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Women in Wellness: “Never let anyone tell you that you can’t break the mold” with Dr. Jenelle Kim and Chaya Weiner

Never let anyone tell you that you can’t break the mold: When we started formulating natural products we were ahead of our time. When we started manufacturing herbal products we were ahead of our time, and when we started developing CBD products in 2012 we were ahead of our time. With being at the forefront […]

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Never let anyone tell you that you can’t break the mold: When we started formulating natural products we were ahead of our time. When we started manufacturing herbal products we were ahead of our time, and when we started developing CBD products in 2012 we were ahead of our time. With being at the forefront of industries in their infancy there were a lot of challenges in terms of consumer perception and education. However, knowing that we were on the right path sustained us, and once these industries caught up we were established and reputable.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jenelle Kim, DACM, L.Ac. Dr. Kim is founder & formulator for JBK Wellness Labs. Dr. Kim is carrying on the medical knowledge and wisdom of her lineage, which is rooted in the teachings of the great Dr. Heo Jun (1539–1615), a royal doctor of the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910). Dr. Heo Jun compiled the Dongui Bogam, a 25-volume medical encyclopedia, that was completed in 1613, with its basic theories based on the Yellow Emperors Inner Classic (Huangdi Neijing). Dr. Kim is the first female in her lineage to hold the treasury of her family’s proprietary Bi Bong® formulas that have been passed down for centuries and the first to share them on such a large scale. In order to preserve the medical history of her family and to further her love of medicine and her understanding of the human mind and body, Dr. Kim received her Doctorate in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. She is honored to have studied and practiced abroad training with some of the most respected doctors and herbologists of our time. Dr. Kim is devoted to integrating the medical wisdom and expertise of East Asia with the advancements of modern technology in order touch and positively affect the lives of others. She is dedicated to her role of empowering women to be everything that they wish, and her mission to create a better world for the generations to come. Dr. Kim raises her children in Southern California and travels at home and abroad speaking on topics of Eastern medicine and philosophy. Dr. Kim is committed to educating through public speaking and has been featured in publications, including Forbes, Allure, Pop Sugar, and Good Morning La La Land. She is proud to serve as a leader in the field of Traditional Oriental Medicine. Like other well-respected practitioners of medicine, she is deeply dedicated to caring for the human mind, body, and spirit.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was born to do what I do. I come from a long lineage of Traditional Oriental Medical doctors and herbologists, who have dedicated their lives to understanding medicine and the human mind and body in order to help us achieve our healthiest condition possible.

For my entire life it has been my wish to make a difference in the world. As an American born daughter of a Korean father and American mother, I learned from an early age the power behind centuries-old medicine and principles passed down from my mentors — the same principles that push me to continuously live a life of meaning, purpose, gratitude and giving.

As my mentor taught me, it takes one match to light a thousand — one person truly can make a difference in this world. I am fortunate in this lifetime to have the opportunity to share formulas the world that have the power to truly improve one’s mental and physical condition, and what is more important than our health. These secret formulas have been handed to through my lineage from generation to generation for centuries and were once only reserved for the royal families of East Asia.

This was not any easy endeavor especially considering that I was frequently told that no one would be interested in all-natural herbal formulations, no one would understand the beauty secrets of the East (interesting seeing that Korean Beauty is now the most renowned in the world J). I have had to break through many barriers and I have had to earn the responsibility of being the first women to ever have the honor of guarding my lineage’s secret formulas, which had never before been shared on such a large scale.

Since I was 4 I learned the understanding of the human mind and body from my mentor. I simply started with secret formulas in my head and a huge wish to take these formulas into the world so that they I could help as many people as possible with them. I went to the Bishop’s School in San Diego (so I am a native J!), studied at Pitzer College (of the Claremont Colleges), and received my doctorate’s degree in Traditional Oriental Medicine after 6 years of studying (and that was on the fast track!). I went on to study and practice both here in the US and abroad in East Asia. While going to school I began developing high-end, all-natural products for the high-end spa industry. It was at the age of 20 when I started building the first company that brought these secret herbal formulas to the world. I would wake up at 6am to formulate and develop innovating products and creating the brand that would bridge ancient wisdom of the east with the technologies and developments of the west in formulation, I would then go to school to study my medicine, treat patients in clinic and return around 9pm to continue working into the wee hours of the night.

What started as a small two-person team in a laboratory in San Diego, has now grown into a team of 20+ employees, and the company is ranked in the top 1000 growth companies in the manufacturing sector based on Inc 5000’s 2018 rankings. Growth has been organic and steady and JBK has grown in concert with its client base. Its 50+ customers are carried on the shelves of Neiman Marcus, Whole Foods Market, Urban Outfitters, CVS, Kroger, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Four Seasons Hotels, multinational direct-selling companies, and other locations. The business model is unique in that the products produced by JBK’s contain natural proprietary herbal formulas, which have been handed down from generation-to-generation and are only available from JBK. Therefore, there is a built-in mechanism whereby JBK’s clients are able to have truly special products from everyone else on the market, and the products cannot be duplicated by other manufacturers.

Together with my husband — Craig Nandoo, we built a strong all-natural herbal manufacturing lab. After many years of hard work and breaking common molds that spanned all beauty/wellness industries, I now travel the world educating on herbal medicine, and I overlook our labs as we continue to create powerful products that include: skincare, body care, topicals, dietary supplements and pet products.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

One of the most interesting things I have noticed since I began leading my company is how quickly everything can change. It is vital to constantly “go with the flow” or as I say, “move with the Tao.” I have watched the direction of our company change so many times, because in order to be successful I believe that you have to constantly move with the twists and turns of opportunity. My mentor always taught me, there are only so many times in life when the door of opportunity shows up — sometimes its 3 times in life, and sometimes it is only once. So, when you know it is there it is so important to seize the opportunity, to be open-minded, to think at least 5 steps ahead. By continuing to follow these principles I have experienced time and time again that in one year everything can change.

One particular moment in time when I definitely saw that expanding our minds and ideas to embrace something totally different than what was planned was in 2012, when my lab entered the CBD industry. I initially turned down the offer to develop formulas for what are now the pioneers of the industry, but when I saw that they had clear intentions of helping others with this powerful herbal ingredient, which has been known in Traditional Oriental Medicine for over 4000 years, I committed to doing my part in helping the world understand CBD correctly.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first began developing and formulating herbal products I was in charge of formulating and developing the products, as well as marketing and promoting. I remember our office (of 5 people) receiving an order of 6 products and frantically running back and forth from the lab to the sales office, manufacturing and bottling one more bottle of cleanser only to run back to the sales office (about 45 feet) to send out the order. I had no idea what I was doing, but I did know that I had incredible formulas that I had to get out to the world and nothing would stop me in doing so. So, we figured it out. Fast forward almost 20 years and it is not uncommon for us to manufacture and ship orders greater than 100,000 units at a time.

I learned the obvious since the beginning — perfecting and scaling up the formulas for large clients around the world. However, the most important thing that this memory constantly graces me with, is the grounding action of perspective. I am always grateful for any opportunity that arises, because I never forget how everything began, and when things become overwhelming or we have to troubleshoot I take a moment to remember moments such as the one above.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We truly stick to our root and purpose. Every product created by JBK Wellness Labs (named after my great grandfather) is rooted in the rare formulas that have been handed down in my lineage. These formulas have been closely guarded and handed down from generation to generation for their ability to help people achieve their most optimal condition. I have always felt compelled to share this knowledge so that all people are aware of the ways in which Eastern Medicine, philosophy and movement can help us to improve our daily lives. At JBK, we are committed to advising the integration of Eastern and Western philosophy and medicine in ways that are simple to apply within your daily life. After all, I am a walking representation of East and West, as the daughter of a Korean father and an American mother.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are constantly working on new and exciting projects from skin care to body care formulations, dietary supplements, and muscle and joint health formulas. At the moment, we are working with some truly incredible and very renowned people and companies to bring CBD and herbal medicine into the mainstream world. Right now we are truly in a spectacular moment in time where I clearly see the minds of so many expanding and wanting to integrate the brilliant medical systems of both the east and west. This has always been my wish, as it is my belief that the best doctor/practitioner will always utilize whatever possible to make sure that their patient is truly taken care of to the best of our ability. I see our world heading to a state where people are truly educated and aware of their minds and bodies, and are therefore able to know what is good for them. Nothing is more empowering than this, because nothing is more important than our health. We only have one mind and body in this life, we do not have spare lives.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

It is vital to have a clear direction in order to lead, but it is also necessary to move with the Tao, because the one constant in this life is change; if a leader cannot move correctly with change there will never be success.

I believe that one of the most important skills as a leader is to have the ability to balance situations vs trying to force them or back away from them. Knowing when to be hard and when to be soft, because often being soft can be equally powerful.

The top 3 principles I follow are:

1) Set your mind/intention and commit to your goal

2) Plug into the Tao (balance with the situations that you find yourself in and manifest the situations that you wish to happen)

3) Be grateful

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Always come from a grounded place. This means that as a leader I believe you are required to “see the whole picture,” to never choose sides and to always see where the other person(s) is standing.

I also strongly believe that one of the most important roles as a leader is to encourage, motivate and deeply care. At JBK, my team is my family…an extension of my lineage and the very reason we are able to continue sharing the amazing formulas that have been handed down for centuries with the world.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My father and my greatest mentor. He was my everything. He was a man of deep compassion, wisdom and perspective. Above anything he taught me that the most important thing in life is to be a good person and then everything will unfold as it should.

He was certainly strict, I was raised with much tradition, duty, and respect for my elders and for my lineage. However, he always allowed me to find my own path. Just before I decided to study Eastern Medicine and share our lineages’ formulas with the world he asked me one simple question, “do you want to be special and achieve something in this life? To make this world better?” I of course answered, “yes.” To which he responded, “then never be afraid to be different and when everyone else is sleeping you keep moving.” I have never stopped.

I lost my father at 33. He has never stopped teaching me though. The lessons he taught me while he was physically here have actually reached me even deeper than they ever did while he was on this earth. I now have to stand solely on my own two feet, moving through experiences and obstacles and having to be very in tune and connected to myself and to the universe. By being this way, I am able to hear his voice in my mind’s eye guide me along my path.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Our lab partakes in charitable giving with a specific focus on women and children. I constantly donate my time to continue to educate on herbal medicine and specifically CBD with hopes that the benefits of herbal medicine are known to as many people as possible.

Of course, the entire purpose behind our lab is sharing the powerful formulas with the ultimate wish to help improve the health and wellness of as many people as possible.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Age never matters: At times I was not initially taken as seriously as I wished, because I was young. I never felt the need to prove myself but I was grateful for the fact that as these individuals delved deeper into what I had to share they did take it seriously.

Never let anyone tell you that you can’t break the mold: When we started formulating natural products we were ahead of our time. When we started manufacturing herbal products we were ahead of our time, and when we started developing CBD products in 2012 we were ahead of our time. With being at the forefront of industries in their infancy there were a lot of challenges in terms of consumer perception and education. However, knowing that we were on the right path sustained us, and once these industries caught up we were established and reputable.

Entrepreneurship is a never-ending challenge: As you grow, the challenges get more complex, but you also become better adapted at overcoming them.

“Know when to hold them & know when to fold them” J: In life I find that it is so important to be fluid even in tough situations. Instead of being like a stiff board that is hard, taut and inflexible, be like that of bamboo — strong but flexible so as not to break…with knowledge, experience and wisdom that softly moves with the rhythm of the Tao — the Universe.

Do not be afraid to be a strong woman: I am petite but I have a strong personality and much conviction and passion for what I wish to bring to this world. I have learned that while it is necessary to balance with the situations I am in and the people around me, I do not have to mute my strength.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Work tirelessly but be productive and have faith in the universe (regardless of what religion or belief system you follow). There is only so much in our control.

I truly believe that that if you put your heart and mind into what you wish to achieve, always be a good person and stay on a path of goodness you can accomplish anything. Always be compassionate to others. Regardless of our differences we are all human; so instead of focusing on the differences, focus on the similarities — on what bring us all together as one humankind. There is nothing more powerful than connectedness from a place of good.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Where there is a will there is a way. If I did not follow this, none of my wishes of bringing good to the world, continuing my lineage of medicine, and taking care of my loved ones could be achieved. If I can visualize it, I can get to the goal. I apply this practice constantly no matter the size of my goal.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo. One particular quote of hers that resonates with me is: “Just because you are CEO, don’t think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organization. I’ve never forgotten that.”

Thank you for all of these great insights!

— — — — —

About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click here to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.

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