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Meet Carol and Keith Kimura of CKdream in Gardena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Carol and Keith Kimura.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
K-Stand is the ‘dream’ child of our company, CKdream. The idea for the name “CKdream” came to us shortly after we married 13 years ago. At the time, we had no idea what our business would be but there was a vision, “a dream,” that someday we would have own company and it would be called “CKdream” (using the initials of our first names and sounding like “Seek A Dream”).

So, fast forward to the present and here we are “seeking a dream,” with this new idea called K-Stand. A new kind of instrument stand that got its start as a Christmas gift from me to Carol. I wanted to make a handmade gift for Carol and as I pondered what this gift would be I watched Carol practicing her ukulele and noticed that whenever she took a break from playing she would lay the instrument down – usually in her open case next to her or any other available flat surface (a chair, the floor, someone else’s lap).

That’s when the idea came to me – a portable instrument stand for her ukulele. However, I wanted it to be easily transportable as well, something that would fit in her ukulele case so that she needn’t carry it separately. The very first design idea was cut from a piece of paper then folded up to test the concept. When I saw that it could work I began building it and in a couple of weeks it was finished. When Carol unwrapped her Christmas gift her reaction was priceless, it brought tears to her eyes. That became the beginning of the K-Stand (named for its ability to be carried in a case, i.e. “case stand”).

Realizing that I was on to something I searched the internet many times a day for weeks only to find nothing that resembled this idea. So, over the next several months I worked on refining the stand. I developed many more versions driven by my desire to make it aesthetically attractive with all the parts fitting together like a wooden puzzle. I also wanted the movement to be mechanically creative without the use of hardware like metal hinges and screws. And most of all, I wanted it to be simple to use. In July of 2018, we filed an application to patent what we now call the K-Stand instrument stand.

Since then we have received tremendous response and have been selling out faster than we can produce the K-Stands. Our marketing has only been through word-of-mouth, displaying at local music festivals and advertising online via our website. K-Stand is currently designed for ukuleles and guitars with several design options available for finish and wood type. Lately, custom designs have become very popular requested by musicians who own very special instruments. In an effort to expand our production capability we have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to move our workshop from our apartment garage to a bonafide woodshop and also purchase the necessary power machines so the process isn’t as labor-intensive. We are so excited about the adventure that this opportunity is placing before us.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Developing the process took a lot of twists and turns but eventually we refinded the process to where it is relatively efficient. We are now working at a pretty efficient rate. But working from a home garage with little space and small hand tools does make the process very labor intensive and time-consuming. We also run this business with both of us working “day jobs” so that makes for very long days and usually working seven days a week.

Making the first few batches of K-Stands was challenging because we had a very tight budget for supplies considering we hadn’t really sold anything yet. Many times we had to wait to be able to afford the supplies we needed until we had enough money saved up to afford them.

We were also fairly new to woodworking on a production basis. After our second public showing of K-Stand we got so many orders that we had to look for help. We hired a wood shop to cut the parts in batch but they didn’t deliver as promised and we ended up re-making every part one at a time so most of our deliveries for that event were months behind schedule.

Almost every step of the process required special tooling jigs which we had to design and build ourselves. There was a lot of trial and error work involved with making the tooling until we got it right.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about CKdream – what should we know?
Our business is called CKdream and we design and build a product called K-Stand. A new kind of instrument stand for Guitars and Ukuleles that is flat and shaped like the instrument. This feature allows it to be stored alongside the instrument inside the case making it portable and convenient and always available for the musician to use. K-Stand’s design is Patent Pending for its unique hinging and locking design.

K-Stand is handcrafted from solid wood and beautifully finished in a variety of wood stain colors with a glossy varnished finish making it an attractive display for all types of stringed instruments.

The K-Stand’s unique design with it’s beautiful appearance can be defined as functional art. Functional in that, unlike most stands it easily travels with the instrument. Artistic in its patented design where all the parts integrate with each other to make a moveable yet stable structure.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Mariko Lochridge, of Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) has provided invaluable guidance and knowledge in helping us prepare and develop our small business. Through workshop series for entrepreneurs and one-on-one counseling.

Jesse Koester for his awesome photographic talents. Jesse has provided countless hours of photography services to give K-Stand a professional view as well as the behind-the-scenes views.

Meiko Beyer for her outstanding editorial skills in telling our story.

My parents Richard and Alice Kimura for their financial support.

Our family, friends, co-workers and Wil and Kathy Honda who continue to support us and urge us to “seek a dream”.

Pricing:

  • Ukulele Stands start at $150
  • Guitar Stands start at $300

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Main photo is from an article published by the Rafu Shimpo and taken by Mieko Beyer
Jesse Koester

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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