For Tampa entrepreneur Karen Berry, every workday is a testament to the power of prayer.
In 2008, after the birth of her first child and a year of battling life-threatening complications from ulcerative colitis, Berry, 41, underwent major surgery to remove her colon.
She said the prayers of family, friends and friends of friends helped her survive.
Fast-forward to today. Berry is the owner of PrayerBowls, a homegrown Christian business offering a product rooted in Scripture.
A prayer bowl is a hand-designed bowl in which you can keep your prayer intentions. Each bowl comes with note cards to write reminders to pray for fill-in-the-blank. They are available for purchase online and at 45 retailers nationwide, including Occasions, the Potting Shed, and the Sacred Heart Catholic Church Gift and Bookstore in Tampa.
I spoke to Berry about her company and the joys of owning a faith-based business.
Where did the idea for PrayerBowls originate?
A few years ago after my surgeries, I went with my sister to a party and a lady I had never met came over to me. She said she had been praying for me for over a year and that she kept the names of people she needed to pray for in a bowl as a daily reminder. I was amazed that someone I didn't know had been praying for me every day. I thought it was a great idea because so many times as Christians, we say we'll be praying for someone but then we forget. That Christmas, I made prayer bowls for family and friends as gifts. I painted Scriptures on the bowls and told them my story. The next year, my sister suggested I sell them at a church bazaar. I did and it went well, so I started selling them at craft fairs and festivals. The business grew from there.
In 2012, my husband and I went to Portugal to have the bowls mass-produced. We knew we wanted a Christian manufacturer, so we visited different porcelain companies. The company we chose was able to take my design and handwriting to reproduce the product.
What role do faith and prayer play in your daily life?
I grew up going to church, so prayer has always been important. Growing up, I went to a Christian school. I studied at Florida Southern College, which is a Methodist college. My family and I attend First Presbyterian Church in downtown Tampa. I have always been surrounded by people of great faith.
I believe strongly in turning things over to God, and I definitely think I am a result of the power of prayer. When I was sick, I went through a lot. At one time, I had a blot clot and was in the ICU. I know the prayers helped me pull through.
I think prayer can benefit us in all situations. There is so much going on in the world to be anxious about, and if you take it all on yourself, if you try to control it, it only makes you more anxious. Giving it all to God can be so helpful.
What feedback have you received from customers?
We have had so many people respond to us saying how it helps them to remember to pray, whether it is for a friend who lost a loved one, someone with an illness or an area of the world facing the aftermath of a natural disaster. For some people, the bowls are a way of getting back to talking to God. That is why, when I first started making the bowls, I wanted to put God's word on them and I chose Scriptures that are reminders God wants to listen. We don't have to handle it all ourselves.
How has founding PrayerBowls changed your life?
I used to work as an elementary education teacher, and with teaching in the public school system, you can show your faith in Christ through your actions but you can't really talk a lot about it. With prayer bowls, I am able to really promote my faith every day. It is a fun place to be, being able to share my story and hear the stories of others.
The PrayerBowls office is at 1910 W Cass St. For more information, visit prayerbowls.com. A PrayerBowl app is also available.