Ciela Wynter, CEO of Joan of Sparc, shares her story on this week's entry of #humansofjhchamber.
One of the newer businesses in Jackson, Joan of Sparc stands out with their mission and goals they hope to bring to life in their early stages as a brand. CEO, Ciela Wynter, is no stranger to Jackson. This time around, she's been here for about two years. "I grew up here for the first 20 years of my life, and then had another two decades, traveling around the world and living primarily in Los Angeles, Madrid, and Guadalajara," she said. And what exactly has she been up to? She first had a run with helping to initiate the Micro Mentor Program in the Aspen Institute after graduating from Berkeley and then worked with Patagonia in the art department. She also worked as a yoga teacher early on and has still taught the practice for over 15 years. "In the most recent decade, it was truly an adventure traveling, teaching, exploring, and organizing a methodology of philosophy of transpersonal psychology." Ciela even initiated a nonprofit with her then-husband in Los Angeles to preserve sacred traditions of indigenous cultures. Pretty impressive, right?
So how did Joan of Sparc come to life?
Ciela mentioned how she was literally brought to her knees internally in the sense of everything that she had been living and built and worked for...her homes, family, and community. Her marriage dissolved in over a matter of a few days, and so maybe in the sense of losing everything that she thought was important to her, having been on 1500 airplanes in 10 years, literally the world was her home. When she came back to Jackson, she realized it was the most grounding place for her to be and to regroup. "Joan of Sparc is really a vision," she said. "I'd say it was a gift for me of where I had come into alignment with my truth, and through that experience, the business was born."
What is Joan of Sparc?
They are an interactive digital platform, empowering a global collective of women, through a very unique peer to peer coaching methodology, as well as practical tools and self-awareness. They believe that all this combined is truly here to redefine and disrupt the self-help industry and that there are new ways of learning and teaching that empower individuals rather than creating codependent dynamics. They're focused on the launch of their Sparc Sessions, which is this peer to peer coaching method, and are really excited because through their beta phase last year, it was very affirming that this is a very highly desirable experience for women to have. So if you can imagine, JOS utilizes the value of one-on-one connection and will never give therapy or advice. It's really a mirroring practice of active listening, which then eliminates personality and projection. Ciela said, "We feel that it's very innovative and powerful. And so for me, you know, recognizing that I had given my power away, literally, for a whole decade of my life, had given me and my thoughts over to an authority figure who happened to be someone I also married. I learned the very challenging lesson of giving my power away, and then the arduous task of reclaiming it, and the cost of that. So I wanted to create a platform so that no matter what women are going through that they know that they're not alone."
These were some powerful words coming from this calm beauty across from me at the desk. Now that we know what Joan of Sparc is and what we can expect, I asked Ciela her thoughts on who would be using the services. Were they people stuck in long-hour jobs in a bustling city? Were the individuals feeling lonely and down? Who was the main market?
"I would definitely echo the magnificence of this place that we live that is very particular. And I feel that we're all very blessed to be in this area. I feel like the passion to bring JOS to life came from the strength of this land, and the power of the rivers and the mountains that reflect our core values, which are self-actualization, vitality, and humility. So everything that we do is woven around those values. So of course, it is our vision and our mission, which is a call for a revolution in consciousness where women are empowered and free to share that beyond the scope of Jackson, Nationally, and Internationally."
They have a podcast called Voices of Joan, where they invite women from all over the world to have a podcast where they can interview each other, and they will produce that for them. With this, they can share with each other and have a cross-cultural exchange, and the women they are reaching out to are women in the hustle and the bustle. Ciela's team is formed by several incredible women who both live here and also moonlight or daylight in the cities--their experiences are very versatile. It's not really focused on location, but more on on the internal draw towards wanting to know more about oneself, because they're very focused on self-inquiry and going inside one's soul for the answers, which is a new concept sometimes since the world is used to going to Instagram for the answers.
Joan of Sparc had a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier in the fall, raising over $45,000.
As for the future of the brand, it's all very exciting. They have a new HQ located on Broadway across from the Chamber, and their team is growing. In their new space, they're hosting offline events right now, like their popular Sparc Circles that happens every new moon. Even though they're a digital company, they also have an offline component where they get to interact with each other, which is really important for them as a business. "We have this vision of creating an Etsy style marketplace, which is curated by and for our members. So both within the marketplace and the Sparc Sessions, there's an intention for us to upgrade and uplift our community from within. Those people that will be receiving the Sparc Sessions will then also have an opportunity to apply and become a facilitator to make supplemental income," Ciela said in regards to the future of the brand. "So also at the marketplace, which we hope to roll out in the next year or so, will provide a similar opportunity to share and to highlight our members because we're a community of really talented and amazing artists, musicians, etc," she added.
Ciela's advice for those needing to find their purpose and for those who want to start a business.
"I'd say if you have a vision, or an idea, the only way to make it into a reality is to live it. Really sit with that inspiration and that vision and recognize that it's a spark of possibility that could actually change your life for the better in so many ways--that it's an internal invitation to change, to grow, to be challenged. For me personally, there's nothing better than to grow and to expand."
How can we learn new things about ourselves? How can we place ourselves in the fire to be forged into who we truly are? These are questions that stick with Ciela when figuring out what path to take in her life and with her business. She feels that one of the best opportunities that we have as human beings, as women, is motherhood-"It's another massive ritual, a rite of passage to become someone new, or someone that is within us." She says it's similar to growing a business for her because it's like becoming a mother. Although she has no children of her own, her business is her daughter; Joan of Sparc is alive and well and is calling her into a depth of responsibility that is new, welcomed, and challenging.
As far as reclaiming one's power, she says we must recognize that we've given it away. And that's not always the easiest thing to do. In fact, it may be the hardest, because it requires a lot of self-observation and deep reflection and courage to admit that to oneself. Because there's a lot at stake generally.
"Ask yourself where am I? Where am I orientated within my own heart? Is this who I am? Am I happy here? Am I able to express my truth? Do I feel seen? Do I feel heard? Am I fully expressed? And the answers to those questions begin to take one on a journey of exploring not only the external surroundings but also the internal dialogue that is going on. It is a journey, and it is possible. So I'm excited to share that with everyone."
Team members from left-right: Sage Lefkowitz, Ciela Wynter, Evan Mack, Nicola Dechamps, Sarah Engelhart
This blog was edited for length and clarity
It is a super exciting time at Joan of Sparc! They have just completed their first Virtual Sparc Facilitator Training, launched their first service offering of Sparc Sessions, and revamped their website.
They can't wait to see what the summer brings as they continue to bring JOS to life!
This story is a part of #humansofjhchamber: The campaign places a focus on the faces of our local businesses and nonprofits. Learn about their inspirations, why they got started in their industry, and more! Find the Chamber on Instagram, @jhchamber. For information about the program, please contact Director of Membership, Elisabeth Rohrbach, firstname.lastname@example.org or 307.201.2301.
Photos taken by Catherine Evans
This blog was written by Communications Manager, Cecilie Davila, email@example.com