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The Faces of Dame Traveler: Interview with Stephy, co-founder of Moonlit Skincare

Hi Stephanie, thanks so much for chatting with us today! Could you tell us a little about your story and what you do, for anyone who doesn’t know you yet?

Hi! I’m Stephy, co-founder of Moonlit Skincare. Born and raised in Southern California, I attended Parsons School of Design and lived in NYC for 8 years before returning back to the West Coast. I worked in the corporate ecommerce and beauty industry (Dr. Dennis Gross, Kerastase, Obliphica, Shu Uemura) prior to launching Moonlit in 2017 with my former Parsons colleague Kriszta.

Dedicated to overnight skincare and sleep wellness (think overnight facial oils, silk eyemasks, pillowcases,), Moonlit has been featured in Marie Claire, VOGUE, WWD, and is carried by over 50+ retailers in the US and Canada, including Urban Outfitters and Pop-In@Nordstrom.

We believe in bolstering communities and linking arms with production partners around the globe who align with our core values.

I’m the proudest of our genuine relationships with our partners (from import/export team, production, silk manufacturer, packaging), the fact that we remain self-funded, but above all, Kriszta and I remain best friends!

Tell us a bit more about the trip that changed your life.

Moonlit was created during a time where dreaming was a way to ride out the current pain. It was 2016, the US was buckling under the weight of a frenzied presidential election news cycle as well as a sudden emergence of rabid misogyny and racism. It did not help that my corporate 9-5 job at the time was a stone’s throw from Trump Tower.

All year, I created a space of solace (and mentally escaped for an hour or so a day) around this little indie beauty project in a folder titled ‘moonlighting gig’ which eventually contributed to the development of the name. It looked like a smattering of design doodles, mish-mosh moodboards, and lots of pricing charts; but this microcosm of sleep-focused beauty was everything that I needed in a sleepless city.

With my cortisol levels drained and the sheer, gritty stress of corporate grind, and polarizing noise around me, I booked a very spontaneous (but at the same time, long overdue) solo flight to Bali. No computer, no hotel plans, no social media, and a terribly packed carry-on.

Instead of traditional journaling, I created lists (what feels good vs. what doesn’t, travel bucket lists, my favorite foods, 10 people I treasure the most, movies I love, what my ideal morning looks like). Being alone allowed me to hear my thoughts, turn the dial down on external noise, and prioritize what I wanted to accomplish. While I was there, I was able to connect with a female-owned manufacturing lab through a friend whom I worked with during my corporate beauty years.

The lab we work with in Bali is an embodiment of everything that Kriszta and I believe in: employing and empowering women, sustainable, zero carbon emissions (handmade), a strong commitment in preserving a community and not automating away.

It felt good to invest our own funds into a place that had a strong foothold on bettering the lives of women and gave us the fuel to continue building out the brand, eventually launching mid-2017.

What has been your favorite destination so far and why?
Besides Ubud in Bali, I’ll say The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

It’s a corner of the universe that is so well-preserved and respected. There are lots of rules (the number of tourists per season is limited, a certified guide must take you on specific paths, stay 6 ft away from animals) but it was clear that’s what it takes to sustainably support its wildlife and terrain. It’s made me think differently about the way I should conduct myself back on US soil at National Parks and in nature in general.

As the writer G.K. once said: “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”

Through your experiences, what has travel taught you? What lessons does travel bring to those who experience it?

When I was 10 years old, I spent a summer in South Korea. It was difficult to connect with other kids there because I didn’t speak the language and was an outsider in the truest way. One day, I was listening to my walkman in the park, studying the CD case, and a girl my age comes over to me and asks excitedly, “Britney Spears?” It blew my mind because well, I didn’t think people knew about Britney Spears outside of the US (this is pre-internet) and certainly not in South Korea. I mean, how famous was this woman?

Totally different upbringings, languages, continents, views on governments, spice tolerances but yes, this gal and I listened to “Stronger,” bonded, and became friends. We found an overlap and were way more open with each other in accepting new ideas, trading CDs, eating Korean ice lollies, and teaching each other our homelands’ funniest words.

Just because something is different, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. We can open our eyes to new methods, novel designs, and figure out what works best for us moving forward.

As a side note, I think about K-pop’s influence on the world and smile about that Britney summer.

Have you ever faced any hard circumstances or issues as a female travelever?

I’d say the most common challenge I’ve faced is not being taken seriously because I’m a solo Asian female traveler but oh boy, I’ve definitely learned to speak up for myself over the years because –heck, who’s going to?

What piece of advice would you give to new female entrepreneurs?

Protect your creativity. Nurture it because it is a valuable extension of yourself when it’s integral to your work. Be gentle and give yourself the breathing room to grow and navigate yourself. Time is a tool and you can learn how to preserve your energy, sanity, and train yourself to be as efficient for the long run.

How do you think you will view travel moving forward?

The reasons why I travel are distilled down to discovery and connection and I don’t think it’s mandatory to get on a flight to find those.

During this lockdown, I’ve been looking up flights and creating itineraries just for kicks. Destinations range from 1 hour by car to 16 hours on plane. I don’t care if it’s silly or deemed futile. Let me dream. It’s getting me through this time.

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