5 Questions that Spark: Lily Korina, Ikavu

hand made, fair trade, impact entrepreneur

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5 Questions that Spark is our way of getting to know some amazing entrepreneurs and people who inspire us at The Spark List. Entrepreneurs get to select five questions from a list of fifteen to answer in our interviews.

There’s a Spark List Must Have that is the Ikavu Baobab Weekender. It is our favorite way to carry around chromebooks, magazines, files, makeup bags, collapsible dog bowls, a change of clothes for an afternoon workout, and everything else – during your average entrepreneur work day! It’s stylish and feels very independent, which of course is a Spark Listers goal! This bag come with a story though, about an entrepreneur who realized she could collaborate directly with artisans in Kenya to bring beautiful, hand made, fair trade products to the US. Enjoy Ikavu Founder & CEO Lily Korina’s 5 Questions that Spark!

The Spark List: How did you get the idea or concept for the business?

Lily: At the end of 2011 I was traveling and doing volunteer work in Kenya. I had this idea that I was going to bring home a few baskets, but I wasn’t finding the quality I wanted. Then I met my business partner, Liz. On a long car ride out into the Kenyan countryside, we talked about my interest in traditional basket weaving. I remember her asking “Do you have a market for that?” At the time she was designing western style purses and laptop bags. We talked about combining authentic African artistry with modern design elements, and the vision for Ikavu was born.

The Spark List: What made you choose this type of business?

Lily: I have a background in ethical fashion. I worked for few different eco-fashion companies, mostly small businesses with a lot of heart. I also have always had an interest in traditional textiles.

To be honest though, I didn’t really plan to be where I am today, doing what I’m doing. About a year into working on this project, the pieces started to fall into place. I realized that Liz and I had a unique opportunity to build something bigger than ourselves. When we face challenges I stay motivated by remembering our commitment to creating employment and empowerment for the women artisans we work with.

The Spark List: Is there anything you needed to let go of in order to get where you are today?

Lily: My perfectionism. I’m still working on letting go of it. It serves me in a lot of ways. But I’ve learned if you get stuck on it your progress will stall.

When I design a product, if it doesn’t come out exactly the way I envisioned it I have to take a step back, remind myself these are handmade pieces, and appreciate the beauty of each item for what it is. I won’t sacrifice quality, making high quality goods is really important to me. However the big picture is sometimes more important than the tiny details.

The Spark List: What is the most valuable question you’ve ever asked yourself or others?

Lily: Why are we doing this? As in, what drives this business? What is our reason for doing the work that we’re doing? Is it to make money? To help women weavers?
I guess it’s a question that leads to other questions. But ultimately the answer for me was that this is about way more than a financial bottom line.

The Spark List: Where will your next spark come from?

Lily: Collaboration. I’ve been doing this for a little over five years now, and I’ve met some amazing creative entrepreneurs along the way. What we’re working on for the future involves collaborating on some new projects with other small businesses.

We’re based in the Bay Area, and it’s a really dynamic place to be right now. Building off of that energy, we’re going to be offering some items that originate in Africa and then are finished at our workshop in Oakland. It’s exciting to develop a new aspect of the business and I can’t wait to share our new project. The future has good things in store!

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