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Meet the 2020 Healthistas

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Get inspired by our 2020 Healthistas, local residents who’ve eschewed “normal” lives to create unique paths for themselves, their communities and the environment.

Karen A. Fuhrman, Royersford

Founder, Grounded Aerial

Karen A. Fuhrman. // Photo By Tessa Marie Images.

Soaking wet, Karen Fuhrman dove 70 feet into a theater audience and knew she’d found her calling. “Flying is what I was meant to do,” she says.

Fuhrman’s version of flying is done with bungee cords and a safety harness. The apparatus served her well at the Guggenheim Museum and theaters in 14 countries, Yosemite National Park, and Rochester, N.Y.’s Fringe Festival, where she was secured to the side of a skyscraper with over 90,000 people watching. “The oohs and aahs were amazing,” Fuhrman recalls.

After a long career as a professional dancer in New York, Fuhrman segued into aerial performance, first donning a bungee harness for De La Guarda, the off-Broadway show based on Argentine acrobatics and dance. After a three-year run on stage, Fuhrman founded Grounded Aerial, teaching the technique to professional and amateur dancers as well as fitness buffs. “The necessity for balance is in that name,” says Fuhrman. “We use the ground to get the air. We need the ground for stability to be able to fly. And if you can fly, what else can you do?”

Fuhrman moved to the Delaware Valley in 2014, bringing Grounded Aerial with her. At the time, bungee fitness was new to the area. “People were definitely hesitant,” she says. “But aerial work brings out everyone’s inner child. It’s a lot of gear, effort and energy, but the smiles on faces are well worth it.”

Fuhrman teaches at six studios across the Main Line and western suburbs. Her classes sell out, as do her special workshops. “I’m doing what I love and enjoying my life,” she says. “To me, that’s the most important metric of success.”

On being a rebel: Sometimes it’s overwhelming because everything is constantly new—there’s nothing familiar about it. That can be exhausting. I try to turn it into appreciating the work and that I get to pave my own path.

How she responds to naysayers: You don’t think I can do this? Watch me.

On facing challenges: When I moved here from New York, I didn’t know up from down. I applied to become a professor of dance at a local university, but I wasn’t chosen. That was one of the hardest times of my life. I refocused and put more into Grounded Aerial. It’s what I needed to do as a single mom and an artist. That investment in myself paid off in a big way.

How she relaxes: I go out in nature, hike and find the quiet. I’m one of the crazies who go out in the woods and cry and dance—after making sure no one is around.

Her diet: I try to stay balanced, but I have a protein-based diet. If it gets too regimented, I rebel against myself. If I want chips, I eat chips.

Her exercise regimen: My classes are my workouts. Anything extra is restorative— physically and mentally. I’ll light a candle, get quiet, stretch and go inward.

What’s next: Two new classes. “I Used to Dance” is for women who stopped dancing because their lives got in the way. “Hand to Hand Partnering” is an approachable, accessible class for couples to do balancing moves that are strengthening.

Ilka Evans, Malvern

Founder, Zoet Bathlatier

It’s zoot—like toot or hoot.”

Sitting in her sunlit Malvern boutique, Ilka Evans is explaining the correct pronunciation of Zoet Bathlatier, her apothecary and artisan candle company. Zoet is a Dutch word meaning sweet, soft and fresh. “And ‘bathlatier’ I made up,” says Evans with a laugh. “It’s like chocolatier, but for bath and body products.”

Ilka Evans. // Photo By Tessa Marie Images.

Evans makes everything herself in Zoet Bathlatier’s extensive line of handcrafted soaps, body scrubs, fragrances, bath salts, hair products and candles—all of them created with all-natural small-batch ingredients. Evans concocts her products in the small Malvern studio that sits a few blocks from her King Street shop. She moved production there in 2017, relocating from her house. “The business had consumed our 1,000-square-foot basement and was in danger of taking over the whole house,” she says.

Business has been booming since Evans started Zoet Bathlatier in 2011. She’d dabbled in body care years before, officially re-launching when her second child was 4 months old. “I absolutely love this and wanted to pursue it,” she says. “I had all of my recipes in composition books and kept them in a vault.”

From those books came the products that power her successful online business and her shops in Malvern and Kennett Square. And Zoet Bathlatier items can be found in boutiques from California to Maine. Part of her success comes from devising a better version of things already in use. Her own dry skin was soothed with a serum she concocted. “My sister loves rose geranium and citrus, so I made a scent for her,” Evans says. “My brother loves patchouli, but he wears it too strongly. I cut it, created a top note and bottom note for him, and he loved it. That’s the bergamot patchouli hydrating body oil I sell.”

Evans’ inspiration comes largely from her family. Her Dutch mother offered life lessons in healthy eating and living, and her paternal grandmother taught her to forage for roots and herbs in South Carolina’s Low Country. “She made botanical remedies for all sorts of ailments,” recalls Evans. “I grew up thinking of nature as a source of healing.”

On being a rebel: I set out to do what I love for people I love. I’m blessed and thankful that I’ve made a business out of it.

Her niche: My customers specifically want all-natural small-batch products made with high-quality ingredients.

Her first big break: Selling at Ardmore’s Clover Market in 2012. It’s a curated market, and vendors have to be accepted into it. I was thrilled to become part of it.

Her second big break: After I won Best Handcrafted Candles in Main Line Today in 2014, Terrain contacted me. They sold my orange-berry nectar body soufflé, pumpkin scrub and vanilla milk body lotion. That introduced my products to a huge new group of customers.

Her diet and exercise regimen: I’m careful, but not regimented. I tend to eat all natural and organic ingredients, but I’m not opposed to indulgences. I do interval and strength training at my gym, mixed with yoga and other things I dabble in when I have time.

When she goes to sleep: As early as I can. I’m up at 6 a.m. and go to work as soon as my kids leave for school.

What brings her joy: My kids, my extended family and my friends. They’re my strength and my inspiration.

Laura Taylor, Berwyn

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Mingle Mocktails

Laura Taylor. // Photo By Tessa Marie Images.

Two years ago, Laura Taylor was working hard to support her family’s comfortable lifestyle. So it’s no wonder that when the high-powered sales executive and mother of two quit her job to become a full-time entrepreneur, people questioned her sanity.

No need. Mingle Mocktails, Taylor’s line of five non-alcoholic drinks, is now sold at Wegmans, Acme, and other supermarkets and specialty stores. Late last year, she appeared on QVC, where her four-pack mixed case sold out in 10 minutes. And this spring, Mingle Mocktails will be in Whole Foods stores throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

It all started in 2015, when Taylor wanted to cut back on her alcohol intake without feeling excluded at social and business gatherings. “I was used to holding a cocktail,” she says. “I started bringing diet ginger ale to parties—either that or seltzer.”

On a girlfriends’ weekend in the Poconos, Taylor went on an unsuccessful hunt for a tasty non-alcoholic beverage at Whole Foods—though she did find the ingredients to create her own: the Cranberry Cosmo, her first Mingle Mocktail. “I brought a one-liter bottle of it with me, poured it into a pretty wine glass and sat with my friends around the fire,” Taylor says. “I felt socially connected and part of the fun. It was a game changer.”

In a “rosé all day” world, starting a nonalcoholic drink company wasn’t an automatic home run. It took two more years to create all five Mingle Mocktails flavors, bottle them and market them. Then again, coconut water, kombucha, almond milk were also strange beverages at one point. “They’re now mainstream because people want healthy, better-tasting options,” Taylor says.

By 2017, Taylor was devoted to growing her company full time. Her gamble has paid off. “There should be quality beverages for people who choose to abstain from alcohol in a world where people choose to be organic, follow a ketogenic diet or be vegetarian—or have to be gluten-free or follow other dietary restrictions,” Taylor says. “Providing options for them is my mission.”

On being a rebel: It’s really about my customers. There’s a need for high-quality mocktails. The good news is that retailers agree. When I exhibited at trade shows for the first time in June 2018, I got tremendous feedback from buyers and distributors.

How she responds to naysayers:
I don’t pay attention to them. I focus on my husband, parents, sisters and a few close friends. Those are the people I care most about—and who care about me.

Her first big break: I did samplings at Carlino’s Market in Ardmore every weekend. I learned how to present the products and what else customers wanted.

Her second big break: Landing a deal with Bed Bath & Beyond in December 2017. That was a huge step forward.

Where she finds inspiration: I turn to other role models who’ve impressed me with their courage, like Sara Blakely of Spanx. She created a product that every woman needs, has and loves.

Richie Graham, Paoli

Photographic Ambassador, 1% for the Planet

Richie Graham. // Photo By Tessa Marie Images.

At 4 a.m. Tanzania time, Richie Graham grabbed his backpack and hopped into a jeep crowded with men, guns and dogs. This elite unit protects animals from poachers in Grumeti Game Reserve, a wildlife refuge that sits on 350,000 acres of Serengeti National Park, where poachers are well armed and vicious. “They run highly organized Mafia-like cartels that kill elephants, rhinoceros, buffalo and other animals for their meat and ivory,” says Graham.

Graham didn’t have a gun, but he had his weapon of choice: a camera. In 2019, he became the photographic ambassador for 1% for the Planet, a nonprofit that raises funds for conservation-focused groups around the world. Graham volunteered to photograph and document their difficult work. Organizations use the photos to promote their missions, and Graham sells the images, donating the proceeds to 1% for the Planet. Last year, sales of Graham’s photos generated more than $40,000.

Graham has been a landscape photographer for years—it’s one of his passions. Soccer is another. Graham is a minority owner of major league soccer’s Philadelphia Union. He’s also the CEO and founder of YSC Academy, a private high school in Wayne that combines academics with professional-level soccer training.

Tanzania was one of his first missions for 1% for the Planet. Over two weeks, Graham patrolled with the special ops unit and photographed its members—including the canine members of Working Dogs for Conservation. The Montana-based organization trains the latter to detect ivory, ammunition and other hazards.

Graham also did a 10-day solo trek down the John Day River in Oregon. His mission was to document conservation efforts led by Fresh Water Trust. He photographed the river and shot compelling portraits of local ranchers working with the Freshwater Trust. “They are as tough as cowboys can get, but they care about the environment,” Graham says. “There, water is gold and water rights are protected.” 

Next up: the Lost Forest in Madagascar. An indigenous tribe contacted Rainforest Trust asking for help in saving the trees on their land. “They’re in a part of Madagascar so remote that the folks at Rainforest Trust didn’t realize people lived in it,” says Graham. “I can’t wait to see what’s there.”

Graham also does his own conservation-based photography, the sales of which are donated to nonprofits. In 2019, he journeyed to Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic, the second largest but least visited national park in the United States, where he and a buddy spent two weeks camping, bushwhacking and shooting photos in pure wilderness. “Landscape photography is a sport,” he says. “It’s a way of getting off the grid and challenging your body and creativity.”

On being a rebel: I look for the path less traveled. Sometimes, there’s no path at all.

What he’s learned: Conservation really happens at a local level. I didn’t understand the power and impact of a community taking action to protect the environments in which they live.

His exercise regimen: Three days per week, I play soccer for at least one hour—we have staff games and pickup games. If I’m not playing, I run four to five miles. I do interval training, running the first half mile at a slow pace, then a half mile fast, then half mile slower. It’s an aggressive workout.

When he sleeps: Most nights, I’m in bed by 9 p.m. and up at 5 a.m.

What he eats: At home, my diet is protein heavy. When I’m traveling, I’m eating for energy. My food has to fit into my backpack. That’s typically bars and MREs (meals ready to eat). They aren’t tasty, but they get the job done.