Local startup crafts stunning products from torn down houses.
Turning Reclaimed Wood into Works of Art
4 min read
“To be a modern, eco-friendly Japanese brand that is dominant in our niche in Japan and has international appeal. ”
Junnö Designs was founded in 2017 by Anton Nöffke of South Africa and Junn Chee of Malaysia. After receiving Fukuoka’s Startup Visa, the founders began to build their company with the help of Fukuoka’s startup resources. With assistance from the Global Startup Center, the team was able to obtain financing from banks to grow their business.
What inspired you to create Junnö Design?
The idea for Junnö Design was born on a trip Junn and I made to New Zealand in 2009. We were browsing through a department store in Wellington on New Zealand's beautiful South Island not far from where The Lord of the Rings trilogy officially premiered. We came across a stunning butcher block table that was beautifully made from very old Kauri wood. It had been salvaged, probably from a barn or maybe an old city building in a previous life. The table was breathtaking - rugged, massive, and very expensive. The thought of salvaging and resurrecting old wood in this way was extremely compelling, and after some thinking and planning, it culminated in the launch of our products in 2012 in Malaysia under the Tree&Co brand.
What types of artists and artisans work for your company?
We basically do all product development ourselves. Junn is an accomplished artist and designer, and I have been into woodworking and making things as a hobby since I was young. When a product idea is developed, we will turn it over to our team of skilled woodworking artisans in Malaysia for production. In Japan, we have worked with potters and carpenters in some of the development work for new products. Japan is famous for its artisans and the very high quality of work they produce – we are proud to be part of it.
What are the benefits of founding your company in Fukuoka?
Much lower cost than Tokyo and a great quality of life. The port of Hakata provides excellent connections to some of the markets we import raw material from (for example, coconut oil from the Philippines and from Sri Lanka, and cutting boards from our Malaysian factory). The quality of raw and other materials used to manufacture our products such as wax, oil, packing, and printing is of a very high standard in Japan. Japanese people appreciate quality and new ideas and the reception to our products has been very positive.
Moving the manufacturing of our wax products to Fukuoka gave us access to the "Made in Japan" designation, which is a very strong brand. That has added tremendous value to our products. Additionally, logistics in Japan and in Fukuoka is very highly developed and efficient. Moving goods domestically and overseas to customers and warehouses is very easy and efficient.
What do you think about living in Fukuoka?
Anton: Fukuoka is a great city to live and work in. It’s not too big, but it’s big enough. It has excellent transportation, cafés, restaurants, and nightlife. It also has mountains and beaches at its doorstep, and the airport is probably one of the most convenient airports in the world since it is situated very close to the city center. Also, people here are friendly and welcoming.
Junn: I’m into sports such as cycling and running. Fukuoka and Kyushu have a lot of very scenic roads to cycle and explore, and lots of beautiful parks to run in. The sightseeing is also wonderful.
What else would you like people to know about Junnö Designs?
We are hands-on, and we put a great deal of emphasis on making unique products that are well designed. They are well made, good to use, and nice to look at.