“Take a deep breath and listen, practice some restraint.”
Those are the words of current breadwinner, new mom, and captain of a design business that’s rapidly expanding: Justina Blakeney, founder of The Jungalow. The interior design boss is the first to admit that “no one knows how it’s going to go," but handling uncertainty is a big part of entrepreneurship. "There are days when I feel like things aren’t balanced or chill, when I have to work a lot and travel,” but, she says, “I think it’s important to understand in what type of environment your thrive. I flourish in the multi-hustle world.”
Her environment is lush. Full of color, vibrant patterns and plants; it’s a design style that says no to minimalism. In a way, it’s a multi-hustle of its own.
And with a New York Times bestseller, The New Bohemians (which, she wrote and shot in less than three months), a Sunset Magazine cover, a booming design business and blog, a tot at home, five employees at her office space, and plenty more in the works, Justina has reached a point where she gets her gig. “Having a lot going on at one time really suits my personality,” she notes.
At the moment she has five people who work for her. They are all part time and she runs a single member LLC. “That’s all going to change next year,” she says, joking, “in part because I don’t want to break any labor laws.” It’s also because she knows she needs full time commitment from her employees. “I’m ready for my business to be at the forefront of my employees minds and I can’t expect that to be the case if it’s not their full time job.”
And it has become very full time.
Most Jungalow income still comes from social media and the blog, but the business is expanding rapidly. What exactly is in the works? “The Jungalow world takeover.” NBD. And it’s moving fast— a pace she is most comfortable with. “People need to be able to keep up,” she says, “and I have no patience for people who work slowly. Being able to be fast is how you can make money. You have to be quick.” At least in her business, where iteration is not the name of the game.
Justina says, “I worked really hard to not be known as a blogger. I wanted to be known as a designer first.” The plan with the furniture line is to develop the wholesale side of the business first. That way, “by the time we get into a retail we’ll be a brand name.” She describes ecommerce as “an intimidating whole new universes.” Citing the customer service, sales tax, and returns. “But what I keep telling myself,” she explains, “is that it’s not hard, it’s just a lot. And the hardest part is making the leap.” Especially when you're conditioned to think business is a man's game. “There was this moment,” she explains, “where it became very clear to me that being good at business was not about being good at numbers, or understanding the Dow Industrial— that’s what I thought being ‘good a business’ meant.”
“As women,” she says, “we’re trained to think that business is not a woman’s game— it’s not left-brained. But being able to relate to people has proven to be a much bigger asset than I knew.”
Developing her brand meant make hard choices, like passing on 50k opportunities because they “didn’t make sense,” both aesthetically and in her gut. She’s driven by authenticity, while also understanding that “businesses are machines that are created for profit. You can’t depend on someone else for your well-being. It’s something I always have in the back of my mind— to make sure I have my own back.”
We circle back to the election. “Trump won because he was bold and didn’t care what people think. It was a messaging nightmare. But as much as Trump is deplorable, he’s authentic; he’s an authentic dickhead.”
The Bernie supporter is considerably angry about the country's new POTUS but her support for other women and women of color is unwavering. “Female empowerment is about having your own back and having the back of your sisters,” she insists. “It’s so hard for me to watch women not supporting other women and men not supporting women. As a woman of color and as a woman, it’s painful for me to see. It’s so easy to be catty and jealous, but it’s so counter-productive. It’s so much easier to be supportive.”