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How the Founders of This Healthy Beverage Brand Honor AAPI Heritage

May 18, 2021 | Published by Faire

(left to right) Droplet’s general manager Talia Jafarkhani, co-founder Celeste Perez, and co-founder Adrienne Borlongan. All photos courtesy of Droplet.

In continuation of our recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’re highlighting Droplet—an Asian-American and women-owned beverage brand out of Los Angeles. We spoke with CEO and co-founder Celeste Perez about the creation of the Droplet brand, the stress-reducing power of adaptogens, and the company’s work to speak out against racism toward Asian Americans. 

Seeking a healthier lifestyle

Celeste discovered the wonders of adaptogens when her stress was at an all-time high. Working as a web developer during the day and a food tour guide on the weekends, Celeste’s life was all hustle, leading to a constant state of anxiety and exhaustion. “The stress manifested in my body and I ended up in the hospital,” she said. “I was so young, and I was going to the hospital because of my lifestyle.” After she started her own branding studio, her health got even worse. 

“It hit me that if I didn’t take care of this, the side effects for my physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing would be awful.” Celeste turned her attention to self-care. She started taking a closer look at what she was putting into her body. That’s when she discovered adaptogens, stress-balancing herbs and botanicals that have been around for centuries. “The results were amazing,” she said. 

Adaptogens not only helped regulate her body’s response to stress, they also allowed her to sleep better at night and improved her overall health. Celeste was so inspired by this discovery that she dove deeper into the world of wellness and became a certified nutritionist.

Finessing the flavor

With a desire to help other women experience the same stress-busting effects of adaptogens, Celeste set out to create her own adaptogen drink.

“We look at stress as part of life, like we can’t actually get rid of it,” Celeste said. “But there’s so much we can be doing.”

The one downside to adaptogens was the less than ideal taste. Celeste realized there was no good-tasting adaptogen product on the market, so she partnered with her now co-founder Adrienne Borlongan—a food scientist who had spent years developing flavors for her ice cream brand, Wanderlust Creamery—to create one herself. 

They began mixing together fruit juices, adaptogens, and superfoods. “We tried every single adaptogen out there to figure out what went well together,” she said. They made strategic pairings, like mixing rhodiola, a mood-boosting adaptogen, with passion fruit, known in herbal medicine to reduce anxiety.

Today, Droplet aims to use only pure ingredients. “When we set out to make these drinks, we had no idea that fresh fruit wasn’t common in the beverage industry,” Celeste said. They decided to use whole fruits and organic adaptogens, sourcing from local vendors or organic suppliers overseas. “It’s all made with things you can find in nature,” she said. “I can say ‘the peaches in this are from Napa Valley.’ It’s what sets us apart.”

Celebrating strong AAPI women 

For co-founders Celeste and Adrienne, their Filipino-American heritage is an important aspect of their brand. Both the name of the company and the artwork on the cans draw from Filipino folklore, in which the goddess of healing cries tears that turn powerful. 

“She has many eyes,” Celeste explained, “And she weeps at night because we’re hurting so much as humans. Those tears become dewdrops in the morning, and it’s said that if you drink them, you’ll be healed of any ailment. That was the goal of Droplet, that one drop could make a difference in your life.” 

This past year, Droplet decided to take their passion for their heritage beyond just their branding. They used their Instagram account to speak out against the ongoing racism and violence towards Asian-Americans by creating the #iamastrongaapiwoman campaign. In conjunction with a fundraiser for the Asian American Journalist Association (AAJA), the online campaign aimed to humanize AAPI issues, educate the public on racism, and share stories of strong Asian women everywhere. “Society doesn’t allow Asian women to be whole human beings with feelings, with goals, with achievements,” Celeste said. “Asian is not a monolith. We’re all different.”

Co-founder Celeste Perez

Advising and supporting AAPI brands 

“If it’s not you, then who would it be?” This is Celeste’s entrepreneurial mantra, and her advice to any hopeful business owners. “If you’re passionate and think, ‘someone should do that,’ that person should be you.” 

Equally important to entrepreneurship itself is the diversity of the business-owner landscape. “We’re in this world where cultural appropriation is everywhere,” Celeste said. “I’m lucky that I get to honor my culture through herbal medicine. It’s important to think, if you don’t do this, who will—and would you want them to?”

When it comes to supporting other Asian-American-owned businesses, support can be simple. “Your dollar means a lot,” Celeste said. It’s also easy and free to share about brands on social media. Beyond that, being open to learning the deeper meaning behind a brand can be impactful as well. “Find out a little bit more. Learn why this brand is important to the person who created it.” 

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