Giveback Partner Spotlight: Janna Barker of Isiko

Although Kurandza's work is in Mozambique, people from all over the world are involved in our mission to make education accessible to all girls. One of the most exciting aspects of our social enterprise is cultivating a community who values our mission and, in turn, getting to support them and their work as well. 

Our Giveback Partners are some of our most valuable community members for their commitment to supporting our cause. They help spread the word and pledge to donate a portion of their own business revenue to help our girls. We want you to know just how awesome our Giveback Partners are, so starting today, we are introducing a new series of interviews where we showcase each Giveback Partner, allowing you to get to know them and support them in the same ways they support us. 

First up, Janna Barker, the founder of the online artisan marketplace Isiko. Janna's business is as inspiring as it is beautifully curated and we can't wait for you to learn a little bit more about her. 

How did your brand begin? Can you tell us a little bit about the background of Isiko? 

For years I have wanted to provide a platform for traditional artists from around the world to showcase their cultural arts to the rest of the world.  I reached a point in my life where I was at a crossroads and could start over. I decided it was time to go after this dream.

What does Isiko mean and what is the name's significance for the mission of your brand?

Three years ago, I returned from a memorable stint with the Peace Corps in Swaziland.  "Isiko" means "art/tradition/culture" in SiSwati.  The name really embodies what my brand is about--keeping the traditional arts existing in cultures around the world. 

You were a member of our launch team for the #IStandForGirls campaign (thank you!!), what was your favorite part of the campaign and what are you excited about for our 2018 campaign?

I always have a little sign at my craft shows that tells people a percentage of my sales goes to the I Stand for Girls campaign.  At one particular event, a young lady came up to my booth, browsed a bit, then picked out an item and said she wanted to buy it because she knew what it felt like to be one of those girls!  She was able to attend school in Africa due to the support of strangers who sponsored her school fees.  She is now finishing high school in San Diego where she lives with her adopted parents.

In addition to being a Giveback Partner, you were one of the few who got to meet our co-founder Percina during her time in the US. How did meeting her impact your vision of Kurandza and our work in Mozambique?  

Percina is a wonderful, sweet and delightful person.  With Percina leading the efforts in Mozambique I know things are in good hands.  Hearing her tell her story is comforting to know that she understands the challenges that the girls face, having been through it herself and having the determination and smarts to graduate herself.  She will not only be an inspiration to the girls and the I Stand for Girls partners but is an inspiration to me as well. 

Can you explain a bit about the process of choosing artisans to partner with?

The artisans I choose to partner with are people who keep an element of tradition in their work.  Whether that is the methods in which they create a piece or the materials they use.  Having this element in the art Isiko carries is important because I believe culture can be learned through its art.  Unfortunately, many of the traditional arts are dying out due to globalization and artisans moving to bigger towns to find jobs to provide for their family. 

Click here to support shop Isiko's incredible selection (and, in turn, support our girls in Mozambique!) 

What has been the biggest challenge you've had to overcome when starting a socially conscious business? 

I've been pleasantly surprised to see that instead of facing challenges as a socially conscious business, I've been met with positive support in my mission of giving back.

We love that you're one of our Giveback Partners. What drew you to our mission initially and why do you value girls' education? 

I actually learned about Kurandza from a mom blog (full disclosure, I am not a mother, haha! I was looking into social conscious brands and the blogger had posted a list of her favorites.). After looking into Kurandza a little bit I learned that Elisabetta is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Having this in common, and seeing her actually do something similar to my passion, I reached out to her, in hopes to talk Peace Corps stories and learn about what it was like to run a social enterprise. 

I value a girls education because I know that given the opportunity they can grow up to become influential leaders.  They have the capacity in themselves to not only lead others but to make a difference and create an impact among their community. 


Where do you see your business in five years?

My Isiko hopes are to develop a place for artisans to thrive, showcase their work, and in turn, bring the customer's appreciation and recognition to the artisan's culture. 

And lastly, just for fun, what is something that most people don't know about you? 

Even at a young age I was fascinated with other cultures; I lived most of my formative years in the Philippines and majored in Anthropology in college. 

Are you interested in learning more about our Giveback Partner program? Click here!