Having opened her bath and beauty products store about one year ago in Emmaus, entrepreneur Khine Alkhal knew she wanted to offer people more than a place to buy things.
She wanted to offer a welcoming space for people in the community to talk while encouraging and empowering the struggling women she met and the survivors of abuse to gain independence.
Alkhal of Macungie has been doing just that with Khineder Creations LLC, a chemical-free bath and beauty products business she founded, owns and operates.
Penn State Lehigh Valley hosted Alkhal as the second speaker for its “LaunchBox Ladies: From Passion to Profit” series at its Upper Saucon Township campus Thursday. The program offers women entrepreneurs the chance to speak about their experiences, starting their own businesses, sharing not only the successes they’ve achieved but the challenges they faced, and, often, continue to face.
Nichola Gutgold, professor of communication arts and sciences at Penn State Lehigh Valley, interviewed Alkhal about her experiences and how they influenced her life as an entrepreneur.
Alkhal said she wanted to participate in this event because she was very interested in how women, particularly those from minority backgrounds, get the inspiration to start their businesses.
“I would like to target people from diverse backgrounds who feel marginalized because of their skin color, to encourage them to start their own business,” Alkhal said, shortly before joining the stage. “I’ve been very blessed with the community support. I have been very fortunate.”
NATURAL, AFFORDABLE, ACCESSIBLE
With the growing interest in healthy eating, Alkhal thought the same concept could be applied to what people put on their skin.
All of her products are 100 percent natural and 100 percent chemical-free with no preservatives.
She cooks all products from recipes from her home country and locally sourced organic produce.
She wants people to view chemical-free products as products that really work and that are affordable and accessible.
Alkhal was born in Myanmar, a country in Southeast Asia, where she said she was a victim of sexual abuse as a child. She went on to earn her Ph.D. in human security from the University of Tokyo.
While traveling the world as a humanitarian worker, she came across many survivors of abuse in sex, drug and human trafficking and wanted to find a way to help these victims.
Working with journalists, volunteers and others, she said was able to get “inside the ring” and get offenders in jail.
“That’s how I found my mission,” Alkhal said.
STARTED WITH $2,000
She arrived in the United States in 2013 and decided to start her business, which began with building her own website.
“I started my business with $2,000,” she said.
Alkhal, who has lived in Tokyo for most of her life, she said she loves the lifestyle of the Lehigh Valley.
Emmaus Main Street Initiative also supported her with kindness, hospitality and warmth, she added.
Alkhal also knew she wanted to give back to the community, so she employed people who suffered from abuse. While she does not have the capacity to employ all of them, she always offers them hope.
“When you open your doors, you find those women come to you,” she said. “I also invite men, too. They find it welcoming and they come in and they talk.”
Her advice for those starting out?
It pays to start saving, know your challenges and how many hours you can work.
“Do not let anything define you for what you are not,” Alkhal said.
Some of the barriers to getting started are time and finances, she added.
“I think you need to have a very clear understanding of how available you are,” Alkhal said. “It’s easier to set up a budget to suit your comfort and your challenges in the meantime,” Alkhal said.
PURSUE YOUR PASSION
As a busy mom with a 4-year-old son, she knows running a business can be both challenging and rewarding.
She wants to encourage all women and men of all ages to pursue their passion.
“Don’t let age stop you from what you want to do, to turn your hobby into a profit,” Alkhal said.
“I see myself employing more women and men that feel they don’t have a place in the world.”
Tina Richardson, chancellor of Penn State Lehigh Valley, said the program strives to develop the entrepreneurial mindset in students by bringing women to campus who are doing great things in the community and have unique stories to tell.
“Their struggles and victories transcend any gender or industry,” Richardson said. “You will in fact, hear experiences that anyone can relate to.”