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Seasonal Series


Meet Ali Madden, the Face Behind Customer Love

We’re excited to introduce a series of interviews with the Keap team. Read on to get to know the folks behind your candles!

Ever wonder who is behind the wonderful customer service at Keap? Meet Ali Madden! She is our all-star, Customer Love point person. When not responding to every Keaper's question or concern, Ali can be found frequenting green spaces and gardens in Brooklyn with her pup Max, practicing yoga, creating mindful rituals around writing and photography, and generally enjoying the sweet moments of solace nature brings in a big city.

Ali soaking up some afternoon sun outside the Keap studio in Kingston, NY. 

Hello Ali! Can you walk me through a typical day as the Community Lead at Keap and what that role entails?

I handle several roles as the Community Lead at Keap. My main role is addressing our Keap community's daily interactions, which we call “Customer Love.” That means I am managing all the emails that come through to our general Lab email and responding to those emails while resolving any issues. I make sure that everyone in our community is taken care of. It’s been a very fulfilling position because I feel like I'm constantly in a place where I get to sit down with a potential problem and almost always resolve it in a way that exceeds my expectations. 

The culture of Keap prioritizes their community, and that shows up in the way we think about problems; we're always trying to find a way to make sure that everyone is taken care of in the best way possible. 

 I also act as the main liaison between our Ops team (operations and candle-making team based in Kingston, NY), the Storytelling team, and the customer. Anytime we have any kind of inventory or logistics project we are working on, I am the person that is communicating with our Storytelling team and makes sure all teams are aware of what is going on from the customer’s side. That is fun for me, too, because I have a background in operations and working with customers, and I find a lot of fulfillment in being on both sides of those worlds. 

Many might not know this, but I've also taken on doing the photography for Keap. I have a background in photography, so this is something that gives me a really nice creative outlet in my role as well.

These and more of Ali's beautiful photography can be found on her website.

You mentioned elements you really enjoy about the Customer Love aspect of Keap at the beginning of your previous answer, but is there one area in your role that you enjoy most of all?

It’s hard to pin one area down in particular, but I really enjoy a couple of things. Like I said before, I love the photography aspect of it because that's something that I just love to do. It gives me a space to play, work with light, and create a visual story. 

Then in my role with customer love, there’s a sense of creativity in problem-solving. I believe my favorite part of the role, in general, is the interaction with the community. I get to experience firsthand the sense of connection with people I don't know, but I am reminded of the ability to connect with others through the space of Keap. I think this ability to connect is something that is easy to overlook. Sometimes customers send the kindest responses back to us out of the blue. We so rarely get to receive those kinds of affirmations in day-to-day life, and I find that they're really important in reminding us that we're not alone and that most people want to connect genuinely.

“I get to experience firsthand the sense of connection with people I don't know, but I am reminded of the ability to connect with others through the space of Keap.”

That's a beautiful response. On an entirely different note, what is your favorite Keap candle scent?

I've been waiting for this question because it's so hard to choose! The scents are very seasonal for me. At first, it was Wood Cabin and Northlands because I really enjoy those earthy, grounding scents, but as I progressed in my scent journey, I opened up to other scents that surprised me. 

I find it fascinating how scent affects the nervous system and how it can affect our mood. Right now, I’m gravitating towards Grapefruit & Yuzu because it is a very soft yet uplifting scent that is nice to have burning during the day.

You mentioned that you had a background in photography and operations, but can you speak a little bit more about what you were working on before you started at Keap?

I started working in the fashion industry right after college in New York City, leading to a career as a freelance stylist, which eventually progressed to a career in retail management. As I mentioned before, I have a background in photography, so I spent some years working in Los Angeles as a freelance photographer as well. I have always been drawn to companies that prioritize working with small brands and ethical suppliers, so it was a natural progression for me to find Keap. It was exciting to find Keap, which prioritizes a different way of working with ingredients, and suppliers and educating their community.

You said that you have lived in New York and Los Angeles, but where are you from originally?

I grew up in the Florida panhandle, a real hidden gem in the southern part of the U.S. I moved to NYC after college, and then my family moved to Southern California, so that's what brought me to LA for a little bit. I would say Los Angeles, Florida, and New York have become my primary homes in some way.

What do you love most about living in New York after having lived on both coasts?

Ohhh, New York City. She is exciting and also challenging. NYC is one of those places that I can't stay away from long enough as she's always pulling me back in. I live in Brooklyn and have lived here on and off since 2012. The neighborhood I currently live in, which falls at the Bushwick/Ridgewood, Queens border, is the main reason I love being here. There are a lot of ways you can get involved in community organizations. My area has local neighborhood gardens and is very family oriented, with sweet little parks nearby. The area I'm in is a bit more sleepy than other areas of Brooklyn and offers a nice respite from the pace of Manhattan. With that being said, I love everything that Brooklyn has to offer. I can walk out the door and grab a coffee, head to a film at an independent theater, take public transportation and embrace all the things that make the city a cultural hub. 

Ali and her partner David enjoy a picnic in Brooklyn's Prospect Park and some local greenery.

You spoke about local parks and neighborhood gardens, but what are other favorite ways you connect to nature in the city?

I am lucky enough to live in an area of Bushwick that has nice, big backyards. My partner and I live above a family that has a little garden in the backyard where they are growing peppers and pumpkins and have bees back there too. They even have a big compost bin. It’s amazing what they have done with a small space that could have easily been left barren - it’s now lush and abundant! It makes me reflect on what I have available to me right here in the city and what individuals are capable of if they want to bring some of the natural world to this concrete jungle.

Ali's pup Max looking very dapper and happy on a recent walk.

I also have a dog named Max, who gets me out of the house three times a day for a nice jaunt to our local park. He's always sniffing around little plants, and it gives me the opportunity to pause and reconnect to nature because he does it so organically. I also try to make a point of going to Prospect  Park as often as I can. I love going there to bike, walk around, or meet up with friends for a picnic. I also treasure going to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and always look forward to visiting the Ops team in Kingston, NY. Half of the Keap team is based out of that area, and it’s always a treat to connect with the team there amidst an area surrounded by natural beauty. 

Connecting to nature has become something foundational for me. It connects me back to myself, and in a city like Brooklyn, you have to get creative with how you do that.

This response ties into our next question related to reflecting on the past couple of years since the onset of the pandemic. How have the past couple of years brought about changes in your own life?

I think we are always changing and evolving as human beings, but something definitely shifted with the pandemic. Personally, being forced to slow down, even while working full-time through the pandemic, I was forced to slow down and connect with the creative part of myself and prioritize my passions more than I had in previous years. The pandemic allowed many people, myself included, to suspend some of the chaos and busyness and forced you to sit with yourself. It was definitely an overwhelming time when I reflect back on it - the complete lack of control in the beginning, but it also brought fruitfulness and abundance that was unexpected over time.

“I was forced to slow down and connect with the creative part of myself and prioritize my passions more than I had in previous years.”

Many things shifted for me in these last couple of years. For one, I completed yoga teacher training, which I had wanted to do for over ten years. This last year, everything finally lined up, and I dived into that, which was incredible. It was everything I was hoping for and more. It pushed me to speak in front of an audience, which has always been hard for me to do as a shy person. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, allowed me to understand my yoga practice in a deeper way, and gave me the tools to share that with others, which has been really fulfilling and aligned with my role at Keap. This yoga practice has fed into developing my daily tools and rituals that have become essential for me to live in a present, reflective way.

To continue this theme of reflection, as part of this last year, where did you go for your Keap summer sabbatical? What were some of your favorite memories from that trip?

This time was very special for me in that I married my partner. After we got married, we spent the two weeks of the summer sabbatical in Europe. We went to London, Paris, Berlin, and Sweden. I had never been to any of those cities before, so it was super exciting for me. It was definitely a whirlwind because we did it in two weeks and were taking trains to all these cities. It was definitely a time to go with the flow and have fun. Being immersed in all those new places, cultures, and languages was so inspiring. Getting out of my bubble and day-to-day routine was so needed. It gave me a different sense of energy and has propelled me to think about things differently. I can’t wait to travel again soon. 

Ali and David enjoying themselves in Paris.

You mentioned a daily yoga practice, but what other practices or rituals have you developed in your life?

I have a daily yoga practice that is something I have had for quite a long time. Similar to being in nature, it has become something I need to do and strive to do every day. It reminds me that if my body feels off, I have this practice I can turn to to get back in touch with my body and reconnect with myself. It reminds me that this is my story and my life, and yoga is the practice that helps me get in touch with my mind and body, and I am so grateful for that. 

The other practice I have developed is free-form writing first thing in the morning when I wake up. From the perspective of checking in with your thoughts, that has been really helpful for me to move thoughts out of my head and into a different outlet. Practicing yoga for my body and writing for my mind are helpful rituals I have turned to, especially these last couple of years. 

As we're rapidly approaching the new year, is there anything you're looking forward to or reflecting on in particular?

It’s funny, in the west, January is often when the new calendar year begins, and many people make affirmations and goals, but fall has always felt like the start of the new year to me. I have always thought of it as the time school begins and all the preparation that goes into that. This time always feels like more of a period of setting intentions and goals. When I reflect on things, which is a huge question, I reflect on gratitude. I have been reflecting on the fact that it is easy to be convinced of a scarcity mindset, but when I really think about what I have, I have so much and am really grateful for all I have. I have been trying to remind myself of that because it can be easy to spiral into a mindset that everything is wrong, but when I pause, I can see my life is full. Thinking of the year ahead, I have been reflecting on wanting to push myself more - to be unapologetic, as it were. The more you accept yourself unapologetically, the more you can accept other people. That is something I am trying to embody more as a person.

More of Ali's photography can be seen here

More of Ali's photography can be seen here

Interviewed by Tess Murdoch


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