 at midnight CST.
k.o. ecolife truly has evolved out of my love of nature, health, and fitness! The product website is also an eco blog that provides green living and wellness tips. Head over to my Youtube video to learn more!
What was your biggest hurdle or road block with regards to designing and getting THE POWCH!™ on the market?
Initially, perfecting the process for producing THE POWCH!™ We are committed to using materials that are eco-friendly and FDA certified; as well as, an assembly process with the least environmental impact (i.e. no adhesives, all recyclable plastics, BPA/PVC free, and locally/USA sourced).
When that was finalized, the biggest hurdle then became finding trustworthy, reliable partners for material supply and manufacturing. It has taken years to find the right suppliers (and secondary suppliers) and we now have an excellent manufacturing partner in the Chicagoland area!
What is your career background? Did this play an important role in starting k.o. ecolife?
I began my career as an Investment Analyst for GE Capital. A generic title for an auditor who verified the value of assets for loans. I advanced to Business Development as a Vice President and learned sales, marketing, and relationship management. I never wanted to be in ‘banking’ but little did I know how significant this experience would be in building a business acumen to eventually interview suppliers, evaluate contract manufacturers, understand financials, develop projections/business plans, assess market risks, etc. for my own business!
What are some of your proudest moments with your business where you said “wow, I did that”?
Truthfully, I never feel the “wow I did that” moments because I’m always trying to achieve the next step and milestone. I think overall, I’m proud of my blogging and social media outreach to educate people on health and green living EVERY day. It is also fun to see others using my product and be able to say, “hey, I invented that!”.
How important is it for you to have a career outside of being a mother?
Extremely important for me! I was a bit lost after having my son. I was home for nine months before going back to work part time. As hard as it was to be away from him, I realized how much I need the mental stimulation and outlet for creativity and conversation!
What’s on the horizon for your business? Future aspirations, plans….
We are working on production scalability and entering new markets through online retailers (including Amazon) very soon! I also have several new product ideas to expand to THE POWCH!™ product line including multiple sizes (currently 12oz), new caps for expanded uses, and additional complimentary products.
Interested in supporting a small business owner and helping the environment? Win, win! Head over to the website for more information or to make a purchase. Use coupon code CNSM20 for 20% off your purchase. Code valid until 4/30/2020 at midnight CST.