Hello, I’m Gaya…
Hello, I’m Gaya Samarasingha. I’m the mom to my best friend, our little seven year-old daughter and wife to my high school sweetheart. I’m a proud immigrant of this country that has offered me so many opportunities to create a life beyond my imaginations and an entrepreneur who is on a mission to pay it forward through my business. I live in Utah with my little family that also includes our baby boy, a seven and a half year-old yellow lab named AJ. Spending quality time with my family, traveling around the world, and cooking are some of my favorite things to do outside of work. I’m full of crazy ideas and never hesitate to jump head first when I have my mind set on doing something.
I’m originally from Sri Lanka, a small tropical island in the Indian Ocean. (If you have never been, add it to your bucket list because it is a paradise everyone must visit at least once in their lifetime.) I came to the United States in Fall 2004 with only 2 suitcases, the love of my life, and full of dreams. Life in Logan, Utah wasn’t what I imagined when we said, “Let’s go to America to get our degrees.” Our first winter was incredibly hard. We didn’t know what cold felt like until we landed in Utah, and it wasn’t even winter yet. As silly as it may sound, walking on snow and ice was one of the most mentally challenging tasks during my first winter. I would fall while walking to class at least several times a day. I still remember calling my mom in tears almost every night during my first semester.
“I came to the United States in Fall 2004 with only two suitcases, the love of my life, and full of dreams.”
I grew up in a boarding school most of my life, so I was used to being away from home, not having home cooked meals, or the comfort of my parents. But the first few semesters at Utah State University were more than what I signed up for. For the longest time my now husband and I, both made only $5.15 an hour working at the university, the only place we were allowed to work as international students. Though our parents paid for our tuition, fees, books, etc. we had to make ends meet with less than $750/month household income. We couldn’t afford a car at the beginning and lived paycheck to paycheck. I still remember the countless times I’ve left groceries at the checkout counter because it was over my budget. The days we got a $10 tip working at the University Inn was when we could afford to go on a date night and our go to restaurant was the nearby Chinese buffet. I know I’m not alone and many of you can relate.
” We couldn’t afford a car at the beginning and lived paycheck to paycheck. I still remember the countless times I’ve left groceries at the checkout counter because it was over my budget.”
After graduating Utah State University, I started working in the IT field while my husband was finishing school. With one semester left for him to graduate, I started applying for schools to start my MBA. The plan was for him to find a job and for me to go back to full-time school with a scholarship. Finally, when we thought our lives were about to get better is when we hit rock bottom. I had quit my job to start school in Fall 2008 with a full scholarship. Due to the recession, I lost my scholarship and my husband was having a hard time finding a job. Companies weren’t interested in hiring immigrants when US citizens were losing jobs and going into unemployment. I couldn’t afford to pay for an MBA myself nor were international students eligible for most student loans. We were given 90 days to find a job or leave the country. We packed what we could in our old Mitsubishi Galant and went to Iowa to stay with some of our friends because we couldn’t afford to pay rent.
Long story short, we came back to Utah after couple of months of searching for jobs in the mid-west and were introduced to a gentleman who was an executive at a Direct Selling company based in Utah. After hearing our story, he told us “I don’t know you, but I have a gut feeling you will do something good in this country. So, I’m going to find you a job and make sure you can stay here legally.” With only a couple of days to spare, my husband got a job offer at that company as an entry level engineer. The job paid $19,000/year and was contingent upon him proving himself within the first 3 months. It wasn’t perfect but it was an opportunity for us to work hard and change our lives. A few weeks later, I got an offer from Iowa State University’s MBA program with a scholarship. Again, it wasn’t ideal. We had to be apart for almost 2 years, but it was an opportunity to get my education without debt, so I took it.
Since then, we have been given so many opportunities along the way to advance in our careers. None were perfect, easy, nor came with any promises. But they all had two things in common – they opened doors for us to work hard to create the future we desired and connected us with people who believed in us. Back in 2017, I made the decision to leave my executive position to do something more challenging and fulfilling. It was time for me to pay it forward and that’s what led me to start Kalaia.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love making money and I have big goals for Kalaia. What fuels my energy and the excitement to keep moving forward is the life changing stories created within our community every single day.”
Over many years of working in the Direct Selling industry, I’ve found my passion in empowering people, especially women. Whether it is mentoring a college graduate; supporting our Brand Partners reach their life goals with a little bit of extra income; helping a customer feel beautiful and confident in her own skin; or supporting a complete stranger through the Kalaia Cares micro-loan program; making a difference in someone’s life brings me pure joy. I’m grateful to be in a place in my life where I have the freedom to do what I love and what I’m passionate about. Don’t get me wrong, I love making money and I have big goals for Kalaia. What fuels my energy and the excitement to keep moving forward is the life changing stories created within our community every single day.
This blog is another way for me to give back. I will be sharing my knowledge, experience, and philosophy on life and business. How I navigate life as a working mom, my approach to health and wellness, lessons learned as an entrepreneur, to some of my favorite recipes – I will use this platform to share my life’s journey with you in hopes of adding value to yours. I would love for you to stick around to read other blog posts, share your feedback in the comments below, and subscribe to stay in touch. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being part of my journey!