Q&A with Cindy Kaiser, Founder of LA KAISER


You might just be our artisan designer with the MOST cultural influences.  Tell us about your connections to the various countries that influence your work.

There are 3 main countries that I am connected to and those are Zimbabwe, Switzerland and the USA. Having grown up and lived in Zimbabwe for 18 years, I was made a first hand witness to the extreme poverty that lies in abundance throughout this country. Something that is so depressing, soul dampening and heart wrenching when you are immersed in it. The exposure to this created a very strong and inherent desire within me to help and give back as much as I can to those less fortunate. 

My parents (now deceased) moved over from Switzerland to Zimbabwe before I was born. Evidently, being Swiss and having the majority of relatives and family living overseas meant I got to spend a fair amount of time in Europe. (A stark contrast on all levels to life in Africa!) I was always inspired by the beauty of Switzerland and the gorgeous buildings, old towns, cathedrals and churches that are in abundance throughout the country. These aesthetically pristine objects have always been a strong source of design inspiration for me. 

After I was done with college in South Africa, I moved to the USA. Again a very different way of life compared to both Africa and Europe. One of the most notable differences for me was the very strong focus on work and the vast array of opportunities that were available to everyone and anyone in the USA! This live-to-work culture inspired and influenced me to start my own business and take advantage of the benefits of American manufacturing.

You’ve worked on some fascinating celebrity pieces, including for Rihanna and Madonna.  Tell us about those experiences and pieces.  

I was working at Michael Schmidt studios in LA at the time. We were often working on many different celebrity costumes and accessories that were used for tours and on stage performances. The pieces generally were VERY time consuming (there were about 3-5 of us working on one project at a time). Madonna’s crown consisted of a LOT of intricate work, such as delicate crystaling and stone setting. The whole crown itself had to be hand sawn out of a flat piece of metal and formed, soldered, plated etc. I remember one day when we got the design briefing for a ‘strap around’ shoulder piece for Kelley Rowlands’ music video, Michael came into the studio in the evening with a case of beer and told us to all grab an alcoholic beverage and get the creative juices flowing! We then proceeded by cutting out paper forms and shapes and pinning them to the mannequin late into the night. It was such a unique work environment, with many very long nights - but was so exciting and rewarding!

We have read about your friend from Zimbabwe named Martha who has inspired you not only creatively, but in life.  Can you tell us more about Martha and your work in Zimbabwe?

I actually saw Martha about a month ago now, when I was back in Zimbabwe for a friend’s wedding. She is such a positive and happy person, despite the fact that she has so little. Her daughter is finally getting ready to graduate school and apply for college at the University of Zimbabwe. It really is so inspiring and at the same time heart wrenching to see Martha work SO hard (as a single mother) just to put food on the table and get her child through school, so she may have the opportunity to lead a better life. (Something which so many of us take for granted in developed countries). Martha and her daughter - Mellissa -  live in a tiny, one roomed hut that Martha likes to jokingly call her “4 roomed house with kitchen, bedroom, living room and toilet all in one!” It really is a sad situation to witness, but being able to help Martha’s daughter continue on with her education is so rewarding and the amount of gratitude that they both have for this opportunity is priceless and overwhelming. At the moment, due to the fact that La Kaiser is only in the beginning stages and a very small business still, we are only able to help fund Mellisa’s education, but as we grow we will be able to help fund several children’s educations in Zimbabwe. My goal is that La Kaiser will build its very own scholarship foundation - allowing as many children as possible the opportunity to pursue an education, which is currently just a mere dream to many. It’s a slow and long process, but I’m determined to get there.

We are thrilled to have your beautiful designs on ShopFunder.  What made you apply to the ShopFunder designer community?

I was so happy to come across an e-commerce site that was focused on something more than just beautiful and trendy products! The fact that ShopFunder donates a generous percentage from each sale to a good cause was the number one reason I applied to be part of this designer community. It’s a shame that there are not more platforms like ShopFunder out there though! 

What more can we look forward to from LA KAISER in 2014 and beyond?

A lot of good things in the form of new and interesting products and updates from Africa and our scholarship program!

Made By Survivors: The Remarkable Story Behind the Designs


In 2002, Made By Survivors co-founder Sarah Symons was writing and recording music for TV.  A song she had written was being used as the title song in a film at the 2002 Tribeca Film Festival, and while she really went to New York that day to see Emmy Rossum perform her song, it was another film at the festival that stole the show for Symons altogether.

The film, “The Day My God Died,” a documentary about child sex trafficking between Nepal and India affected Sarah so greatly that she met her husband, John, for lunch that day, and said “I just saw a film that is going to change my life!”  Sarah says “I guess I should have said ‘our lives’ because as it turned out, fighting slavery has become a family business.”

Together Sarah and John founded Made By Survivors in 2005, using their life savings.  Today, Made By Survivors operates employment, education and aftercare programs in India, Nepal, Cambodia, and Thailand, via profits from the MBS jewelry business.  The company trains and employs jewelers who are pioneers – some of South Asia’s first silversmiths!

Shop from the Made By Survivors collections here.

Sarah’s book, “This Is No Ordinary Joy,” documenting her experiences with slavery survivors, is available on Amazon. 

Q&A with Pamela Gillie, founder of YasuJutaro Artisan Jewelry


How long have you been handcrafting jewelry? 

I have been handcrafting jewelry for almost 6 years now.

How did you get started?

I started making one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces in the Summer of 2008 in an attempt to fulfill an insatiable desire for creativity. After a successful career as a graphic designer for almost 12 years, it was time to take a break to concentrate on raising our two beautiful babies. So for the next 7 years I dabbled in small graphic design projects to keep my creative juices flowing. In the summer of 2008, I wandered into a bead store in Manhattan and felt like a kid in a candy store. Beads and findings in every color and texture imaginable were my new medium – I knew it immediately. I bought everything I would need to get started and the rest is history. I describe jewelry design as graphic design’s cousin. I incorporate the same discipline of color, balance, and creativity with the addition of two more properties: texture and weight. It was not long before I found myself selling at boutiques and Bloomingdale’s trunk shows nationwide.

The name is beautiful and unusual and has a special family connection, I know.  Can you explain?

Yasu and Jutaro are my Japanese Grandparent’s names. My mother is Japanese and my father is Korean. Growing up in Southern California, I was surrounded by Japanese traditions at home and in our community. My mother always practiced Wabi-Sabi, which is the Japanese aesthetic of finding the perfect balance amongst the imperfect. She taught me to look beyond the ordinary and that anything that could be imagined or drawn could be created. This is the approach that I have always used as a child and a professional so when it came to choosing a name for my company it was natural for me to look to my Japanese heritage for inspiration.

How do YOU define “artisan” jewelry?

I define “artisan” jewelry as jewelry that is designed and created by an individual with her own hands, which also means, in limited quantities. A true artisan is highly skilled and uses traditional or non-traditional methods to create special pieces.

We are thrilled to have your beautiful designs on ShopFunder.  What made you apply to the ShopFunder designer community?

I love the uniqueness of the ShopFunder concept. I have always been an active participant in anything that benefits a good cause. I regularly donate jewelry pieces to benefit local organizations like Roots & Wings, The Lake Drive Foundation, The Medical Needs Foundation and other various educational facilities. I feel blessed that, through ShopFunder, I am able to help countless foundations nationwide in reaching their goals.

Any advice for new entrepreneurs?

I always like to share tidbits of advice for anyone looking to pursue a passion. Stay focused and on track and don’t let anyone derail you. While there may be many avenues to pursue, be sure to keep your eye on your main destination. Enjoy the creativity but also be sure to stay true to yourself and make no compromises.

What’s on the horizon for YasuJutaro in 2014?

YasuJutaro is launching a new e-commerce website (in the works now) to showcase the ever changing collection of limited edition pieces. Stay tuned for the Summer 2014 Collection to be unveiled soon! 

How can I win a gorgeous artisan piece from YasuJutaro?

Easy. Simply answer this question, "What gives you strength?" in the comment area below. The best answer will be chosen and announced on Friday April 11, 2014. Stay tune.


We’re Feeling Blue This Month!


This Month is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and we are partnering with our “blue” friends at the Colon Cancer Coalition/Get Your Rear in Gear to raise money and awareness for this devastating disease.  

What can YOU do?

1) Shop for goodness sake!  Colon Cancer Coalition is our featured charity this month.  When you shop and share this link, 30% of all proceeds goes directly to this organization!


2) Show your March Spirit for goodness sake!  When you tag #GetYourRearInGear and #ShopFunder on twitter and/or instagram, you will be entered to win a weekly drawing.  This week’s prize is the gorgeous “Brave” silk wrap bracelet by Horsefeathers.  One lucky winner will win a $75 ShopFunder gift card at the end of the month.  

So Hurry!  Get tagging and get shopping.  For Goodness Sake!

ShopFunder Success Stories



We believe that Goodness Is Always In Style! It’s quick and easy to set up a campaign page here. You keep ALL of the money raised, whether or not you actually reach your goal. All you need to do is to tell YOUR cause’s compelling story. Show your passion and enthusiasm, be yourself. Just like that, you can make a difference too.


Best Supporting Actress winner, Lupita N’yongo, gave an absolutely beautiful acceptance speech at the Oscars last night. We couldn’t agree more with her final statement:

"When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid."

So dream big on this Motivation Monday and have a great week! 
*Image via

Best Supporting Actress winner, Lupita N’yongo, gave an absolutely beautiful acceptance speech at the Oscars last night. We couldn’t agree more with her final statement:

"When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid."

So dream big on this Motivation Monday and have a great week! 

*Image via

ShopFunder Spring Edit

With Spring Break (and summer!) quickly approaching, we’ve picked out a few of our must haves for the warmer days ahead. Shop our favorites and give back this season by following the links below. Happy (almost) spring!


1. You’ll be reaching for this comfy maxi all summer long.

2. The carry all tote to take to the beach or the market.

3. A floral graphic tee that’s right on trend for spring.

4. A tank to throw over your swim suit.

5. The dress for all those special occasions. 

6. Earrings full of summery colors, pearls, and sea shells.

7. An infinity scarf in a neutral color - perfect for those cooler nights.

8. Bright hair ties to keep your windswept hair pulled back.

9. A camera strap in this year’s color of the year to help you document       your vacation.

10. A light and flirty dress for those summertime date nights.

11. The daintiest necklace - because in the warmer months less is               more.

Some of our favorite products that support amazing causes. Shop each item here: Bang Bullet Birthstone Ring / 'Broad Strokes' Organic Scarf / Little Heart Pebble Studs / Catherine Collection Bracelets / Lucky Dog Pendant / Lucky Elephant Pendant

Learn about all the causes on ShopFunder here.

About ShopFunder

ShopFunder is Crowdfunding Redesigned. We’re on a mission to help people raise money for causes that are meaningful to them. And we’re doing it with style. ShopFunder is the only fundraising site that helps people to easily raise money when their friends shop. So not only do your friends get the satisfaction of helping support your cause, they also get great products from emerging designers from around the globe who give back to causes of their own. We call it ShopFunder – it’s crowdfunding, only more stylish.

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