This year, we’re continuing to celebrate the people who make #OurResilience possible and telling the stories of some of our incredible clients, staff, volunteers, and supporters. It is more important now than ever to embrace and celebrate what connects us: our resilience. This month, we’re proudly shining a spotlight on Lauren Okura, Associate Board member and founder of Pono Design Studio.
Continue to read our interview with Lauren.
You’re the founder of Pono Design Studio. Can you tell me about that?
My business partner Paul and I started Pono a little over two years ago. We were both working together as designers at the time and had been for over 10 years. During the pandemic, we decided to start our own design studio, but just on the side. It ended up growing quicker than we expected and soon enough we were both able to take it full time.
One thing I’d like people to know is what the name “Pono” actually means and why we chose it. Paul and I are both Japanese-American with families who immigrated to Hawaii from Japan. Because of this, Hawaiian culture is very much a part of who we are and something we can share together, so we really liked the idea of including this into our business in some way. We chose the Hawaiian word ‘Pono’ because it generally translates to righteousness with this saying: “To live pono is to live with balance and to consciously and morally do right by yourself, by others, and by the world.” We felt this really spoke to what we wanted to accomplish with our business, and it felt right because we knew we wanted to give back.
How and when did you get involved with Resilience?
My involvement with Resilience came in 2019. I had recently seen the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, which essentially changed my life. Hearing from the survivors and seeing the images of them when they were kids took hold of me. I have two young kids myself so experiencing the film through the perspective of when the survivors were children really made me feel like I had to do something, I wanted to do what I could to protect all kids from something like this happening to them.
I started by reaching out to the non-profits HBO had listed for support and offered my design services. I then created a month-long initiative called Designed Out Of Love, which was a fundraiser and social media campaign during the month of SAAM (Sexual Assault Awareness Month). Through Designed Out Of Love, I learned so much about the issue and about the people and organizations working against it. At my place of work, I organized a photo to post in support of Demin Day, which is where I learned one of my coworkers was on the governing board of Resilience. She shared that they were looking for members to join their new Associate Board, and if I was interested I should apply. And I did!
You’ve volunteered some incredible graphic design work for Resilience through Pono Design. Why is giving back to organizations like Resilience important in your opinion?
I knew I had an opportunity and felt a responsibility as a designer and business owner to give back. I think everyone can find some way, big or small, to support our community and the organizations working to make the world a better place. It’s not always about donating money, it can be time, resources, or talent too. If you’re not sure how you or your particular business can help, remember that nonprofits are businesses, too. They focus on many of the same things the rest of us may have experience in—marketing, creative, social media, events, PR, content creation, etc.
Businesses can also create a culture of giving back. They can create opportunities that let their employees get involved with causes that are important to them like creating fundraisers, offering donation matching, or sponsoring events. They can host trainings and workshops where organizations like Resilience come and speak and share information. Not only do these things help nonprofits in their initiatives, but they create a better place to work.
You’ve been a member of the Resilience Associate Board since it began in 2019. What inspired or motivated you to get involved in this role?
When it comes to sexual abuse and sexual violence, you never know who you might be helping. It’s something that affects us all, whether we’ve experienced it ourselves, know someone who has, or want to protect others from it. For me, it’s an extremely important cause to support.
What is something you’re looking forward to in 2022, either with Pono or the Associate Board or something else?
Generally, with Pono Design and with the Associate Board, I’d just like to continue to grow and learn. I’d also like to hopefully inspire others to get out there and find a cause or initiative to support. Or, perhaps inspire people to get support for themself.
What is one fun fact about you?
In high school, I was on the badminton team and my senior year, my doubles partner and I went to state.
What do you want people to know that you haven’t been asked about?
I was born in and have lived in Chicago my whole life, I have two kids, and this past year we got three kittens!