Maša Pirc – Bellabeat

Inspirational Women interview with Maša Pirc

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Maša Pirc is one awesome human. As she describes herself - Maša is an architect by education and Štrikula by heart.

Štrikula is her own brand of handmade knitwear and jewelry. She claims to love everything beautiful and what she creates is, indeed, beautiful even beyond the surface. That’s why she inspires us - not just through her intriguing design but also through her selfless dedication to her home town’s strays.

In 2016, Maša co-founded a “shelter” for stray cats called Mačjak. They currently care for 5 strays who are looking for their forever home(s). Run in a rented store front showroom in a back alley of a small town’s centre and financed from selling products of Slovenian designers, including Maša’s own, Mačjak is a project bursting with potential. It’s a project that is important not just for the protection of homeless animals but for the whole town and its people.

We visited Mačjak and their 5 furry residents to talk to Maša about her struggle with the town authorities’ and her vision to turn a shelter into a cafe, where town residents and tourists alike could stop by for a quick coffee and de-stress cuddles.

nives-one
nives-two

INTERVIEW

1. Maša, you run your own design brand, work as a visual content creator for other brands and run a non-profit shelter for stray cats. Tell us a bit more about yourself and all the businesses you run.

I have my own brand named Štrikula, I mostly make jewelry, clothing pieces and pretty things for your home. I come up with new stuff regularly and offer those new products to my customers as well. The whole process is a one girl band - I deal with customers, hand make every piece, photograph it and finally package and ship it.

People seem to like my photography style and they have been reaching out to me with a request to have their photographs taken by me. I have really been enjoying doing this as well and am hoping they like what I produce for them.

All of my leftover time, I dedicate to our cat shelter and our stray cats. We design and sell our own merchandise in order to finance everything - food, rent for our space, veterinary costs… At the moment, there are 5 cats in Mestni mačjak space, which we visit 3 times a day to feed them and play with them and basically make sure that all of their needs are met. There are also many other tasks that go into running a non profit organisation such as raising money, answering calls, emails and messages, maintaining the space we have, organising annual charity auctions and of course providing the cats with their forever homes.

2. Most of us can barely find time for ourselves, so we have a hard time giving up on our “hard earned” personal comfort for the sake of the less fortunate ones (self critique intended)... and yet, you’ve found a way, time and energy to create a space where stray cats can find safety and care.
What drove you to do that, where do you find personal motivation for giving so much?

Even before Mestni mačjak became a reality, I had been feeding the stray cats of Kranj for about 10 years. I even took some of them in and later found them good forever homes. But this really quickly became impossible, because I was living with my parents, and later in a rented apartment with my own cats. There simply wasn’t enough space in our apartment and I couldn’t go on like this. That was actually the first time I considered the idea of owning a small space, which would be a sort of halfway house for stray cats. Of course, I knew I couldn’t make this a reality on my own, so I asked some of my friends for help. Later we also found volunteers, for whom we are eternally grateful as they give their time and help us out tremendously.

Of course, there are times when I feel as if everything is a big mess and that maybe I can’t handle all of the responsibilities; I would love to just sit on the couch and do nothing. But then I remember the feeling I get when cats go to their new forever homes; the joy they express when I visit them and bring them food and water; simple things like that are worth every drop of sweat and tears for me.

Maybe, all of us could give just a little more time and energy to those in need and the world would definitely be a better place for all. I also feel like we have become a small community, fighting for the well-being of animals and promoting kindness and compassion. Hopefully, we will get bigger and stronger with each year.

3. People and cats share a special connection, furthermore, physical contact with pets has been proven to be beneficial for our health. Spending time with animals can reduce stress and anxiety while also promoting socialization. You’ve talked about turning your shelter into a cat cafe where guests can meet and play with your furry residents. Can you tell us more about this idea and why this would greatly benefit the strays you take care of and the whole town itself?

I feel like our current space has become a little too small for our ideas and vision. We would love to have a bigger space with a fenced yard where people could have a delicious coffee, socialize with each other and with our cats. We would also host different workshops, hold some educational and inspirational lectures and talks and also a shop with our merchandise. That means we would be able to finance the non-profitable activities through the profitable ones and establish a kind of a win-win situation.

We are envisioning a low-waste concept for this whole project, with local ingredients for the cafe and local people. Like minded people and mixed generations would come together and start creating an awesome story together.

We are super excited for this project and everything it has to offer, but we are also a little bit scared and know that we can’t do it without some help from investors and donations.

Maybe, all of us could give just a little more time and energy to those in need and the world would definitely be a better place for all.

Maybe, all of us could give just a little more time and energy to those in need and the world would definitely be a better place for all.

4. You emphasize that you’re a vegan. I understand that as a statement, that for you veganism is not just a diet, but a way of life that goes beyond just food. It’s a lifestyle that demands conscious and educated decision making even when it comes to the simplest things like what clothes you buy and what cosmetics you use. Can you tell us more about your lifestyle and your commitment to it?

When I was around 10 years old I started refusing the meals my school offered because I felt sorry for the animals on our plates, so I brought my own lunch to school since then. Later on, as I started getting older and wiser, I figured out I wasn’t doing much for the animals as I was still consuming dairy products. Naturally, my boyfriend and I decided to embark on a 1 month vegan challenge which stuck with us until this day - we never went back to eating meat or dairy ever again.

It is a little hard in the beginning, because the ingredients you are used to cook with are different, but you can manage fairly quickly. Especially nowadays, when there are so many meat and dairy substitutes on the market, there aren’t really any excuses not to go vegan. Of course, it is easier when you have a clear vision of why you are doing this - for me it was not wanting to contribute to the unnecessary animal suffering.

Naturally, veganism is not a diet, but a lifestyle. I try not to support the big corporations and rather spend my money in shops that are devoted to making our Earth a better place by using materials that safe for our planet, and offering their employees fair work conditions. My absolute favourite way to shop, however, is in second hand and thrift shops. I just love them!

I have similar ethics when it comes to cosmetics - although I don’t use much makeup and skin-care products in general, I always make sure that everything is cruelty free and vegan, as well as made from natural ingredients.

5. While obesity, low mineral and vitamin intake and harmful ecological footprints are just some of the issues influenced by the standard western meat and carbs rich diet, there’s still plenty of people that challenge veganism as an unhealthy way of dieting for humans. Despite the scepticism, there’s now a rising number of people switching to a plant based diet, either for health or ethical reasons. How did veganism influence your health and how do you make sure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs? Could you recommend any sources where our readers can find quality information on veganism?

Personally, I’ve never had problems with my weight (genetics I guess), but a plant based diet certainly helps with that if anyone is struggling (it has many more health benefits not just weight loss).

When I first started with my plant based diet, I was indulging in cheese and dairy replacements quite a bit, but I rarely use them nowadays. Now, I mostly consume fresh local and seasonal vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. These foods are loaded with minerals, vitamins and are just wonderful for the human body - I have noticed I get less seasonal colds and such issues, since going vegan. When transitioning to a plant based diet though, people make the mistake of undereating (if eating non-processed foods) and then may experience some problems like fatigue, for example. It is vital to eat plenty of these whole foods in order to get enough calories (meat and dairy are higher in calories than plant foods) for the day. Which shouldn’t really be a problem, we all love to eat! One should also take vitamin B12 (regardless if they are vegan or not), because of the poor soil conditions nowadays. I take it daily and it is the only supplement I take.

Because of my busy schedule I sometimes forget to eat but I’m working on being more conscious of that. There also aren’t many vegan options for restaurants in Kranj, so if I fancy a treat I have to go to Ljubljana.

What I would recommend for the readers is to check out documentaries: Forks over Knives, What the Health, Cowspiracy, Dominion and Earthlings. These films do a great job of explaining and showing the ethical as well as the health standpoints of veganism. If they like to read, there are many many books available, but The China Study is a fundamental book for anyone interested in their health and wellness.

6. You seem to be really dedicated to doing good for others, how conscious are you about your own well-being and health outside of your diet? Are there any other wellness routines you just can’t do without?

I am an advocate for going everywhere by foot or bicycle, when possible. I don’t own a car so I have no choice but to ride my bike everywhere I need to go. In addition to that I also take pilates classes 2 times a week, but would also love to start a yoga practice. Most of the time I don’t really take enough time for myself, but this is something I should work on more.

img-nives-grey

7. In the midst of all the work you do, how important is work-life balance for you? Do you draw a line somewhere in order to take some time and space just for yourself, on a regular basis?

To be honest, there really isn’t much work-life balance in my life. This leads to burning out but I think I have a pretty good threshold before I start losing my mind. All jokes aside, I do think work-life balance is very important, but as I am self-employed, it can be hard to stop working and focus on wellness. I do take some days off for vacation and some much needed “me-time” most days just to recharge. My favourites are drinks with friends, a good book, movie or TV series on some evenings, and a concert on weekends.

While I like these activities and “free time”, I must admit I love everything I do for Štrikula and Mestni mačjak as well as visual content creating, so that means I am enjoying myself while I am working.

The stress comes in mostly because of the due dates, but I am trying to manage that by staying organized and by quitting my beloved coffee drinking habit (I was having too much of it, to be fair).

8. Can you talk about a book, event or person that significantly inspired you to become the person you are today?

There isn’t one particular person that inspires me but rather meeting like minded individuals in my daily life, that give me drive and passion to do good and keep creating.

9. How do you see your life changing in the next 10 years, what would you like to achieve? How much do you think about your health and well-being when planning for the future?

As I get older, I realize more and more the true meaning of health - I don’t think you can really be happy if you are not healthy. I think I need to be my healthiest self in order to provide a service and help others, so yes, I think about my health in that regard.

I would also like to continue with my brand Štrikula, get creative ideas that people will love, to keep my awesome customers and continue to bring them joy through my products. For Mestni mačjak, I wish that we will successfully complete our big project, that we will grow creatively and in numbers, and of course, that we will find homes for many more stray cats. Onwards and upwards is my moto for the future :)

img-nives-grey

Read more interviews

Hello You!

Join our mailing list