Who We Are
Desmond Liang and his wife founded Oki Social as an art-focused social event business in 2015. In our early days, we partnered with local artists to host social events such as paint night and sea glass jewelry making.
Later, our founders discovered an opportunity to create high-quality Okinawa-centric artworks and gifts for people who love and appreciate Okinawa, its people, its natural environment, and its slow island lifestyle.
Where We Come From
During their first year in Okinawa, our founders spent an entire year traveling around the island to study Okinawa and meet locals. With a ton of stories and information accumulated after this year-long exploration, Desmond created the Okinawa Story Map to tell the stories of Okinawa.
The first copy of the Okinawa Story Map was sold without packaging during an art event at Amelia Earhart Intermediate School on Kadena Air Force Base. The following weekend, Desmond took forty copies of the map to a local flea market, and they were all sold out in one day.
Following his passion for art and design, Desmond started to fulfill the needs of those looking for high-quality, meaningful, locally produced, Okinawa-centric gifts. In talking with many people who love Okinawa, he found that most souvenirs sold in Okinawa come from overseas, designed and made by people who have never lived in Okinawa. From there, it took us a few years to design, create, and put our products in stores across Okinawa.
Give Before We Take
Selling products has never been the primary mission at Oki Social. Behind the scenes, we invest the majority of our profits into supporting the artist community in Okinawa. We host art and business-focused workshops to help artists become entrepreneurs. We have supported our local school’s art event every year since 2016 by bringing artists to the event to host workshops for students. We have built a marketplace called *Okinawa Creators Fest* for artists to showcase their crafts and reach out to a broader range of audiences. We believe that if we raise members of our community, our community will raise us too.
Ohana Community Store
In March 2021, we opened our gift shop at the Kadena Exchange, a shopping mall inside the Kadena Air Force base in Okinawa. It is a small kiosk shop, yet it is an important milestone. For the first time, we get to steer our own ship. In addition, we have control over how our products are displayed.
In addition to selling Oki Social’s original products, we also broke ground to become No.1 in a few niches. We are the 7th community shop in Okinawa – the rest have vanished in the supermall era. Community shops used to be a popular business model in Okinawa before big corporations poured investment into Okinawa. A community shop is a shop founded and operated by community members for the sole purpose of serving the community.
We called our shop Ohana Community Shop. Ohana is a Hawaiian word for family, and we want the shop to be a hub for people who are seeking locally made, Okinawa-focused arts and gifts. We pride ourselves on having 100% SOFA members on staff and being the only kiosk in the Kadena Exchange to feature local artists and creators in Okinawa.
Oki Social Gallery in Naha
We are fortunate to have experienced exponential growth even during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. During this time of crisis, we learned that people were even more desperate to find ways to connect and heal. Many Oki Social fans see Okinawa as an oasis, a mental hideout, and an emotional safe harbor because they spent the best years of their lives on the island. As more customers sought us out to purchase original Okinawa art, we decided to build a gallery in Naha to gather and display artworks by local artists. We opened the gallery in May 2021. As the pandemic fades away, we hope this space will bring together artists and art fans on Okinawa and beyond.
Why Art? Why Okinawa?
Art is a form of communication. The beauty of art lies in its ability to reach parts of the human soul that don’t understand words but understand feelings, emotions, and connections. When we see a piece of artwork that resonates with our own experiences, we feel connected to the artist who created it.
We believe that our audiences are not looking for a painting on the wall. Instead, they crave a connection with someone who can capture the best of their experience in Okinawa. I am lucky to be in that position.Desmond Liang
It is a privilege to be in a position to listen to so many people’s happy stories in Okinawa and then turn them into art and gifts to spread the magic of Okinawa.
Today, Oki Social is a trusted partner for many local organizations, including businesses, charities, and business associations. Our products are sold all over Okinawa, and we recently opened an online shop for Okinawa lovers overseas. With your support, we continue to support the local art community every day in Okinawa.
Keep In Touch With Oki Social
Thank you so much for your time and attention. Thank you for supporting your Okinawa local artist. If you would like to follow our journey and see what we are working on, there are many ways you can interact with us.
On a Social Media Cleansing Diet?
We send out monthly updates on what happens within our team, new designs, new products, and our outlook into the future – more or less like an email update from a friend.