Partner Profile: Kind Karma Co.

Posted on October 23 2018


Laurinda Lee is the genius behind Kind Karma Co., a social enterprise company located here in Toronto.  We first met her at the Buy Good Feel Good show and, while we were instantly drawn to her beautiful jewelry designs, we were ultimately hooked on the story behind the necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. 


Tell us a bit about Kind Karma Co. 

Kind Karma Company was launched in 2017 to spread positivity and kindness by employing at-risk and transitioning homeless youth in Toronto to handcraft quality jewelry. In addition to receiving hourly wages, all our youth employees also receive proceeds from sales to help them towards their goals such as funding post-secondary education, securing permanent housing or taking courses for personal and professional development. Our goal is to break the cycle of poverty by giving our next generations of leaders the opportunity to reach their full potential regardless of current circumstances. Since many of the youths we employ have faced challenges in their life that may not allow them to thrive in traditional employment settings such as retail or the service industry, we are proud to offer these youths an art-therapy based employment model that we have found lead to increased employment success and greater self-confidence.


Find Your Goodness Bracelet


One thing we’ve noticed is the way all of our partners’ faces light up when they talk about the artisans they work with. Tell us a bit more about the artisans you work with.

Our artisans are Toronto-based at-risk and transitioning homeless youth, including some that may even have spent time living on the streets. A recent study revealed that 80% of youth in Canada leave home because of family conflict and 63% of homeless youth have reported childhood trauma and abuse. Most of the youth we see living on the streets are not there because they are "bad" individuals or even because they have made terrible mistakes - they are forced onto the street as a result of circumstances outside their control and environments they did not even create. However, these youth have the same potential as their peers and sometimes, it just takes one person to believe in them, to give them a helping hand and it could change the course of their future. Instead of heading down a path of negative influences, we want to give them the tools to become successful adults who can continue to pay kindness forward by helping those in need.


Tell us a bit about yourself:

I grew up in Toronto and my parents were extremely strict about doing well in school so I was always a straight-A student and graduated high school with honours. Despite my inclination for doing well academically, I was always drawn to the more creative subjects and so, much to my parents' chagrin (they preferred the practical sciences), I went to Indiana University to study music. But it is sometimes a challenge turning a hobby and into a career so when I left university, I felt lost. I started my professional career in retail and from there, ended up in administrative roles. I spent the majority of my career as an Executive Assistant but my dream was always to be an entrepreneur and my colleagues at the time were always amused at my weekly ideas for new businesses. I finally found the right fit in Kind Karma and made the leap in 2017 and have not been happier professionally.


What led you to start/join the business?

I always dreamed of being an entrepreneur and I never ran out of ideas that I wanted to turn into businesses. But none of them stuck. It wasn't until I truly thought about what was important to me that legitimate ideas started to take place. While some entrepreneurs are driven by innovation, money or the need to simply create a massive brand, I knew my main motivation was to create a positive change and to give back. I came up with different ideas about how I could create a business around that that was feasible for me and that's how Kind Karma was born.


What advice would you give someone wanting to make better buying decisions?

I would tell them to take the time to find ethical brands that they could see as their go-tos and then slowly expand from there to discover like products or companies. I think Good Gifts does a great job of helping consumers by having all of these brands in one place so it's even less work since we all know time is sometimes a luxury we don't have! I love that Good Gifts is making it so much more accessible for consumers to purchase ethically without having to spend hours scouring stores or the internet to find the right gift that is sustainably sourced [Editor's Note: We did not pay her or even cajole her to say this :) ]. We need to be cognizant of the fact that our role as consumers ultimately has a huge impact and is an influential role that can change companies and lives. We need to keep in mind that it may not be just a shirt or an accessory but that it can be the product of mass production and poor working conditions or it can be an item that has the ability to change a life.


How many countries have you been to? 

My absolute favourite thing to do in life is to travel so I am always on the move to explore the world. So far, I have been to 20 countries and have plans to add to the count later this year!



What's Your Favourite Country? 

The most memorable trip I have ever taken has got to be to Morocco. I loved everything about Marrakesh and had the chance to go to the Sahara Desert for a camel trip. But I think what made it the most memorable was that a lot of the plans I had made beforehand did not end up happening like it was supposed to and so we were forced to squeeze in many more impromptu memories that made it the most memorable trip.


What's Most Important To You When Working With Artisans? 

The most important thing to me is to make sure our artisans have Gold Cactus Necklacea safe and fun environment to work in and that they enjoy themselves. Company culture is so important to me and I genuinely care about each of the employees I work with. I want them to know that I am on their team, that I believe in them and that I am truly here to help them towards their goals and provide whatever support I can. I love taking them out to team lunches and just chatting to them during the jewellery making process about anything they wish to share - life stories, experiences, feelings and challenges, both theirs and mine. I like that they know I am approachable and they can talk to me and I am happy to share with them the challenges I've been through to let them know that I'm also human and that everyone goes through their own struggles but they can come out on the other side as stronger and more capable individuals.





Is there something an artisan has said to you that continues to sit with you?

It wasn't something an artisan said but what she did that continues to sit with me. It was payday and I remember my youth was making a necklace. She asked me where she could buy cheap food that wasn't McDonalds and was hoping I knew of a place that offered a healthier alternative. I asked her why she was asking and she told me that she when she was finished her day, she planned to go buy clothes and food for the homeless. I didn't even know how to respond because here she was, struggling herself to get by and yet she wanted to give half of what she had earned through hard work to help those less fortunate. Kind Karma was established because I wanted to create a positive change and I always figured that by giving our youth a chance to become successful adults, they could pay kindness forward by helping those in need. I didn't realize that I would actually be able to see that cycle in action only a year after we launched and I will never forget that day and that incredible act of kindness.



What is your favourite gift to give? 

I don't have a specific favourite gift to give because it depends on the recipient but I love giving random gifts! I think "just because" gifts are the best because they are so much more meaningful. It shows that you were thinking of them and wanted to tell them you value them - you weren't "forced" to buy a gift because it was a birthday, anniversary or big event but it was a genuine act of thoughtfulness. I also love how much it brightens someone's day because they weren't expecting it and who doesn't love surprises?!


Entrepreneurship is stressful. What is your go-to method for managing stress? 

Believe it or not, jewellery-making! I love putting together pieces and it has always been therapeutic for me so it's good to know that even though this is now my business, nothing has changed in that regard and that I still love making jewellery as much as I ever did.
Believe it or not, jewellery-making! I love putting together pieces and it has always been therapeutic for me so it's good to know that even though this is now my business, nothing has changed in that regard and that I still love making jewellery as much as I ever did.


If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself before starting a business? 

To make sure you find balance and to remember that everything takes time. I am naturally an impatient person and someone that has always been driven to accomplish everything as soon as possible so in the beginning, I often meant that I could lose sight of how important it was to also take care of myself during this process. It's easy to feel like the long list of tasks needs to get done immediately and it was quite a process learning how to prioritize and tackle things one day at a time and not pressure myself into needing to finish everything in one day.

 
Thanks to Laurinda for taking time to share with us. Check out all of the gorgeous Kind Karma jewelry we have in the shop


Kind Karma Co.

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