September 20, 2023
We’re excited to announce the $10,000 Amber Amber Grant recipient. Congratulations to Jensin Okunishi, Founder of Jensin Okunishi Studio. They are the ninth qualifier for the 2023 year-end Amber Grant ($25,000).
Recently, WomensNet Advisory Board member Marcia Layton Turner sat down with Jensin for an exclusive interview. You can listen to their conversation and view the transcript below.
WomensNet: Hi everyone, and welcome to a conversation with our Amber Grant winner for August, 2023. Today we have the pleasure of chatting with Jensin Okunishi, owner of Jensin Okunishi Studio.
I’m Marcia Layton Turner, and I’m one of several WomensNet Advisory Board members who has the pleasure of learning more about all these fabulous business owners. So, Jensin, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today.
Jensin: Yay. Thank you so much for having me here. Very exciting.
WomensNet: I know everybody is really curious. So, what is Jensin Okunishi Studio?
Jensin: So Okunishi Studio is a custom rug design studio. As a designer, I design the rugs and then I work with my partners in Nepal, who hand-make the rugs using a special Tibetan hand knotting style.
The inspiration for the business came out of my own practice, of painting and my background of textiles and really using that practice. And I guess what it did for me: I use color a lot and bring a little bit of, like, unexpectedness into the spaces through my art and design. So I kind of moved from paper and painting and drawing into actually creating large scale pieces that really affect the atmosphere, environment and the spaces that they get put in.
WomensNet: To me, it seems like art on the floor. We put art on the walls, but now you have the chance to put these beautiful pieces on the floor and hopefully not cover them up with the couch.
Jensin: Yeah, yeah, that’s exactly it. Yeah, sometimes that can be a challenge. I try to keep that in mind, you know, that often there will be furniture.
WomensNet: So do you sell direct to consumers? Are you working primarily with interior designers?
Jensin: Yes, I’m working primarily with interior designers in the retail and home spaces. I have set design collections, but all of those collections or each design can be customized, with colors and the sizes that you need for your particular project.
WomensNet: That sounds really cool. So a client can choose a design and then say, ‘I love the shapes that you have here, but my walls are green and you have mainly reds in here…’ and so you can change the tones. Is that what I’m hearing?
Jensin: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Working with another designer, they also have a vision and like a mood they’re trying to create. So I enjoy collaborating in that way. They see something in my work that they like and they kind of add to it. I’m like, ‘oh yeah, I really see like your vision as well.’ So it’s usually a really nice collaboration.
And then too, I do custom designs. So if they just like the general idea of something, but they’re like, ‘let’s reimagine that, incorporating this idea a little bit more…’ and that’s also really great.
WomensNet: Awesome. So what do you think has been the secret to your success thus far? What’s gotten you here?
Jensin: I think staying curious about myself and my process. It’s something that’s really hard to do, ’cause I think sometimes you want results and you wanna know that what you’re doing is working or that it’s going to work. But, I think you kind of really have to, you know, just keep believing in yourself the most.
I think I’ve kind of always had these ideas and visions about bringing my artistic practice into kind of my career space, but I really didn’t know how that was gonna happen. So when I realized that this way that I was experiencing my work differently, large scale and all of these different things, I was like, ‘oh, this seems like something I could hold onto for a while.’
WomensNet: So you are a $10,000 Amber Grant winner for August. What are some ways that you’re planning to use that money to invest in your business?
Jensin: I’m really excited to participate in my first trade show. It’s called the International Contemporary Furniture Fair. And it’s just a great place for high-end and luxury brands and designers to showcase their work…obviously meet some new clients potentially, but also just get a really great feel of what’s happening in the contemporary design space, from student work to other professionals inside and outside of the US.
It’s a really exciting place to be and an exciting time for me to introduce what I’m doing. ‘Cause I think I have something to add to the conversation.
So I’m happy with the feedback and the business I have right now, and I feel like, you know, it’ll really resonate there.
WomensNet: It’s like the perfect place for you to be.
WomensNet: When is that happening?
Jensin: That happens in May of 2024.
WomensNet: I’m excited for you. So after that … can you tell us a little bit about the future plans for the business? In three to five years…where do you see the company?
Jensin: So rugs are my first passion and most strongly related to textiles, my background. But, the artisans that I work with are also a really big part of why I started this business and enjoy doing what I do.
So I’d like to continue working with different artisans around the world and specifically looking at artisans that make Japanese tatami mats. They’re a traditional type of flooring that used to be more common in Japan, but currently it’s being used more just in traditional style buildings or temples. So I’d really like to find a way to use, it’s a weaving technique, this weaving technique to, make furniture.
So I’m working on this in the backgrounds of everything else that goes on in the daily life. But, that is my next product venture, I guess, within the studio.
WomensNet: Wonderful. That sounds just fascinating. I need to see what you come up with.
Jensin: I’m excited too.
WomensNet: So, what advice might you have for an aspiring female entrepreneur, maybe a woman business owner who’s just at an earlier stage in her business than you are. What advice might you give her?
Jensin: I would say definitely be persistent. I think starting a business like many other things, but a business in particular, you know… you’re your biggest cheerleader. Sometimes it’s a business plan that gives people confidence. Sometimes it’s developing your product if that’s what it is… but finding that thing that keeps you believing in yourself. Because it’s gonna probably be a slow process. And even if it isn’t and it takes off, be willing to learn from everything that’s happening. ‘Cause things are always quickly changing and, you wanna be able to accept help if you need it, even if things are going well.
So be patient with yourself and believe in yourself. And be persistent.
WomensNet: Great advice. Thank you so much. Jensin, thank you again for your time today talking about your business. Just been always so, so interesting to hear these stories. So thank you. And WomensNet community: Thank you for taking the time to listen to the interview with Jensin.
And Jensin – congratulations again on being our August Amber Grant winner.
Jensin: Thank you so much to the WomensNet community. It’s really an amazing feeling and just nice to have a little extra support going forward. I mean, it’s a lot of extra support. Thank you.