As you know, our Lux Women series is where we highlight the success stories and growing businesses of women entrepreneurs. With Tini Lux's continued growth and maturation, we are also excited to see this series continue to grow and develop just as quickly. This series will feature not only female entrepreneurs but also couples who may have started businesses together or who are themselves entrepreneurs in their respective fields.
Meet Jackie Burke, founder of Tini Lux Jewelry, and her husband CJ Lee, co-founder of Not Just Kitchens. Having known each other since college, the couple married in 2018. Since then both have successfully started and continue to operate their own thriving businesses with success.
Our team had the opportunity to talk further with the pair about the businesses they've built and their individual entrepreneurial journeys. We also discussed the support system they have built between each other, the upcoming arrival of their baby boy, and much more!
Hi Jackie and CJ! Can you first start by telling us a little bit more about yourselves, your businesses and how you both started your entrepreneurial journeys?
JACKIE: I started working on Tini Lux in 2017 while still working full time as an engineer. I had the idea because I had extremely sensitive ears and knew that was a very common problem and wanted to find a solution. At the time I was working as an engineer and I thought I would do that my entire career! I was not willing to go all-in by quitting my job because I had no experience in entrepreneurship and didn’t really know if this business could ever be more than a side hustle. CJ always believed in it and encouraged me to continue, even when I was unsure if I could do it in the beginning.
Tini Lux grew steadily over the next couple years and I quit my job to work on it full time in early 2020. In 2021 I hired a team to help me run and grow Tini Lux and now here we are! Shifting from a solo-founder and “do-er” to being a manager has been really hard because I didn’t have any experience with that to begin with, but I’m lucky to have an amazing team who is just as passionate about Tini Lux as I am!
CJ: I grew up playing hockey and for most of my life, that’s really all I concentrated on and thought of myself as; so when I stopped playing around 25, I was kind of lost and really didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself. Growing up everyone always told me I should be an engineer because I loved building things and learning how things work, so that’s what I chose to study and get my degree in. However, when I did an internship and got my first job, both in the construction industry, I quickly learned that I loved the aspect of seeing something transform from paper to structure and helping manage to get it done. From there is when I decided to move back home to work with my father in the residential construction industry, mostly working on kitchen and bathroom designs.
My journey to entrepreneurship was a lot easier than Jackie’s. My father had been in the business for 20+ years and I was able to run with something that already had a lot of built-in processes and reputation. I think I have definitely taken it to another level and brought in some new and fresh ideas, but watching Jackie do what she has done has been so inspiring and it makes me push myself that much harder every day.
Being an entrepreneur can sometimes feel like a very isolating experience. Can you talk more about the support system you two have found within each other and some pieces of advice that is shared between the two of you?
JACKIE: Entrepreneurship is definitely a rollercoaster of emotions. Fortunately, we usually have lows & highs at different times which has been good because we can offer support to each other when we need it. It is easier to go through this experience together because we both innately understand the sacrifices that each other has to make (like working weekends or not traveling). It’s easier to make those sacrifices when it’s something that we both have to do. One thing that we always remind each other of when we’re having difficult days is that we are building something amazing for ourselves and our customers and the risks we’ve taken have already paid off in our happiness and freedom alone.
CJ: I think I can speak for Jackie when I say we are extremely grateful that we have each other. Although we have other family members that are entrepreneurs, we really try not to talk about work with them, and most of our friends, if not all, work for bigger companies, so if we didn’t have one another to be a soundboard, I think we would go crazy. We are both in a customer service driven business so most of the support and advice revolves around how to deal with people in certain situations.
Our team is so excited to hear that the two of you are expecting! What are both of you most excited about when the baby comes? How do each of you plan on managing your businesses with the upcoming arrival of the baby?
JACKIE: I am definitely going to have to take a step back but I’m so fortunate to have an amazing team that I trust to handle their roles while I transition to being a working mom. Our team is very efficient and lean and we’re working now to streamline things even more for when the baby arrives. We both work really hard on our businesses and don’t have a lot of excuses to take time off so I’m excited for us to have a reason to re-prioritize a little bit and experience life in a new way.
CJ: I’m most excited about seeing Jackie and I become parents together. I have this vision of what kind of father I want to be, but I’m both nervous and excited to see how it actually plays out. I think it is going to be the most challenging but most rewarding experience in both of our lives and I’m so grateful that I have Jackie to do it with. As for trying to manage the business with the upcoming arrival, I am planning on hiring office help by the start of the New Year and I’m practicing on delegating more work and setting boundaries with my customers.
With CJ being a master in kitchen design and renovation, and Jackie being an industry leader in the world of hypoallergenic and pure titanium jewelry, you both have a very good eye on what is sustainable, clean and looks good. When it comes to your design processes, do you find yourself bouncing ideas off each other or looking to one another for inspiration?
JACKIE: I am very passionate about sharing everything I’ve learned so I love to offer CJ unsolicited suggestions for his business and his customers’ homes. I definitely go overboard sometimes so now I try to only offer advice if I’m asked for it. In CJ’s business, he is usually bringing a customer’s own vision to life, so there’s not a lot of opportunity to give design advice (even though I would love to). Recently, he started working with a web designer to build out a new website so I was able to be offer some advice there because I have been through that recently with Tini Lux.
CJ: Jackie definitely does not come to me for fashion advice or for help designing new lines LOL, but I do think Jackie and I share similar style and design ideas, especially for home décor. Most of my clients already have an idea of what they want and often it’s hard to talk them out of something, but when I do have clients that need help, Jackie is the first person I ask for an opinion (even if she doesn’t think so).
Both being successful entrepreneurs and learning the in’s and out’s of each other's business, what would the two of you say is the biggest lesson you have learned from one another?
JACKIE: I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that even though our businesses are extremely different – a lot of the fundamentals are the same. Customer service is the backbone and most important part of every business, whether you’re selling earrings or kitchens. If you can provide your customers with an amazing experience, education, and product then your business can succeed. CJ’s primary customer acquisition channel is word of mouth and that comes from his customers having an amazing end-to-end experience.
CJ: I’m a very high strung person who worries about things before there is actually something to worry about. So talking to Jackie over the last 5+ years about issues and problems that she has encountered and how she has handled them and then implemented processes to insure they don’t happen again is the biggest thing I’ve learned from her. Jackie is very calm, cool, and collected and does not let emotions get in the way of business, which is something I’m still working on but I’ve learned a lot by watching her.
How would you describe each other's love languages?
JACKIE: I think we both have the same love language: quality time. We don’t get to spend a ton of time together, but when we do we try to be very present and really enjoy each other’s company.
CJ: Because we both work a lot and have busy schedules, I believe both Jackie and I really appreciate quality time we spend together. Whether we are just sitting on the couch watching TV together or going for a walk around JC, we both find comfort in being around each other
As a couple what have been the biggest challenges the two of you have faced while being entrepreneurs and how did you overcome them?
JACKIE: The lack of a safety net is probably the biggest challenge. Neither of us have built in benefits like health insurance, sick days, vacation days, maternity leave, and 401k matches and other things that people take for granted when working for someone else. For me especially, I have no one to give me any guidance or direction so the uncertainty can be very challenging. Fortunately, I’ve been able to build up Tini Lux to the point where we can provide those benefits now. The uncertainty will always be there but as we grow in entrepreneurship we’ve both become more and more secure in our decision making and risk taking.
CJ: I think trusting that the decision we both made to go out on our own is the biggest challenge we face on a daily basis. When you’re not guaranteed a paycheck every week, it can be extremely scary and you can feel like you’re on an island, especially when you could have stayed at a job with security. I don’t know if we have truly overcome this, but I do believe when we are both facing extreme stress and pressure is when we support each other the most and when we both do our best work.
When you look back and see how each of your businesses have grown over the years, what is one thing that you are most proud of the other for accomplishing?
JACKIE: I’m so proud of CJ’s work ethic. It’s so impressive to see him show up every day (like literally every day – he often works 7 days a week and in 5 years the only time he’s taken sick days were the one time he had COVID). He also has incredible attention to detail which I find inspiring because I am much more of an idea and big picture type of person. I’m proud of the fact that he has been able to grow his business so much through word of mouth alone which speaks to how his customers can see him go above and beyond to provide them with a good experience.
CJ: Jackie has built an amazing business and company from NOTHING. I have been able to watch her do this every step of the way. From making her first pair of earrings, to finding her first manufacturer, to selling at street fairs, setting up the infrastructure of the company, to opening an office in JC, to hiring her amazing team, to continuing to grow the business and celebrate 5 years. I have been there to see every accomplishment and I hope she knows I’m proud of every single one.
If you could only wear one piece of jewelry for the rest of your life, not including wedding rings, what would it be?
JACKIE: Our small gold hoops in all 8 of my piercings! I already wear them all day every day, I don’t even feel them there.
CJ: I never thought I would be one to wear jewelry, but here I am wearing the Mariner bracelet and Mariner Charm necklace. I love both pieces, they are subtle, lightweight, and I always get compliments on them!!