Welcome to our first post of Good People doing Good Things: a new weekly Blog Series, featuring entrepreneurs and change makers who are incredibly inspiring and uplifting. My hope for you is in learning about others who are in the pursuit of following their dreams and passion to change the world, you will also be inspired to continue to look at the positivity in this world.
This week I have the honour of introducing Laurinda Lee-Retter, founder of Kind Karma Company. It makes me proud to know people such as Laurinda, and it brings me absolute pleasure to share her story with you.
Meet Laurinda Lee-Retter: Founder of Kind Karma Company
What is your company's mission?
Kind Karma employs at-risk and homeless youth in Toronto to handcraft fine jewelry. In addition to fair hourly wages, proceeds from sales are returned to youth employees to support their individual goals. Our mission is to break the cycle of poverty by enabling our future generation of leaders to reach their full potential so they can continue to pay kindness forward.
"Kind Karma was born on the principle that if we do good, not only will good come back to us in the form of karma, but it will continue to spread and create waves of positive impact throughout the community."
What inspired Kind Karma to begin?
For Kind Karma founder, Laurinda Lee-Retter, 2016 was a hard year and it was a sentiment that seemed to echo across society throughout those 365 days. Determined to make the following year much better she decided to do her part in spreading kindness and positivity to those that needed it the most.
While there were many individuals in the community that needed a helping hand, Laurinda was drawn to the plight of vulnerable youth because of their unique situation and how it resonated with her own experiences.
"Most youth are often misconceived as “bad kids” but the truth is, most of them end up either on the streets or in foster care because of situations they did not create or domestic environments that are so unhealthy that their only alternative for survival is to desperately craft a life away from their family and home. Many of them face mental health challenges as a result of trauma or a lack of education because in the battle of school versus survival, survival will always win."
Their employment options are often limited as a result of their unique circumstances and Laurinda recalled her own difficulties in maintaining employment when she herself suffered mental health challenges, especially in a retail or service landscape which are the most common jobs for those lacking education or experience.
Laurinda therefore launched Kind Karma Co. an art therapy-based employment model for youth that has since seen youth succeed, for once, at maintaining employment. More importantly, this success has translated into increased confidence and self-esteem, so youth can finally see the potential they have always possessed.
"Confidence and self-esteem have shown our youth artisans that they are capable of achieving anything they set their mind to and it is a privilege to see them flourish as they begin to once again believe in themselves."
What kind of superpower does your company possess and why we should care?
Our number one superpower is the ability to truly change not only lives but communities. Our youth artisans have told us that they have “never held a job for this long” or that they finally “found my wings and am learning to fly” and that is a testament to lives changed.
What is even more impactful is that these individuals are learning the skills to influence others around them, at home and in their own communities.
"That is our true superpower at Kind Karma - by changing individual lives, we are actually creating ripple effects throughout the Canadian community whose positive impact will hopefully be felt by all."
What are your bestselling products?
Our most popular products are definitely the Friendship Necklace and our Morse Code Bracelets!
The Friendship Necklace features two different circle pendants that represent how each of us are unique.
"We entwined these pendants to show how we complete and enhance each other’s lives despite our differences and this minimalist necklace has been a favourite not only for its story but also for its simple and elegant aesthetic."
Our Morse Code bracelets have also been a customer favorite since they launched! These simple bracelets feature tiny gold beads that spell out words in morse code such as “love”, “hope”, “strength”, “courage”, and “kindness” with options to create ones with a custom word of choice.
"These bracelets allow you to carry your own secret message with you, something only you know it says so you can wear your heart’s message on your sleeve."
What are you working on for 2020?
We are so excited for new products in 2020 especially a new collection of rings fabricated entirely out of recycled silver. We have gotten so many requests for rings so one of our youths has since learned more advanced techniques to make this happen. Look for it soon - we can’t wait!
We are so grateful to share Laurinda's story and we hope that it reminds you how important community is right now! Share this with those you love who might need a reminder of the good in this world <3
Share any thoughts in the comments below and stay tuned for more Good People next Thursday!