From Grit to Great

Creative Genius Podcast
Season Two Episode Three

Overcoming adversity and rising to the top through strength of character and will is the stuff of fairy tales.  Such stories are always inspiring, even more so when the hero is a fellow interior designer who sees himself as having a lot in common with Cinderella.

In today’s podcast Gail interviews nationally acclaimed interior designer Corey Damen Jenkins, founder of Corey Damen Jenkins & Associates, with studios in Detroit and New York City.  Corey is an inducted member of Architectural Digest’s AD100 and in 2020 was named to Elle Decor’s prestigious  A-List.  His work has been featured in many national design and news publications and has received numerous industry honors.

Every designer has a story to tell about how they started and grew their business, and Gail asked Corey to share his.  The success he enjoys today, said Corey, has come after much struggle and strife.  Having started out doing corporate design in the auto industry in Michigan, he was laid off at the onset of the Great Recession and lost nearly everything.  With no one hiring designers, he took a job in a showroom as a stock boy, but was eventually laid off from that job, too.

Frustrated and wanting to get back to design, he decided to start his own firm, although he had no clients, prospective or otherwise.  Undeterred, he set himself a goal of knocking on 800 doors to find a client.  Door 779 turned out to be the magic number.  A couple gave him his first project to re-do several rooms in their home.

The rest, as they say, is history.  A producer at HGTV saw his work on his website and invited him to try out for a design competition show, which he won.  The national exposure catapulted him to bigger and better projects.  Looking back on the journey he has trod, Corey acknowledged his good fortune but also his tenacity.  “God and the universe bless us,” he said, “after you’ve put in the hard work.”

There is no point at which you reach the top and then relax, noted Corey.  “I have to continue to hustle,” he said, to maintain his success.  In addition to doing projects and managing the firm, he is active on Instagram and Facebook, works with a number of charities, and is featured on podcasts.

Among the challenges he has faced in growing his firm from scratch is that of racial prejudice.  He and Gail talked about issues of race and diversity in the interior design industry and what can be done to begin to improve the situation.  They also talked about the impact of COVID-19 on the industry, another big challenge, and how Corey has kept up his business during the pandemic.

For more details about Corey’s amazing design journey and his thoughts on what drives his success, listen to the entire podcast.

Mentioned in This Podcast

At the end of the podcast, Corey mentions he has a forthcoming book from Rizzoli.  He says he can’t mention the title, but it has since been announced.  It is called Design Remix: A New Spin On Traditional Rooms and is scheduled for release on March 23, 2021.  Corey says it will be unlike any other design book, so keep your eye out for it next spring.  You can read more about it on his website at coreydamenjenkins.com/design-remix/.

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