by Caitlin Corkery
Between preventing the spread of COVID-19 with Billie Blooms & Feeding America, running a thriving health & wellness startup, Gryph & IvyRose, raising two children, & countless other projects, this model & entrepreneur’s work ethic is unparalleled. We’re grateful Karolina had a moment in her busy schedule to chat with us about how she’s helping flatten the curve & keeping her business buzzing in a challenging climate.
Karolina, you’ve gone above and beyond, partnering up with Billie Blooms to join the #MASKS4ALL movement, to produce non-medical masks to help flatten the curve. How did this collaboration come to fruition?
It feels like centuries ago, but it was really only two months ago when we started this collaboration. I’m from the Czech Republic and I was incredibly proud of how they are handling this pandemic. The Czech Republic was quick to establish a mandatory order for residents to wear a non-medical mask anytime they step outside. Because of this initiative, they were able to successfully minimize the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve. Inspired by my home country and the efforts of many of my friends crafting & distributing masks, I too wanted to do my part and help make a positive impact. Now, I can’t sew nor do I even own a sewing machine, so I knew I needed some backup. Ashley Liemer, Co-Founder of Billie Blooms, is a talented tailor and someone I’ve worked with on professional and personal projects over the course of 10 years. Her oldest is even in the same class as my youngest. Ashley was on board as soon as I reached out to share my idea of partnering up to produce non-medical masks together. Being two women in fashion, we really wanted to bring some color and some style to the masks. And being two moms, it was important to focus on the needs and safety of children. When we started, there really weren’t a lot of options out there for kids. We really wanted to make masks comfortable and a little more fun for kids, so we created patterns and prints to help engage children and allow them to express themselves.
When we started, we knew we wanted to partner up with a reputable, nationwide organization that we could trust to help us achieve our mission & make a greater impact. After working with Feeding America for several years, I knew they were the perfect nonprofit to join our mission. They were immediately on board with the partnership and, as an extra thank you, we promised to provide a minimum of 2,5000 masks to their volunteers on the frontlines and the families they are serving. We started out with a simple model of donating a mask for every mask sold and I’m proud to say we’ve donated about 8,000 masks to Feeding America over the past two months. As the pandemic continues, Ashley & I want to find other ways we can make a greater impact, so we’ve started donating a portion of our proceeds to Feeding America to help them serve their communities.
Another major goal of ours was to help the local community and economy, by employing those who had lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Many seamstresses were out of work because their factory had closed or they were frightened to return to the workplace due to health concerns. They lost their income and their ability to provide for their families. It was of the utmost importance to me to make sure we hired as many local women as possible to help them through these uncertain times.
View this post on Instagram
Raising children during Coronavirus poses A LOT of questions for parents ❤️ Tomorrow at 4pm EST I’m talking with pediatrician @stephencowanmd about explaining the virus (and germs) to children without freaking them out! My new project with @billieblooms is meant to also help with exactly that… we want to make wearing a mask for kids a little more fun and a little less scary. Tune in to hear our talk and send me your questions for Dr. Cowan by replying on my stories 💛 #KK
View this post on Instagram
#WearingMyMaskWith My Boys 😍 Our #MasksForAll are handmade in the USA from high quality fabrics. They are reusable, come in 5 different sizes and our designs are fun the whole family can wear. If you can help, please clink the link in our bio to support our campaign! #Masks4All and #masksforall 🙏❤️ Please share with me with who you wear your mask with #wearingmymaskwith
In addition to making masks more kid-friendly, you’re also providing parents with the tools to help them discuss COVID-19 with their children. Can you tell us more about that?
Many parents, myself included, wondered how to go about explaining the pandemic and the need to wear masks to their children. Ashley & I thought we should help children better understand COVID-19 & having to wear masks through the art of storytelling, so we feature a series of comics on our website for free. One of my favorite comics from the series helps ease children into wearing masks by highlighting how superheroes not only wear capes, but they wear a mask as well. When you wear a mask you’re doing your part to save the lives of others which makes you a real-life superhero. We don’t want to just sell cute masks, we also want to be a resource for parents to help them navigate these tough conversations with their children. All of these stories tackle relevant things that are going on – masks, social distancing, virtual school, virtual playdates, etc.
What extra steps have you been taking to ensure your children’s wellness brand, Gryph & IvyRose, continues to thrive and is set up for success during these unprecedented times?
Gryph & IvyRose is a startup company, so we’re a pretty small team. It has been a challenging time for us, as it has been for many small businesses. From probiotics to skincare, the health and wellness of our customers is always our top priority. Fortunately, we’ve seen an increase in interest with our line of herbal elixirs. The elixirs are great for the entire family to help boost immunity, get a good night’s rest, ease tummy troubles & more. I’m a huge fan of our Call It A Night Sleep Support elixir. I used to primarily use it to combat jet lag, but lately, it’s been helping me readjust my sleep schedule that’s been thrown off by all the extra screen time. Throughout all this, the Gryph & IvyRose team has focused on staying positive, not losing sight of our goals, & being mindful of the content we create. At the end of the day, there’s only so much you have control over.
You’ve clearly been keeping yourself incredibly busy. Like most moms out there, I’m sure you’ve experienced some level of working mom guilt. What are your tips for overcoming this seemingly unavoidable feeling?
The first step is acknowledging that the guilt is always going to be there. Between juggling professional responsibilities and household duties, it’s important to make a point to set aside time each & every day to connect with your children. Even if it’s just for an hour. It truly makes a difference. Whether it’s taking a break from work to go on a walk together; having a sit-down family meal; or bonding over bath time, make a point to make that connection with your little ones.
As a person in the public spotlight, how are you being thoughtful about your social presence during this time?
I’m using this time to learn & listen. Every time you do something on social media, there is meaning and purpose behind the content you are sharing with the world. My followers have been a great source of education and enlightenment. Right now, I’m taking a step back to listen and learn to find ways I can be better as a human being, a mom, a boss, in all areas of life.
For more from Karolina on navigating business and motherhood, check out The Working Mom’s Guide to Quarantine panel recap from #BlogHer20 Healthy at Home, featuring Dara Treseder, CMO of Carbon, & Eve Rodsky, author Fair Play.