SD Voyager Magazine Interveiw
Learn More about isiko and its mission with SD Voyager Magazine.
SD Voyager Magazine and owner Janna Barker had an interview covering topics such as how isiko was started and the passion behind Janna’s mission to give back to different organizations.
“Today we’d like to introduce you to Janna Barker.
Janna, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My father is from New York, my mother is from the Philippines and I had the fortunate opportunity to live in both the US and the Philippines during my former years. My parents saw the importance of providing experiences, more specifically cultural experiences rather than providing material things. Because of that, I developed a love for cultures and an appreciation for their beauty and differences. I also come from a family of artists who have greatly influenced my love of art, which cultivated my need for a creative outlet and in trying my hands in all kinds of mediums.
The combination of experiencing different cultures and an early exposure to art created in me an appreciation for indigenous crafts and the lifestyle of those living in remote cultures. I loved learning about cultures so much that I ended up getting my BA in Anthropology, from San Diego State University with a dream to find a way to combine art and anthropology as a career, however, not really knowing what that would look like.
I graduated college in 2009 during the time of the Great Recession and had a hard time finding a job. After doing some self-reflection I decided I wanted to live overseas again but this time in a place very different from what I was used to. I wanted to immerse myself in another culture, do some humanitarian work, and also do something that would look good on my resume. What I found that included all these criteria was the Peace Corps. So I applied, got accepted and had the best experience serving in eSwatini in Africa (formerly called Swaziland). This experience gave me an appreciation and love for another culture and its people. It reiterated my desire to combine art and anthropology, although still not knowing what that would look like.
Once I completed my Peace Corps service and was back living in San Diego I got a job at a non-profit. After about a year and half of working a 9-5, I decided to take several months to live the nomadic lifestyle by traveling in an RV around the US. It was during this time that I developed a more concrete idea of what combing art and anthropology would look, that being Isiko.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
If starting a business has been a smooth road for anyone I would like to talk to that person! I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur and have no prior experience with it. All I knew was that I had to find a way to combine my passions for art and anthropology into something bigger.
This journey so far has been a steep learning curve and I just try to take things one step at a time and have faith that things will work out the way they are supposed to. In taking these steps I have to remind myself to focus on the big picture, and not let self-doubt or my insecurities sabotage my successes. With that being said, I strongly believe in the mission of my business and that is really what keeps me going.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Isiko – what should we know?
Isiko is an online marketplace that aims to preserve traditional handicrafts from cultures around the world by supporting makers of handmade home décor, bags and accessories. As for the jewelry and the pottery, I make those myself.
I think what sets Isiko apart from other global marketplace companies is that we support the works of indigenous artists who use traditional techniques and materials…
Traditional arts are unfortunately dying out due to the younger generations needing to leave their homes and villages to find work elsewhere. By providing an online platform for artisans and their crafts, Isiko is helping cultures keep those traditions alive and allowing us to learn their stories and rich history through their craft.
What makes me proud about Isiko is that we are committed to doing social good. Every quarter we identify an organization to partner with and give back 10% of our sales to help their cause. Usually, these organizations are grassroots organizations that provide education, employment opportunities, life skill trainings, etc. to women, children and families in rural communities around the world.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I am truly amazed and grateful for all the support and encouragement I have received through this journey. I have certainly experienced ups and downs, challenges and successes, doubts and determination but through it, all have had an amazing group of friends and family that support my goals, believe in my mission and encourage me along the way. I am extremely lucky in this regard.
I have joined networking groups and through that have met some amazing women who are also small business owners, creatives, and entrepreneurs. I think San Diego is great for that. There are so many groups out there focused on women entrepreneurs and providing a place to support, inspire and build each other up rather than to compete with each other.
I think having that strong support system behind me plays a big role in the success of me personally and in my business.”