As a child growing up in Turkey, I loved to follow the Turkish Kolonya hospitality tradition by greeting guests in our home, sprinkling kolonya on their hands and serving chocolate or candies. When Covid-19 cases were on the rise and hand washing and sanitizing became extremely important, I shared the story about this wonderful Turkish tradition with Keith. He thought that would be a great culture to adopt in the USA.
We started talking about how many of the hand sanitizers on the market had a very unpleasant smell and a sticky texture. Kolonya would be perfect because it would be smooth and have a pleasant smell, too. Could we make it here at FHS, we wondered?
Keith said, “Why not?? What are the regulations? How do you make it? It’s not rocket science, right?”
That same weekend, Joe and Kris Thompson stopped by for a social distanced visit when Keith and I were working in the yard. They said there are a lot of shortages at the stores and it was getting very difficult to find supplies and hand sanitizing products. Kris said, “Why don’t we make some here at FHS?” Keith and I laughed and said we were thinking the same thing!
Keith and I, along with my daughter, Ilayda Wilson, started brainstorming a name for this future product. What would we call it? We want it to be superior to other products and clean hands as well as soap and water. We wanted it to smell nice, and not be sticky.
CLEAN you ….. CLEAN Y’ALL ….. CLEAN YA ….. KLEANYA …..YES!!!
KLEANYA welcomes KOLONYA!!!
I didn’t think of it at the time, but after Keith passed, it comforted me to know that Keith was at least aware of the name we had chosen, and I was so pleased that we spelled our new product with a “K” instead of a “C”.
We started calling all hand sanitizers “kleanYA.” Keith would often ask, when we got in the car after shopping, “Can you give me some KLEANYA?” I would hand him the bottle of hand sanitizer, and we would say together in a sing-songy way, “Let KLEANYA clean YOU!” Each time we would laugh at our cheesy, but catchy slogan. 😊
We were excited to get the ball rolling on our new project, but we were both very busy at work. We began by researching regulation, formulations and ingredients. We were pleased to find that the FDA, in light of the pandemic and increased need for sanitizing products, had relaxed many of the existing regulations and implemented temporary solutions to allow companies to rapidly produce sanitizing products.
Unfortunately, Keith contracted Covid-19 and passed away soon after. We were all devastated. As I began the grieving process, I realized that Keith and I had so many plans for our future, and kleanYA was one of those plans. I decided to continue on with those plans to keep his legacy going and keep him alive in my memories.
So, I laid out my plans to Joe and Kris. They were on board! (Well, Kris was from the beginning, but not necessarily Joe. Hahahaha!)
One of the things Keith and I had talked about doing was learning to sail. We both thought that was something we would enjoy. We had decided to take sailing classes with the dream that someday, we would live on a sailboat. From this dream, our logo was born. Our kleanYA team collaborated to come up with the logo design, and Meltem Dogan Yeler created the perfect end result!
Keith had beautiful handwriting. He would write in a cursive, italic style. When he doodled, he would usually make squares with diagonal lines to highlight important points. I wanted to use his writing style in the creation of our labels. I referred to his daily notes from his work as shown in the picture.
We gathered the required information for the labeling of hand sanitizers from the World Health Organization website. Kris drafted the preliminary label design incorporating Keith’s handwriting style in the text. Meltem artfully chose the most elegant fonts to represent his style on our final label design.
Joe and I worked on the market research and finalized our product offering in four sizes: 4 fl. oz., 16 fl. oz., 1 quart and 1 gallon. We also determined the details of the color and size of the label for each size. We decided to use a dark label for our white bottles, and a white label for our clear bottles. Dark blue/dark purple were among Keith’s favorite colors. We conveyed this to Meltem, and her choice was excellent.
OUR PRODUCT FAMILY LOOKED BEAUTIFUL!
KleanYA was a product of family and friends. When it came time to choose a photographer for our website, we chose Melissa Cam Rhyne. She is the daughter of my longtime friends, Nihal and Sureyya Cam. We had seen her great work through various media outlets and knew she would do an excellent job for us.
Melissa was on board when I explained our product and what we wanted to accomplish with it. She was excited to be a part of it. She took a lot of beautifully creative and high-quality pictures for our kleanYA website.
Keith and I had another connection to Melissa and her family. Her dad, Sureyya Cam, is a jewelry artist/designer who designed our wedding rings. Keith and I were very appreciative of his help in the process of choosing our rings and making it a very pleasant and exciting time for us. After Keith passed away, Sureyya was also very supportive when I wanted to resize Keith’s ring to my finger and add our birthstones, aquamarine and diamond on his ring. I could not express the longing in my heart to get his ring finished and on my hand. Sureyya understood what my wish was and delivered it with a perfect design. I cannot thank him enough.
We had to figure out how to procure our raw materials, so research had to be done to find the purest ingredients for our kleanYA product. We ordered small quantities of a variety of raw materials, and David Wilson and I did the testing on the weekends, experimenting until we found the perfect combination for our product. Joe and Kris helped with sampling the end result as well.
Developing our product line had taken time. Keith’s passing brought our plans to a temporary standstill, so kleanYA would not be ready to launch as quickly as many other manufacturers were able to get their product on the market. While Joe was doing the research, he discovered that there were now more than 400 hand sanitizer brands available and supplies were plentiful. We decided to move forward with the project, especially to continue with Keith’s dream of spreading the kolonya culture through our hand sanitizer and our goal of assisting Covid families along the way.
Kris and I wrote all the pages on the website. The “About Us” page took me several weekends to write. Kris is a talented writer and was able to edit for me without losing the emotional value. She did not mind working some weeknights and weekends, along with the help from Suki, our cat.
Application for trademark and FDA label registrations is a very long process. It took several weeks for us to receive our NDC labeler number. This number includes a group of nine numbers. The first five digits, 80654, is assigned to us, the last four could be any four numbers of our choice.
We chose Keith’s and my birthdates, 13 and 11 for the unscented (World Health Organization recommended formula) product: NDC 80654 1311. The number for the lemon-scented product is Keith’s birthday, 12/11: NDC 80654 1211.
The formula for the lemon scent product is the same as the unscented except for the addition of a minimal amount of organic plant-based fragrance.
Melih Gecmez set up, wrote the code for and developed the web site. Sila Mey Caputlu Gecmez worked closely with Melih and other team members every step of the way by inputting her understanding of art and tasteful design. She was also setting up to promote kleanYA on various social media platforms.
Communication between us would get complicated sometimes due to language and time differences. Throughout the development of the website, there were a lot of back and forth changes made to the site. Melih and Sila were extremely patient with Kris and me! We finally said to Melih, “Please tell us if we are asking for something that isn’t achievable.” We were so appreciative of his work and patience, as Kris was whispering in my ear and writing notes while I was talking to him.
Keith studied at Clemson University for about two years before he transferred to the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, an in-state college. He had to make this move due to financial reasons, but he always had that unfulfilled desire to be a graduate from Clemson. We tried to set the kleanYA colors from Keith’s favorite colors, one of which is orange, a Clemson color. He was a Clemson fan, as are Joe and Kris.
In the end, the website evolved from a basic template to a customized version that Keith would like and be proud of.
We had originally planned to launch our website on Keith’s birthday, December 11, as a birthday gift to him. However, I turned to Derya Demirdelen Ozboz, Spiritual Astrologer, Teacher (astroderya), and a very close friend of mine, for advice on when to launch. With kleanYA in one hand and the rings in the other, Derya used astrological and spiritual explanations to suggest it would be better to launch kleanYA on 12-12 2020, at precisely 5:38 p.m.
I am a numbers person. So, I trusted my friend, the stars, and the numbers, and set kleanYA launch day as December 12, 2020. I told Keith on his birthday, “Babe, you’ve got to wait until tomorrow to open your birthday gift.” I can feel him laughing, (my favorite laugh!), leaning his head back and laughing out-loud.
Love you always!! Happy birthday!!
I had no idea that working on this project would actually be healing. I felt Keith’s presence with me all along the way. Whenever things weren’t going smoothly or when I was feeling down, Keith was with me. His spirit, his energy had never left my side, and I am truly grateful.
There aren’t enough words to express my gratitude to all kleanYA Team members for helping me bring this product to a reality. All my “guzeller”(girlfriends) group, ‘bankers” (girlfriends) group, co-workers, and all my family-close friends from half-way around the world have listened to me talking constantly about my Keith throughout this process, and I am forever grateful for their insight and understanding.
When Keith and I talked about our retirement plans, we both wanted to have fun, but at the same time we wanted to make it our priority to help others in need. I hope kleanYA will generate some financial assistance for as many families who are grieving the loss of a loved one from Covid-19.