Celebrating Diversity at Elemental
Feb 15, 2022
Elemental is not just a company that sells reusable hydration containers. It’s a company rich in diversity that celebrates relationships between people of all walks of life while recognizing the need to help the environment. We aim to bring people together as they share a passion for products they can feel good about using.
As the nation comes together to celebrate Black History Month, we thought it would be the perfect time to let you know a little bit more about who we are, our history, and some of the values that we find important. We hope that they will inspire you, not just this month, but 365 days a year.
Elemental: A History Rich in Diversity
At Elemental, we think it’s important to know who’s behind the products you’re buying. So, we’re going to share a little bit about what makes us, us.
Elemental was founded by Seth Inyang and Vinh Lieu. While the two grew up worlds apart, they shared many common visions. Seth was born in the Midwest and viewed water as a plentiful resource needed for agriculture. Vinh grew up in Vietnam where clean drinking water was the exception rather than the norm.
The two engineers met in 2009 and discovered that they shared a passion for helping people while helping the planet at the same time. They realized they could create something unique by combining Seth’s creativity and Vinh’s technical expertise.
In 2016, Elemental was born. The reusable water bottle is only the beginning of their vision to help solve the world’s problems through functional consumer products. Elemental aims to create a healthier, more sustainable future with the help of people like you along with trusted organizations.
Seth and Vinh’s partnership is the perfect example of how two people from very different backgrounds can come together and discover they share a common goal. Rather than look at how different they were, they realized how many similarities they had, which has resulted in products that millions of people are enjoying.
Even when it comes to preferring coffee or tea, the two couldn’t be more different! But, they’ve managed to make their differences work for them, proving that diversity can produce some pretty amazing accomplishments.
A Q&A with Elemental Founder, Seth Inyang
What were some of the challenges you have experienced as an African American Entrepreneur?
Seth: I haven’t experienced hardships, I directly know of, that have affected the business. I guess I always thought that things would be hard to begin with, so when they were I was not surprised. The only thing may have been people's ideas of me and comments. But that’s where it stopped. I grew up knowing that so I wasn’t caught off guard.
Do you feel more weight on your shoulders being African American?
Seth: Not necessarily anymore but I used to. Previously as an engineer (before starting Elemental), I worked with the idea in mind that I had to work harder and be better to get the same job and my other engineering friends.
Now as an entrepreneur maybe that has switched a little. But my goal is to still have a successful business and not fail sort of as a way to be an example. But it's not something I think about daily.
Now I’m more so driven to build something great and to help my co-workers, friends, and family along the way. I’m also excited by new challenges and producing solutions to those problems. I guess I call them opportunities.
What lead you to this point in business where you are currently at?
Seth: My dad was born in Nigeria and came over here with only a little money in his pocket. He went from this to getting his doctorates degree and becoming the VP at the company he works at. Talk about the American dream. Most of my cousins from his side are PHD’s or MD’s and this was the standard. The narrative from that side of my family is nowhere near the narrative of the typical African American of his time.
I think this was what drove me more than anything to keep pursuing anything that I do. My father was put through too many life and death situations and worked too many jobs and too hard for me to sit here and do nothing. He has also taught me that with vision and perseverance anything is possible.
What do you see as the typical black narrative in America and if negative how do you combat this?
Seth: I have seen the black narrative change throughout my life both personally and culturally. It’s moved towards being more positive though there are still improvements that need to be made.
The narrative growing up was one of “you can’t be that smart” or “what sport do you play” as if this was the only option in life. Sometimes comments were made just to be funny and not to be taken seriously, or at least that is what I was told. But the jokes were only made because I was black. I’ve experienced being called derogatory names due to the color of my skin. I’ve also been called other derogatory names from being too polished or educated and still being black. It’s the strangest thing when people try to put you into a box just because of your skin color.
I believe now the narrative has improved. But that improvement has come as the result of activists and celebrities showing that people of any color can accomplish a lot.
I combat the negativity myself by seeing everyone as a person with a mom or dad. We are all the same and were made to look different on purpose. The world would be a boring place if we all looked the same. I truly believe if you work hard and believe in something you can achieve it – no human being can shut that door.
Diversity and Black History Month
As we look at the diversity behind the creation of Elemental, we look at the diversity that makes up the world. During February, the nation celebrates Black History Month, a time to honor the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped to shape the nation. The contributions African Americans have made to the nation can be seen in many ways including the nearly 135,000 African-American-owned businesses across the country.
The origins of Black History Month date back to 1915 when historian Carter G. Woodson and prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Years later, in 1926, the group sponsored a national Negro History Week. Mayors across the country began recognizing it and by the late 1960s, it evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses.
President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976. Every year since then, it has been celebrated and designated an annual theme. For 2022, the theme is “Black Health and Wellness”. We celebrate that theme at Elemental as our products help people to maintain health and wellness by offering them products that are chemical-free and good for the environment.
Celebrating Black History Month
As Seth and Vinh continue to celebrate their differences while creating products that are practical and good for the earth, we encourage everyone to celebrate diversity during this month and beyond. Whether it’s in the workplace or your daily life, there are many ways to appreciate the differences around you.
Celebrating Diversity in the Workplace
No matter if you work for a small business or a Fortune 500 company, diversity in the workplace should be noted and appreciated. There are many ways to recognize and celebrate diversity with the person who shares office space with you.
First, it’s important to note that diversity refers to more than cultural background or ethnicity. It can refer to age, religion, ability, gender, and sexual orientation. All of these can be recognized and appreciated in the workplace.
By recognizing each employee’s uniqueness, you are allowing them to feel comfortable and share their ideas. Whether you’re an employer or a co-worker, showing uniqueness for others makes them want to work to their highest potential.
As co-founders with diverse backgrounds, the team at Elemental is aware of how people from different walks of life can cross paths and work together to create something unique. It is our hope that other companies and people can do the same.
Celebrating Diversity in Your Life
Celebrating diversity in your life is equally as important as celebrating diversity in the workplace. Embracing the differences around you can open your eyes to what makes everyone unique. You can do this by learning about a new culture, trying new cuisine, or making an effort to really get to know people from different backgrounds. When you begin to seek out these differences, you may be surprised at what you can learn.
You can also celebrate diversity by helping children in your life be more aware of people from different backgrounds and learn how to appreciate them. This is vital to helping to create a more accepting world.
At Elemental, we celebrate the diversity that exists at our company and all around us. From our day-to-day lives to our interactions with the people we meet, we want to include everyone on our journey. We hope you will join us because the most exciting part about Elemental is that the journey is just beginning.