Happy Fearless Woman Friday 💙
This week we are doing something a lil’ bit different. On this episode, we are updating you on one of our fearless women that was previously featured. About 2 years ago, we introduced you to Rosh Govindaraj. You can check out her full episode here.
Rosh is creator of Issara, a company that creates ethically made luxury leather goods.
We recently caught up with her to get the latest on fearless living, her company and more. Here is what she said:
Tell us about the idea behind Issara…
I got the idea when I was on a dive boat in Indonesia (June 2014) and spotted a bag on a guy sitting next to me. It was beautiful, and looked like it could withstand anything. So I asked where he got it and ended up accompanying him on a trip to a leather workshop where I had my own sketches made into a gorgeous bag for daily use. I was hooked – it was so much more special than just picking up something from the nearest store. I figured that I could use the power of the internet to bring that joy to people from my part of the world too. That was my bingo moment. I quit my job 3 weeks after that.
What has been the most difficult task about building this business?
The struggles I faced mostly related to cultural and generational differences. As a relatively young woman in a male-dominated, traditional industry I faced some unique challenges:
– Older male artisans would either flat out refuse to deal with me, or deride my decision to travel alone in a language they thought I did not understand (I could).
– Having almost every decision or request challenged by male artisans while witnessing the same requests being quickly fulfilled if a male colleague makes them
– Being blackmailed and almost extorted (twice!).
These experiences make the wins particularly exhilarating though!
What has been the biggest payoff?
Being able to run a business that support artisans, produces beautiful, lasting and ethically made products for consumers, and having the flexibility of working from anywhere in the world!
What makes Issara different from other leather goods companies?
Our artisans are paid over three times the minimum wage, receive health insurance for themselves and their families and are enrolled in an interest-yielding savings program. Every aspect of the process is considered – our packaging is eco-friendly, tanneries are compliant with international environmental standards, and we’re working towards B-corporation certification. All these things constitute higher expenses that naturally impact the profit line. But being a social business, we measure Issara’s success not only in terms of dollars but also the social impact achieved. I think this dual-focus (on product quality as well as ethical production) will pay off in the long term as people start to appreciate the social gains.
What has changed since the last time we talked to you?
Keeping in line with the desire to create long lasting, luxury quality items that simplify your life, we launched a second collection, a tech-enabled collection, this time on Kickstarter. Technology has positively impacted so many aspects of our lives that it simply made sense to combine it with the items we carry every day. So I reached out to every reputable tracking technology company I could find (around 7 of them) and tested devices from each one. We chose to partner with the world leader in tracking technology (Trackr) due to the superior functionality of their tracking device, mobile app usability, ultra slim profile, anodized steel case and easy replaceability of the batteries (this was very important in keeping with our sustainable ethos – there are popular trackers out there where the entire tracker has to be replaced and this doesn’t sit well with us).
So, we heard about your Kickstarter campaign, how did it go?
The campaign was successful and we received amazing press from Forbes, Huffpost and various other publications. Even Guy Kawasaki tweeted our campaign, which was super exciting!
What can we expect next from Issara?
I’m working on another line of minimalist goods to simplify your daily life (though not just leather this time around!).
Follow Rosh and all things Issara on social media @issarahq. Leave your thoughts in the comments…
Stay Fearless 💋