By Kendall Fisher, executive producer at Grow Wire
We broke down this episode of the "Grow Wire Show" into a three-part series to better tell the Regina Andrew Design story. Moving forward, we will continue creating mini-series for our "Grow Wire Show" episodes.
This is a city steeped in tradition, serving as a cultural hub for the arts, most especially music, not to mention being the birthplace of the American auto industry. But it also succumbed to a relentless downturn in the 1970s and is often depicted in films and TV shows as a city with a high rate of crime and unemployment. This is despite the city's massive redevelopment, which has led to an unemployment rate of only 5.3 percent in 2016 (down from 19 percent) and a poverty rate below the national average.
So depending on whom you’re talking to, the “Motor City” can have an entirely different meaning. For someone who’s never visited, the film and television depictions of danger and dilapidation may fill their heads when they think of Detroit. But for someone who was born and raised in the city—hell, even for someone like me who’s only visited once—Detroit is a place filled with hope, history, hard work and honor.
That’s exactly what you’d hear upon talking to Carla Regina Zajac and Jimi Andrew Slaven—two proud Detroit natives, born-and-raised, who met, married, created a home and founded a business all within the Paris of the Midwest.
Carla and Jimi are the co-founders of Regina Andrew Design, a 20-year-old home furnishings company with a mission to “electrify” any room through unique and unforgettable designs—designs inspired by artifacts, architectural salvage, treasures and nature that depict the grit and grace of Detroit and of themselves.
When you get to know Jimi and Carla, they are each other’s yin and yang: Jimi has a background in rock ‘n' roll with a hard-shell attitude and an all-black attire, while Carla’s artistic history is paralleled by her soft and graceful demeanor, her love of nature and her perfectly put-together appearance.
Together, they create designs authentic to them and their hometown and yet entirely unique. They take an animal skull and decorate it with roses. They use parts from a decrepit building and turn it into a one-of-a-kind chandelier. They’ll collect seashells and shark jaws and stones and salvage and somehow create beautifully rare sconces or tables or chairs or wall fixtures.
This distinctiveness—the yin and yang of their creations inspired by the history of Detroit—set them apart when they first started designing out of their garage in 1998. They knew their décor would succeed in the industry, and in fact, they saw their designs sell one after the other at the little trade shows they’d attend.
However, when the day came that a buyer requested a bulk order, Carla and Jimi knew they couldn’t handle it alone and thus sparked the genesis of Regina Andrew Design as a company.
Their first order of business was to figure out how to mass produce the items they’d been creating by hand with so much love, authenticity and Detroit history—qualities they refused to lose as the demand for their products continued to grow.
Moreover, without a business degree or experience running a company, Jimi and Carla needed to figure out how to create and adapt the right processes to match their growth and successfully scale Regina Andrew Design.
Their drive for success resulted in a half dozen trips to Asia every year to check on production with another half dozen trips dedicated to research, design and trade shows. When asked about vacation or weekends, Jimi and Carla laugh that their vacations are centered around sparking creation and their weekends are spent, well, creating. They never stop, and they don’t want to stop. They love what they do.
But, as a married couple, does this ever impact their relationship? How do you balance work and life when your spouse is also your business partner? And does that ever impact the state of the company and its future?
Watch this three-part series to find out how Jimi and Carla make it work, how they turned their love of creation and their love of Detroit into a successful business, and what the future holds for Regina Andrew Design.
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