Today we’d like to introduce you to Adar Kirkham.
Adar, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Growing up in Cherry Hill, NJ my four siblings and I were encouraged to be creative, resourceful and hard-working human beings. Our parents’ entrepreneurial spirit provided us with an inside look into what self-employment, building businesses and working beyond your limits really looked like. As one of the few black families in a predominately white affluent neighborhood, I often struggled to find my place. On the surface, it appeared that things were all “peachy” for our family in “Cherry” Hill. As a result of my parents working hard to get their business off the ground, sometimes at the start of the school year, new clothes didn’t come and during the holidays Santa didn’t visit (Biggie was spot on when he said “Wonder Why Christmas, Missed Us?). Despite the struggles, we always leaned on our family’s creativity and artistic abilities, love of sports, hustle and ambition to persevere through the hard times.
At age 3, I found my passion – DANCE! From recitals, black history theater productions, fashion shows and dance competitions, I knew the stage was where I belonged, it was my calling, I wanted to be a STAR! Fast forward to college years, where I debated even attending college because I was eager to get to Los Angeles and make it as a dancer in Hollywood. As always, my parents supported my dream and encouraged that I go for it! After weighing my options, Hollywood was put on the back-burner in exchange for life on campus. Off I went to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ where I studied dance (surprise, surprise!) and was a member of our nationally ranked dance team. My Rutgers experience afforded me the opportunity to meet some of my closest friends in life, all of which have continuously supported me throughout all of my entrepreneurial adventures. After my sophomore year I auditioned for one of the biggest dance agencies in the New York City. The day I was signed to the agency, I had to make the tough decision of leaving school in order to pursue my dance career…and that’s exactly what I did! I booked my first major job a few weeks after signing my contract, touring with recording artist Ashanti. I remember being so high on life knowing that my dream was now a reality.
I went from gig to gig, New York shoebox apartment to upgraded studios, all while traveling the world living the “glamorous life”, paycheck to paycheck with different recording artist. Eight years later I was given the amazing opportunity to be the Head Coach of the NJ Nets Dance Team (I was a dancer on the team previously) which soon became the Brooklyn Nets dance team, the Brooklynettes. Here is where I transitioned into a choreographer and had my first real corporate cubical life experience. Big thanks to Petra Pope and Kimberlee Smith, my former bosses now turned mentors and friends. They taught me what it takes to be a strong influential woman, in a male dominated business. During my Brooklyn Nets era, I learned all about corporate protocols and developed many business and managerial skills. Those aforementioned newly acquired skills combined with my preexisting creativity definitely made me a more well-rounded individual. I enjoyed learning, however, I knew that being behind a desk (fast forward, little did I know I’d be designing desks) wasn’t where I belonged or thrived most. I powered through for four years knowing this opportunity would lead to me making some positive “tweaks” in my life.
As I tried to figure things out, my life was derailed when my father unexpectedly passed away of a heart attack. As you could imagine this broke my entire soul and my ability to fathom what my purpose was in life. The cup containing my creative juices was empty, with no refill in sight. These were some of my difficult times but “Thank God” for family. If it wasn’t for their ongoing support, I’m not sure if my star would’ve ever shined. As I mourned my dad’s death I pushed through corporate life, as best I knew how. Not a day went by where my father’s calm and uplifting voice didn’t play in my head to the tune of “you’re a star…be patient and slowwwww down”. Those words would often follow with “your time will come, if they can do it and you can do it better.” He never understood why I was a backup dancer for recording artist Rihanna. He always encouraged me to be Rihanna, not the backup dancer. As funny as that statement is still today, it’s exactly what I needed to fuel my fire in order to remember my true light. I knew I wanted to honor my father. His legacy needed to carry on. His shoes were too big for my size 7.5’s to fill. He had a dream big mentality and I’d pray before sleep to find my sequel to my dad’s dreams. It took me a few years to find it, but when I knew, I KNEW! I was destined to honor his relentless entrepreneurial spirit and I did so by starting my very own furniture design business. My starlight finally started to flicker.
Furniture design? Yes, it came out of leftfield. Interior design was always a passion of mine but it took a backseat to dance. When we were kids my younger sister Cehara and I would always play interior design on the weekends. Our parents let us be creative and express ourselves by doing whatever we wanted to our room. I’ve never seen so many different layouts done for one room in my life! One childhood memory that sticks out the most, was our fun and resourceful idea to tile our bedroom ceiling with cereal box covers. Yup, legit cereal box covers. Being the resourceful children that we were, we figured that since we ate a lot of cereal why not repurpose the boxes as décor. As a nine and six-year-old, we thought we were the coolest kids in our neighborhood, with the coolest room to match. How I ironic that Cheerios, Captain Crunch and Frosted Flakes would lead to a lot more out of the “box” thinking.
Fast forward to my adulthood, I continued redesigning my furniture over and over as I jumped from apartment to apartment. I actually enjoyed moving frequently as I had another reason to change the look and feel of my new home. Ask any of my college friends and roommates, they’d say I was pretty intense when it came to my dorm design. It was always a full-blown HGTV style redesign episode after 3 hours of moving in! I didn’t mess around. Still don’t. Without dating myself, I remember posting my French Provincial coffee table that I refinished on my MySpace page. The unexpected response that I received was like no other. Everyone wanted to know if it were for sale! I remember feeling like I was on to something. I didn’t know when or why but I was really started to believe this could be a business.
While I had hopes of turning it into a business, I knew I needed to maintain my corporate job at the Brooklyn Nets in order to fund getting my furniture business off the ground. In the summer of 2015, my side hustle began. I decided to call it Tweak It Shop. The name was rooted in my belief that regardless of how old or new something is, it always has the ability to be tweaked, in order to give it new meaning. My mother Karen and stepfather Earl welcomed the idea/concept and let me use their shed in the backyard as my initial workshop. I visited flea markets and yard sales that summer, gathering inventory and learning as I went from project to project. With a ton of help from my mother and stepfather I began to gain confidence in my eye for design and mastering my skills to execute my visions. Tweak It quickly grew out of their shed and into a room in my brother’s facility that he owned. My loving and equally as entrepreneurially minded brother allowed me to use the space rent free. Thank goodness, because I wasn’t ready for any overhead. At my new workshop, I was able to expand my creativity and take on projects that were bigger in size. I started to gain traction. Before I knew it, I had clients and a small following on social media – in my mind I was officially official! I pushed the brand in my “Adar way” by letting viewers have an inside look at all my successes and failures of custom furniture design. I continued to sharpen my skills, social following kept growing, as did my business. Life was truly on the up and up both professionally and personally. Speaking of personally, during this time, I fell in love with my person, got engaged and moved to Los Angeles (fiancé at the time was offered a job LA) and we just got married earlier this summer back in Brooklyn. Whew! Lots of change all at once… but change is good! I’m the luckiest woman on this planet to have met and married my husband, Tyrel. A creative genius in his own right who inspires me daily (actually hourly) to push past my limits and reach beyond my potential. If it weren’t for his constant encouragement and belief in me as a successful entrepreneur, I’m not sure where Tweak It would even be these days.
With being an LA resident for a little less than a year, Tweak It really is beginning to take shape! It’s now 100% my focus, and no longer a side hustle. With over 30K followers on Instagram, being featured on HGTV’s Flea Market Flip and partnering with West Elm for a few pop-up shops, I really feel like this move to LA was the best thing for the business. Its collaborative and creative culture and demand for one of a kind pieces are right up my alley (oh and did I mention the beautiful weather). Within a few months of my arrival, I found my first workshop space in Boyle Heights. Eager to get back to creating my furniture magic, I picked the first place I could find within my budget. Although the space was great, that LA commute was the exact opposite. Commuting to and from Santa Monica everyday was a nightmare, and as a result I recently relocated to this charming and inspirational space in Culver City. During this time, I also changed my business’ name from Tweak It Shop to Tweak It Studio. I thought Shop felt more craftsman and transactional, Studio felt more artistry and transformative.
Looking ahead to the future, I’m excited to grow Tweak It Studio. In addition to my own projects and custom jobs, I’ve also added to the DIY culture with workshops, exclusive collections, collaborative events, pop-ups and more!
Has it been a smooth road?
As expected with any start-up business, there’s always bumps along the road. Fortunate for me, given my upbringing, I’m prepared with the tools to help navigate the roads ahead. It’s what I signed up for! In the beginning, I struggled with identifying myself as an artist in the furniture space. Validating myself as a professional dancer and choreographer in the entertainment industry came easy, however, trying to prove myself as a furniture artist has been tricky at times. Still is. I do believe that one title doesn’t define who you are, and you can wear as many hats as your heart desires, however, getting to that place wasn’t easy. Everything about my life is a “tweak” in progress. Which leads me to another hurdle that I had to overcome… believing in my work! I had to learn to trust that there are customers who vibe with my design style and would spend a pretty penny to have my one-of-a-kind pieces in their home. Believing in the quality of my work and originality of my designs, with hopes that the artistry and time taken to create is appreciated and valued. My increased confidence in my work and ability to customize a client’s furniture piece beyond their expectations, has challenged me to continue to learn new skills and techniques as I go. With each piece being different from the next, nothing ever feels mastered. It’s the learning curve that never goes away, but with each curve comes growth, and that’s what entrepreneurialism is all about. Personal growth makes it all worth it in the end.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
Tweak It Studio offers wide range of content and experiences that includes renovation projects for one-of-a-kind custom furniture, how-to DIY, pop ups and workshops. Tweak It Studio is driven by its talented, charming and socially active founder Adar Kirkham (formerly Wellington), whose unique perspective and creative vision inspire others to not only “tweak” their furniture pieces but also to motivate them to chase their dreams and express their personal vision and story through hard work, out-of-the-box thinking, and positive mindset.
Tweak It Studio MANIFESTO:
Every little tweak we make makes a difference. When we put all our tweaks together, we change our world, and the world around us.
We approach life humbly, with gratitude and appreciation for what we have, and we give ourselves to our work passionately. Through our tweaks we express our true essence and embrace our unique story in the process. It’s a self-discovery and self-expression in full color. Our essence is our style.
Tweak It Studio reimagines style and nurtures creativity. Our home needs our colors, and our life needs our own edge.
We are socially tuned in, in style, at the edge and on function. With our hands-on form and our hearts in the universe, we breathe life and color into the home.
Through our innovative custom restyles, we ignite conversations; real talk that inspire and cultivate change – one tweak at a time.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
LA is home to ambitious dreamers. It’s a great place to be for whatever it is you want to do. My business is all about customization and being unique which is something everyone seeks out here. There’s no such thing as cookie cutter in LA. Being the only person on the planet to have a chair, buffet, bar cart or coffee table is exciting and adds to the 1 of 1 narrative. With health and wellness along with saving our planet at the forefront of its culture, LA takes pride in recycling and going green. Tweak It Studios is all about being resourceful and using what you have, to create beautiful pieces of functional art. The idea of breathing new life into your old favorite piece of furniture instead of buying a new one embodies a lot of what LA stands for. Lastly, LA is a city of collaboration. I’m constantly looking for other brands and businesses to work with.
- Address: Sepulveda Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90230
- Website: www.tweakitstudio.com
- Phone: 856-495-6168
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @tweakitstudio
- Facebook: @tweakitstudio