Angie of Poketo
If you don’t know, now you know: our latest collab is a limited capsule collection with Los Angeles lifestyle and design brand Poketo! And, we recently had a chance to catch up with Poketo co-founder Angie Myung to learn more about her design inspiration + how she teamed up with her husband to create her dream job.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE POKETO?
AM: As any creative person would in their 20’s, I went through a series of jumping around from one industry to another. I was an associate producer for documentary production and had a short stint in TV. I also worked briefly for a Fortune 500 corporation, which I detested with every fiber of my being. I considered going back to school to get a Ph.D. in post-colonial Korean history but finally decided to get my second degree in Graphic Design. Then right after I met Ted, we put together an art show where we sold wallets designed with our friends’ artwork. We called that fun side project Poketo. That was 15 years ago, and the rest is history.
IS POKETO YOUR DREAM JOB?
AM: Absolutely. As hard and difficult as it is to run a 100% independent small business, my main job is to make all the fun, useful, and beautiful products for 500+ retailers around the world including our 4 shops and curate events, and workshops for our creative community.
WHEN DID YOU HAVE YOUR “AH HA” MOMENT OF POKETO?
AM: It happened that very first time we put on our art show in October 2003. People went crazy over the wallets that we made with our friends’ artwork, and they completely sold out that night. We knew we hit on something and we just went with it, inviting more and more artists from all over the world. We’ve had other “ah ha” moments along the way, but the most memorable is definitely that night when we first thought hey, Poketo can be something.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THIS BUSINESS CONCEPT AND DID YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE IN IT PRIOR?
AM: Neither Ted nor I had any previous experience owning or running a business. Our parents didn’t own businesses and we didn’t study it in school. So everything we needed to know, we learned by doing it. And because of that, Poketo’s growth was wholly organic. Poketo has grown with us through our own transitions as we got older and more mature. We’re still constantly learning every day.
WHAT IS THE BEST + MOST CHALLENGING PART ABOUT RUNNING A COMPANY WITH YOUR HUSBAND?
AM: People ask us all the time about how we can live and work together every minute of the day. It’s actually just something that we’ve done from the beginning of our relationship, so it feels really second nature for us. We’re very different in personality and we balance each other out very well. The best part is that we’re true partners in life and in work, and that can be the most challenging part as well. Sometimes we don’t see eye to eye, but we always choose to hear each other out and see the other side to come to a compromise.
HOW DID YOU FUND YOUR STARTUP?
AM: Poketo is completely independently funded. Besides the monthly expenses, we always put the rest back into investing in our business and we still do that to this day. We started out from our small studio apartment in SF, and then moved to LA and lived with Ted’s parents for a year. After that, we worked out of our own house in LA for 2 years until we eventually moved the office into a Downtown LA loft to keep our work/life balance in check. It wasn’t until 2012 when we finally moved our whole operation out of that loft and opened our first retail store and creative headquarters.
NAME 3 OF THE SCARIEST MOMENTS YOU HAD WHEN DOING THIS.
AM: One scary moment would definitely have to be when we opened our first shop and HQ in the Arts District. Back then that area was a ghost town, and we had 4000 SF of open space, which was 4x larger than our previous office (loft). We started from scratch and built the foundation for Poketo there.
The second was in 2017, a new developer bought the building where our original location was in and asked all of its previous tenants to move out. We looked for months to find a new home and were really lucky to find a location just a few blocks away, in Little Tokyo of DTLA. It was sad and scary to leave behind the neighborhood that Poketo grew in and helped foster and develop, but our supporters stuck with us during the move and are now coming to our Little Tokyo location.
And third, around that same time, we embarked on another retail project, the Poketo Project Space. It’s now open and it’s our largest store yet. There, we focus on special collaborations with our design community and brands we love, such as JOIN, Hem Design Studio, and Baggu. It’s at ROW DTLA, which is also an exciting, brand new micro-community of shops and creative businesses in DTLA. We had to do everything to that space: from setting up electrical and HVAC to installing flooring and fixtures. We invested a scary amount of money and time, but we have high hopes for that now-beautiful store. Our newest collaboration with Beyond Yoga will be highlighted and available at this location.
SPEAKING OF, WE ARE SO EXCITED ABOUT THE BEYOND YOGA x POKETO COLLECTION! CAN YOU SHARE A BIT ABOUT YOUR INSPO FOR THIS?
AM: Based on our mission, Art Every Day, we started Poketo with the intention of providing beautiful artful everyday wares for everyone with the belief that art shouldn’t just be hung on the walls and owned by the privileged few. And what a great way to marry wellness and health with our art to bring joy, beauty, and calm in our hectic lives. Art and exercise are two great ways I practice daily to keep my mind and body healthy.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PIECE FROM THE COLLECTION?
AM: My favorite piece is the leggings. They’re soft but strong and so comfortable to wear. I wear mine constantly and never want to take them off. They look great when I’m doing barre and just around town. People always ask “where did you get those?” and I can proudly say, we made them with Beyond Yoga! So fun!
AND FINALLY, WHAT IS YOUR PIECE OF ADVICE TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO STOP WHAT THEY’RE DOING AND CREATE THIER “DREAM JOB”?
AM: I’d say go for it of course but figure out how you’ll live and survive during the beginning period unless you’re one of the lucky ones with a trust fund. When we quit our respective jobs in SF and moved down to LA, we had Ted’s parents agreeing to put us up until we got back on our feet which took less than a year until we were able to move out to buy our house in LA and move the operation there. So figuring out a situation whether it would be working, consulting part-time, or asking parents ( I know it’s not easy but hopefully only temporary! ) for support.
photos: Bonnie Tsang