We are all works in progress; even the successful women you see owning it on Instagram faced stumbling blocks along the way and continue to work hard to stay at the top of their game. In this series, we’re sitting down with the people that inspire us to find out: How’d they do it? And what is success really like? This is “Getting There.”
Justina Blakeney is an artist and designer known for her bright and bold interiors style, which usually includes a houseplant or two (or three … or 10). She’s also the author of the “The New Bohemians” and the creator of Jungalow, which started as a blog in 2009 and has since morphed into an online shop for colorful home goods and decor. Through Jungalow, she has collaborated with Anthropologie, Target and more.
But before launching her own brand, Blakeney worked dozens of jobs trying to find her niche — as a consultant, a magazine editor, in retail, as a boutique owner, in graphic and interior design and more.
Here’s what she’s learned along the way.
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TMRW: What was your very first job?
Justina Blakeney: I was 15 and my parents ran a school for mentally disabled teenage girls. I went to the classroom after school and taught arts and crafts. But my first job that wasn’t a familial job? I worked retail at Express, the clothing store.
Talk to me about some of the moments in your career that led you to where you are today.
I’ve always been unafraid to embrace technology and teach myself different programs and learn things like Photoshop or Illustrator or social media platforms. I know if there’s something I can’t figure out, I can find a Reddit thread or a YouTube tutorial that can teach me. So being autodidactic in that sense has been extremely helpful to me.
I went through a long period, three or four years, of just saying yes to any sort of creative oddball project. I just had the courage and the faith to say, “I’m going to figure this out, but I’m also going to be transparent with the client and say, ‘I’ve never done this before, but I can do it.'” And it worked. Learning how to bootstrap and be scrappy and see how much you can really do yourself is hugely important.
For a long time I was like, “Maybe I want to be a designer.” But there are so many different types of design — interior design, industrial design, fashion design — and until you’re actually doing it, it’s sort of hard to know. So I considered that a testing period. And through that, I was able to hone in on exactly what it is I like doing.
How did you know when it was time to branch out on your own?