By Julia Zhu
The Journey of Two HB Girls Starting a Non-Profit
A Brief Introduction
Rhea Mahajan and Kaila Morris are two HB students and the founders of Nature of Kindness. They aim to spread kindness while also being a sustainable and environmentally- friendly company. Their products are kindness packages, consisting of stickers, quote cards, Act of Kindness ideas on plantable paper, and more. The proceeds will go towards the Sierra Club, a grassroots environmental movement, and Dare2Lead, a local anti-bullying organization. They are launching Feb 8th so put that on your calendar!
- What is the mission of your non-profit?
Kaila: “The official statement we have is ‘As an intersection between sustainability and kindness, Nature of Kindness is a Cleveland-based nonprofit that aims to spread positivity through environmentally-friendly kindness packages.’ To break that down, our mission is to encourage people to spread good- not only to other people, but the world (after all, it’s been shown that nature influences and helps our wellbeing). The goal is to get people involved, so that they can be activists and philanthropists!”
- Who are you two, who are Rhea Mahajan and Kaila Morris?
Kaila: “I am Kaila Morris, a junior at HB.”
Rhea: “I’m Rhea Mahajan, also a junior.”
Kaila: “I come from a business family, so I have always been interested in entrepreneurship, and taking the Business and Finance course at HB cemented my interest in doing business down the line. I’ve also taken sustainability classes all throughout high school, which made me realize the importance of incorporating social justice into business. Specifically, I think that it’s really important to focus on environmental concerns no matter what you do, because everything is multidisciplinary to some extent.”
Rhea: “Like Kaila, I’m also in Business and Finance, a class which I find really interesting because of how relevant it is to life in general, even if you don’t have a career in the finance-entrepreneurship-business realm. I’ve also always loved art as a hobby, so the whole idea of making ‘kindness packages’ for the business was (and still is, obviously) really exciting to me.”
- What made you two want to work together to accomplish this mission?
Kaila: “We’ve always been really good friends and have had a lot of shared interests–– but the cool thing is that we fill in each other’s gaps, so to speak, so what I don’t do well Rhea is really good at.”
Rhea: “Most of the time, at any rate *laughs* But yeah, we complement each other’s skills.”
- When did you two start the company?
Kaila: “We started early summer, I would say June. I had the beginnings of an idea, and I just had to brainstorm it. The idea sat on the back burner until Business and Finance started, when school started in August. When Ms. Krist brought up the Business and Finance capstone, I knew I could apply what I was thinking and put it into action.”
Rhea: “Yeah, I believe we filed a grant [with HB to receive funds] in October.”
Kaila: “October was when we realized, ‘Okay, we’re really going to go through with this,’ and then in November, we became legally established within the state of Ohio.”
Rhea: “We were actually going to launch for Thanksgiving, but when we realized how many steps there were to have a full, standing, business, we moved opening day to a week before Valentine’s Day.”
- Was this company/product your first idea or did you have a few before?
Kaila: “We didn’t have any other business ideas before, but I will say that when the idea was first being developed, we weren’t as sustainability-based. It started as more of a care package, with an emphasis on the ‘kindness’ aspect, but I knew something was missing from the idea–– and then I thought, okay, what if we linked this with sustainability somehow?”
Rhea: “I remember being super excited when your mom shared the idea of plantable paper for the Act of Kindness cards because that was really ‘next level,’ you know, to use plantable paper in our packages – versus cardstock like originally planned.”
Kaila: “Right, and it added this incentive to actually do the Act of Kindness.”
- How did your products evolve?
Kaila: “Well, there was the whole thing with plantable paper, like we were talking about above. We also originally planned to put everything in a box, or just a regular envelope, like so many other companies do. But when we started thinking sustainably, we thought we could use a biodegradable envelope.”
Rhea: “By the way, to clarify the difference between biodegradable and a regular envelope, a biodegradable one can be decomposed by bacteria and by other little organisms in the environment. It’s one step further than recycling.”
Kaila: “Right! And another way the package evolved is that we decided to allow our customers to choose the quotes on their quote sheets. They have a selection of ten, from which they can pick three.”
Rhea: “We also have a sticker sheet from sofeistudio, something more tangible and long-lasting. We realized it could be really cool to work with local (especially student-run) businesses, and working with Sophy has been really great!”
- Were there any challenges in collaborating with another company for a product?
Rhea: “Actually, no, Sophy has been really accommodating, and the partnership has done really well. We first reached out to her in early January, after Kaila discovered her Instagram page (@sofeistudio), and it’s really been super easy coordinating the logistical components.”
Kaila: “It came together really, really easily. We’re so excited to be working with her, and big shout out to sofeistudio! All her products are so cute, and her style is very unique.”
- What are the challenges that you have faced in making this company happen?
Kaila: “My parents and Mrs. Krist have been a big help, but with us being a nonprofit, there are things none of us know. It’s required a lot of research– there’s not a lot of teenagers we can ask about starting a business. We didn’t even realize we needed to file certain forms at first. That’s the learning curve.”
Kaila: “A specific issue we had was that we realized for our quotes sheets, they have to be quotes in the public domain. Some quotes are copyrighted. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” is copyrighted by his family, for example. So we have to be careful not to do that without permission.”
Kaila: “Being a minor also always has some restrictions. Like, our bank account has to be in an adult’s account.”
Rhea: “That is not to say that those challenges stop us!… As is evident by us launching on February 8th.”
Kaila: “Yes! As much as being a minor is hard, it’s also in a way nice, because you get unique opportunities. From a customer standpoint, we can connect with people our own age, which is sometimes a hard-to-reach market.”
- What do you think are the future goals for your company?
Rhea: “Besides launching on February 8th, we plan on incorporating new types of packages. For instance, we plan on creating a new birthday package or a holiday package, varying the contents to make it specific to the occasion.”
Kaila: “We also want to expand on the social justice component, to be able to reach people not only through our products but also through our Instagram. Ultimately, we don’t just want to sell packages– we encourage others to be environmental advocates.”
- Do guys have any advice for HB students wanting to start a company, but are unsure?
Rhea: “First and foremost, never be afraid to ask for help, because you never know what advice someone has.”
Kaila: “HB has a lot of resources. We have Ms. Krist, who knows so much about starting a business. We also have all these great alumni! There are literally so many people you can ask for help so don’t be afraid to reach out!”
Kaila: “Also, I think to some degree, there’s this feeling you get when you stumble on the right idea. Like, you know it’s the one, and you know you have to go for it.”
Kaila: “But even with that said, don’t be too hasty with it. A business is something you need to really think through and plan ahead. There’s lots to consider. We had to think about, like, ‘How are we going to get our money? What are we going to need to make Nature of Kindness a success? How do we market?’ There are a lot of things to take into account.”
Rhea: “Oh, also, something really obvious– make sure to do your research thoroughly. It’s not only important from a legal standpoint to make sure you, you know, don’t break any laws, but also, there’s a lot of helpful tips online that can really save you time, money, and effort.”
Kaila: “Feel free to reach out to both of us if anyone has questions too!”
Nature of Kindness launches February 8th! Preorders are available now!
Nature of Kindness Website: natureofkindness.org
Nature of Kindness Instagram: @natureofkindness
Kaila’s Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rhea’s Email: email@example.com