Inspired by her travels, Mousumi Shaw created local jewelry brand Sikara & Co. to give back.
By Jenny Hoff, Photo by Julia Keim
There’s nothing like a statement piece to complete a look. But when that piece comes with a story of adventure in distant lands and an impact here at home, that’s when you’ve really made a statement.
This is what Mousumi Shaw dreamed of when she founded Sikara & Co. Modern Fusion Jewelry, a brand inspired by the architecture, sights and people from throughout the world. While the theme is global, Sikara’s impact is very much local. Every year, the company supports almost 60 organizations that empower women and children, further the arts and help budding entrepreneurs.
“I want to show entrepreneurs that you don’t need to have a multimillion-dollar business to give back and be involved,” Shaw says. “There are so many ways to contribute to the community.”
Shaw says creativity is key. Whether it’s providing event space, donating goods or offering mentorship opportunities, every little bit a local business provides can strengthen the community.
Nonprofit leaders agree.
“Local businesses are such an important part of our fundraising,” says Christi Cuellar Lotz, director of development for Ballet Austin, which Sikara & Co. works with to help bring in revenue. “We simply could not function without their support.”
Shaw credits her philanthropic drive to an experience she had at 7 years old, when she visited her parents’ hometown of Calcutta, India. The poverty she witnessed made a stark impression.
“I felt grateful to be born in America and into the family I have,” she recalls. “If those children had the same opportunities as me, they probably would have been the ones to go to Harvard or start their own businesses.”
Sikara & Co. opened in Austin in 2007 with a showroom on Rio Grande Street. After founding a technology startup and then attending Harvard Business School, Shaw knew she wanted to start a business that would inspire women to go on an adventure, to experience the world.
“I was passionate about travel and photography. I loved sharing the history of the world with people,” she says. “And I grew up in the jewelry business. I saw an opportunity to create a brand of jewelry that was unique and had a story to tell.”
With rings inspired by a snake charmer in India, necklaces reminiscent of Icelandic sculptures and earrings evocative of Antoni Gaudí’s famous architecture in Barcelona, Spain, each one of the 600 pieces in Sikara & Co.’s collection is inspired by an original travel photo Shaw took in one of 10 countries.
“Some of our customers love to travel and want a piece of jewelry that reminds them of their favorite country,” she says. “Others dream of travel and want something that inspires them to do it.”
Inspiring and empowering women is at the heart of Sikara & Co.’s company values and key for Shaw herself. For the last decade, she has been actively involved with the Girl Scouts and the Young Women’s Alliance, which provides mentorship to women starting out in their careers.
Sikara & Co. has also created unique jewelry pieces to support specific causes, like a teardrop necklace inspired by the documentary Camp 72, which details the experience of a girl named Gladys who was held captive by rebel soldiers during Liberia’s civil war. Engraved on the necklace is the phrase “Peace is love,” and the proceeds from each sale help give Gladys the education she was robbed of as a prisoner.
“Thanks in part to sales of the pendant, Gladys is now attending university, with the goal of becoming a human-rights lawyer,” says the filmmaker, Seema Mathur, a former Austin news reporter. “We can collectively bring positive change. The making and purchasing of the Camp 72 pendant is one example of that.”
Even after hours, often, the lights are on at the flagship Sikara & Co. store on Second Street, as organizations enjoy free use of the space to host events.
“It’s my way of thanking my customers who keep us in business,” Shaw says. “Whenever you buy a Sikara piece, you’re not only getting a beautiful piece of jewelry inspired by the beauty of another country, but you’re also supporting your local community. I think that matters.”