We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenika Kurtz Cuadra and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jenika, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Looking back on what lead me to make the decision to start my own business I realize it was actually pretty clear, I wanted to spend more time with my family. I am fortunate enough to have quite a large extended family, one with whom I am very close- cousins, aunts and uncles, from all over the United States. I often found that I had to make the regretful decision to decline invitations to important family life events like weddings, showers and birthday parties because I just didn’t have the option to take time off from work. In addition, I wanted to work more closely with my dad, who is a general contractor. Growing up he and I would work on projects around the house together, and he would employ me during summers when I got older, but as a professional adult I found myself regretful that I got to spend all this time on big projects for other people, and not on the ones that were the most important to me personally. One day, on a flight to Utah with my boss at the time, while I was reading a book a friend of mine had given me, it dawned on me, “I need to do my own thing.” To this day I tell her that that book changed my life. My mom and dad bought a retirement home in their hometown, where I was born and we moved from when I was five, in 2015. I started working with them on the remodel plans and finish and furniture selections but when the time came that my dad started work on the place it just wasn’t enough to call from thousands of miles away, I wanted to be there with him. I worked as much as I could on side projects during the weekends and off hours away from from 9-5 to save up what I could in the hope that I could have enough to leave my job and start my own company. Once I reached my target number I let my boss know that I was ready to move on, put in my notice and left a couple weeks later. I flew to New Jersey to see a friend who I hadn’t for years and then spent three straight weeks in Wisconsin working with my parents. Once I got back to California a friend referred me to my first client and the rest is history. I have had a steady stream of great projects, working with wonderful people and I’ve been able to strike a balance between work and free time that allows me to spend the time I always wanted with family.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Funny enough, I woke up to a voicemail from my aunt the other day letting me know she “Had some important comments about my design aesthetic” and went on to say, “Your design work shows purpose and intention, not impulse.” And I completely agree with her. Firstly, I like to design homes that reflect the personality and character of the people who live and work there, not mine. Where you can see my hand is in the balance of the space. I always consider scale, texture and color. I don’t like to fill up a space too much or too little, I want it to feel polished but liveable. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about how to achieve this, and it was a tough thing to do. It took time and practice to find my style and my voice and, most importantly, to trust myself and my abilities. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Kendall Zundel, one of my best friends since 7th grade, gifted me the book, ‘You Are a Badass’ by Jen Sincero. It changed my life. Every line I read spoke to me, each chapter I completed gave me more and more confidence to change what I was doing with my career. Chris Barrett, my boss at Chris Barrett Design, was and is such an inspiration to me. I call her the Master because what she does is like magic. She’s always been so good to me, supportive and encouraging and thoughtful and kind. We’re still very good friends to this day. Robert Cuadra, my husband, he was been nothing but supportive throughout my entire career. No one was a bigger champion of me setting off on my own and starting J. Kurtz Design than he was and still is today.