Entrepreneurship was a large part of my life before I knew the word for it. As a child, I watched my self-made father grow in his work. He had made his own clogs from the trees in the forest of his childhood village when he was 11 years old. He sent all seven of his children to American and Canadian universities. He started as a janitor in the middle school that he had gone to, cleaning up before going to school with the rest of his classmates before rising up to be a well-respected business person in Corporate Asia. It would take the start of my own company to truly realize what an inspiration he’d been.
When striking out on my own, I thought the only path I could take was working my way up the corporate ladder, so I started on my journey. I still remember the first computer program I made in high school – it was a point of sale system for a pizza place. My program would show an animation of a pizza being made while the customer chosen toppings. Being able to watch my program work began a lifelong fascination with programming. I continued in my profession and ran large campaigns as a project manager for many years. In 2018, I left Toronto to visit the Philippines not knowing that my life would never be the same again.
There I was, having the time of my life with eight of my friends on an island-hopping trip, and we ended up at a sandbar. There was a floating cocktail bar right next to it and I got my drink in a glass with a bamboo straw. I asked the bartender why they used bamboo and he told me that its difficult to get shipments in the remote area they’re in so they use the resources that they have right there. Of course, back home in Toronto I knew of the movement to ban plastic straws and had become interested in living a more sustainable life like so many others as more information began to surface about how our waste affects the earth.
I still had that inkling inside of me given to me by my father of starting my own business but it hadn’t been fully realized. It took taking me out of my day-to-day corporate life for all the pieces to come together.
I had been in my own bubble having fun throughout the trip but one night we were walking down the street late at night and saw children scattered along the street in groups with older men and it was heartbreaking to realize the abuse that was happening in the beautiful country I once called home. I knew I had to do something, I had to do my own small part towards change. That was the final piece: I knew that bamboo straw had come into my life for a reason – I would sell them and give proceeds towards these children.
The day after I got home from vacation, I quit my corporate job and started Karunaki, and now I LIVE ECO.
Through all the products we have made, I don’t just see the product – a bamboo tumbler for instance – I see a child’s life. I see people making small changes that will impact the planet in a greater way. We give a portion of each purchase to the Sun Crew: a grassroots children’s charity in the Philippines that offers an education program to children that wouldn’t otherwise be able to access it. Part of their program is teaching social responsibility, as well as giving them tools towards changing their futures.
I see each of our subscribers as my partners in making steps towards loving, honouring, and healing our planet.