"If you have an idea, go for it. No one else is going to do it for you. Go do it. What are you waiting for? And if it's meaningful to you, it's going to be meaningful to someone else."
Rachelle Tratt shares the same advice that she gave herself a year and a half ago when she founded The Neshama Project, a line of hamsa jewelry that delivers love and light to the shiny souls who wear them. As a dreamer and world traveler who seeks meaning in hidden places and strength from hardship, the word neshama resonated with her for several years before it manifested into a creative outlet, a burgeoning business, and a charitable project. It's Hebrew for soul, and the 'N' honors her mother, Nicole, who passed away when Tratt was nine.
"The Neshama Project was going to be something related to yoga, travel ... and the story of the hamsa kept coming back," says Tratt.
A few years after losing her mother, Tratt's brother suffered an accident that left him paralyzed from the legs down. With her childhood marked by tragedy, Tratt grew up quickly and spent early adulthood seeking happiness and fulfillment. During this transitional period, just before discovering and dedicating herself to yoga, she received a blue hamsa necklace as a gift. The hamsa symbolizes protection, happiness, health, and for Tratt, it was motivation to focus on the positive, to endure and push forward with new experiences and bigger adventures.
"I don't believe in living a life of regret, and if something doesn't work, find a way to make it work in a different way," she says.
Her vision began to crystallize when she first visited Venice in 2008. Shortly after the one-week yoga training session at Exhale, she packed her Toyota Corolla, and with her golden-doodle Bailey, moved from South Florida. Surrounded by a community of creators who lived their art, Tratt was inspired to finally breathe life into The Neshama Project, a url that had been lying dormant for nine months. She sourced 30 hamsa charms along with silver and gold chains in Downtown LA, and started to work. She attached them to brown paper cards with typed messages of love, encouragement and well wishes for the people who would eventually wear her blue opal hamsas, and set up an online storefront that enabled customers to designate a portion of the proceeds to charity, including two near-and-dear organizations, Innovation Africa and Zeno Mountain Farm.
Innovation Africa is a non-profit organization that brings sustainable Israeli technology to African villages, providing light, clean water, food and medical care. Zeno Mountain Farm runs camps for people with and without disabilities, connecting everyone together through friendship.
"It's not just a storefront," says Tratt. "I try and highlight people who are doing their part in making this world a healthier, brighter, and more soulful place. My dream has always been to have The Neshama Project represent something greater in life."
The next frontier for The Neshama Project lies in Israel, a sacred place for Tratt where her parents met and fell in love before moving to rural upstate New York to raise their three children.
"I've been guiding young adults on trips to Israel for the past four years, and it just feels like a natural progression to make my own trip," says Tratt. "It's a 10-day soulful adventure traveling the Middle East. My goal with this is to offer people an out-of the-box experience, to get out of their comfort zone, expand their mind and connect with the land and their soul, and in turn continue to bring light to this place that means so much to me."
She also wants to help others discover their own neshama projects, to create personal happiness and success, and then pay it forward to others in the same way that she has been supported. The mission is simple: "In every day, in every moment, find ways to make people smile. Wake them up, give them hope, and help them shine. Right now it's in the form of yoga, in the form of a necklace, it's in the form of everything I try to do."
Photos courtesy Rachelle Tratt and @TheNeshamaProject via Instagram.