This beautiful sweetheart gives with her whole heart- in her business and the rest of her life.
Her ‘secret cocktail?’
1 oz. Her Spirit Vodka (which gives HALF back to women entrepreneurs)
2 0z. HEART
1 0z. FIRE- oh, yeah- she’s got a fire in her, and it’s pushing her to be the best she can be!
Kjersten Merila is the owner of Her Spirit Vodka, a Minneapolis based company that gives half back to Her. Check her out @herspiritvodka and her husband’s Her Spirit Podcast which spotlights women in all stages of business ownership.
Here’s our little convo- we talk beauty, empowerment, and the fire that makes her the incredible human I have the pleasure of knowing!
S: What’s your definition of beauty?
K: I feel like my definition of beauty has changed as I’ve gotten older- I would have had more of a vain response 10, 20 years ago. Once I get to know the person, that’s what beauty is. It’s not the clothing that she’s wearing, not your hair or make-up – it’s, to me, a warm smile and a kind heart, and that just speaks volumes-
Someone who can laugh at themselves and not care if someone else might be judging them or I love the statement: dance like no one’s watching.
I think someone who can dance to music that no one else can hear even though everyone is watching- those people are just beautiful to me! I strive to be like that.
It’s definitely an internal thing for me.
S: When do you feel the most beautiful?
K: When I’m the least done up is when I feel the best- You know, I’m walking out of the gym, I’m over-heated, yesterday I had heat rash all over my arms- my make-up was smeared, I was not ‘looking’ beautiful, but I felt it!! I felt good!!
Or Steve and I have climbed a mountain in CO and you just look like you’ve been run over by a MAC truck but you feel incredible.
S: That’s awesome- that reminds me of one of my favorite memes:
(Stroller Warriors Blog)
Looking beautiful has nothing to do with feeling beautiful-
K: I feel like on days where I’m having a really good hair day, or I really like my outfit, I might feel more confident but I certainly don’t feel any more beautiful…
S: It sounds like they’re going to be similar for you- but what makes you feel the most empowered?
K: Kinda what I just talked about, exercising, pushing myself to do physical activity beyond what I feel like my body can handle- like if I’m going to go run a mile (people are probably going to laugh at that) but if I run a mile and then go an extra half-mile- or just push it a little bit, that makes me feel empowered and good about myself.
And along with that comes self-acceptance! You know, like, you aren’t going to run a marathon right out of the gate, you aren’t going to lose 10 lbs overnight… when I can logically talk myself through that and tell myself that each day I’ll be able to get better.
Taking risks that other people are afraid to take…
S: Like what!?
K: Like, that’s another thing I’ve learned climbing that mountain in CO: people ask why would you do that? What do you get out of it?
It’s 7 hours of torture up a damn mountain! But the feeling you get at the top, it’s like,
holy shit, this is AMAZING. And when you get back down, you look back up and you’re like, I frickin’ did that! I climbed that thing! It’s very empowering.
Starting a business when everyone is like, that’s going to be too hard, you’re never going to succeed, there are a million different vodkas out there.
S: People say that stuff to you?
K: Yeah! So, when I was growing up it was like, you’re going to finish high school, you’re going to go to college, get a corporate job where you get a paycheck every Friday and health insurance and that’s what you’re going to do because that’s the safe road and the structure you need-
I was never encouraged to do what I’m doing right now.
So it’s a little unnerving, but every time we get one step closer to succeeding it’s like, I did it! Not like I wanna shove it down anybody’s throat because it’s not my personality-
but I certainly can’t wait for the day to say, ‘pretty awesome huh?’
And helping others is a big part of Her Spirit- the give-back is very empowering to me- even if it’s not financially- to be there as a cheerleader for people who might be going through a struggle- it’s not hard to be kind. And that, in turn, puts a smile on my face and makes me feel empowered.
S: That you put your BEST self into the world. I love that.
S: Who in your life inspires you?
K: My husband Steve inspires me the most- he’s taught me to see a different part of the world I never knew existed until I met him-
I’ve always lived, like I said, in a world that’s very structured, black and white. I studied biology and in the science world everything always has an answer- usually ‘A’ happens and then ‘B’ happens and then ‘C’ happens…
Steve has taught me that that’s not how a lot of the world is-
you don’t always have to have an answer, you don’t always have to have it planned out, and you know, be spontaneous! Go dance to that music in your head and who gives a shit who’s watching you.
I would never have started Her Spirit if it wasn’t for Steve- I’d still be in my grey cubicle, going home, walking my dog, sitting on the couch and staring at the TV-
I’ve never belonged to a gym before I met Steve!
And I’ve gotten closer to my parents and my friends because he’s helped me evaluate things in a different way-
He’s taught me to get a little better at standing up for myself-
I have a lot of work to do in all of these areas I’ve just mentioned– laughs
S: Don’t we all?
K: It’s a process!
Before I met Steve I would have said my parents (inspire me)- I’m super close to both of them, my Dad is just such a wonderful, caring, intelligent man that I learned so much from at an early age that I’ve carried into my adult life.
And my mother is super nurturing – exactly what a mom should be. They’ve definitely made me who I am.
S: How would you explain inner beauty vs. outer beauty and how are they connected?
K: Outer beauty to me is so hard to define,
For me, I want to look a certain way, I want to weigh a certain weight, I wanna fit into certain clothes- I guess that can be some form of outer beauty that I’m trying to achieve, right? Because I’ll feel better about myself and more confident- it’s a trickle down effect.
But when I look at others, I don’t care- as long as you’re a nice person and have quality characteristics I don’t care what you look like- you could have 4 eyeballs and I’d still be your friend!!
I think there is a connection because-
when I feel better about myself on the outside, I feel better on the inside, and therefore can project that to other people.
S: What drives/motivates you?
K: I struggle with this question and I don’t know why. Umm-
S: Okay, so don’t think about it too much- what motivates you- first thing that comes in your head! (watching Kjersten crunch through this question was like lighting a match to dry birch bark, her eyes lit up)…
K: I’m motivated by a ‘no’. Someone telling me, ‘you can’t do it, it’s never going to work’- that fuels my FIRE.
What drives me though…
K:It’s my integrity- it’s me saying I’m going to do this so I’m going to do it! If it’s meeting for coffee I’m going to be there- I don’t like flaky people, I don’t like FAKE people, if I say I’m going to do something I’ll do it.
I don’t want to let people down or disappoint people- so that’s probably another thing that drives me- I don’t like disappointing anybody. Even strangers.
S: So, you’re not doing things because you want recognition from them… that would actually make you really uncomfortable wouldn’t it?!
K: NO! Yes, it would. You’re right! I’m actually struggling with that with HerSpirit- and having my picture taken- I don’t like being in the spotlight, I don’t wanna be!
S: Why don’t you like being in the spotlight?
K: I don’t know- I don’t feel worthy enough! I’m going to bring this back to a business perspective-
and even if HerSpirit is hugely successful and we have this amazing give-back and we’re helping multiple women with this financial support- to me, I can always give more.
S: That’s so funny! It’s just interesting to notice that you’re doing this really awesome thing and you’re starting this company to help other women, and you still don’t feel worthy of the spotlight… I hear you say that even one day when you’re going to give thousands of dollars-
What I’m hearing is it’s never going to be enough- you can always do more-
And part of that is probably what is going to drive you in business to be better and better. I know because you and I have a similar personality type, BUT it’s really important to recognize where you are right now and how far you’ve come- because it’s amazing!!! And learn to celebrate your little successes too!! Because you ARE a part of the world, you are just like all of these other people that you recognize- so you deserve it too! (off my soapbox now…)
S: What do you want your legacy to be/what’s your message?
K: I don’t have children- so that’s made me start asking that same question. When my life is over- there’s no one else to continue my family legacy.
It’s like, I’ve got all these things I’ve inherited and who do I give them to and who do I tell my stories to? I struggle with that personally and Steve does too, so I think starting Her Spirit (has) become how we want to leave our legacy.
With this business, it really provides a platform for both of us to leave a legacy of doing good one drink at a time (It even says that on the website) -and that’s started to define me a little bit.
You know, let’s make this so big that people can’t not talk about it. That’s my dream. To just blow this out of the water and create that legacy of doing good.
Thanks Kjersten! You’re already blowing it out of the water- and your heart and spirit are so infused in your business, it’s hard NOT to talk about it!!
Look for Her Spirit vodka in stores and at your favorite bar this winter to give half back to Her.
Now it’s your turn! What’s your legacy or message for the world? Do you have a story to tell? I’d love to hear it! Shoot me an e-mail here.
OR leave a comment below!
Headshot photo: Rebecca Slater @byrebeccastudios