Phyllis Kurzer is an aspiring yogi, creative, and Founder of Karma Mala. Upon completion of yoga teacher training she wanted to wear a mala to enhance the spiritual connection she found in her practice. As an artist with ever evolving interests, she became self taught in the art of mala making. The first malas she made for herself featured prayer box and prayer wheel pendants from Nepal. The interest they generated launched a business. It's called Karma Mala.
Phyllis saw this as an opportunity to create a socially conscious business that gives back. 100% of all profit is donated to the STOP Girl Trafficking Project of the American Himalayan Foundation. Each purchase keeps a girl safe and in this school program for one year or more. There are currently 14,800 girls in the program, and once enrolled, not a single girl has been lost to trafficking.
What do you do best?
I’d rather say, what makes me better. Life is a journey of never ending growth, evolution and learning. I don’t think I’ll ever “arrive” at being the best at anything, but I always strive to be better, to do better. Utilizing my creative abilities has always been a strength, and I continually find different forms of creative expression.
What makes you the best?
The people in my life that love and support me make me the best me I can be. I am also happiest when I have the freedom to be creative every day. My yoga practice most definitely makes me a better person too. It grounds me and makes me more aware and compassionate, while easing controlling and judgmental tendencies. The compassion I have found here is what drives me every day in the work I now do. While wearing a mala with a prayer box from Nepal, I learned that 20,000 young, vulnerable girls are trafficked each year there. With tears streaming down my face, I knew I had to do something to help. As a one-woman business, what I am able to contribute can only help a small percentage of these girls, but for those it does help, it is everything to them; and for me that is enough.
What are your aspirations?
I want to travel more with my husband, including a trip to Nepal, and continue to enjoy watching my adult children create their own path in life. I am constantly in awe of the brilliance and passion of these two beautiful souls. Grandchildren are an anticipated joy that I am excited to experience.
In the two years that Karma Mala has been in existence, I have been able to donate over $35,000. Since $100 keeps a girl in the program for one year, 350 girls have benefited from Karma Mala purchases. I want to be able to donate $20,000 each year, and continue to offer hope to those most vulnerable while shedding light on the atrocity of human trafficking. Karma Mala has become a vehicle to give back for me and my customers, and I hope that it may also inspire others to make a difference in their own way.
It may sound cliche, but my greatest success is my family - my marriage to the most wonderful sweet-hearted man I’ve ever known, and my two amazing children. I am also quite proud of Karma Mala, the success it has become, and the difference it has made.
Most Challenging Moment:
I lost my father when I was 10 to a sudden heart attack. As the oldest of three children I had to grow up pretty quickly. My childhood was forever altered, and our family suffered both financially and emotionally, of course. My mother was too proud to take help from anyone. While I didn’t always understand that when I was younger, I did as I grew up. She was stronger and more resilient than anyone I’ve ever known. She was 40 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and we were devastated. Losing her when I was 24 just about destroyed me. Those were the darkest days of my life, and the only time I was truly lost. Eventually, I made the conscious decision to do what my mother would have done, found my way out of the darkness and into the light. I chose to begin living my life again. Not long after that, I met my husband. I’m pretty sure my Mom’s divine intervention brought us together. Even though we’re Italian, she always told me to find a nice Jewish boy. Mom is always right!
It’s OK to say no!
The only certainty in life is change.
An educated girl can transform societies, and change the world.
My husband, children, friends and family. Malala, Brene Brown, Dr. Aruna Uprety, Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Tao Portion Lynch
HOME!!! Italy (my homeland), Anguilla, Turks and Caicos, Nantucket, MA, Yountville, CA
Sudara Punjammies (lounge pants made by women in India who have escaped Human Trafficking)
A World of Good (Beads and Handicrafts from the Himalayas and Beyond)
Yoga - although I never taught, I constantly work to deepen my practice, Karma Mala and the STOP Girl Trafficking Project, designing and beading, my two little Yorkies - Kobe and Cooper, travel
(Photo Credit: Moss Photos)