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Meet Jacqueline Jagyung Eum of Creativejdea and Cafe Dabang in Arlington Heights

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jacqueline Jagyung Eum.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
It’s been already 11 years since I came to America from Korea. I was working a production designer for film/ TV show/ Music video in Korea and I realized that the film industry has been changed and broadened. They started making a film, TV shows with another country such as America, China, Japan. I feel like It’s gonna grow more. I was 29 years old and I had so much thought about my life and looking for something to step up wanted to be ahead of time. (be advanced). I started studying Chinese right away. A month later, I don’t think it’s going to happen. I feel like I’ll be a grandma when I finish learning Chinese. Started learning Japanese. It was way easier and fun. But the Film industry in Japan wasn’t doing good. My last choice, America. It was my 1st choice but It was way far and living is expensive. I didn’t want to rely on my parents and I don’t have much saving but I know as production designer, I need to see the Hollywood sign at least. So I packed and left with $5000. I went to Sonoma university near San Francisco to study English first…. wrong decision. My agent said small town far from City has less Korean and better to study English. Liar. for the whole month, I only hang out with Koreans and Chinese. We are everywhere. So I decided to move to Los Angeles a month later.

Finally in Los Angeles.
I had a friend who was studying in AFI (American Film Institute) and I was staying in her apartment. She said there was project and maybe I can help them. So, I started working for student film on my 2nd day in Los Angeles. AFI is the school that I wanted to go to. I know if I finish school and it will be so easy to get a job in Korea but TUITION!!!!! There is no way that I can afford it. The curriculum in AFI was simple. Just keep making the film and they always need production designers. So I kept working on any projects I can do. I can’t speak much English but I was working for free and I know what they want and need. The system in Korean and American was almost the same. I made ten short films in my first year and some of the students thought I was a student in AFI. I knew I don’t think I can get a degree but I got to experience and connection.

Met my accountability partners.
Manuel was my mentor. He is from Spain and was studying production design in AFI. I helped him for his projects and We became good friends. He helped me a lot in many ways. He was patient with me and guided me and support me to be a good production designer. He always call me “Korean Mafia” because I found anything he needed even if he thinks it’s impossible. Adam. He was fellow in AFI and has the passion to make his own film. I helped him for his first short and became good friends. There is an episode with Adam to show how he was a good friend. I wanted to buy a car and found that I needed social #. So I asked Adam “can I have your social #?” Adam said, “What? We don’t even give social # to family” I said “what I thought we are a friend! Why it’s so big deal. Friends share many things! You don’t want to be a friend?” Adam…. “Let me think…” then I got my car under Adam’s Social #. How naive I am. I didn’t think that lending social is really big deal here. Jenny, my life accountability partner. She is beautiful and positive and passionate. She sees good things from me and encourages me. We both started from nothing so we had a very rough time in America. But She made all rough time into a happy and good memory. I learned how to be positive and see good things from me and others from her.

Facing reality – English & Communication.
After two years in Los Angeles, I finally got a chance to work feature film. Manuel was a production designer and He hired me as art director. I was so excited but nervous. Because of my English. We filmed near Joshua Tree. Everything was good until something happened. It was a night scene. I was on set and Manuel and other team were by the camera. Director & Cinema photographer was having a hard time to film one scene and they asked me to bring “something”. I didn’t catch what it is. I asked again and they said “something”. But couldn’t understand. But can’t ask again. We were all tired and annoyed. So I came to Manuel and other team members and they need something but I don’t know what it is. One of our team went to the director and asked them what they need… IT WAS FISHING WIRE!!!!! FISHING WIRE!!!!!! I HATE FISHING WIRE FOR a LONG TIME!!!!

Our nice team member even told the director that I didn’t understand what they need…why why why!!!! I still remembered the entire scene and their facial expression – how can art director not understand English!. I still scream in my car when I thought about what happened! after that, everything was changed. Director and DP stopped talking to me and they only talked to other design team member. They blamed Manuel about hiring me and treat me like I’m invisible. Other team members didn’t listen to me and they started directly talking to the director and He acts like he is a production designer. Everything was a mess and I feel like I was just PA but I can’t give up. After that movie, I realized I can’t survive if I don’t speak English and don’t know how to communicate with people here. Talent is important. Working hard is important but if I don’t know how to express my idea it’s just nothing. So I quit making a movie. I need to improve myself.

One of my good friends introduced me to her client, Brian who owned a couple of restaurants ion Korea town. He said he is looking for an interior designer for his new project – Coffee shop. I needed a job so I asked him to hire me. I told him I work hard and I can do multi-task (very Korean). So He hired me. The pay was little but Brian has so much good idea and he always tried to think different and He trusts me. My first project with him was IOTA (now Tipsy) which was the biggest coffee shop in Ktown. It was ground up so It took almost one year six month. After that, I did a Korean bbq restaurant – the biggest one in Fullerton. After that, I open up my interior designer company(of course, Adam helps me).

Met Dante, my partner & my husband. Dante changed my life as an interior designer and Woman. I was one of “lost interior designer” when I met him. Dante was working for tile showroom in North Hollywood and I didn’t know what I was looking for – Dante called those designers “lost designer”. I remembered him clearly. Skinny and wearing tight dark blue shirts and Elvis Presley hairstyle. He was nice and guide me to find the right products for my project. One Saturday morning, I visited his showroom and his co-worker came to me there is someone wants to take me out in this showroom. I looked around but there are some old gentlemen and Dante. I asked her who? That old gentleman? She said no, it is Dante. I laughed out loud and said “No way, He is gay” (He heard me) she said no. and I said I don’t date by-sexual. She said she guarantees he is straight. When I looked at him, he was smiling. I said, ok. Why not. It was more like curiosity but ever since our first date, we are together.

Dante made me a real woman who is confident and beautiful. I never think that I’m pretty. There are always pretty girls who got attention from guys and I’m not the one. But Dante loves me the way I’m. I didn’t like wearing a skirt because I have big Korean style chicken leg – big calf (it’s different from American chicken leg) and I have a big jar that makes me look too strong. But he loves my calf and loves my jar. He said that makes me different from others. I didn’t think that my flaw can be my advantages. He changed the way I think about myself. Now I love myself and who I am.

I was an interior designer who was struggling when I met him. I have my own design company but I was lost. I was looking for a chance to step up but don’t know-how. After we opened up the Cafe / interior design office together, Dante taught me a lot of things about materials, Business System in America, how to act like an owner. After three years of business together, we opened up interior design showroom and now, we have two more designers and I’m very excited about our future. I owe Dante for Everything I have now, Where I’m now.

Has it been a smooth road?
Of course, English & Communications Skill, American system: I needed to know how people talk/communicate in America. In Korea, when someone talk, you have to listen until they finish. So I wait until someone finishes talking but someone started talking before someone finish, and someone starts talking again. I became the quietest one in the group. Always smile and listen and completely ready to talk but never get a chance to talk. When I finally get a chance to talk but the subject I want to talk about is areadly passed. My friend said, just talk a lot and give people a big positive response. Even if I have good talent and skill, idea if I don’t speak up or didn’t get a chance to get people’s attention, it’s nothing. And someone will take your credit.

Korean style nothing impossible & Bbali Bbali (quick quick) and say no! : if I did something that people think it was impossible or hard to do it, I got a lot of credit. It was same here and Korea. If something was due, no one can’t finish on time, I asked all my people to help me to make it happen. I love the accomplished feeling and recognized but sometimes, It gives too much stress to others and me. I pushed people too much to show how good I’m. It is necessary but sometimes I need to say I can’t do it. Because there is a process to do it and the quality of the work. It just still hard to do it. Because I feel like I’m incapable but I try to talk to myself and client who pushes me a lot, putting good amount of time on this project will bring the best of the quality of work.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Creativejdea and Cafe Dabang – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
1. Creativejdea: we do interior design and provide quality design and materials to the customers. I’m specialized in Commercial interior design such as restaurants, cafes, office, retail shops, etc.

Unique storytelling & Practical & Art)

When I start the projects, I think about branding & marketing. What it is, why, where, how I can make this place stands out from other business. It’s not just about what the owner wants and what the designer wants. Commercial interior design is about what PEOPLE wants. It could be said that interior design for commercial space is not mandatory to be a successful business. But it will be a good marketing tool. So I focus on what people will like, what I can make this place unique so people can take pictures or come to the business more often or remember this place. So I create a unique concept and name it. Once I named the projects, It became alive and start to breathe. There is a poem in Korea, “it’s just flower but when I call its name, it became special to me” (not sure it’s right translation tho ^^)

When most of the interior designers started, they only focus on the look. But it’s business so everything we design has to be practical. We have to know about the business, flow, how people work, what kind of work, layout anything about the business. So talking to clients or people who will work there is really important. Running my own coffee shop taught me a lot about business.

I love working with Artists. We have a concept and they have a skill, together we create beautiful art for the business. We tried to create the story behind the branding. When I create the wallpaper for one of our client’s sushi restaurant, I found that there are all men sushi chefs working in the kitchen. So I create the wallpaper the Samurai sushi chef – fighting with the giant fish and king crab! We create the story so when people saw it, we can start talking with people about how we create and story behind it. It will create the connection between business and customers.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Weather & People

Weather is hot but there is a breeze from the ocean that cools you down.

I love people in Los Angeles. They are all different from different places. When I’m at the cafe, I like to meet our customers. They are different. They have their own hairstyle, fashion, the way they talk. And no one cares about it. It’s very fun to see how many different people live in this City. I didn’t recognize until I came back to Korea. I didn’t go back to Korean for eight years and it was so much fun but I found that everyone has the same hairstyle, makeup, fashion that looks like some famous idol’s. There are hundreds of clothing stores on the street but you don’t need to see them all because they have the same style. I missed seeing all the different things here.

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1 Comment

  1. Luis

    October 24, 2019 at 18:03

    What an inspiring story. As a Korean American, I can relate to every word written in this interview. Thank you and I’m sure this story will inspire others to never give up and live their dreams with passion.

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