If your looking to be inspired on living life with purpose, Alejandra Zaid is someone you should know. Lucky for us, today we are talking to her about her company Japa Mala – a line of one-of-a-kind, handmade necklaces traditionally used in Buddhist cultures and are also known by many as prayer beads. We love Ale’s story of moving across the world from Guatemala to Indonesia to pursue her passions and start her own business. Find out more below!
Full Name & Hometown:
Alejandra Zaid; Guatemala City
How did you end up moving from Guatemala to Indonesia?
I studied hospitality and tourism in college at University Landivar in Guatemala and then in Switzerland at a school called Les Roches. I had always wanted to go to Indonesia, so I took a job there. I never knew I would like it so much, but I did and I decided to stay.
What part of Indonesia?
I lived in Bali for a long time, but I recently moved to Rote in the south eastern part of Indonesia. My boyfriend and I wanted to start doing something meaningful and good for people, so we decided to move to a place where there is more need. We are starting an farm that will provide healthy superfoods like moringa, kale, other organic produce, then make them available to local populations. Of course I will continue with Japa Mala too.
Can you tell us more about Japa Mala?
Japa Mala is also a meditation and chanting practice – I started doing it when I moved to Indonesia. I had been practicing yoga for around 12 years when I starting experiencing joint pain and my doctor told me that I basically had to stop doing yoga. When I found my japa practice it balanced it all again. Now I do a calesthenics routine mixed with meditation and chanting with my japa practice.
So what is a Japa Mala?
Japa Mala is the main product we sell. It is a series of 108 beads needled together to form a necklace called a Japa Mala and it’s worn while you chant or recite the mantras.
What inspired you to start your company?
I started using the Japa Malas for my practice just buying them locally. Because the beads are traditionally dyed with henna, they would stain everything I would be wearing so I decided to start making my own. The beads we use are a natural Rudraksha seeds, that don’t stain. The mantras in Japa Mala are a collective prayer and the more people that practice, the stronger it becomes – which is the reason why I wanted to start selling them and making them available to others.
Who makes the necklaces?
I started out making the necklaces myself and as we got more orders I started to hire local women in Indonesia to help me. All of the women we employ are moms and they are able to work from home and stay with their kids. They work from home and they can stay. It’s nice because it’s a way to empower them. They don’t earn very well in Indonesia, men usually make more, there was one woman who was working for me and her first month she worked really hard and was really happy because she made more than her dad. It really cool to see.
What do you like best about owning your own business?
I like that I can work when I want and create my own dreams rather than working for someone else. Also, being able to give back to the people I believe in out there.
What are you doing when you’re not running Japa Mala?
Surfing and skating, I like to go to the gym.It’s a working hospital for kids with malnutrition. I also volunteer with a program working with parents who don’t have the knowledge or resources to get their malnourished children healthy. 110 kids live at the center I work at and stay until they are recovered. We do a lot of organic farming with kids with malnutrition. We’re also growing things for the center, for the kids to eat. You can donate through our website to support us here: Orphanheart.org Guatemala -Sponsor a child option.
Do you have any advice for others who may want to start their own business?
The world is so competitive. I know it could be so much better in different ways. If you eat well and feel well with yourself to be the best we can be so we can help other be the best they can be and live better, that’s what it’s all about. Just try to be your best everyday.
Where can we find your japa malas?
You can find them in Nashashala, The Room, Casa Textura, Om Yoga, and various Farmers Markets in Guatemala City, We also have stores that carry us in Puerto Rico, Chile, Hawaii, and Indonesia.
And now, you can also get them at Uxibal too!! Thanks for your time Ale and for all of your great work!!