Mothers, they’re superheroes. They nurture and teach, support and love, and act as the glue that holds any family together. Is there anything that moms can’t do? Unlikely.
The founders of Joue Design, two working moms who are working it, are shaking up the local home decor scene in a big way. As a tribute to mothers everywhere, we celebrate the work being done by Alison and Cindy as they build Joue Design, another great Vancouver business.
Who are you? Tell us about your business and what inspired you to create it.
Alison: Hi! I’m the “Alison” half of Joue Design, a new home decor company created here in Vancouver. Joue Design was a response to local designers – including myself. Designers were looking for unique, thoughtfully designed pieces for their homes and lives. At Joue, we design all the pieces ourselves, and we are proud to manufacture locally.
Cindy: I’m the ‘Cindy’ half of Joue Design. While we’re two individual designers, we’ve discovered that together, we can create some pretty incredible designs that leverage our own artwork – lately of which has been our watercolour paintings. We truly believe in the beauty of marrying original art with textiles.
What has been the most challenging part about running this business and how have you addressed it?
Alison: Although I’ve been running my own design services studio for over a decade, product design is an entirely new learning curve. Fortunately, I love challenges. I like to stay focused on the long-term goals so that the small bumps and bruises don’t throw me for a loop. Joue Design plans on being around for a very long time.
Cindy: Despite a business degree and over 20 years working for large corporations, things are certainly different when you own your own business. It’s your baby, and sometimes it can be tough to maintain objectivity. However, the benefit of my experience working in large corporations is that it has taught me to be very process-focused, which is helpful in a two-person team. Things can get overwhelming, but I’ve learned to prioritize things immediately.
How has Vancouver’s rising startup community played a role in the development of Joue Design?
Alison: Vancouver has an amazing entrepreneurial culture. The support for new ideas in this city has been great. It’s been encouraging meeting so many other small (and growing) business owners out there making things happen. We love to share the support we’ve received, and give support back to others over lots of “coffee” meet-ups. Vancouver can be incredibly kind and supportive.
Cindy: It’s great to have a community that shares the war stories (there are plenty!) – and we definitely try and learn from each other. Now that we’re in our second year of business, we have plenty of stories to tell and lessons learned. It’s funny that new startups are already starting to ask us questions and wanting to learn from us – so there are always opportunities, even for a young company like us to continually give back to the start-up community.
What core problem is your company specifically solving and/or what’s the main value you provide?
Alison: I really believe well-designed spaces can lift human spirits. Coming from an architectural and interior design background, I’ve seen this proven on all scales. We want to design thoughtfully, reflecting the beauty around us back into our homes and lives. We’ve also made it a priority in our business and design to work with local artisans and manufacturers, using as many raw materials as much as possible. I love getting to know the people who help us realize our dreams, and the individual boutique shop owners who carry our products, which brings “big business” back to a personal level.
Cindy: We’re seeing a growing shift in consumer buying patterns – shoppers are shying away from mass-market offerings found in many design shops across the globe. We know that consumers are intelligent, acquire excellent taste and are demanding specialty, high quality goods. These goods must be created in very small quantities to preserve the artistry that’s become lost in the drive toward mainstream accessibility in design. In other words, good design doesn’t have to be mass-produced. We’re not here to fit into the latest trends. Our value is to stand out and lead, putting a fresh twist on tired, old ideas and bringing the fun back to design – one batch at a time.
How did you end up becoming an entrepreneur and what challenges did you personally overcome to succeed?
Alison: My entrepreneurial path began about 12 years ago when I was expecting child #3 in our family (unless you count selling Regal at 12 years old!). I realized that I didn’t want to go back to the structured office setting of a big firm, so I began a design studio from home with the flexibility to attend every volleyball game and soccer practice. I’ve always loved getting to know my clients and being part of re-inventing their living spaces or offices, but sometimes, the hours can be more intense than office hours. The “juggle” is always the hardest part – especially with homeschooling the smaller two of my four kids. The support of other career-minded mothers has been indispensable – another perk that comes from living in such a great entrepreneurial community such as Vancouver!
Cindy: I suppose my entrepreneurial path started 25 years ago, when I was 15 and teaching piano to over a dozen students to save money for university. I had to learn every aspect of owning a business from marketing to accounting to interviewing students and organizing concerts and exams. Knowing that I was responsible for helping others understand and learn music was very fulfilling. Even though I no longer teach piano today, the thirst to create something or tread ones own path remains strong – which is why I am part of Joue Design, while still maintaining a full-time job. The juggle can be a challenge, for sure, but the ability to exercise my creative muscles makes it worth it.
What entrepreneur has inspired you the most for running your business and what makes them so special?
Alison: I’m inspired by so many, but especially the world-wide big businesses that started in my own backyard. The mom-preneur that unapologetically answers my calls with a screaming kid in the background; the owner who is equally at ease discussing failures as successes; the kindness and energy of an online peer. I guess you could narrow it down to any entrepreneur who is getting it done and smiling all the way, even through bumps and bruises!
Cindy: Vera Wang. She started her design career in her 40s and has become such an amazing success story. It has taught me that you can never be too old to start something new.
What Vancouver celebrity/influencer would you most be excited to have as a member of the team and why?
Alison: I’d love any celebrity or influencer that excels in the areas where I don’t. This means pretty much anyone who isn’t afraid of cameras, and is a goddess of social media. Please apply soon!
Cindy: I think it would be anyone who marches to the beat of their own drum – never afraid to try something new. Good design is about standing out, not blending in.
If you could tell your younger self something what would it be?
Alison: Rest now… It’s going to be a wild ride.
Cindy: A couple of things: 1) Don’t be afraid to try something new; and 2) Relax. Things will always work out. If they don’t, it’s not meant to be. Don’t stress over it.
What are some accessible resources used and winning habits you have developed to learn and grow as an entrepreneur?
Alison: I’ve developed the winning habit of seeking out and appreciating people who know more than I do. It’s amazing how far a smile and an offer to head out for a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) can take you. The things you can learn from others often cannot be learned in a class or from a book – or even from Google!
Cindy: Networking, networking, networking. Getting to know people inside and outside of your industry, at all levels. It’s incredible how little you know, the more you talk to people.
What’s your advice for current or future entrepreneurs?
Alison: You’ll never know until you try! Work hard, be kind, and have fun.
Cindy: Just do it. Life is short – grab it by the horns and try. If you fail, it means you’re learning, so try again.
Vancouver Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs and startups that are making a local and even a global impact. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send an email to casey(at)vancitybuzz(dot)com to explain why you’re a fit.