A DEEP DIVE INTO SOCIAL JUSTICE AND COVID-19 FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF PHARMACIST & ENTREPENEUR KUN YANG, CEO & CO-FOUNDER OF PRICKLEE

By Elisabeth Morgan

BOSTON– What happens when a team of 5 pharmacists take their passion for healthcare and entrepreneurship and make a business? It turns out that they’d come up with a whole new superfruit water made from cactus ingredients. They call it Pricklee.

 In 2018 these 5 pharmacists realized that there wasn’t a drink that could help them hydrate in the way they were seeking, at least not without worrying about artificial flavors, calories, and taste. According to their about page, one of their founders grew up in, “Lebanon eating prickly pears – a delicious cactus superfruit usually found in desert climates that contained everything they were looking for,” the rest is really history.

Although Pricklee is a relatively new small business, they’ve been navigating the struggles of 2020 extraordinarily well.

Pricklee Co-Founder & CEO, Kun Yang, said, “2020 has been a rollercoaster, but we’ve been able to keep momentum and grow our brand, build our community, and gain some serious traction for the brand. Pricklee is doing just fine, and we’re ready to adjust with the CPG climate for the rest of 2020 and beyond!”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic really began, Pricklee had plans to reach new customers through demonstrations with a variety of different people including store managers and grocery buyers and distributors.

But after the lockdown began, they were actually able to focus on a new business strategy they already had in the works. Kun said, “Pricklee was well-positioned to grow during this time, since we were already in the process of shifting our growth channels to e-commerce. With the lockdown, it’s actually allowed us to buckle-down and apply even more pressure to get it right.”

With a new normal among us in the wake of COVID-19, Kun said, “Business will shift to a new normal because the general zeitgeist of consumerism has changed. Shopping habits, preferences, expectations have all been adjusted, and new channels are being developed and discovered daily.”

He continued, “The retail landscape has really shifted, and it really may never be the same again. We’ve really shifted our business online and spend a majority of our time working with our partners to grow the business across our numerous business channels. We also invest plenty of time building our online community, The Cactus Club!”

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Pricklee and the COVID-19 pandemic is that the founders are pharmacists, meaning that they’re very sympathetic of frontline workers and the science proven to help limit the spread of the virus.

The 5 Founders of Pricklee

“Pricklee was founded by pharmacists, so we understand the importance of social distancing, mask-wearing, testing, and sanitization. We limit in-store visits to a minimum, while keeping it contained within 1-2 individuals on our team. We all work remotely, and even supply grocery managers with extra facemasks to keep them stocked throughout the pandemic! We have completely omitted all in-store demos and follow strict sanitization procedures throughout the fulfillment process. Employees are required to wear face-masks, and practice hand-washing before and after interacting with Pricklee product,” said Kun.

Pricklee’s support of frontline workers has not just been verbal; they have followed through in action. In the beginning of this pandemic they started a campaign called #Hydration4Health in which they were able to round up their Boston influencer network to raise awareness about pharmacy workers on the frontlines. Each story share of the message resulted in a donated sampler pack of Pricklee to pharmacy workers, additionally they really focused their efforts on independent “mom and pop” type pharmacies.

Kun explained, “Pharmacy workers are the often forgotten health heroes that brave the frontlines day-in, day-out. They’re often the first line of defense, and don’t get the recognition they should for all of their efforts and dedication. We just wanted to give back to our colleagues, spread some love, and share with them all of the supportive messages that our IG community sent their way.”

 Of course, COVID-19 isn’t the only event that has made 2020 historic. Throughout this year we’ve seen a plethora of social justice activism in a way we’ve never seen it before. Kun said on this subject, “We are a minority-owned business, and take it to heart to authentically represent ourselves as leaders in the CPG [consumer packaged goods] -world. We believe we have a responsibility as well as an opportunity to leverage our growing platform to support social justice, and build our business which includes staff, vendors, and external partnerships around underprivileged workers – namely minorities and females.”

 If you’d like to support Pricklee you can buy their products here and follow them on Instagram @drinkpricklee.

—-

Our team here at VeganZine is dedicated to holding our fellow vegan businesses, as well as ourselves, accountable for following through in action to support not just the Black Lives Matter movement, but all racial and social justice movements. We like to remind others that educating ourselves on racism and not experiencing it firsthand is a privilege, and that these actions should be considered the bare minimum. 

We encourage everyone to continue educating yourselves and others, speak out against injustice when you see it, join protests if you can (wear a mask!), donate, sign petitions, read books by Black authors, listen to podcasts by Black creators, support your local Black owned businesses, spread information, and constantly check to make sure your veganism is intersectional. 

Additionally, the VeganZine team is actively seeking BIPOC voices from the New England community, please email hello@theveganzine.com if you are interested in writing for us! 

Stay safe!