Super Model Turns Wellness Expert
By Jazmin Alvarez
August 5, 2020
As an entrepreneur, I know first-hand the challenges that come with running a business and, how doing so during a pandemic, can shake everything up. For many, it’s been a harsh reality that’s led to unexpected changes, but for others they have been able to continue to thrive despite this shift. I had a chance to chat with Supermodel, turned wellness entrepreneur, Karolina Kurkova, who is the co-founder of the family wellness and personal care brand, Gryph & IvyRose. We explore how she got started and how her family upbringing made this the natural path for her to follow. From runways and jet-setting around the world, to full-time mom and CEO, Karolina puts the super in superwoman!
Jazmin: So, it’s been 2 years since you launched Gryph & IvyRose. How did you meet your co-founders?
Karolina: Yes, just coming up on 2 years, fast and furious! We’re still in the growth stage, so it’s really exciting. When I moved to Miami, I was looking for a place for bodywork, acupuncture and alignment which is when I met my co-founders – Orion and his father, who worked together at the acupuncture clinic. Rachel and her husband then moved to a neighborhood close to where my husband and I lived. We met and instantly hit it off, soon realizing that we shared many common interests. At that time, my husband and I were taking our kids to visit Orion and his father, and although Rachel’s kids were a little older, she soon came to be interested in, and discovered the power of their work and the herbal medicine they were practising. From a commercial aspect, Rachel identified a gap in the market for what they were doing and wanted to find a way for us to make it accessible to a wider audience.
Jazmin: How did you find the transition from the previous demands as a high-powered, jet-set supermodel to juggling your roles now as model, mother and entrepreneur?
Karolina: It was a very authentic and organic thing, and one that I truly believed in. I already practised natural wellness and, going back to modeling, I really learned you need to take care of yourself. There is no miracle answer that will do it all. It’s a lifestyle choice, one that you have to live every day. Even before I had my children, I was always interested in holistic and bodywork techniques, and over the past 21 years, I feel I’ve reached a good equilibrium and balance in life. Essentially, what is important is the time and energy you invest in yourself.
Jazmin: How has your upbringing and family culture shaped the way you approach wellness and self-care?
Karolina: My father was a professional basketball player and, as a child, I was a professional gymnast. I would train every day, before and after school. When you’re an athlete, you already know so much about how you need to take care of your body, so, going through that, as well as it being ingrained in my DNA, as part of my culture, it was already a part of me.
Jazmin: I’ve had similar conversations with young models when I was a casting director; so I’m interested in how their cultural upbringing has impacted the way that they care for themselves, how they eat and approach wellness, beauty and lifestyle. It’s interesting that you were a gymnast, because you’re quite tall.
Karolina: Or, rather, I got super tall! My body went through major changes as I grew up; I got really long and that’s when I transitioned into playing basketball, so sports have always been part of my life.
Growing up in the Czech Republic, I had parents who both cooked and my grandparents had a house with chickens and rabbits. They had a large garden where I would spend a lot of my time and where I learned how to harvest and take care of things. If I wanted a snack, I climbed the tree to get an apple, or I went to the forest and found blueberry bushes to pick from. My grandmother and I often made homemade jam and pickles, so, even as a young child, I learned to make food from scratch. I developed a relationship with, and knowledge of, foraging and creating meals using ingredients in their natural form. Frozen meals weren’t even available at that time, so it was a different mentality. Everything was fresh and not from a package, and that’s how I believe we are supposed to eat, how humans are supposed to be eating.
Jazmin: This is something you’ve lived your entire life, that you’re passing on to your children while also sharing with the world. I think it’s a beautiful thing.
Karolina: Yes, absolutely, and Rachel to her 3 kids, and Orion to his 3 kids. We begin with them first, working with new products and having them sample and use them. Their feedback is always very straightforward.
Jazmin: You’re right, you never have to wonder what a child is thinking, they will tell you the honest, absolute truth. So which products are your kids’ favorite?
Karolina: My 4 year old son loves the vanilla probiotics. He really likes the taste of them and even knows what they do, especially the herbal Belly Works, which is for digestion and tummy aches. My kids call it belly water!
Jazmin: So, what are you doing during this time of quarantine, and how are you keeping yourself healthy and sane, at the same time?
Karolina: I mean, it’s definitely hard to have time for myself because I’m still working whilst looking after 2 boys and my husband, but I have been very lucky as my parents quarantined with us. They’ve been a huge help and great support, but at the same time, it’s a lot of people in one household, so it’s been challenging!
While my husband works full-time, I try to set aside one hour, 3 to 4 times a week, to work out and that gives me some time alone, which is really important to me. Other times, I don’t even have a moment to brush my hair! Trying to get back into a routine has been my focus and making sure I can meditate. Setting aside even 20 minutes with yourself is extremely calming and beneficial for the mind.
Jazmin: That’s great that you’re finding time to meditate, because I’m sure your kids can even tell the difference. I can tell the difference too when I meditate. It really does set the tone for the entire day.
Karolina: Absolutely, and I’m also making a lot of smoothies. With so much going on and so little time, I can make these ‘to go’ while using my elixir Forceshield to ensure I’m helping boost my immune system. Recipe below:
Jazmin: You’re a mother, and a person that people can relate to in so many ways. I think that’s a great thing to not always be perfect-looking, because that’s not realistic for anybody, we all know that.
Karolina: Thank you. I don’t mind people seeing me ‘real’. I mean, it’s like with Instagram - sometimes you just forget that the whole world is watching.
Jazmin: So what are some of your favorite skincare and beauty products?
Karolina: I’ve been doing a lot of home face masks which are great. They’re quick and easy, but so effective. For example, I like to use egg white, which is so good for minimizing pores and tightening the skin. It’s just amazing, especially if you do it in the morning.
Jazmin: And you could save the yolks and put them in your hair. They’re a great protein treatment for the hair.
Karolina: Yeah, I always try to take care of my hair and manage it myself. For my face, I’ve done coffee scrubs and used oatmeal and honey. These are great for hydration and creating that healthy glow. If I’m making oatmeal for the boys, I just make some extra and put it all over my face; it’s really good for the skin. Avocadoes, which I also love to eat, work well when combined with honey. It’s amazing how beautiful and fresh the skin looks after all these homemade treatments. Even bananas, when they are getting black and mushy and look inedible, just mash them and put them on your skin.
As well as home-made products, I have also been using the Kat Burki skincare range, my favorites are the Rose Hip Serum and the Eye Serum which I use everyday. I try to do whatever I can to go back to back to basics, with natural ingredients, as I have really discovered how powerful they are and what a difference they make to my skin.
Jazmin: I definitely agree, and have the same approach to beauty myself! What other projects are you working on now - outside of Gryph and Ivy Rose, modelling and being a Mom? Is there something we can expect for the future?
Karolina: I have teamed up with my friend and designer, Ashley Leimer, to make reusable and washable face masks for the whole family. We sell them on Billieblooms.com. So far, we have also donated over 40,000 of these masks to America’s volunteers and their families, who are so bravely serving on the front lines. With any profits from those sold, we are giving the proceeds to Feeding America. We both wanted to help flatten the curve and create a line of masks that were also fun, fashionable and sustainable!
Together with the kids’ masks, we are giving short-story trading cards; the kids get excited about collecting them and they each have an important story, capturing the zeitgeist of the moment, so they also get to learn whilst having fun!
Jazmin: That’s amazing, and a great way to get kids excited about staying healthy with face coverings. And finally, what advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a wellness entrepreneur like yourself?
Karolina: You have to make sure that whatever you are launching, or creating, is something you’re really passionate about, that you truly believe in and that you use in your everyday life, even that you share with your family. Also, it’s essential to find the right partner to do it with. It’s important that you surround yourself with the right people, who can help get your message across to a wider audience.
I have found that there are many hard lessons to learn along the way - you might have a certain mindset or do things a certain way, but suddenly you might have to change the way you work or with whom you work. It is essential to be open-minded and fluid, because things can happen quickly and you need to adapt.
Finally, never forget what you are trying to communicate with your brand, together with the reasons you created it. Remember what is important about the message you are putting out there, essentially what is the DNA of your brand.