Jessica was born in the US, grew up in Colombia, moved back to the US. When thinking about her identity she describes herself as Jewish, a psychologist, a woman, a wife, a mother, American and Colombian. Growing up in the tight-knit Colombian Jewish community, she became very attached to her Jewish traditions and to Colombia’s culture, food, music, and beautiful handcrafted goods. While living in Colombia, she had the opportunity to work in impoverished communities, where she saw first-hand the suffering of hard-working people from disadvantaged backgrounds. She has been a community activist, very interested in Social Justice her whole life.
She came to Ikku in a period of transition in her life. She had moved, and was left wondering “what she wanted to be when she grew up” when she happened to talk to her dear friend Karen who lives in Guatemala.
Karen, who was born in Medellin, Colombia and later moved to Bogota, came from a diverse Jewish background from a Sephardi mother and an Ashkenazi father. Because of this, she had learned at an early age, that it is possible to meld traditions that are important to you, when your primary concern is love and family. After becoming a dentist in Bogota, she went to a small rural community to do a social service year. Though she was aware of the existence of poverty; living within this community made her more sensitive to the extent of this poverty, the lack of resources and the impact that just one individual can make through their job. Though strongly identified with her Jewish identity, Karen also identified strongly with Colombia and its culture.
After moving to Guatemala, where she found a very welcoming people, she developed a deep admiration for Guatemalan artisans, their creativity and how they managed color. At the time of her conversation with Jessica, Karen had also been thinking she wanted to start her own business and wanted to do something that would allow her to help the people she so much admired. She thought she would like to work with artisans to create beautiful tallits.
Once the two friends started talking and doing some research, they decided they wanted to work with artisans in both Colombia and Guatemala, promoting some of the products they already made, and creating new products as well. They decided that it was very important to them to work directly with the artisans, to make sure they are paid fairly for their work and hopefully help them better their life conditions.
When they were thinking of a name for their business, they tried out different options, using significant names and values that they tried combining to get a catchy name. When they were visiting the artisans in San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala, they happened to stop at a place where they were given their Nawals, that are kind of Mayan Zodiac signs and horoscopes. They got their own and those of their children. They started playing with those nawals and came up with different combinations, one of which was Ikku, that came out of taking a letter from each of their children’s nawals. Of all the options they had come up with, it seemed to be the best, since it was short, easy and catchy.
They state “Ikku is so much more than a business. It has been a long time in the making. Even before we became aware that this would someday exist. It is tied to all of those parts of our identity, Jew,
Colombian, woman, mother, friend, American, Guatemalan. It is a reflection of our journey, our pride in who we are and how we came to be where we are, of our values, of our commitment to the multiple communities we are part of, of our hope that we can contribute to make our little slivers of the world better places”.