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This Designing Woman CEO is Changing the Houston Skyline From the Inside

Jayne Edison Makes Office Furniture Big

BY Promoted Series Correspondent // 10.08.18

This is the first story in PaperCity‘s new Women In Power: Profiles in Leadership series. These are the women who are taking over the corner office and making it a better place.

Our inaugural conversation is with Jayne Edison, President & CEO of Houston-headquartered Office Furniture Innovations, LLC.

Take us back to the founding of Office Furniture Innovations.

For the first four years, I ran the business from a closet at home — something my competitors never failed to bring up when vying for a job. But I stuck to my plan and, with the help of a small but dedicated staff, quickly learned the importance of creating a successful image for my company.

It’s all about attitude: Think big. You might be working in that closet today, but think big. Don’t think that you’re working out of your home, and don’t put it to the public that is what you are doing. Put out to the public what you can do.

My reputation as a top seller at my past employers and a host of accreditations from business associations also helped me win over many of my clients. To date, OFI has received over 50 business and professional honors.

Define your management style.

Image means little without the results to back it up. I attribute OFI’s reputation as a reliable business partner to my staff, who I would say are “an office full of leaders.” My management style is hands off; a good leader will trust her employees to know what to do when problems crop up.

If you have confidence in your employees and the job that they do for you, you let them make decisions. That helps employees grow. And, by helping them grow, your entire business will grow with you.

Stats.

Founded: April 1999.

Gross annual sales today: $8 million.

Where OFI ranks among Houston office-furnishings dealers: Top 10 in the Houston Business Journal for many years; HBJ Fastest Growing Woman-Owned Business 2006 and 2014
.

Size of your Richmond Avenue showroom: Approximately 12,000 square feet.

Employees: Six. 

How does OFI stand out vs. other firms in your highly competitive field? What is your niche?

From concept to completion, our customer service is second to none. We are available 24/7 when we are on a project. We have success stories not only here in Houston, but all over the country.

OFI has also done projects globally – each project exceeding $1 million dollars. We’ll work through different time zones, freight forwarding, any and everything that’s needed. We will go anywhere our client takes us.

Define OFI’s calling card or most iconic projects to date. Who is your typical client?

Architects and designers love working with OFI because of our close attention to detail. We have worked with Michael Graves & Associates out of New York City – one of the most iconic architects of our time – on the furnishings for the Federal Reserve Bank (along Allen Parkway). He was amazing, with attention to detail that was off the charts.

Working with PGAL, OFI has a partnership that spans more than 22 years, including both the Harris County Criminal and Civil Centers. With Morris Architects we did the Juvenile Justice Center. We just completed the City of Bellaire with Krueger International (KI) and the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center with Kimball. Both new projects fill the Houston skyline.

Other projects in our portfolio include Galveston Justice Center with IBI Group; Smith & Company Architects for The African American Library at the Gregory School, Ken Harry Ensco Headquarters, and CDI Stewart Title. OFI understands we have two clients to take care of: the architecture and design firm, and the end user.

We work with end users well, for example: Statoil, Tenaris, the University of Houston, Texas Southern University, Lone Star College, the City of Bellaire, and the City of Houston.

On giving back: Does OFI ever do pro bono or nonprofit projects?

OFI, along with Kimball Office, furnished the Avondale House for Autistic Children in 2006.

I’ve created and chaired several events over the years: Designers on Parade in conjunction with Saks Fifth Avenue, Martinis at Marmi, and Classicon. These fund-raising events were created by me to bring industry partners together to benefit various charitable organizations such as Avondale House for autistic children, Texas Children’s Hospital, The Bridge over Troubled Waters, and Dress for Success.

What the public thought from those events was that I was this great big, cash-rich company. I wasn’t; I just thought out of the box and brought industry partners together.

I worked with Avondale House and secured more than $100,000 in product to donate to their new facility. In honor of my parents, Judge JC Simmons and Frances Simmons, I planted 50 palm trees at the new Seadrift School in Seadrift, Texas, where I grew up.

My dad was the Judge for over 20 years. My mom was the pastry chef in the school cafeteria for 20 years! We had a home there for over 50 years!

The new Powderhorn State Park is only 15 minutes from Seadrift. I grew up helping my dad read oil leases on the Powderhorn Ranch as a child. Texas is in for a big treat when this 35,000-acre park opens in the next two years.

My current endeavor is with A Place for Peanut. I proudly serve on the board of this amazing 501c3. We save horses from the kill pens and give them a second chance at life. We are always looking for donations, volunteers, new homes. You can sponsor a horse monthly as if it is your own without all the work! The Peanut Gang does all the care and you enjoy all the fun with photos, picnics, visits. This horse is now a family member!

Breast cancer has touched so many lives, and one of my passions is helping survivors through Pink Ribbons Project, a local Houston organization. In the past, I’ve chaired The Houston Design Center’s silent auction benefitting Pink Ribbons Project, raising over $25,000.

I also was the founding President of the Houston Lady Lions Club. You all know the Lions Club, and now we have the Lady Lions serving our community. Where there is a need … there is a Lion.

My belief is that by giving back to the community, OFI will again experience phenomenal growth. Reach for the moon. If you miss, you will land among the stars.

Share a story about how you thought innovatively — and nimbly — to secure a client.

Federal Reserve Bank: [We had] 175 change orders, no mistakes. And the story of how we got the commission is one of my favorite anecdotes of how OFI thinks out of the box and totally focuses on each client.

We had to think big – we had to be different. We were the smallest company in the final mock-up, so we went to Target the morning of our presentation, bought everything Michael Graves made for Target, and decorated our mock-up! We took it all back the next day because we spent over $1,000.

This type of creativity won OFI the $3.5-million-dollar project – 650,000 square feet working out of my hall closet!

Also, the time there was a problem with one of the courthouses, and we made it right. The vendor did not cure the tops correctly. I fought for two years and got 5,000 wood tops refinished before I would accept the final $350,000 payment from Harris County District Attorney John Holmes. I learned to read contracts with a sharp eye and protect myself on this one — turned lemons into lemonade, and OFI was a force to be reckoned with.

What have been the challenges of being a woman-owned business?

American Express interviewed me for a segment regarding this several years ago. My answer was: “The same as any other.” However, sometimes when you enter that room to compete, there is still the “woman stigma” — which is not as bad as it used to be, but it is still there.

Who are your personal inspirations or role models?

I have several, but here our my two faves: Oprah! As she said, “I was raised on a linoleum floor, and now I live in a penthouse.” She never lost focus because of her childhood, her weight, or her race. She kept her positive mental attitude, gave back to others, and soared in spite of all the obstacles.

Also: Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken. He started KFC at age 65 with his social security check of $105, sold it for $2 million, and was the brand spokesman. This was before a “brand” was a Brand. He had a white Cadillac convertible and a driver; he drove all over the country with his cooker and his spices. He set you up, and guess what: He followed up — with surprise visits. If you did not meet his standard, he took the cooker away, and you were no longer a KFC.

Your staff has been with OFI for years and is intensely loyal to you.

OFI has a team of leaders, and we are truly blessed that they are all passionate. OFI will be in business 20 years in April 2019. From the closet to the 12,000-square-foot showroom, it could not have been done without passion and loyalty. It takes a village to build a successful business, and OFI has a strong one.

I personally will not ask anyone to do something I will not do myself — i.e., clean the toilet or the kitchen in the showroom. I’m so glad we have a full-service building now.

What are your business philosophies on fostering a workplace culture of trust and inspiration?

Getting into what you know well — high-end office furnishings and systems — we were impressed with the striking vignettes and handsome functional office arrangements at OFI. Many could do double duty for exclusive residential purposes.

Name some of the iconic brands OFI represents.

Krueger International set me up in business in 1999 with a $15,000 loan. I paid it back in one year and they did not charge interest. The president and CEO, Dick Resch, said to me recently, “You were the only one in Texas who paid me back.” OFI has been an award-winning dealer for KI ever since.

In 2004, Kimball came to me and said, “We are tired of you winning all these courthouses! We want to sign you up.” OFI is now a Kimball Select Dealer, which is a proud distinction. Here we are, almost 15 years later, with many partnerships on projects.

Of the millions of dollars in projects with both Kimball and KI — including, for example, the courthouses in Houston, Galveston, Collin County — [there’s] not one warranty call. And courthouse projects take a beating, my friends.

Office Furniture Innovations has been named as a Kimball Select Dealer, a prestigious honor for an office furniture company.

Which designers do you most admire?

I am a mid-century aficionado. Over the years, I have gathered a collection to be admired. I started in 1996, when these beautiful pieces were literally being thrown in the trash. I rescued so many. And Knoll Studio pieces from every decade.

Which trends for office interiors have transformed the industry?

Silicon Valley has changed the way we all work. Just look at Apple Headquarters; the building actually breathes. The fact that it is built around a forest where each tree was hand-picked … It brings the outside in with tons of natural light, which helps employees be more productive. It’s all about the health and wellness the space provides its people; it’s not just the money anymore.

What are you most excited about, regarding upcoming new collections carried by OFI?

Kimball has come a long way, with so many new selections that can be used in commercial or residential spaces. We call it resi-mercial. You blend the lines of both because we spend so much time in our office. Think about it: Your office is your home away from home. Make it inviting; make it help you be more productive.

In your personal life, what are your pursuits and passions? How do you spend down time?

At home with my wonderful husband, Bobby, and our four dogs: Marilyn Monroe, Antonio Banderas, Rock Hudson, and Liz Taylor. Or, on the bay enjoying all of God’s artwork. We live on Galveston Bay, and when we see the water, our minds are reset instantly.

Jayne Edison at home. The president and CEO of Office Furniture Innovations in her Galveston Bay living room with canine Antonio Banderas in front of Hunt Slonem’s “Luna Moths.” Note Edison’s collection of mid-century modern furniture. A home office that says, “come to work” is desirable, Edison says.

Is there much downtime?

We try to make the weekends our downtime. However, it depends on the flow of business. Our clients and projects come first.

Can you talk of your love on contemporary art — and your collections?

Favorite artist: my dear friend and world-renowned artist Hunt Slonem. I met him in 2005, after my mother passed, and we have been kindred souls every since. I shared how I have seen a butterfly every day since my mom passed. I walked in his gallery in New York City, and there was a whole room full of butterflies. I literally sat on the floor and wept. He sat down by me and asked why I was so overcome with emotion, and I told him my mom is the butterfly.

He picked out the one I should have, and it hangs in my home office. I have coffee with my mom and Hunt every morning.

I have a beautiful original called Luna Moths … priceless. I also have one of his white bunny paintings he picked for me for good luck.

Describe your own home design and home-office aesthetic.

My home and office are full of the mid-century pieces I have collected, along with our Hunt Slonems and Romero Brittos.

My dining table is a Knoll Pascal, with tubular Brunos and Knoll Platners on each end. We have the MR chair by Mies Van der Rohe; my desk is a Florence Knoll table and a credenza with a white Carrara marble top. We have knoll Barcelona tables of glass and marble. We also have a Platner cocktail table.

Your business mantras.

  • Designing Women Changing the Skyline of Houston One Interior at a Time.
  • If you love your workplace, you will love your work even more!
  • The OFI team can help you make the change that your office needs. Changes that happen in the blink of an eye are only as magical as the people who make them happen.
  • At OFI we provide the magic!

Save the date: OFI Office Trunk Show and Networking Evening, Thursday, October 25, 5 to 8 pm at the OFI Showroom, 6363 Richmond Avenue, 4th Floor. Please RSVP to Jayne Edison, jedison@OFILLC.COM

Find details of the brands and collections carried by Office Furniture Innovations here.

Take a tour of the OFI showroom here.

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