Monday, August 31, 2009

SIKARA & CO.

Today we explore one of the most incredible specimens of "living" architecture, the Kailas Temple in India.

In the 8th century, various architects--using three different types of chisels--carved out this magnificent rock structure from a volcanic hillside.

Built to honor the god Shiva, the temple took hundreds of years to complete and measures a staggering 109 feet in width, and 164 feet in length.

India is also the ancestral home of Mousumi Shaw, the founder and CEO of jewelry brand Sikara & Co.

Shaw was never one to keep herself isolated. Her love of travel and exploration resulted in visits to over 30 countries including Italy, Mexico, Poland, and Egypt.

"The best way to learn about the world, I feel, is to just go to the country and meet the people. I really love those experiences," she enthuses. Already an art lover, Shaw's extensive travels familiarized her with distinctive architecture and jewelry designs.

As a teenager, Shaw gained broad knowledge of the jewelry industry while assisting her mother with her Texas-based jewelry company. "That's where I learned about choosing certain items, customer service, and merchandising."

Working with her mother stirred Shaw's interest in launching her own business, but not in the jewelry industry . . . not yet anyway. After studying business at the University of Pennsylvania, Shaw launched a company geared toward space technology. She ran the company for three years deciding to shut the business down "when the dot com bust happened."

Far from giving up, Shaw earned an MBA at Harvard Business School. While attending Harvard, the compilation of her traveling experiences, and business interests began to form into a new business venture.

"I thought, `I love traveling, I love the arts, I love business, and I know the jewelry industry.' I wanted to see if there was an opportunity there, and I was able to gain access to some great resources," she recalls, "I learned that there are very few jewelry brands and the brands out there are high-end. I wanted to create an affordable, luxury brand."

Shaw thoroughly researched her demographic, and saw that it was rapidly changing. "You have women marrying late in life, who are buying jewelry for themselves to celebrate their professional achievements. Women don't normally receive jewelry as gifts, which creates an emotional connection to that piece. My challenge was to create jewelry that emotionally resonates beyond a gift giving experience."

The beautiful jewelry Shaw discovered during her travels served as the element needed to bring about emotional meaning. At this point, she also sought out a suitable name for her company. She wanted a name that spoke to diversity, heritage, and culture. Finally, Shaw came across the Indian word `shikara', which means houseboat. "The name `Sikara' is a variation on the word `shikara'. It fits our concept of taking the customer on a journey."

With her designing team, using 18-karat gold vermeil and sterling silver, they create elegant, classic interpretations of international jewelry. Over a five-year period, Sikara & Co. found an avid following.

"It was a risky concept, but I felt confident about it, and our revenue in the first year exceeded our expectations." Sikara & Co. is composed of 15 collections that pay homage to, among others, Polish, Egyptian, and Indian aesthetics.

To make the purchase special, included with each piece is a card explaining the jewelry's cultural and historical significance in the country from which the design was inspired.

In 2005, Sikara & Co. received the Harvard Business Plan Competition Award, and Shaw continues to work tirelessly doing trunk shows.

She eventually hopes to create a program allowing customers to support charitable causes in the countries the jewelry pieces were inspired by.
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Photo 1 (top right): 18-karat Gold Vermeil Milano Mesh Link NecklacePhoto 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Wire Mesh Bracelet
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