What Goes Around Comes Around: Kind Karma Spreads Goodness and Positivity

An interview with Kind Karma’s founder

An interview with Kind Karma’s founder

Enactus Ryerson values making a difference in people’s lives and aims to help others through entrepreneurship. We discovered Kind Karma through Ryerson’s Social Ventures Zone and saw how their values aligned with ours, so we decided to learn more about what they do.

We reached out to Laurinda Lee, the founder of Kind Karma to find out more about her, and her company that she established only one year ago to “counter negativity with hope and kindness.”

What is Kind Karma?

“Kind Karma is a social enterprise and we employ Toronto at-risk and transitioning homeless youth to handmake quality jewellery. We provide all of the tools [and] all of the training. In addition to getting paid an hourly wage, all of our youth get proceeds to support their goals, so all of our employees identify a goal; whether it’s to continue education – some courses for personal development or housing, and then we support [them] that way by giving them proceeds from [our] sales.”

How did the name Kind Karma come about?

“It’s always hard when you name your business. I feel like that’s something that has to identify you, and you always second guess yourself. I really like the idea of ‘what goes around comes around,’ so that whole karma cycle that if you exude positivity, kindness is going to come back to you. I think that’s the same thing in terms of society, if we help the people – the next generation, then they can continue to make society a better place. I mean, if we let them be, and follow a negative path, then that’s not going to do anybody any good; then you just continue a cycle of poverty and negativity. That’s where karma comes in, I think it’s that whole cycle of action. When it came to one thing that society needed more of, it was just kindness. I think kindness cures so many things. We don’t necessarily have to understand everybody’s differences or their opinions, and of course we want to educate ourselves, but even if we don’t understand, if we just be kind to what people are going through or what they believe in, and not judge them and not be rude or disrespectful. I think that in itself, goes a long way. That’s kind of where I came up with the name.”

How did this start-up first come together/what inspired you?

“I was always inspired to be an entrepreneur. I remember when I was working full time, I’d go in and tell a coworker every week a different business idea. But, when it actually came down to it, I had to think about what was most important to me. Everybody has different things that drive them – some people are money driven, some people want to create a huge global enterprise, and for me, it was most important that I did something that gave back and had a positive impact. That’s where Kind Karma was born; when I originally had an idea about giving back. I combined my passion for jewellery making, [something] I had always done as a hobby. At first, I wanted to help minors in Peru or something, maybe it was because it was where I wanted to go and visit, but that was not logistically easy, so it made me rethink what I was doing. When I looked outside, I just saw all these people that needed help, and I felt like I could help them in a different way than what was already out there – by offering more of an art therapy-based employment model. That’s how Kind Karma was born.”

What has been or is your biggest challenge?

“I think my biggest challenge, on a personal level, was to balance all aspects of the business and manage it properly because when you start your own business, you drive every single aspect of it: the marketing, sales distribution, [and] customers; all of [those elements]. I think for me, it’s trying to put everything into a priority list and not feel like everything has to get done today or yesterday because that can create a lot of pressure. For me, that’s one of my biggest challenges – is to just take it one step at a time, and not feel like I have to get everything done at once.”

What are some goals you are trying to achieve with this start-up?

“I would love to see it grow. In terms of our long-term vision, I would love to have a Kind Karma office in every major city in Canada because I think youth tend to fall more into the cracks in big cities because there’s such a large population, and you’re just one of millions; I’d love to see Kind Karma grow that way. I would also love to see our youth progress in different departments. Whenever we bring on a youth, they might be a jewellery artisan, but they might have a passion for marketing or sales. We want to develop those skills, and I hope eventually as our company grows, we can have a completely vertically integrated company that’s run by street youth, and your VP of Marketing could have been somebody who started out making jewellery; I think that’s so cool. Another goal is that I would love to see [us] partner with different artisans, so it’s not just jewellery. [Perhaps] we can create clothing or different accessories and things like that, so youths have more of a variety in terms of the skills they learn, and if they are more fashion-focused or they like sewing instead of jewellery making – we have those options as well. Hopefully that can be something we can do!”

What are some opportunities the youth have been able to pursue/achieve from this project?

“We’re only a year old, so we haven’t seen a youth going to college [with us] completely paying for that, but that is definitely what we are working towards. One of our youth actually recently identified that she wanted to go back to school to be an art therapist. We hope we will be able to give her a significant scholarship to go when she starts; hopefully next year. The youth that we work with have expressed that [we are] totally different in that we’re flexible enough to give them an opportunity that takes into consideration what’s going on in their lives, and the challenges they are facing. One of our youths recently lost housing, so he had to move to Bowmanville, and he was really upset that he couldn’t continue working here and he wanted to reapply when he came back. But he’d already been with us and learned all the skills that he’s needed, so I suggested that I could just mail him supplies and he could mail me back finished pieces. In that sense, we could still continue to help him with financial independence, and he still has a connection with us, and hopefully he can continue when he finally gets housing again in Toronto. Another one of our youths was recently admitted to CAMH unfortunately, but she actually reached out and asked if she could have materials to make jewellery while she was there because she found it therapeutic. So, we dropped off materials and said, ‘no pressure if you can’t complete, this is just to help you with your well-being if you wanted to do it.’ She said it actually relaxes her, so she still can make jewellery while she’s recovering. I think it’s great in that sense, and that’s kind of what our youth has taken out of it – is it’s not just employment for them, it’s actually something that boosts their self-confidence and their self-esteem, and it gives them something to look forward to.”

What is some advice you would give to others hoping to pursue a start-up?

“The number one thing is to figure out what’s most important to you because there’s going to be times where it’s very hard and you might want to give up, and if you’re not completely dedicated to what you’re doing or what you’ve started, then it’s easy to just call quits; and that was me with my five million business ideas before this one. By identifying what’s most important to you, it doesn’t matter what it is, just commit to it and then go for it. The biggest and hardest part is to take that first step. Even with anything in life, you’re always [going to be] like ‘oh I’ll start next week,’ or ‘I’ll figure it out later.’ But once you take that first step, it’s easy to keep going. Just go for it, take that first step and don’t push it off; even if you fail at something, just find a different way around it. Always keep going and persist. Every huge business that we see today has been through periods where they’re going to close doors or go bankrupt, but if you push through, who knows what’s on the other side.

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Check out Kind Karma’s handcrafted jewellery and support their youth on their website. All proceeds are returned to their employed youth to support their individual goals.

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All About Restore: Affordable, Sustainable, and Eco-friendly Housing!

An interview with Restore's Project Manager

An interview with Restore's Project Manager

Enactus Ryerson is comprised of a variety of projects, created by students, which aim to make a difference to the communities and the students we work with. We want to share with you more information about our projects and show you how we empower others, so we sat down with Project Manager Anthony Garcia to find out everything you need to know about Restore and his journey so far.

 

Anthony Garcia, a fourth year Accounting and Finance student at Ryerson University, founded Restore in 2017, and has since been working with Enactus Ryerson, Ryerson University, and the Social Ventures Zone to grow and raise awareness on the housing crisis in Indigenous reserves.

 

What is Restore?

“Restore is a social venture that aims to tackle the housing crisis in Canada. We are currently working on trying to alleviate the housing issues on Indigenous reserves. What a lot of people don’t know is that 1 in 5 Indigenous people live in homes that are overcrowded, mold infested, and just unsafe to live in. Restore is a company that helps to bring affordable houses, but also couples it with construction training, and different transferable skills; so that people are well equipped to maintain the homes as they live, and to ensure that they not only have these opportunities to a house, but they also have these different skills that they can put towards their own lives and better their entire lives altogether.”

 

How did the idea for Restore come about?

“The idea for Restore came when we were put in contact with a community here in Ontario called the Mississauga New Credit First Nation, where we had the initial meeting to talk about how Enactus could help them with their different issues. The concept of housing kept coming up, and then we started to really talk about how bad the housing is on different Indigenous reserves across Canada. Together, we started figuring out different ways to figure out a faster, more affordable solution. Hearing about the different trends about how people are using shipping containers to create all of these really cool, innovative structures – we looked into it, we had constant meetings with the reserves to see if this was something that was of interest, something that works with the community and different people. Slowly, we started crafting Restore, our different business models, and figuring out what it is exactly that we wanted out of this project and that’s how it came together.”

 

What do you do as a project manager?

“As a project manager the main thing is keeping the relationships with our different partners. We’re currently working with a number of partners; we have Giant Containers, which is our main supplier of different shipping container structures. We’re also working with Ryerson University, Enactus, and George Brown College. So, a big part (of being a project manager) is keeping the communication with all our different partners, but also ensuring that the vision and the goals of the company is followed through, and to making sure that all the tasks we have are being done by all our members; making sure everybody has all the tools and resources that they need to complete all the different tasks. It’s also a lot of creating different ways on how to move forward, how to tackle this issue in different ways that it hasn’t been tackled before, figuring out how where governments are going wrong, where they are going right and figuring out how we can really nail this issue at the roots – just to ensure that you know these people are living a proper life.”

 

Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?

“No. I originally wanted to be an architect, and then when I got into Ryerson, I started studying finance, so I wanted to be a financial consultant or a strategic consultant. I don’t know how I ended up with entrepreneur – I think it was Enactus, just being more involved with creating your own things, not listening to people, and just doing it. That’s kind of what made me want to be an entrepreneur, which I never thought I’d say because I always thought entrepreneurship was something really scary, something for people who like risks, people who are okay with failing, which I’m not – I’m really scared, really shy. I prefer being at home just listening to someone tell me what to do, but, somehow, I ended up liking that feeling of creating something and feeling that you made something instead of just being a little pawn and working for someone.”

 

What was the hardest challenge with getting restore off the ground?

“The biggest challenge was to get people to take me seriously. A lot of people don’t take you seriously when you’re a student trying to do something; mostly when you’re trying to provide people houses. Since I’m not really a handsy person, I don’t think I could lift something up and put a house or something together, so it’s really hard to get people to take me seriously. Also, we’re trying to work with Indigenous communities, and the hardest thing is to connect with these people because you don’t fully understand exactly what it is that they’re going through. The way we overcame that is to partner with different companies and different people who are experts at what they do to ensure that we have those spaces covered. The other part that’s an ongoing obstacle that we’re still trying to figure out is how to properly connect with these different communities, how to ensure that we never overstep – that we’re always including them in everything and just to really ensure that you know that connection is there and to ensure that we do everything in the proper way that it should be done.”

 

What’s something you think you could improve on as a project manager and entrepreneur?

“I think the biggest thing is communication. I’ve always been a very shy, very reserved person. I think as time is going on I’m getting a little bit better; it’s easier to talk to people, and I think that’s something I’m constantly working on; public speaking and talking one on one with different people. That’s something that I can work on and continue to work on because as an entrepreneur, as anybody, you need to have proper communication skills, especially in this age when everything’s about communication, who you know, how you know them, and how you connect with people.”
 

What has been the most rewarding part of being a project manager for Restore?

“I think the most rewarding moment was presenting for the McCain Social Enterprise Accelerator Challenge. It was the first time that we ever kind of talked about our idea to these big, important industry people. Getting that feedback and having everybody really into it, and liking the idea, we moved past the first round. We ended up not winning, but we came in second place, which was really rewarding. I wanted to win of course, but the fact that we came in second and there’s people that believed in us, believed in what we’re trying to do – it was amazing to see, to be on that stage and have all these people look at us and be excited about what we’re doing, think that it’s something that could be done and completely support us; that was really exciting.”

 

Want to find out more about Enactus Ryerson and Restore Housing?

Like Restore and Enactus Ryerson on Facebook.

Follow Restore and Enactus Ryerson on Instagram.

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