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From Publishing to Purpose: Geri Topfer's Path to Mindfulness and Service

Geri Topfer is on a mission to bring mindfulness and mental healthcare to all everyone in the post-pandemic world. As the Founder and President of Kula for Karma, Geri has established strategic and meaningful partnerships with hospital systems, schools, treatment centers, homeless youth and crisis centers and yoga communities. Prior to Kula, she was an advertising executive for Gruner and Jahr Printing & Publishing Co., Parent and Child Magazines, Conde Nast, and Glamour Magazine.

During our interview, Geri shared what life is like working at the intersection of well-being and service, and how patience and perseverance serve as cornerstones of her success.

Geri Topfer, Founder of Kula for Karma and co-founder of Bestill, an inspiring woman dedicated to making a difference in the lives of others.

Thanks for sitting down with Confidence Daily! Tell us about what you do.

I am the Founder of Kula for Karma and Co-Founder of Bestill. Kula for Karma (Sanskrit: Community for Service to Others) is a national nonprofit founded in 2007 that provides mindfulness-based mental health care to underserved, marginalized, and vulnerable communities, and to first responders. Their mission is to bring a mindfulness path to mental health - consisting of gentle and restorative yoga, guided meditation, and breathing techniques - to people who cannot easily access it or afford it, and to those on the front lines who are responsible for keeping our communities healthy and safe.

Their teachers who are trained in trauma, addiction, and mental health, meet the communities they serve in the following areas: schools, juvenile detention centers, addiction treatment centers, prisons, group homes, hospitals, safe havens for survivors of domestic violence or sexual violence, and communities traumatized from or working to prevent gun violence.

How do you cultivate confidence?

I take chances, love the unknown, dive in and work hard. I'm not afraid of falling and have learned over a lifetime to get back up, stay curious, and surround myself with people that believe in me.

What does being a woman-owned business mean to you?

Everything! I have been surrounded by powerful warrior women my whole life. They have been my greatest teachers. Having a daughter, leading by example, that we CAN blend our lives is doable and important. Having a female partner is the cherry on a delicious sundae! It makes it fun!

Geri Topfer, Founder of Kula for Karma and co-founder of Bestill, an inspiring woman dedicated to making a difference in the lives of others.

What was your business origin story?

I was in publishing for 20 years, a director of advertising in the heyday of print. I was surrounded by tough women who were just entering the job market and in leadership roles. They didn’t have the ability to mentor in a way that made it feel safe. It was all business and bottom line, making our numbers, etc. They didn’t have the skill set to make it safe to be vulnerable and ask for support. I started working when I was 13 years old…my working origin story is that I was hungry and willing to create what didn’t exist.

Okay, coming up with a great idea and actually taking the steps to become an entrepreneur and launch your company are two very different things. How did you know it was time to take a leap?

I happened to be awake at the right time when a teacher was sharing her experience with children in another country and how she wished she could go back. At that moment, it hit me and I knew that we needed to offer integrative mindful resources in our own backyard. I knew what I needed to do…I wanted to serve! That was the initial seed, and I jumped right into creating the solution.

Because of my business background, I am very comfortable cold calling, requesting in-person meetings, and building relationships. I never hear a NO and if it’s a maybe, I love turning it into a YES! I am comfortable negotiating and asking for the business. I felt like I was organically using my work/ life skills and creating a business that I was passionate about. I knew what yoga and mindfulness did for me personally and realized at that moment that I was about to step onto a path that would present itself as my life purpose… my WHY. I also knew how to identify what I needed to bring it to life and bring the right talent into the fold to make it happen.

Sometimes entrepreneurship can be a hard and isolating journey. How do you stay confident along the way?

I have a daily practice of meditation, breathwork, prayer, exercise, and yoga. I have a partner that before we dive into work each morning, we ask each other, “How are you doing, how are you REALLY doing,” and we laugh, cry and share in a very genuine way. My husband and three grown kids have been on the journey with me from day one. My kids started Teen Kula when they were in high school, and my older son sits on our Innovative Advisory Board of young professionals. It's a family affair for sure, and my friends have been beyond supportive, coming to gala’s, and showing up when they can year after year, for 20 years. Our staff lights up my heart, and I love watching our teachers be as passionate about the work as I am; it fills my heart! I have a kitchen table of women, as Michelle Obama refers to in her podcast, that I love, trust and support my everything!

If you had to list three traits or attributes that have been pivotal for your success, what would they be?

Patience and Perseverance, and no judgment! Working in the non-profit development world, I had to understand that not everyone is passionate about offering yoga to prisoners, veterans, individuals struggling with addiction… it’s certainly not sexy, so I had to learn how to tell our story and learn to pull at the heartstrings by highlighting populations that people can identify with like children/adults with cancer, and children/adults with special needs. We learned to highlight certain populations at gala’s or fundraising events, knowing that the funding would be spread across the organization. It also was not sexy to talk about mental health which we have been doing for over 18 years. It’s just now becoming a more widespread conversation and it’s been an uphill reminder of remembering why we do the work we do. It's not easy AND it needs to be done.

What's one myth you'd like to debunk about your line of work?

That you can blend yoga and business…business from the heart…and make no mistake that although it’s yoga and mindfulness, we run the organization like a Fortune 500 company.

What advice would you give to burgeoning entrepreneurs?

  • Find a partner that will complement your skill set, support your vision, has a similar insane drive and work habits, and in our case, want to truly do good in the world and leave this place a better planet.

  • Non-profit work is about creating your legacy!

  • AND, HAVE FUN in the process.

What words do you live by?

"Believe that you can, and you’re halfway there." - Theodore Roosevelt.

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fall.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Any final words of wisdom?

Every human has something unique to offer. Do the inner work, grieve, heal, and learn to love yourself madly, so you can go out in the world, and off your mat and be that love…we are either living in love or fear…choose love!

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