by Louis J L Fullagar
Today we chat with Tobi Adamolekun, partner in the innovative company, BUSHAKAN, who make original and unique wooden eyewear stands. Born in Nigeria, Tobi moved to England at the age of 10 and then onto Virginia in the USA. He eventually found his way to sunny California where he graduated in Architecture from California College Of The Arts (CCA). He was working as a freelance architect and teaching Architecture and Interior Architecture at the Academy of Arts University in San Francisco as well as working for another startup when the BUSHAKAN idea came about….
Hey Tobi….what is on your desk that you are working on right now?
We’re working on larger storage solutions for eyewear and custom display stands for eyewear stores. We’re interested in helping people take care of the things they care about. So, in addition to the eyewear stands, we’re working on a watch display/case and a jewelry display/case. For architecture, I’m working on the architectural design of a retirement home.
How did you come up with the original idea for BUSHAKAN?
BUSHAKAN was formed in January 2012. Lauren (my business partner) was trying to get her husband an eyewear stand. She was frustrated by not being able to find something sophisticated so she asked me to design and make something, The stand got a lot of great feedback from Lauren’s husband, family and friends. This was immediately followed by suggestions that we should bring the product to market so we decided to start BUSHAKAN.
What does the name BUSHAKAN mean?
The name was inspired by the Buddha’s Hand Fruit (which is bushukan in Japanese) —an amazing fruit because it contorts, bends, twists and folds in on itself and extends in different directions. It illustrates our growth, and it’s also how it feels to run a startup that designs and makes products!
You initially funded the business by using Kickstarter. How was that experience?
It was an interesting experience that enabled us to connect with and feel supported by our community. It broadened the base of our network as we received press for our innovative design. We got orders from San Francisco to Abu Dhabi to Singapore which showed that there was a demand for this outside of our personal networks. It also gave us the financial backing to get things moving with our own CNC machine and we were able to rent a space. I’m really excited about crowd-funding and the opportunities that it presents to everyone. I’m always happy to share tips with people so anyone reading this should feel free to get in touch.
You have essentially created a new product category. How does that feel?
That’s an interesting question because we’ve never thought about it like that. We were responding to a need so we weren’t aware of it in those terms. I think that’s where the best solutions evolve from. It’s also a unique position to be in as we have to do a lot of educating about the product.
I love the customization factor with the stands. Was that an idea from the start?
It’s an idea we had from the start but it’s definitely evolved based on feedback and interaction with our customers. They asked, we listened. Initially we thought about just initials but our clients have gotten very creative with the messages they want written on the stands. Its one of my favorite things about the stands and it’s started a weekly social media post called “Label Of The Week”
What is happening with BUSHAKAN for the rest of this year?
More development and growth. We’re working on new products and will be releasing three new stands soon. We’re also planning on attending some shows like Vision Expo. Last year was our first holiday season and it was amazing. The stands make great gifts so we’re going to be working hard to make sure we have enough inventory.
What inspires your design?
For BUSHAKAN it’s really about using design to solve specific problems. That’s the starting point but we’re also very interested in geometry and form that has a fluidity to it.
What is it about being an independent that makes it all worthwhile?
The freedom. We’re the stakeholders and caretakers of our destiny so its a privilege but also a great responsibility. We’re able to communicate with our clients, collaborate with our peers in the eyewear industry and forge our own path as we do so. Making our own product, in our own workshop, has enabled us to stay fully involved and invested in the design process from inception to fruition.