Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in Toronto, Canada and my hardworking parents made sure I worked just as hard as they did when it came to school. I was always a straight-A student, on the honor roll and eventually a member of the academic society Phi Beta Kappa. I was, however, always more drawn to the arts and creativity. I started playing the violin when I was two years old and music was my outlet for self expression. I also loved writing, scrapbooking and making jewelry. My practical parents were appalled that I went to university for music (as opposed to a science-based degree) and I think they are still amazed that I turned my jewelry-making hobby into a business. But my parents have always supported my decisions and I think for me, it was realizing that there are youths that grow up without this unwavering support that really drove me to create Kind Karma. We all face periods of trying to figure out who we are and if these youths were unable to get that support at home, then I wanted to create a community that would help them be able to help them with their own self-discovery.
What exactly is Kind Karma?
Kind Karma is a social enterprise that employs at-risk and transitioning homeless youth to handcraft quality jewelry. In addition to receiving an hourly wage, we also give proceeds from sales back to our employees to help them achieve their goals. All of our youths are asked to identify a goal they would like to work towards and we dedicate our profits to helping them achieve those goals whether it is to fund education, help secure permanent housing or take courses for personal development.
Kind Karma was also born because I understood that many of these youths, given their experiences, may have barriers to traditional employment. Some are still working on bettering their mental health or finding stability so to ask them to commit to long shifts in a retail environment or as a barista may seem daunting to them. Also, if the employment opportunity fell through, it may discourage them from trying to find employment a second time. It was important for me to create an employment model that allowed youth to feel safe, encouraged and capable so I combined employment with a form of art therapy to help them succeed. It may seem challenging sometimes to face hundreds of customers in a day but no one is ever scared of art class!
What inspired you to start Kind Karma?
I have always dreamed of being an entrepreneur and I remember when I was working full-time, I had new business ideas almost weekly that I was sure I would start “soon”. There are so many options when it comes to starting your own business and it wasn’t until I sat down and asked myself what I was most passionate about that I was finally able to define Kind Karma. For me, my number one motivator has always been to make a difference in society, create a positive impact and help others. I wanted to create an enterprise that enabled change so I took something I loved doing and created an employment opportunity for youth that helps them reach their full potential regardless of current hardships.
How did you come up with the name?
I think naming your enterprise is always one of the most challenging tasks because this is something that will always be used to identify your business and it is essential to pick something that resonates with what you are doing. From the beginning, I was always drawn to karma and the idea that what goes around comes around. If we want to create a better society, we have to first make an effort to be better ourselves and put our best foot forward. Further, if we want to create a better future, we need to help those who will be leaders in that future so they have the tools to make positive change happen. So I loved the idea of a cycle, of karma and creating a positive ripple effect.
In addition to that, my second thought was, “If I had to identify just one thing that society needs more of, what would it be?” My answer was kindness. We may not understand everyone we meet, their thoughts or their opinions (although we hope that we will always educate ourselves to gain a better understanding) but we should still be kind to everyone and treat them all with respect. That in itself, can go a long way. I think if we just display more kindness towards ourselves and to each other, our society would be a better place.
You employ at-risk youths to make custom crafted jewelry, can you tell us more about that?
All of our jewelry is handmade by youth artisans whom we train so they can make the beautiful jewelry we offer. Most of them have never made jewelry before so it speaks to how talented and capable youth are when it comes to learning new skills! All of our pieces are made with 14kt gold-filled chains and findings which means they are resistant to tarnishing, fading and are also hypoallergenic. We are also starting to incorporate some sterling silver pieces into our collection and hope to have some of our pieces in silver soon!
In addition to our standard collection, we also love empowering our youth by giving them ownership so we recently launched the Crystal Zen Collection, a beaded bracelet collection completely designed and handcrafted by one of our artisans. Crystal, the youth designer behind this collection, loves learning about the different properties of gemstones so we gave her the opportunity to design her own collection by using the healing properties of certain gemstones to create purpose-driven bracelets. We are always looking for ways to give our youth ownership so we hope to have more youth-driven collections as we continue to grow!
Is there a favorite product?
You may notice a lot of druzy gemstones in are collection and we love them! Druzies are semi-precious stones (either quartz or agate) that have become crystallized over millions of years. Crystallization can be caused by water running sediments and silica gradually moving over the stone to form a sparkly top layer. We love druzies not only because of their brilliant sparkle but also for the parallel imagery of transformation. Like druzies, we know our youth can also transform and develop into brilliant and capable adults if they are given the opportunity to do so.
What is your favorite part about running Kind Karma?
My favorite part about running Kind Karma is by far the connections and relationships I get to establish. There is nothing I love better than meeting new youth and learning about their experiences and hearing their stories. I can’t even imagine what some of them have been through and am always amazed at how resilient they are, how they fought through adversity and difficult situations for a better future. It is such a privilege to be able to help them towards that future and for me, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing our youth employees gaining confidence, finding fulfillment in the jewelry-making process and talking about new goals they have set for themselves.
What is your least favorite part about running Kind Karma?
Although it may sound cliché, I don’t think there is any aspect that I don’t like about running Kind Karma! There are always new lessons to be learned and I love that process because it allows me to continually grow on a personal level as well. However, I do think the most challenging aspect of running Kind Karma for me is prioritizing all the tasks that need to be completed and forcing myself not to get overwhelmed with all that has to be done. I think when you drive your own business, it’s easy to feel like you have a hundred things that need to be completed and my personality is naturally impatient so I always feel like they need to all be completed right away which can cause a lot of anxiety and stress. So it has been a very important lesson to learn how to set up priorities and reasonable deadlines to have certain tasks complete (that are not all today! 🙂 )
How do you spread the word about your company?
We spread word through social media and we also attend a lot of markets and events to personally spread awareness of our company and mission. We also love doing interviews and working with influencers with similar principles to leverage their audience so we can continue to grow and help more youths in the process.
Do you have any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Find out what drives you and go for it! Whether you are driven by profit or a specific cause, find out what you are most passionate about and build your business around it. There will be days when the going gets tough and unless you are 1000% passionate and dedicated to what you started, it is easy to lose focus. If you are not truly committed to what you started, it is easy to abandon it during difficult times.
I also truly believe that persistence is key and all successful businesses have hit hard times at some point or another. The ones still standing are ones that have faced those times and worked through it, learned from it. If you truly believe in what you are doing and love it, then you will push through any adversity and come out not only personally stronger, but with a stronger business.
Do you have a favorite quote or go to saying? 🙂
When I was younger there were two quotes that always hung in my bedroom and although there were times when I forgot them, I think they have always been a subconscious factor in my decisions. The first quote was by George Bernard Shaw and it read “Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself”. I think I spent a lot of time after university trying to figure out where I fit into society, what job I wanted and who I wanted to be. But when I thought about it a couple of years ago, I remember this quote came to my mind and it made me question why I was so intent on fitting myself into a job or a lifestyle. Instead, I had to ask myself, “If there was one thing you want to do, one lifestyle you want to have, what would it be?” And that’s when I truly found the answer and that’s how Kind Karma was born. We get to create the kind of life we want to lead and we are responsible for what we truly wish to accomplish.
The second quote was “Never never never give up” and although it’s pretty basic, those words are ones I repeat to myself constantly, not only in business but in all aspects of life. If we believe in something, never never never give up on it.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Just thank you for having me do this interview! 🙂