Dear Passionate Humans,

Some stories are too good not to be shared. And we’re always on the lookout to amplify the voices of amazing women who are bursting with inspiration through our series #FromWomentoWomen.

Today we meet Kristina Byrne who discovered yoga at 23 in London. Yoga came to her unexpectedly while she was in the midst of sorting through a storm of feelings. “My career at the time wasn’t really moving in any direction, so it was a strange time in my life. I walked past a yoga studio in Parsons Green and thought of popping in for a class, by the time the class was over I was covered in tears!” she told us.

Kristina Byrne of  SAÏA LondonKristina uncovered a well of emotions during her first yoga session, but the next sessions over the following months helped her reconnect with herself.

“It was as if my day-to-day life had completely consumed me and I had forgotten who I truly was, but through my practice I was able to peel all of that away and re-connect with my values and define what I wanted to do next and who I wanted to become.”

And like a crazy happy happenstance from a movie, things started slotting in order. Today Kristina is the founder of SAÏA London, a brand that started with 100% vegan yoga mat bags but is now slowly expanding to other things.

But let’s move back a little for SAÏA’s sweet origin story; the first prototype bag for SAÏA was created by her grandmother’s loving hands. “Working so closely with her was magical. We created a beautiful bond through it, and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to spend time with her on that level.” Kristina says.

Exploring a connection that expanded beyond the usual ‘grandma-granddaughter’ relationship is an opportunity that not many people get to experience. “I love that the women I had always looked up to and loved was helping me to pursue my dreams and bringing this product to life.”

Her connection to the matriarchs in the family became the nudge for Kristina to take the brave first steps in establishing her own business. SAÏA means 'A Woman Who Wins' and was in part inspired in a personal story of female empowerment that started with her great-grandmother, Calandita, who worked on a small farm until she was old enough to make her way into the city in search of better opportunities.

For Kristina who had a background of working in the fashion, finding that opportunity for herself came from figuring out her own niche in an industry that was already teeming with every kind of idea. “When I was working in fashion, I could see just how hard it was to cut through the noise, it felt like everything had been done before.” Her discovery of yoga seemed like the perfect break to bring her back to herself and to spark fresh ideas that would start something new.

She was searching for the perfect yoga mat bag that be both functional and look beautiful when she realized that nothing quite fit the list of criteria she had in mind. And so the idea for the Emmeline bag started to form. “When I thought of this bag, I felt like I had the opportunity to introduce a new fashion category. I can reinvent the way women carry their yoga mats to the studio, this gave me huge drive and purpose.”

While her greatest challenge was in developing an entirely new product and the engineering challenges of it, she also found releasing her baby into the wild brought in feelings of discomfort. “It might sound silly but posting that first image on Instagram to launch SAÏA and telling the world about it was hard! I was extremely proud of what I had done, my designs and all the work that had gone behind it, but I was also scared of criticism and rejection.” She says.

 Kristina Byrne of  SAÏA London with the Emmeline Bag

Kristina designed the Emmeline vegan yoga bag to answer the call for a yoga mat bag with a versatile look, something Isabelle Moon is also aiming to do with organic activewear that looks just as good on and off the mat.

Before introducing SAÏA to the public, Kristina had worked on the brand for a year and it was understandably a nerve wracking moment. But she found comfort in seeking out people who were going through the same thing. “I spoke with other entrepreneurs and listened to podcasts on entrepreneurship. It was extremely helpful to hear stories of people who have been through similar journeys and faced similar challenges.”

The power of collaboration was something she drew strength from, something she picked up in her work from before SAÏA. “There’s a positive impact that collaborations have. You could go much further if you were open to collaborating. That’s when doors simply start opening.”

SAÏA is growing baby with new things constantly brewing behind closed doors. “We’re launching the SAÏA Yoga Brunch Club on September 19th, and situation willing – it will be a regular thing we’ll be holding.” Shares Kristina. The SAÏA Yoga Brunch Club is a social event for women to come together to be inspired, feel supported and be treated to unique and exclusive experiences – a way to celebrate not only sisterhood, but also the small pleasures in life.

For Kristina, one of her own personal sources of joy comes in the form of her puppy. “We go for long walks in Primrose Hill to meet her friends and play and after playdate is over, I have a glass of red wine and we watch Sex and the City together.” The newly discovered TV show is something that she’s watching for the first time. “It’s been an absolute gem to watch as I’m entering my 30s!”l

You can keep up with the latest updates on  SAÏA London on their Instagram, or head over to the website to see what they’re up to!

Always excited for amazing stories,

Isabelle Moon

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