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Meet Beks Opperman of Stephen Kenn Studio in Downtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Beks Opperman.

Beks, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
When I met my partner Stephen he had already been a designer for years. He worked in denim and fashion, and the moved on to designing and making travel bags. We got married in 2009, and when we moved into an apartment together we started having our first conversations about home design. Always a designer at heart, Stephen wanted to make some of his own pieces of furniture for the new space.

I was working in healthcare at the time, but I had been in that sector for nearly a decade and was playing with the idea of doing something different. After a few years of Stephen learning about and hand making some furniture himself, he put together his first collection (The Inheritance Collection) using tube steel and vintage military canvas.

Shortly after that, he left the bag company behind and together we founded Stephen Kenn Studio as a product design business. From the beginning, Stephen has been behind the designs and I have run the business side of things. We work well as a team, as each of us has different skills and interests. Stephen is the crazy artist and I get to engage my nerdy brain with a long-term strategy, branding, and overall operational structure.

We own 100% of our business and will have been running for 7 years this September. We grow really slowly, but we love the freedom we have to make what we want, when we want to, and how we want to.

And though it has been a struggle at times, I love working with my husband. We intimately know each other’s struggles and can help share the burden and offer encouragement in a unique way.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Is starting a business ever a smooth road? I would love to meet the person out there who hasn’t had low points along the way. Maybe they can teach me something!

In all honesty, its rarely been an easy path, but I wouldn’t give up the lessons learned for anything. We’ve had the usual struggles of money, staffing, vendors and suppliers, but its the personal struggles that have taught me the most. I am a perfectionist and have workaholic tendencies, so owning a small business brought out many things in me that made me good at business, but bad for personal health.

I’ve had to learn quickly how to care for myself and run the studio at the same time, and I am grateful to have been forced to do that at a fairly young age. As I have been better at taking care of myself, I have also gotten better at taking care of my team. I remind myself every day that my job is to do today’s work and not worry about tomorrow. We will tackle tomorrow’s work tomorrow.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Stephen Kenn Studio – what should we know?
We are a design studio that focuses on products for home and travel. We design and manufacture in Los Angeles. We first started with furniture design, and in 2011 released our first collection, The Inheritance Collection. We followed that with a leather travel bag collection and since then have released some stand-alone travel pieces and an outdoor furniture collection. Our designs are original, with clean and simple lines, and we use the highest quality materials available.

We believe strongly in using excellent materials and construction so that our designs will age well and last a long time. We also believe in ethical manufacturing, so we pay our workers well and vet our vendors extensively before working with them. We also repurpose some vintage materials into upholstery items and use the scraps from those projects to make quilts and canvas bags. We love using every bit of material we can to make our designs and avoid wasting whenever we can.

I am most proud of our originality and our commitment to caring for our fabricators and team members. In our age, when we can see hundreds or thousands of other designs online, it’s easy for studios to release copied or “heavily inspired by” designs into the world. I am very proud of the fact that we never release anything that looks like someone else’s work. It’s not an easy path, but its one of integrity.

I am equally proud that we are committed to caring for our workers. We pay as well as we can at all times, provide health care, and invest heavily in teaching, coaching, and helping our team grow personally and professionally. We have high standards for our local vendors and fabricators as well. We pay well above minimum wage and ensure they each have a safe work environment in which to produce our designs.

We believe in showing care to everyone we work with, even if it means we are not as profitable or have to make things slower. Its worth it!

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Humility and love. Staying humble keeps us receptive to learning and changing when we need to. Reminding ourselves to show love to everyone we work with is what keeps our perspective positive and forges long-term relationships with our clients.

Greed and stress are easy ruts to fall into, so we fight against it every day by practicing gratitude and love. It starts with my relationship with my partner Stephen and extends out from there.

Pricing:

  • $7500 (starting price of a sofa)
  • $2800 (chair price)
  • $950 (travel duffle price)

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.stephenkenn.com
  • Phone: 323-920-4210
  • Email: contact@stephenkenn.com
  • Instagram: @stephenkenn

Image Credit:
Amy Bartlam, Daniel N Johnson, Justin Chung

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