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Helping Entrepreneurs Get from Idea to Launch!

Content + Community = Commerce – Our interview with Jed Wexler

jedwexler2Jed Wexler, CEO Eight-Eighteen Strategies.

Photo Credits:  Joe Ferrucci

Swinnerton: Jed, after reading your bio and doing my own research it's obviously that you are doing something right. What do you attribute to your success?

Wexler: First of all, thank you!  That’s definitely a loaded question – in a great way.  Once of the reasons is that I really never get that complacent feeling that I am ‘successful.’

One of the others is that I have come to view ‘failure’ as merely an entrepreneur’s daily bread.  What I used to view as abject failure, I now just look at as ‘testing’ and learning experiences to make something better.  You have to test a lot of things in order to see what’s working.  And constantly fine-tune.

Passion & Collaboration:

Passion and collaboration are so important. The main reason I am ‘successful’ is because I work with and pursue relationships with incredibly smart, diverse, adaptable, passionate, good people – they amplify what I do in a big way.   And if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, it just won’t work.

This involves a lot of taking in information and honest feedback from people I trust, everyone regardless of level of experience, age, etc. – and combining all of the feedback and intel with a gut feeling about what to do.  This also leads to a necessity synthesize a lot of information into a clear narrative line and clearly communicate a vision.

Great Writing and Design Generate Trust:  Authenticity

Believing in great writing and great design.  Great writing and great design generate trust, whether it’s a website, app, blog, or any project.  Great writing and authentic storytelling leads to being able to communicate your vision clearly to a lot of people – and lead them in a direction.  People can gain or lose trust almost instantly – being real with what you say will make them stick with you, or if you are disingenuous, they’ll move on.  On the client side it’s being open, honest, transparent taking in a lot of information and points of view so you can create a sort of a truth, creative vision, or clean narrative line from it.

jedwexlerBe an Insatiable Learner – Read Everything You Can.  Everything:

Relationships:

Develop and nurture relationships inside and outside of your industry.  In my experience most of the great opportunities are not advertised – they come from someone you know.   As long as they have a clear understanding about what it is you do.   Also the amount of important information, advice, and inspiration you just get from talking other people is incalculable.  The really great opportunities are not made public first.  Talking to people also can take you and your business great places you never thought you would go.

Being a Predictive Leader:

Leadership is being predictive and thoughtful about taking companies into the future to stay ahead.  Especially today.  You have to be insatiable, passionate, and clear about leading your company and clients to the next thing, the next way, while maintaining your core business.

Encourage others to do the search beyond the current boundaries of your business and to seek patterns in multiple sources of data, information, etc.

And when you have the right people all headed in the right direction at the same time, solving problems together along the way, it’s really not very stressful, or shouldn’t be.

Swinnerton: Can you give us a rundown of your career up until Eight-Eighteen Strategies?

Wexler: It all started for me in mid-1990’s as an editor/marketer and first hire at a start-up alternative fashion magazine on the West Coast.  My first advertiser was Airwalk, and was part of a groundbreaking influencer campaign (led by famous west coast agency, Lambesis) soon-to-be immortalized by Malcolm Gladwell in his seminal work, “The Tipping Point.”   Independent fashion brands exploded on to the scene on the west coast, which absolutely fascinated me.  To me this was original startup culture that we have now become so used to – but back then this was really, really disruptive and unsettling to global brands.  It was thrilling to be part of documenting a nascent movement, and to see the global impact of this small group firsthand.

Speaking engagements on the topic soon followed for me, along with co-founding a successful dot-com era agency helping companies like Levi’s, Earthlink, Artist Direct, OP, Motorola, Listen.com (remember them?), MAGIC, and scores of fashion brands use first-wave digital, PR, and cutting-edge event experiences to connect with their target audience. The late 1990’s and early aughts ushered in a fascinating new era of web technology that we also used to help global brands connect to people they had immense trouble reaching – influencers.   The artists gained exposure and the brands gained traction.   We also created the first ‘Edge’ show for MAGIC in 1998 – this was a an indie show within a show that helped high-end street brands from all over the world launch into the marketplace, in a cool curated environment.

Throughout all of this we were always telling stories - the nature of alternative creative culture, whether it was fashion, music, or art required telling the right, authentic stories in order to put what this was all about into a mainstream context.  I would write these proposals, press releases, and promotional materials so these lesser known artists that we were passionate about would resonate with mainstream culture – a bridge.  Longer stories as to why these people were important seemed to work best.  Language was so important.  But I had a feeling this would all get very big.

After the dot-com collapse I went to work in-house for fashion trade show MAGIC (100,000 attendees) to develop new show concepts and to implement digital into everything we did.   Brand culture had gone global and the technology to promote it had finally started to mature.  There was a need.

In 2004 started Eight-Eighteen strategies with the goal of helping fashion and consumer brands enter the digital age.

I was essentially immersed in the west coast brand/media scene for about 15 years and moved the company back to NYC (my hometown) in 2010.

Swinnerton: Can you tell us a bit about how you started Eight-Eighteen Strategies?

Wexler: While I was at MAGIC at I had the opportunity to talk to hundreds of brands – the distribution model at the time was mostly an old-school mix of trade shows, fashion shows, events and retailers only.

The fashion industry at the time was mostly resistant to any kind of technology, anything digital.  This was back when most brands were even resistant to having a website.

jedwexler-headshot2Here you had an industry that was obsessed with trends, the ‘future’ thing but in the dark ages re: tech.  But great storytelling was always at the core of what they did, and were always cutting edge when it came to brand story and creating excitement around what they were doing.  In speaking to my clients at my previous agency and at MAGIC there definitely seemed to be an incredible opportunity to help take these brands into the future via digital.  And there weren’t many other companies were doing it.  “Content + Community = Commerce” became our mantra early on (and a big driver of our process).

We set about to be an authority on digital for fashion brands while helping to build their stories, digital infrastructure and strategize their PR campaigns.  Our goal was to take these brands into digital while keeping their brand stories intact.    Once we convinced these companies they actually needed a website (!), digital, email, digital PR, et. al, things, it just took off from there.   The space was so dynamic that more and more top-level strategy was required to make things work.  Just creating the digital bits and pieces became less effective.  Over time we realized these brands almost required a Chief Marketing Officer or Digital Strategy Chief functionality from us – market forces and tech platforms were just changing so rapidly, that it became difficult for executives to stay ahead without outsourcing some of their ‘forward-thinking’ bandwidth.  That’s where things stand today.

Over time we have evolved into a digital and content strategy agency that combines storytelling with data. We have essentially taken what we have always done into the data and digital age.

Swinnerton: What challenges did you undergo?

Wexler: It’s interesting, the last two companies I started just took off from the beginning (the first in the dot-com boom and then Eight-Eighteen pre-2009 recession) and for a while it just flowed.   That said, the first few ‘sales’ were always the most difficult.  As I mentioned earlier, we also had to overcome some resistance from fashion brands, which up to that point, were mostly, actively adverse to any kind of digital/tech innovation. The old-school garment tradeshow-only approach was still very much entrenched.

This was also before the blogger-verse exploded and democratized information, which thankfully compelled the large luxury and global brand gatekeepers to be less insistent on controlling their message without also involving their customers in a transparent way. Consumer involvement and user engagement is something we definitely take for granted today.

Once we convinced these companies they actually needed a website, digital, email marketing, digital PR etc, things grew fairly quickly until the space exploded.  Now you can arguably say that Fashion brands are now at the forefront of tech, social media, data, and E-commerce.  Also when a fashion brand does something innovative digitally it conveys to the consumer that the brand is forward-thinking, which is essential fashion brand positioning.  There are also hundreds of great fashion-tech-E-commerce startups out there.

The real challenges come once a field becomes overcrowded.  You need to constantly tweak the formula, re-position yourself, and innovate again.

Our other challenge was getting clients and partners to think of strategy as you would design, programming, screenwriting, ad buying, or any other creative endeavor – and not a vague thing that is baked in to every project.  Without a lean, mean, on-trend strategy, companies and projects fail.  Strategy (and innovation) is unique in that it is enormously creative, requires a special expertise, a special form of critical thinking, and exposure to an enormous amount of information.  It’s a collaborative problem-solving endeavor that combines art & science to achieve commerce.

We also started to see that new web platforms and tech platforms in general were becoming available at such a low cost to anyone starting a company.  I was thrilled that tech had become democratized and readily available but realized we had to transition into becoming a strategy & innovation group rather than a builder of tech things.   Therein lies the ongoing challenge that I think every business has – constantly moving forward, reinventing, re-packaging, repositioning. And taking your customers (and media) along with you on that journey.

There is still a way to go but we’ve come a lot further.

Just the other day even Marc Jacobs was quoted as saying he doesn’t like shopping online – so this persists.  There are still a lot of executives who think in only binary terms; offline or online, when it reality it’s both.  Just look at what Warby Parker, BaubleBar have done integrating the retail store and E-commerce experience.

Swinnerton: For our readers that don't know, what is Eight-Eighteen Strategies?

Wexler: Since 2004 we have been helping fashion, tech, and e-commerce brands transform their digital efforts based around the right content and storytelling.

At our core, we are a team of strategists with diverse expertise – a strategy agency providing guidance, innovation, and execution as it pertains to digital, content, market research, and online influence in this space.  We work closely with CEOs, CMOs, and Creative Directors to mesh business, creative, and tech teams.

Our process revolves around doing a complete digital brand assessment and trying to answer the following questions; What story are we telling? What tech platforms/tactics do we want to use? How are we measuring the results?

This year we also launched a data-driven index of the top 5000 Fashion & Beauty bloggers in the world which is a product designed to help brands identify and engage with key online influencers based on content engagement metrics.   And just last week we launched a new index for the food vertical.  It’s our way of using data to properly evaluate digital influence.

We have guided and positioned brands such as Bluefly.com, Levi’s, AT&T Wireless, Smashbox Cosmetics, Howe/Tony Hawk Brands, Kenneth Cole, Vestal, MAGIC, and the U.S. Dept. of Commerce.

Swinnerton: Can you tell us about The Fashion Marketing Group (FMG) and what role you engage in?

Wexler: The Fashion Marketing Group is a fashion/digital professional community with about 50,000 members worldwide.  We deliver industry-specific content to our members across the social web.  We’ve been really fortunate to have interviewed C-level executives from Google, Shopzilla, Polyvore and others.  Our goal is to have 100,000 members by next year and to initiate some offline programming.

As co-chairman and editor-in-chief I manage our writers that create our content, evaluate FMG’s incoming partnership opportunities, and help drive strategic vision for the group.

Swinnerton: Now getting back to Eight-Eighteen Strategies, what are your future goals for the company?

Wexler: Christopher Bailey, Creative Director of Burberry was recently quoted in Fast Company as saying, “The company is now just as much a content generator as it is a design house.”

jedwexler-headshotThis pretty much says it all about where we’re headed, where we’re all headed actually. This is really a defining moment in that the importance of blending E-commerce, social, and editorial direction has never been more important.  Good brands can only rely on good products for so long.  Lasting brands distribute impressive content - you have to put products into an editorial context in order to be successful especially with fashion, which is so personal.

#1. Specifically the first goal is to grow the strategy side of the business and position us a place where great storytelling meets compelling data.  And to continue to build a new-school digital strategy team of great writers and critical thinkers comfortable with both creative culture and big brand culture (and the unique requirements of brand stakeholders that go along with that.)

In the process we hope to further legitimize just how important it is to create and implement a lean-and-mean strategy before you do anything else. Everything is so dynamic today, changing so quickly that you need great strategy that you can act on quickly to keep your company, your life, and your brand moving forward. Things have changed so much from when we started because the tactical environment is so incredibly dynamic.  Brands should take a tech approach and test a lot of different things at once and go deeper into things that are working.

#2.  Since Malcolm Gladwell wrote “The Tipping Point” in 2000 there has always been a high demand for influencer marketing, but you could never really measure the results.  Now you can.  So we’ll continue to leverage our data product to help companies strategize their influencer marketing. As a strategy agency we can now offer a more data-driven solution to go along with our ‘human’ expertise.

#3. We want to continue to align with more top-level creative partners, content creators, writers, and strategists.   Honestly, sometimes I feel like a head writer on a comedy/TV show sitting in a room with all of these talented strategists and thinkers from diverse backgrounds, with even more diverse interests.  We already have the ‘who’, ‘how’ and ‘where’ re: content so it’s not a far cry for us to actually help create great content as well.

#4.  We want to push further into social good via efforts into improving youth literacy, which is a cause we have championed since we started the company.  We encourage people to support www.826nyc.org among others.  It’s run by talented writers and satirists.

I think a lot of people and companies inadvertently over-complicate digital.  At the end of the day, it’s really about creating incredible content, telling great stories, and using the platform(s) of the day to distribute them.  Add engagement and commerce and you’re on your way.

Swinnerton: What kind of companies / clients do you like to work with?

Wexler: We tend to get really excited about companies/clients going through a transformative period where we can help drive momentum of new projects, initiatives, refresh a brand, and make a serious impact.   We also enjoy working with startups that we feel have potential.   Global brands, startups, and everything in-between.

Fashion, Tech, and E-Commerce is definitely our sweet spot but we just started getting into providing market research in this space for private equity firms.

This is an especially exciting time because brands have finally come around to the fact that they need to do more storytelling and less selling.  Great content beats advertising every time.  We love how technology has empowered the consumer and democratized information related fashion, consumer brands, et al.  Can we be passionate about what we are doing?  Do we believe in it?  Is there a real story there? Can we do something authentic? Can we add value to the company we are working with?  Do we like each other?  If the answer is yes to these, then that is our ideal match.

Swinnerton: What drives you personally and professionally?

Wexler: For me these have always been intertwined.

Collaborating with creative, smart, good people.  Do I feel the creative fire in something I am doing and am I excited about the people I am working with? Is there great, open communication?  If I don’t, then I start to question things. Relationships drive me as well.   I have established some great friendships that started out as only ‘work.’   My ongoing ideal is to always to work and collaborate with incredibly smart (and smarter than me), versatile, sociable, creative, talented, trustworthy, hard-working people that can build into friendships over time.   A sense of humor is also key.    Taking a genuine interest in people’s lives you work with combined with an insatiable intellectual curiosity and a thirst to learn new things. Helping other people succeed.

I regularly try to be mindful and assess where I am in my business relationships and my personal relationships.  Are these positive and supportive?  Are we growing? Having the right people around you amplifies everything you do.   The old-school ‘command-and-control’ vertical business hierarchies are steadily crumbling into flat collaborative company structures built on doing great work, with great people.

How do I continue to blend art and commerce?    How do I balance passion and practicality?  Why am I doing what I’m doing?   How do I keep moving this thing forward?

Constantly seeking answers to these questions is what drives me.  Sometimes the dots connect and you just know you’re about to work on something great.

To learn more about Jed visit jedwexler.com

Photo Credits:  Joe Ferrucci

Interrogated by:
Matthew Swinnerton
Matthew@InterrogationHub.com
Twitter – @Swinnerton

Inspiring people to be doers, not just dreamers – Quinn Vandenberg

quinn-with-kidsSwinnerton: Quinn, have you always thought of yourself as an entrepreneur?

Vandenberg: Yes, definitely. Since I was younger, I've always wanted to work for myself and start something of my own. I have always wanted to put all of my hard work and energy into a dream of my own rather than someone else's dream.

Swinnerton: Where are you from and where are you living now?

Vandenberg: I am from Carmel, CA and am currently living in Panajanchel, Guatemala on the edge of beautiful Lake Atitlan.

Swinnerton: What did you do before Life Out of the Box?

Vandenberg: I was doing sponsorship & business development for the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

Swinnerton: Can you tell us about Life Out of the Box?

Vandenberg: Life Out of the Box is a “product for a product business” created by my boyfriend Jonathon and I. For every handmade product that we sell overseas, we give back school supplies to help educate the kids here in Nicaragua. The unique aspect to the business is that we actually show our supporters the effect they have by emailing the them a link to photos & a brief description of the exact child they gave school supplies to from their purchased bracelet(s). Each bracelet is assigned a unique number so that it can be associated with a unique child that is given school supplies. We want our buyers to feel the connection because there’s really nothing more rewarding than giving a child the tools to help them succeed. It’s what motivates us to keep doing what we’re doing. We want to give the kids a useful product that will allow them to have the opportunity to live their life out of the box and pursue their own dreams. So far, these products include a variety of notebooks, agendas, pencils and backpacks. We are both very connected to education and believe it’s the root of where change can start: where kids can learn and develop their own skills to improve their country’s economy, help their families and go on to teach the next generation.

Life Out of the Box is about pursuing your dreams and doing what you love by stepping out of the typical box and making it happen no matter what. It’s one thing to be able to think differently, but it’s another to actually act on those thoughts. We want to inspire people to be a doer, not just a dreamer.

It’s also about giving back to the world while making your dreams come true. Life Out of the Box wants to not only inspire people in the first world to always go after their dreams, but we want to give kids in the third world the tools to be able to do the same as well. On our site, we document our travels, our work with NGOs, our work with local artisans and anything else crazy that we are a part of. We show our readers our life so that they might be inspired to go out and live their ideal life, travel the world and chase their dreams.

Swinnerton: How did you come up with the idea for Life Out of the Box?

Vandenberg: The idea of LOOTB started by figuring out what our ideal lives entailed at age 25. Our ideal lives consisted of traveling to new countries and learning about new cultures. We wanted to travel the world, be our own boss, and live overseas. After lots of brainstorming, we decided that our ideal business to start would be one that integrates giving back into the finances from the very beginning. We wanted to search for unique handmade products that would appeal to people in the States and be able to give back to every new country we visited. So we decided that for every handmade product we would sell in the States we would give back an educational product to a child in that country. We wanted to take that even a step further by allowing the customers to actually see the child that they give school supplies to so that they can connect with the impact they make buy purchasing an LOOTB bracelet.

Swinnerton: How did you get from idea to actually launching?

SONY DSCVandenberg: Jonathon and I came up with the idea while working at our former jobs late at night and then decided that the only way to actually make it happen was to get out there and do it So we hopped on a plane to Nicaragua and started in San Juan del Sur--a small beach town on the pacific coast in southern Nicaragua. After we grasped our business concept and model, we then traveled all over Central America searching for local artisans to create LOOTB products and also for Non-profits/schools that needed help obtaining school supplies for the kids. We spent a lot of time on both aspects of the business--especially on the give back side. We did a lot of research and talked with the local community to see what they needed, so that we were giving the kids the things that they truly needed rather than what we thought they needed. We dedicated ourselves to giving notebooks, pencils, backpacks, art supplies and more to thousands of kids all over Central America and capturing each one along the way so that our customers could see their impact being made down here. Our store launched just 7 months after we moved to Nicaragua in December of last year, our first sale was made that same day and our very first child was given school supplies. That is a day neither of us will ever forget. That was the day that we realized our idea had become a reality and has continued to develop and grow every day since then.

Swinnerton: What challenges did you face getting it off the ground?

Vandenberg: The business culture was quite different from the American business culture, which was something we had to adapt to. We learned pretty quickly that the lifestyle down there is much more laid back, which is actually a great way to live generally, but it was sometimes difficult to get things done quickly and on time. We worked around it though and always made it happen. Looking back on it, we both agree that that experience pushed our business and creativity skills to very high level that we are both very thankful for. Learning how to do business in a language we were not fluent in was a bit challenging as well, but we learned quickly. To this day, we both swear that the best way to learn a new language is through survival in a foreign country.

Swinnerton: What are the future plans for Quinn and Life Out of the Box?

Vandenberg: We plan on going global by constantly traveling to new countries and exploring for more opportunities with Life Out of the Box. Opportunities to develop more handmade products as well as working with different Non-Profit Organizations all over the world to assist them with their projects. We want to give back to the world because we don't feel that one child is more deserving than another. They are all equal in our eyes.

Swinnerton: Professionally, who inspires you?

Vandenberg: Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors. He's young, he's creating things that are pushing the world forward, has a great vision for business and works his butt off to make it all happen. As a car gal, the new Teslas continue to amaze me and I can't wait to see what he does next.

Swinnerton: What gives you the greatest satisfaction as an entrepreneur?

Vandenberg: Waking up every morning excited to start my day and work on something that was created by Jonathon and I. There is nothing better than working for yourself. You push yourself constantly--no one is telling me to wake up at 4:30am to get started on emails, I'm telling myself that. We can jump on a plane and travel wherever we want to for however long we want to. There is no such thing as having to ask for 2 weeks of vacation--I don't need a vacation. My life is a vacation. Work doesn't feel like work because I'm doing what I love. The potential of how far we want to go with the business is truly limitless and that excites me.

www.lifeoutofthebox.com
www.lootb.com

Interrogated by:
Matthew Swinnerton
Matthew@InterrogationHub.com
Twitter – @Swinnerton

Help your blog “FIZZLE” with the help from Corbett Barr

CorbettBarr-screenshotSwinnerton: To start off, can you tell us where you are from and where you are living now?

Barr: I'm originally from the Pacific Northwest, U.S.A., just outside of Portland, Oregon. I grew up in a typical modest American suburb.

Swinnerton: What was your career path leading up to what you do now?

Barr: I worked full-time for about 10 years before I became an entrepreneur. I started in I.T. for mid-sized organizations, then moved on to business/technology consulting for Fortune 500 companies. The salary and benefits in these jobs was fantastic, but I never felt satisfied with the work I was doing.

Swinnerton: Why and how did you get into the business of helping people grow their website audiences and earn more for doing so?

Barr: Before I started blogging at Think Traffic about growing audiences online, I spent four years building other businesses of my own online. I found it fairly straightforward to build audiences, but saw so many people struggle with it. I started Think Traffic because I saw a need that I could fill.

Swinnerton: Of course there is a vast well of advise that comes out of that mind of yours and if I asked you to give us one piece of advice for starting a blog it might be hard to pick just one thing but I am. What is one piece of super great, life changing, earth shattering advice that you would give to people starting a blog?

Barr: If you want your blog to become popular, build it for other people, not for yourself. Always have your reader in mind, and ask yourself how each thing you write will help, inspire or entertain them (or a combination of all three).

Swinnerton: What is the biggest mistake you see that people make when creating a blog or website? How can that be fixed?

Barr: Most sites don't stand out enough to become popular. There are hundreds of millions of blogs in existence. Why should anyone read yours instead of the other fantastic choices out there? Answer that question compellingly, and you'll do just fine.

Swinnerton: What mistakes did you make in your early years of the business?

Barr: Not communicating with my readers/customers enough. I thought I had all the answers. It turns out that to be successful in business you have to listen... a lot.

Swinnerton: Have you aways thought of yourself as an entrepreneur?

Barr: Yes, there was always something in the back of my mind that told me I'd never be satisfied in life unless I tried to build a business. I have no idea where that came from, but it was there.

corbettbarr-headshot2Swinnerton: Who inspires you?

Barr: My customers; the people fighting to build businesses online every day. I know how hard it is, and people who are willing to fight for it without giving up, they inspire me every day.

Swinnerton: Give us a day in the life of Corbett?

Barr: Every day is different. I travel a lot. Today I'm in Rome. I've been in Italy for a few weeks. My wife and I explored the city this morning and enjoyed a long leisurely lunch. I took a nap (it's hot here today), and now I'm catching up on some email and work-related stuff for a few hours. Then we'll head back out and do some more exploring before finding some exquisite Roman trattoria to dine at this evening.

Swinnerton: What are your future plans for Insanely Useful Media?

Barr: World domination, isn't that everyone's goal? Kidding... we're simply working to build better resources for people trying to build honest little online businesses, and to serve more people.

Swinnerton: What brings you the greatest satisfaction as an entrepreneur?

Barr: Hearing from a customer about a big breakthrough, especially when someone tells me they earned enough from their business in a month to support themselves and feed their family.

To learn more about Corbett Barr:
http://fizzle.co
http://thinktraffic.net
Twitter - @CorbettBarr

Interrogated by:
Matthew Swinnerton
Matthew@InterrogationHub.com
Twitter – @Swinnerton

An Entrepreneur and Skateboarder that combines business with passion – Per Welinder

PerW-SF-TWS-CoverShotSwinnerton: Per, let's start off with how you got into skating?

Welinder: One day a neighbor Jonas showed up with a Newporter, a plastic skateboard that looked much like the popular plastic boards you see today in the streets.  I took to it right away, it was new, it was something you could do on your own time and you could let your imagination run wild trying cool things. At first i learned how to tic-tac and how to turn riding slalom.

What really got me hooked was when Tony Alva came to Stockholm Sweden and did a demo at Gul & Bla, a really cool store that carried skateboards and had a shop team. Tony skated the demo on flat doing cool tricks, a bunch of wheelies and even threw in some long-jumping on a very fat board, say 10" wide, the size of a toilet lid. It all was so new and it looked like such a good time. The Gul & Bla team had two really good skaters, Lance and Bigge, they demoed with Tony, they were freestylers and did some amazing wheelies and spins. This was way back in 1978 and now I was hooked.

Swinnerton: Do you still skate?

Welinder: One of the few things that amps me enough today to the point I dust off my freestyle deck is when I get the chance to skate with Primo Desiderio. I have always liked electronic music and skating with music. Primo is all about the beat, he is into electronic music, and he is a DJ - all about rhythm.  So every once in a while when my good natured friend, Richie Carrasco and his wife arrange their Freestyle Jams in Huntington Beach, then I go hang out, and skate freestyle.

Swinnerton: How did you come from being a pro skater to becoming an entrepreneur?

Welinder: Back in the day freestyle skateboarding created a unique opportunity, in the sense that you could showcase skateboarding and do a demo in places like inside shopping malls where it was not feasible to set up big ramps.  So, I reached out to Swatch Watch and inquired with them to see what their interest level was to get into sponsoring skateboarding in a big way. Swatch jumped on the opportunity and built a skate team . At first it was only freestyle skaters, like Rodney Mullen, Pierre Andre' Senizergues, but in time it spawned Swatch Live a full blown arena-style traveling event in the US and abroad with top vert skaters and BMX dude. This chain of events got me really into the business side of how to promote and build brands and your own career.

Swinnerton: Have you always thought of yourself as an entrepreneur?

Welinder: Although today I know that the root of the the word. However, I love the concept and the spirit of wanting to start something new that can be a way of making an honest living, especially if you combine it with something you truly have a passion for. This is something I have been able to do and something I encourage and inspire others to find and go for.

Swinnerton: What advice would you give a pro skater (or a pro athlete in any sport for that matter) that wants to move into entrepreneurial endeavors?

Welinder: Most athletes have a competitive streak, and a need or want to accomplish more of something. This is a good start. Then ideally you identify a need, or a product category, or a service in the sport or industry you are in. Best and lowest cost entry will most likely be to start a not-thought-of product category, or underserved accessory or service. Next you spend a good amount of brainstorming say 6 months on and off on; the design of the product, the name of your brand, a 3-5 year branding plan on how you would go about making it acceptable and popular, how you would sell it ie; on your own, or with a network of retailers, or through multi level marketing, then lastly imagine what a success story would read like in an reputable industry publication on or offline about you and or your brand. If you do all this AND put a budget together so you know how much it may cost to get through the first 3 years, then you are light-years ahead of most people/athletes that jump into starting a business.

Swinnerton: Who inspired you as a kid and who inspires you now?

PerW-G-Turn-HBWelinder: Pele, the legend soccer player, my step dad, and then my real Dad. Once I realized that I was not too good at soccer, my interest in soccer faded. Driving a semi-truck through the Alpes of Austria along with flying a Cessna on the weekends is something that seemed cool and that is what my step-dad did during my younger years up until I was 15 and discovered skateboarding..and ever since then I have grown stronger and stronger with my Dad. He has had a 45-year stellar career in the advertising and marketing world and is seen as a guru over in Sweden and Europe. He is my inspiration on all business, on staying healthy and beyond, and he is my Dad. This is very special to me. And, as an adult, ever since I met my wife, Elaine, she has been a guiding light for me to better understand and internalize unconditional love, care and support for our families and our two sons.

Swinnerton: What projects are you currently working on?

Welinder: Currently we are re-building Blitz with a new group of brands. Blitz has always been a brand incubator in skateboarding and has had the chance to work with some very creative and talented folks over the last 20 years, Birdhouse with Tony Hawk, Flip with Geoff Rowley Jeremy Fox, and Ian Deacon, Baker with Andrew Reynolds, Howe Clothing and Jade Howe, Hook-ups with Jeremy Klein.

Now we are deep into building JSLV, a brand with probably the biggest potential for size and success worldwide that I have ever been involved in. JSLV stands for Jus Liv. It is a clothing company and we design gear inspired by the skate, snow and street culture. We are currently in a fast growth mode especially in the US, Canada and select international markets like Japan, Korea, Austria, Italy, Sweden, and Russia.

Swinnerton: What are the future plans for Per Welinder?

Welinder: One of the absolute most rewarding things to me is to see brands and talents grow to their fullest potential. I like to continue being involved and see how far we can take JSLV and all the talents behind the brand. I also like to seek out more opportunities to speak at universities and perhaps teach a thing or two about how we build brands.

 

Interrogated by:
Matthew Swinnerton
Matthew@InterrogationHub.com
Twitter – @Swinnerton

The Anthropology of Innovation – An Interview with Andrew Mueller

andrew-pencilholderMatthew Swinnerton interviews his TechRaising partner—longtime Santa Cruz tech consultant / evangelist Andrew Mueller.

Printed version found in InstantMagazine.com

Swinnerton: To start off, tell us about yourself, your background. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school? Where are you living now?

Mueller: I was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island and North Jersey, where I lived until I was 17. I went to Pascack Hills High and dropped out my senior year to go to work for TK, a company that would soon grow to be #39 on the Inc 500. My love for startups and fast-growth risk taking businesses was forged early.

I started doing the most menial task possible and learned nearly ever aspect of this manufacturing business, ultimately managing all material flow. I left to sell computers—this was the mid ‘80s and the Mac was just launched. I made good money but spent every cent I made and was not happy.

In December 1988 I packed my Pontiac Grand Prix with all my belongings and, with $500 in my pocket, drove to California. I was intent on becoming a resident and putting myself through college. After a brief period in LA, and another near Tahoe, I found Santa Cruz. I worked two (sometimes three) jobs, studied at UCSC and graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

Swinnerton: What was your first job?

Mueller: I think I was 8 or 9 years old and somehow convinced the local dry cleaner to let me help. I put those paper things on metal coat hangers … oh yeah I swept the shop too, and earned about a quarter an hour.

andrewmuellerSwinnerton: What exactly does Andrew Mueller do?

Mueller: The business environment is in a period of great change. I develop strategies and tactical plans for executives and their teams that answer their challenges and take advantage of opportunities. I also work hands on to help them execute on a tactical level.

Often this work focuses on marketing, social media, and thought leadership, but some holistic efforts involve customer service, sales and product management. Part of this work involves coaching executives and training top performers, both of which are always greatly rewarding experiences.

Swinnerton: What kind of companies do you like working with and why?

Mueller: I love working for companies that are innovative and face big challenges. I am a problem solver. Give me a problem and I can’t stop thinking about it until it has been thoroughly analyzed and I am convinced that I have the best solution. Then the challenge of implementing the solution, testing, and iterating is very rewarding and exciting. I love companies with great people who care about what they are doing and proud of the products and services they offer.

Swinnerton: What are some of your career highlights before you started your current consulting business nine years ago?

Mueller: There are a lot of highlights. My personal highlights are things that created great change in me—pivotal moments that altered everything that would come after them. Starting Sagas with David Hoffman and Carl Page, and working closely with them, was a great highlight. I learned a tremendous amount from this experience, especially from David. It was during this time that everything came together for me. Even though the company couldn’t survive the market crash, we were doing great things, had a real purpose, and the experience was incredibly valuable and pivotal for me.

Being a founding employee of Consulting Resources—a computer consulting company specializing in automated business systems in the early days of micro-computing—was also notable. This was a spinoff of Computerland of Delaware, where I was working at the time. The president took me and one other sales guy, from more than 20 reps, to found the company.

TK, was a highlight for sure. I was with this company when it grew form a $50K company to a $5M company and think I grew just as much.

Also notable were advising GE’s CMO Beth Comstock on how to best position GE on YouTube; building Nimsoft’s social media practice for CA Technologies; acquiring and integrating Felt Glass into Claritas; helping to sell iWare to eMachines; and getting first orders form industry leaders and raising funds for Reversica.

Swinnerton: How did you acquire your social media skills?

Mueller: The light bulb came on while Sagas was in its last throes. David Hoffman asked me why Guy Kawasaki was so bullish on Twitter. Guy had just written an article Twitter as a Twool. I had seen Twitter before but didn’t pay much attention to it. I read the article, and in an instant everything became crystal clear.

What I didn’t mention earlier is that my degree is in Anthropology. This has proved to be a great compliment to my business experience. My study of Anthropology gives me a framework to understand how social media and the “real-time” web change business-as-usual and alter the power balance and the nature of the relationships between companies and their customers, companies and their employees, governments and their citizens, and much more.

The same technologies would alter the structure of the company—they would become flatter and more transparent whether they liked it or not. Information would begin to flow from the bottom to the top more freely, and vice versa. I couldn’t see all the details of how this would unfold, but I did have a good sense of what was going to happen and knew that this would pose both significant challenges and opportunities for companies large and small.

I studied all I could about social media and the underlying technologies, services, and platforms that enable it. I read as much as I could, and signed up and tested every social network, collaboration tool, or anything else that had a social component. I had to understand how it might fit in the puzzle—what value did it have to offer, who would benefit from this value, and how would this affect things to come for everyone involved. I used these tools, platforms and services daily.  All that I learned was processes in respect to the anthropological frameworks that form my understanding of people, groups, societies, governments, nations, etc. I can’t help doing this; it is just part of the way I think and my understanding of the world.

In many ways corporations and smaller companies are very similar to other groups that are economically inter-reliant. What we were (and still are) experiencing was similar to an adaptive radiation—an evolutionary speciation event where a change in the environment allows for species to “innovate” and adapt to newly created niches. As new technologies—cloud, mobile, broadband—evolved, and other constraints eased, new opportunities were created and enabled new businesses to gain a foothold in the ecosystem, and forced established businesses to change in order to continue to thrive.

One thing that significantly changed was the ability for the individual to compete for share of voice around any given topic.  I was particularly interested in the role that Twitter played in this and I decided to test how effective Twitter could be as a tool to promote one’s content. I set up a fresh blog, chose a current topic, created a post, and proceeded to promote it on Twitter. In 80 hours I was able to drive 1,400 readers to the post.

During this time I shifted my practice from a business development focus to a business strategy and integrated marketing focus. I had the honor of doing work for amazing people with great companies, like Beth Comstock, CMO at GE, John Hagel Co-Chairman of Deloitte Center For the Edge, and Chris O’Malley, CEO of Nimsoft.

Swinnerton: Tell us about your work with TechRaising? (Of course I know about TechRaising—I am a co-founder of TechRaising—but I bet our readers would be interested.)

Mueller: TechRaising is a labor of love. It is more of a movement than a company. It was born out of the desire to give the Santa Cruz tech and entrepreneurial community the space, resources and support needed to move ideas from the conceptual to the physical.

I had wanted to do a 48-hour hackathon-style event for some time.  I also wanted it to be different from typical hackathons and startup weekends, which are driven by competition. When you and I were talking at Cruzio and you proposed that you wanted to do a Santa Cruz TechCrunch 50-like event, I saw the pieces coming together.

Just the week before Margaret Rosas gave a passionate talk at the Santa Cruz New Tech Meetup about how Santa Cruz could benefit by changing its “brand”—the way people feel about Santa Cruz—and proposed a media outlet as part of the solution.

Margaret has been the foremost proponent of the Santa Cruz tech community. She co-founded the Santa Cruz Geeks and worked hard to keep the community gelling. I knew that we needed to get Margaret on board and so did you. Funny, when I approached Margaret with the idea for that first TechRaising I asked, “If we do this, do you think people will show up?” And Margaret thought I was daring her. She thought for about one half a second and said “Hell yes!” And so TechRaising was born.

Since then we’ve held three events and got the support of the business community whose sponsorships make it all possible.  TechRaising earned fabulous news coverage in print, on TV, and of course digital. Over 300 participants pitched over 100 ideas, and built over 40 things that were demoed. Numerous new companies were formed, some received funding, local jobs were created, and everyone who took part is stoked. While these numbers are impressive, they only tell a small part of the story and the true lasting benefit of TechRaising.

Earlier I said that TechRaising is more of a movement than a business. I feel this is because the focus is on collaboration rather then competition. We built novel and nuanced approaches into the event that encourage meaningful relationships to be built. These relationships flourish long after the events end. Dozens of fabulous mentors donated their time to come and share their knowledge and wisdom with the TechRaisers. Many of the mentors have continued to mentor the teams—and this is something I didn’t expect. This is the magic. This is community. This is a movement.

More than ever today’s businesses are people businesses. People build technology and people use technology. Help people to connect in an open and supportive environment and they will do great things.

Swinnerton: What is the best part of doing what you do?

Mueller: The economic climate is volatile, and creating a lot of challenges and opportunities for many companies. But many companies, and the people who do the hard work, are very adept at conducting business as usual. And as such many businesses are focused on short-term objectives.

Sometimes the approaches used to achieve these short-term objectives are at odds with long-term objectives. I like to align things, tease out the connections, build strategic and tactical plans that meet both long and short-term objectives. But most of all I love working with smart people who work hard and understand that to be the best you must lead, always question the status quo, take chances, and continually innovate. And I don’t just mean innovate your product but innovate everything about your business.

Interrogated by:
Matthew Swinnerton
Matthew@InterrogationHub.com
Twitter – @Swinnerton

Punch Fear In The Face – My super quick interview with Jon Acuff

NYT book cover shot

Here is a lightning quick interview I did with Jon Acuff, the author of the book - Start.

This is a great book to read for any entrepreneur starting on a new endeavor or thinking about starting one. This was of my top 3 favorite reads of the year.

Swinnerton: Now your new book is titled – Start. What was the genesis for you writing this book and give us a run down on what the book is about?

Jon Acuff: The book started after I had a conversation with a grandmother on a plane. She asked me, "What do you do when all your excuses for not chasing your dream are gone?" It was a profoundly sad moment, because for the first time she was looking back on her life and realizing it had passed her by. I started wondering how I could avoid the same situation. How could I not get to 80 and look back on life and realize I had missed my purpose. The book explores the 5 things that everybody must do to have an awesome life. You have to travel through a time of learning, editing, mastering, harvesting and guiding. Ultimately, the only line we all control in life is the starting line. We have no control over the finish line. Life is going to go in directions and places you can't imagine, but each of us gets to start.

Swinnerton: Who inspires you?

Jon Acuff: My dad. My kids. The people I meet who are in the trenches really chasing their dream.

Swinnerton: What are your future plans for the Jon Acuff empire?

Jon Acuff: Empire is a pretty big word for "above average blog." The next thing I am working is the Start Conference. We're trying to bring 1,000 people to Nashville on September 13 and 14 for an awesome conference. It's this wild two-day experience where people really try to turn "what if" into "what is."

Swinnerton: What gives you the greatest satisfaction in your professional life?

Jon Acuff: Helping people get unstuck. That's my mission. I believe the unstuck are unstoppable.

Interrogated by:
Matthew Swinnerton
Matthew@InterrogationHub.com
Twitter – @Swinnerton

An Entrepreneurs mission – Jennifer Delano from the Netherlands

JenniferDelano-intheCity

Swinnerton: What was your first job?

Delano: From the age of 12 I started my babysitting. I did all kinds of marketing for it. From hanging advertisements at local shops till and mailing in the neighborhood. I even had a friend who took over families when I already have been booked. It was a small informal ''Jennifer Delano franchise''. I was a freelancer, selling my time so I would be paid while doing what I love. A real job, like a full time job, the one you get after college: I never had one. I simply never came up with the idea to find one.

Swinnerton: I know you have done a lot in your career but can you give us a run down of what you have done from that first job up to what you are doing now?

Delano: After I moved out from my parents at age 17, I continued my freelance career only in a whole different dimension. I started doing modeling and acting. I had a very clear list of where I wanted to with that. By the age of 21 my list was complete and I needed a new challenge.

I started my company ''The Artist Advice''. Advice from an artist herself, with a successful track record: me! In two years everybody in The Netherlands who had the cuts to take advice while working as a model/actor/singer hired me. I saw the marked decreasing and started up different creative services. Like ArtistMagazine - the place for information and all the new casting calls in The Netherlands and Belgium. People loved it, but didn't want to pay for it.

After some soul searching and reading all kinds of business books: I started my own PR firm; JenJenPR. During the years I found out that I was focussing on a far too large part of the market. And because of that, I could not get the clients I really liked. In 2012 I released DelanoPR - same people, new name, new look, new platform and a totally different focus. It is paying out. Now I’m finally working with the clients Id like to work for.

And the solo entrepreneurs, for them I created a Dutch PR platform: http://www.PRGoeroe.nl

JenniferDelano-tiltedSwinnerton: What made you want to work for yourself?
Delano: I simply never came up with the idea to work for someone else. And looking at the people with a job in my childhood, I never desired their life's.

Swinnerton: Have you always thought of yourself as an entrepreneur?
Delano: Not really. I always looked at myself as a ''later everything will become clear'' creator. And while pursuing my dreams, I did find what I really liked to do. And slowly everything becomes clear!

Swinnerton: Can you tell us how you got the idea of DelanoPR and then what you did to actually start it?
Delano: DelanoPR is an agency which started out of my previous agency JenJenPR. What I actually do to start is was : getting a nice Wordpress template on the domain (my assistant did it), organizing a new logo (http://www.kuhasa.nl did it), organize a give away with the logo on it (two five minute calls) and organize an business-evening to release the agency. I emailed my clients, prospects, close business friends, business partners and some LinkedIn contacts. The evening created two new PR-gigs and a lot of great video's where people tell about their positive experience with DelanoPR. http://delanopr.nl/ervaringen/

Swinnerton: Can you tell us about your mission - "My mission is to help out 100,000 company's with expressing their positive promotion in 5 years". How are you going to accomplish that?
Delano: In The Netherlands people asked me a lot of times how I measure that. That is how I came up with the plan to start a platform and basically share all the insides of my PR work. Because of the 100,000 company's I’d love to help out, I knew I needed to start doing different things than only blogging. It is great to inspire 3000 people a month by blogging, however: why only online? I started this year with an offline event every three months. The title of the first two events was translated: Who Don't I Know You? I never had such a great click through rate on a mailing. I’d love to help out people during every event. It helps me building ambassadors, which will help me grow to the next level. Besides the blogging and my events, I Twitter, use Facebook and am active on LinkedIn on a daily basis. Within 6 months my blog will be increased with the possibility to enjoy video's with ''how-to-do-PR-tips/tricks.' And at www.JenniferDelano.com I will rebuild to a international platform full of video's and blogs.

Swinnerton: For our readers that have an idea but are not at the point of actually launching their business or product yet do you suggest promoting it? At what point do you start your PR efforts?

Delano: From the moment you know you will launch a product or a business in the future: start promoting it! Make sure you are there online. Talk to people in the business, start networking. And make sure you give people to opportunity to stay informed. With that email list you'll build, you will have a bigger release with far more impact. And think actively about your mission, your vision and where you want to go. The better your view on the future, the faster you'll get there.

Swinnerton: What are the future plans of Jennifer Delano and DelanoPR?
Delano: DelanoPR will be the most creative PR agency in The Netherlands. It will be the public relations agency in Amsterdam you connect to when you are looking for some kick-ass creativity to get you brand to the next level.

The brand Jennifer Delano will be booming. In The Netherlands I’m known in the entrepreneur scene. For instance when people in The Netherlands are talking about entrepreneurship at Twitter, I connect to them. I have a ambitious publicity plan around my personal brand and with continue with that. Next year I will start to focus on the USA and Uk market.

Swinnerton: What brings you the greatest happiness in doing what you do?

Delano: Every week I talk to great people. It is a lot of joy helping businesses grow. And the greatest happiness is a combination of ''Thank you'' mails/calls/texts/FBMessages/DM's for my work & going for a run with people who are watching me on television the evening before and act like nothing happened.

Please enjoy my Ebook 'Top 10 Tips For Personal PR' for free thru http://www.jenniferdelano.com

Connect with me thru Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jennifer-Delano-international/419706221390142?fref=ts

Or Twitter:
www.Twitter.com/JenniferDelano

Interrogated by:
Matthew Swinnerton
Matthew@InterrogationHub.com
Twitter – @Swinnerton

Ze Frank – Why I’m involved in virtual spaces.

rubber-duckies

Ze Frank talk at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History 1-11-13. Here is the transcript.

Ze Frank: There's a body of work that's in that other room. That body of work is not really mine at all. It's people that watch the shows that I do. What I do is I work with them to create community-based or participatory projects. It's a little unfair that I get to have my name on the placard because I actually didn't do any of that. All I did was facilitate it. You're going to be able to look at that stuff. I think it's probably better for me because I think most of you are not familiar with the stuff that I do. I think you might be, a little tiny bit, and welcome. I think it's going to be more helpful for me to talk about why I do this stuff to begin this because I imagine that's going to be one of the major questions that's on your mind, "Why I'm involved in virtual spaces. Why I'm taking a lot of time to work with all these different audiences." The first is when Nina says "virtual community" how many people are starting to fall asleep, or at least have a certain sense that there is, pardon the word, a little bit of bull@#$% in that term? Would you just raise your hands to humor me? Now the people that were lying just now, you raise your hands.

It is interesting, right, because there is this notion of virtual communities. People are on the network. They're spending more and more time in virtual spaces. That just means in front of a screen imagining a lot of the characteristics, really imagining a lot of the characteristics and the interactions that they're having. They're typing words, they're seeing words get typed back, and they're imagining faces behind those words. They're imagining emotions and they're helped out by smiley faces and all these different things. It is a different kind of landscape. It is a virtual landscape that is manifested in the interactions that you have with these objects. They're very different from the real kind of interactions that we are having right now. Right? This kind of interaction is mediated by smells, and textures, and sounds, and all sorts of different characteristics. Quite frankly, it's a little overwhelming. There is, at least on a graded scale, a difference between the kinds of interactions that happen in virtual spaces between the ones that we have, just in the amount of input that we get. Let's just agree on that. There's very little input that you get from screens, and you actually have to conjure up all of the meaning that's coming from these kinds of interactions.
ZeFrank
The question is, for me, when you have this massive transformation where more and more of life is being lived . . . When some of you, you probably get pissed off at people when you see them in the street, stopping in the middle of the sidewalk looking at their cell phones and smiling. You're sort of like, "What are you doing?" The answer to that is they're living. They are living life in that moment. They just happen to be living a portion of life that is not accessible to you. That is what the virtual experience is. The question, I guess that comes up, is when you have more than half of the population not participating at an aggressive level in that world, and then a new kind of group of people that are overly participating in that world, what kinds of knowledge is not coming across that chasm? I'll give you one example. One example has to do with death. Handling death in the physical space has been mediated by literally thousands of years of incredible culture and tradition around the physical manifestation of saying goodbye to someone. We have processionals. We have ritualized ceremonies. We have prayers. We have mourning periods. We have all kinds of things that are all designed, and pass through generations and generations of undertakers. Right? These are incredible wealth. They're just beings, objects. It's just an amazing amount of knowledge. When you get into online spaces, we have lost an amazing amount of knowledge. When someone dies . . . I guess it's funny. If you have a teenage boy who dies, and his mother then realizes that most of his friends were in online game spaces, there is very little resource for her to understand how you're supposed to approach those people. There's very little tradition about this whole process. Facebook has whole protocols about memorializing pages and not allowing new posts to come in, and things like that.

Everybody's scrambling to fill this massive void. That's a little bit of background on why this is so fascinating to me, and why I'm very particularly interested in why people come together to do things online. Then, as a secondary feature to that, what makes people feel online? Why do people feel? What do they feel about? Is there some sort of a craft, or emerging discipline, in shepherding emotion? Right? That's what a lot of these kinds of disciplines are. That's what an undertaker does. They shepherd emotion in physical spaces around very difficult things. I'm going to just sort of talk to you about how I got to this place. Trust me, I'm not going to talk about death the entire time. Here's where the story starts.

In 2001, I filmed myself dancing to Madonna's "Justify My Love." This is prior to the video days, so these are actually kind of the homemade, crafted, animated .gifs that look a little video like. I put them together and I put them online as part of the invitation to my 29th birthday party. I put them online and I sent them to 17 of my closest friends. Within three days, over three million people had come to it. This was absolutely freaky, right? It was what we now call a "viral" event. That word had not been around very long at that point. There wasn't much for me to compare it to, but I was getting emails from around the world. My dad found out about this from a colleague in Argentina before I was able to tell him about it. I was getting emails faster than my client could download them. It was coming in. They all kind of looked the same in a way, like, "Hi. You must have a lot of time on your hands. What is this crap, jackass?" I must have had four or five major responses, but we're talking about hundreds, and hundreds, and thousands of emails. I didn't sleep at night. I didn't even know what was going on. It was so crazy. Then, all of the sudden my free website, supposedly, got a bill for $30,000 because even my service provider, in the small print somewhere along the line was sort of like, "In the event that 10 million people come and look at my thing, there's going to be an overage charge based on usage." It was kind of scary and kind of wondrous at the same time because what I was witnessing was this kind of network behavior, and it's the kind of network behavior that we only talk about in terms of gods of war and things like genocide where just all of the sudden large groups of people act spontaneously all together.

It was transformational for me. I quit my job and spend the next three years just trying to figure out what had happened. I had gone to school for neuroscience. I had a little bit of programming background. I started to teach myself more about online programming and I did more of these kinds of things. I even did "How to Dance Properly Two." I just had no idea what was going on here. I did a project every day for three years, including a bunch of weird little things like games. This was a game called "Atheist." It's a fully-functional game, but in the middle of it I realized that I wasn't a good enough programmer to make a really great game, so this is just called "Atheist." You can jump around and do things like that. I had discovered conceptual art at that moment. I'd also discovered the power of repetition, so this was "Buddhist." This came very shortly after that. Exactly the same as "Atheist," except in this one you come back as a duck. You can just play this game forever. It's amazing. Then, the third manifestation, everything good comes in threes. Audience Member: Excellent. Ze: Yes. You guys are such optimists. It's so cute. I love it. Nope, no, no. Game over. So that's it. That's the game. After a while I was doing these projects. I was doing a lot of videos and all these different things.

Ze Frank

I had a message board on the side which was growing in size, 250,000, 300,000, 750,000. It was a large group of people, and I started running out of ideas. I started asking the community there on the message board to start doing things with me. This was around 2002, 2003. It was pretty wonderful. They got really, really good at responding to things I asked, and also just sort of playing by themselves. By the time that this image came in from a user, this cute picture of a dog that had just gotten neutered, they wrote over 3,000 haikus for that dog. Let's pause a second. Enough. At this point, that initial thing, "How To Dance Properly," has over 120 million views at this point, unique users. The website itself started to pick up traffic. I actually lost all of that, right. It went way down after that and I was sort of swimming in the world of being freelance which means unemployed. It slowly started because I was aggressively making all this content. I started to pick up traffic. But, no one knew anything about me at all because they were all coming to these individual things. I had decided that I was going to try to take all this stuff and put it into a show. I'd never really done a show before. I didn't really know much about performance. I just kind of turned the camera on one day and said, "I'm going to do a show. It's going to be two to three minutes long. The show is going to be determined by the interaction with the audience."

The very first show I kind of just bumbled around. It's quite embarrassing and awful, but I did it every day for a year. In the process of that, I started asking my audience to do things. For example, at one point, I said, "I'm sorry, but everyone has to dress up their vacuum cleaners, and we have one day to do it." A thousand people dressed up their vacuum cleaners, which turns out to be a remarkably wonderful thing to do, right? I have to just pause for a second. If you start thinking about what this is, I'm asking a lot of people to do something. You can't just ask people to do anything. That doesn't work. I found that out very resolutely by asking them to do a lot of very stupid things. But, you ask them to do things. There's one or two different kinds of goals that are part of this. One is you want them to have a good experience while they're doing that thing. If you design a wonderful project, they have an amazing time doing the actual work. At that stage, your work is kind of done. The next phase of it is that you want people who aren't participating to enjoy looking at all the results. You have to factor in all this different stuff in the course of these projects. That kind of sensibility is imbued in those projects out there.

I did hundreds of these kinds of projects and the thing was that people kept on responding, and responding beautifully so the task became how do we make these projects bigger, and bigger, and bigger. On the way back from Spain, I had this idea of creating an Earth sandwich. Which basically the idea was the Earth has probably never been an actual sandwich, meaning that two pieces of bread have not been perfectly opposite each other exactly at the same time on the globe thus making an Earth sandwich. You cannot refute my logic here. I created this project where a Mac would find you your antithesis, your antipathy. These, for example, right here correspond to, unfortunately, the Indian Ocean. It turns out that the United States is across from water, with the exception of two very, very tiny, tiny parts of the United States. We are all across from water. I thought that the majority of my audience, 60, 70 percent, was in the U.S. I was like, "Oh, this is never going to get done." What people started doing, they started laying pieces of bread on the ground in tribute to the project with their different locations, and that started growing and growing. Then, within a week and a half I got this email from a guy. He was like, "Hey, I'm on the island of Fiji, and I realized that the antipathy for me is two miles away from the consulate in Mali, in the African nation of Mali. I called them and surprisingly they seemed totally fine. But, they said that it would cost me." That was a non-starter, unfortunately. Then, within the two weeks, the very first Earth sandwich was made between New Zealand and Spain. I, unfortunately, won't show you the video associated with that, but it was pretty incredible. Since then, hundreds and hundreds of Earth sandwiches have been made. This was all done with geo- positioning. There's a video of these two guys running through a field in Spain. They're being chased by God.

I'm going to leave you with this, and that is that there are certain kinds of projects. There are hundreds and hundreds of projects. You're going to see, if you just look around, some of the different things that we've done with this newest show that I launched in April. There's hundreds of projects that I've done with folks, but there's some that resonate perfectly with me in terms of why I'm doing this kind of thing. I'm going to just show you one. I found this piece of audio. This was in 2006. Somebody sent me this piece of audio. I Googled it, I could not find a source for it, no mention of it, nothing. This was the piece of audio: "Hi, my name is Ray and yesterday my daughter called me because she was stressed out because of things that were going on with her job that she felt were quite unfair. Being quite disturbed, she called for comfort. I didn't really know what to tell here because we have to deal with so much mess in our society. I was led to write this song just for her, to just give her some encouragement while dealing with stress and pressures on her job. I figured I'd put it on the Internet for all employees under stress to help you better deal with what you're going through on your job. Here's how the song goes. “I'm about to whip somebody's ass. I'm about to whip somebody's ass. If you don't leave me alone, you're going to have to send me home, because I'm about to whip somebody's ass”. Now you might not be able to sing that out loud, but you can hum it to yourself, you know what I'm saying. Let it give you some strength and get through the next few moments on your job, alright. Peace. I will tell you, here's the thing, right. I heard this piece of audio and I was like, "Oh my gosh. This is a perfect encapsulation of what I love doing, and why I'm doing the stuff that I'm doing." He understands that there's an emotional reaction happening at a distance from him from somebody that he cares about. He has the instinct to make media to address it in some sort of a way, and then he uses the virtual world to transmit that, and has the instinct that there are many other people that will probably also have use for this thing.

This is like a crystallization of the strength of the network. We are in a fractal-like way just blast across the network. Things that you think are isolated in in your experience, you are not. In fact, the things that make us feel the most alone are the things that have the greatest potential to connect us to other people. That is absolutely true. Listening to this, I was like, "We have to do something for this guy. This is an amazing thing. I have to say thank you." I asked my audience to make re-mixes of this because he has a great voice. I was like, "use the track, do something with it." Hundreds and hundreds of remixes came in. Everything from big band style stuff, to metal, and all this kind of stuff. One kind of stood out. One was remarkable. It rose from the top download in all these music sharing services. I'll play you a little bit of that track right now. It was awesome. This thing goes out there and all of the sudden I'm getting emails like, "The minor league baseball team that plays in my town just came out to this song." It was like, "The used car dealership in my town uses this as the backing track to their ad." This thing is like going out there, and I was like, "Oh my gosh, this is amazing." They're putting together an album. They're making an album cover out of it. I said, "If you guys do this and put this together, put all the remixes onto a CD, I will hand deliver it to this person." The problem is, I don't know anything about him. There was no information, nothing. We knew his name was Ray, and his daughter had a problem. That was it.

I figured that there was not very likely chance we were going to find, based on that criteria. I said, "If you find him, I'll deliver it to him." It took them a week and a half to find Ray. They did it by just blasting message boards all across the web. Finally somebody said, "Hey, I work in a bank and a friend of mine at another bank told me a story about one of her friends there who got a song from her dad." Then he contacted her. In a week and a half I got a note. It was like, "Hi, Ze, this is Ray. I hear you're trying to contact me." Which is awesome. You know, you write back. That's one of those emails that you write like 50 times, and you keep throwing out because you're like, "Yes. Funny thing . . ." It was wild. I kept in communication with him and finally arranged to fly down to Kansas City, where he lived and meet him. I went to just like a little motel for the night. He would only agree to meet me in my hotel room. He brought four people with him, big, big dudes. It was definitely like a very weird scene. I've got my little laptop out and everyone's sort of like standing around. I met him, right, and that's Ray. He's a preacher, but he's all sorts of things. He's like a very, very dynamic, really interesting guy. It was lovely, you know, he cried a little bit. He was definitely weirded out. If you just put yourself into his shoes, it's a very, very weird experience. Hundreds and hundreds of people have been spending hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of hours making something for you because you affected them in some sort of way. I think that that's like a really wonderful little encapsulation of the reason that I do this stuff. The reason this exists is because there are tons and tons of people that resonate with that kind of stuff and are interested in, I think, the craft and the responsibility of taking emotion seriously in virtual spaces. I think it's going to sort itself out regardless, but I want to be a part of it. I think all of you should be, too, because you have a massive, massive wealth of knowledge inside of you to share. With that, I thank you all for being here tonight.

Interrogated by:
Matthew Swinnerton
Matthew@InterrogationHub.com
Twitter - @Swinnerton

The $100 Startup and the next quest – Chris Guillebeau

ChrisGuillebeau

On January 21st 2013 Chris Guillebeau came to Santa Cruz, CA on his first stop of his 2013 book tour to support his latest book - The $100 Startup. I had a chance to interview Chris before he took the stage. Here is the transcript.

Matthew: This is Matthew Swinnerton. I'm with InterrogationHub.com and Instant Magazine. I am here with Chris Guillebeau, writer of "The $100 Startup" and "The Art of Non-Conformity". We're totally excited to have him here. He's actually starting a mini book tour starting in Santa Cruz, so we're going to have an event tonight. I think we have about 300+ people here, so we're very excited to have you. Thank you very much for being here.

Chris: Thank you. I'm excited to be back.

Matthew: Awesome. Thank you. Before we get really into it, I want to ask you a big question that's been on my mind: What is the plan for 193?

Chris: 193 is my final country. For the past 10 years, I've been trying to visit every country in the world, and I'm coming down to the end. Last month I did Tuvalu, in the South Pacific. Then I did Guinea Bissau, in West Africa, the month before. Now I'm at the final country, which is Norway. 193 will be in April, on my 35th birthday. We've invited some of my readers, friends, and community to come and join. We're going to have some kind of party in Oslo. We're still trying to figure it out, but I think right now we have maybe 150, 200 people that are making the trek.

Matthew: Wow.

Chris-Guillebeau2Chris: We'll have to figure something out.

Matthew: Nice. I want to ask, you're going to be at 193 countries, what are you going to feel like after you've accomplished that goal? That's a monumental challenge that you took on. How do you feel it's going to be, "What's next?"

Chris: Yeah. In some ways, Matt, it kind of stresses me out. In some ways, it's kind of like, "Yeah, this is awesome. I've been working for it for so long." Then it's just as you said, like, "OK. Where do we go from here?" Fortunately, the travel is only one thing that I do. I still write books and I do a lot of these kinds of community events; I will continue doing that. I host an event in Portland every year. I'm sure I'll keep traveling, but it definitely is something that is on my mind, as well. Like, "OK. Then what's the next quest?" For me, it's not been just the travel, it's also doing the quest; the notion of there's all these places and they're defined, there's a list and I'm checking them off, and getting closer and closer. Once I don't have that, I don't know.

Matthew: Got to find out what your next quest is.

Chris: Exactly. I've got to figure it out, yeah. Let me know if you have any ideas.

Matthew: I think you're probably good. You probably have enough ideas in your own head. Going back to your traveling; just traveling itself, going to all these different countries, do you actually like the actual aspect of the travel? Getting in planes, going to the airport, your bags; is that tedious after awhile?

Chris: It can be tedious, but I also like it. To answer your direct question, "Do I like it?" I think you have to. I don't know that I'd be able to do it if I didn't at least make my peace with that. In some ways, I actually enjoy the process of traveling. I don't enjoy all those things all the time. Like I flew into San Jose and I had to get a rental car, and it was just kind of a stressful little situation, just like an annoyance, but it's fine; it's a part of it. What do I have to complain about? I get to go all over the world and see great places.

Matthew: Can't complain, yeah. You mentioned it briefly there, can you tell us a little bit about your World Domination Summit? What is that about? I think it's 163 days until that?

Chris: Yeah, very good. You know better than me how many days it is. The World Domination Summit is a gathering of creative people from all over the world. We have it in Portland, Oregon every summer, right around the Fourth of July. Last year, we brought 1,000 people together, and this year we have 3,000, so we're definitely scaling up. It's really fun. It's just a lot of different people. We do have some programming and content. We have main stage speakers, but there's also just a lot of gatherings and fun activities, as well.

Matthew: Nice. One of the standouts of last year was the $100 investment. Can you tell us about that?

Chris: Yes. I'm trying to think how to do so concisely, because there's actually a 19-minute video online; people can watch the whole thing. The short version is, or the cliff notes version is: WDS is a non-profit event; we have no sponsorship, we don't have any advertisers. It's not because I think those things are evil, it's just the DNA of this event is very much about community and connection. The first year we lost maybe $30,000 on it, which we were thrilled to do just because it was such a fun thing. The second year we kind of figured some things out. We had more people come, so we had a profit of close to $100,000, and the team decided to reinvest that money directly in the attendees. We also had an anonymous donor that came forward to kind of make up the difference. Basically, we gave $100 to all 1,000 attendees, along with kind of a charge at the end of the weekend to say, "Use this to do something interesting. I don't care what it is. You can do something with business. You can do something with charity. You can give it to someone on the street. You can restock your wine cellar. I don't care, just do something fun and then tell us about it." We've been collecting all these stories.

100startup-poster13x19Matthew: We don't have time now, but if our viewers can actually go online, go to YouTube and see some of the stories, they're pretty awesome, what people did with that $100. Definitely check it out online. You can find it really easily. I think you just put in '$100 investment', and you'll probably find something.

Now let's get back onto the topic at hand, "The $100 Startup". You're starting this mini-tour, like I mentioned, in Santa Cruz. Let me ask you, what was the genesis behind it?  We were just talking about it briefly, but were you just like you had a conversation with somebody that's like, "I've got to write a book about this"? How did that start?

Chris: In a way it was like that, it was very organic. I did a previous book tour for my first book. I went to all 50 states. I went into every province in Canada, just met really interesting people all along the way, including a lot of unconventional or unexpected entrepreneurs; people who started businesses without going to business school, without spending a lot of money, usually by using the skills that they already had. A lot of them didn't even necessarily think of themselves as entrepreneurs. They were just doing something that they enjoyed but they had found a way to make that profitable, and not just a little bit profitable but provide for themselves and their families to make a good living.

I thought no one's really telling this story. No one is really telling this story in a systematic way. There's a lot of information about bigger startups. There's a lot of information about starting a traditional business, which involves a long business plan and going to beg for money at the bank and all that kind of stuff, but no one's really looking at this whole micro-entrepreneurship, 'micro-business revolution' as I call it. That's kind of how that came to be, originally.

Matthew: Talking about writing a book, we have a lot of entrepreneurs that read our site or read our magazine and they want to write a book. It's daunting in some way, like, "How do I get it out there? How do I publish it? Do I need to self-publish it? Do I have to find a distributor? What do I do?" Can you give them some advice? I know that's a humungous question.

Chris: Sure. That's a lot of questions all together, because those are different questions. How to publish the book is a very different question than how to write the book. I would say let's break it down. What really is daunting? If you can start a business, if you can do anything in an ongoing, consistent manner, you can certainly write a book. What I do is I break things down into very specific, deliverables. An average non-fiction book is about 70,000 words, so most of us can write 1,000 words a day if we really kind of focus and get to it. If you can't do that, then do 500 words a day. Obviously, there's going to be an editing process, there's going to be a lot of other stuff, but if you think of it in those chunks, if you think of it in terms of the chapters and what's the overall message and what goes where, I really think anyone can do it. As to publishing, that's a totally different thing.

Matthew: OK. I'll let you go on that one. I have two more questions I want to ask: How do you balance family life and work life, and at the same time have this humungous career of traveling and doing these community things? How do you do that?

Chris: That's a good question. I guess people will answer that question differently for themselves.

Matthew: How do you do that?

Chris: How do I do that? I can't speak for my wife because she's not here; you'd have to ask her as well. I guess I travel a lot, but I'm also at home a lot, as well. We went to India together last month. I did "The $100 Startup" tour there, but she was with me. I guess I also believe it's OK to have goals and dreams of your own, as well as joint goals that you pursue together. She has her own career; she's an artist and she does her thing, and I try to support that as much as I can.

Matthew: Nice. Last question. Going along with that, what makes you happy? That's a big open question too.

Chris: What makes me happy?

Matthew: Yeah. When I asked that question, what came to mind?

Chris: I like making things, I like creating. I think Seth Godin said that creativity is the instinct to produce. It's like when I get up in the morning I'm like, "OK. What am I working on? What's next?" Just like you asked that question about what's next for me, I feel like if I don't do that for a few days or a week or something, I start feeling bad, so it makes me happy to create and to connect with people as well.

Matthew: Nice. I like Seth Godin's new book. I can't remember the title.

Chris: "The Icarus Deception".

Matthew: Yeah. He mentions about art, and he says about that, "If you do something that touches somebody, that's art." It makes us happy. I really enjoyed that. I guess you have to get on stage here so I appreciate you being here. Thank you very much.

Chris: Thanks, Matt. Appreciate it.

Matthew: Thanks a lot.

To lean more about Chris Guillebeau follow him at:
@chrisguillebeau
facebook.com/artofnonconformity 

Interrogated by:
Matthew Swinnerton
Matthew@InterrogationHub.com
Twitter - @Swinnerton

Pro skater runs a leading design firm in her hometown of Santa Cruz – Judi Oyama

Swinnerton: Judi, can you tell us a little bit about your background? Where did you grow up?

Oyama: I was born and raised in Santa Cruz. I spent most of my years in the Aptos area. I used to ride my horse in between Soquel and the Aptos hills and on the beaches until all the fences started sprouting up.

My father went to Art Center back in the day and was head of Cinematography at Lockheed in Santa Cruz. He was always into photography and encouraged me to get into computers from the early days.

My first Apple was a IIsi with a 80-megabyte hard drive. Back then, when I was working on designing Beckmann’s Bread packaging, it took 20 minutes to save. This gave me time to read magazines, dust and have a super clean office.

I had a burning drive to do more each day because in the back of my mind I think of when my parents were 11 and 12 they spent three years in Japanese Internment Camps with their families. They rarely talk about it and they have no anger. They did try and give us everything they could since they had to start over and times were tough. I never take my freedom or all of what I have for granted.

Swinnerton: How did you get into skating?

Oyama: By watching my brother skating on a board he made in Aptos Jr. High wood shop class. I wanted to try and never stopped. I went from my driveway to the street with some of my girlfriends to local schools, skate parks and racing downhill on hills around town. I got sponsored by Santa Cruz Skateboards three years later and started competing throughout California.

When you look back at the ’70s, ’80s, and even the ’90s, what pops out in your mind as some of the highlights of your skating life?

I was in a short-lived multi-million dollar skateboard show called “Skateboardmania” back in 1978. It was like the Ice Follies of skate. It was supposed to run six months per skater and travel the world. We were the first group and then other skaters were supposed to learn what we did and take our place to keep the show going.

They had us living in Hollywood and working mid-afternoon to evenings learning choreographed skate routines at Paramount Studios. It’s where I met Duane Peters and a few other life-long skate friends. It was the only paid skate gig which included seven semis, 40 roadies, $50,000 worth of Plexiglas ramps, a rock & roll bus, fancy hotels, parties in Beverly Hills and skating on Hollywood Boulevard. We got to stay on the Queen Mary for a week and they rented the Long Beach Arena for practice. Our opening show was at the LA Forum.

Skating the Capitola Classic was one of my skating highlights. To this day whenever I drive down Monterey Avenue I think of the feeling of flying down that hill and how fun it was.

I look at the road and see the cracks and lines that one day I hope they will repave. There is nothing like being a little out of control and wondering if you are going to crash and then coming to a stop at the end in one piece and the adrenaline you feel.

I still race slalom which has similar speeds to what we did back in the day but with better equipment and faster wheels. It is my way to keep the rush in my life since I don’t feel as comfortable pushing my limits at the skate park. I don’t bounce like I used too.

Swinnerton: Was there a group of skaters that you especially liked to skate with?

Oyama: Yes I skated with a crew at Winchester Skate Park that included Steve Caballero, Scott Foss, Mike Goldman, Steve Olson, Rick Blackhart and Cindy Whitehead. My slalom and downhill crew was mainly Michael Goldman, John Hutson and Mikko Biffle.

Swinnerton: The Bones Brigade’s new movie is being screened in many movie theaters across the country right now. Did you ever get a chance to skate and or hang out with any of them?

Oyama: I saw the movie in San Jose a few weeks ago. I skated with Steve Caballero, Scott Foss, and Tommy Guerrero in the early days. They all used to ride for Santa Cruz Skateboards, but as the competition for riders started happening they got swooped up by Stacy Peralta.

I used to make custom skate shorts and made a pair for Cab that were a 23-inch waist. He was a tiny little guy. We still skate together at the skate park but his level of skate and mine are two different things. He still competes in vert and wins most of the masters events.

Swinnerton: How did you become a designer and illustrator?

Oyama: In the early days of my skate career I spent a good amount of time at NHS . I saw how Jim Phillips worked with the founders showing them ideas from pencil drawings to pen and ink and then to mechanicals. Eventually I learned to silkscreen and screened some of the earlier board graphics. I always wished I could draw like he did.

Richard Novak encouraged me to go to school. I went to San Jose State and majored in graphic design with an illustration concentration. I got work from NHS which then led to work with other action sports brands while going to school, which led me to opening my Maximum Impact Design business straight out of college.

Being a designer and Illustrator is interesting to me, since it takes a very creative person who has to work with highly technical things. How do you bring the two together in your workflow?

I am a tech geek though I love non-computer-created artwork, since there is nothing like working through the rough pencils concept ideas to a final original piece of art. I went to school for illustration but had ideas that were above and beyond my abilities which led to a role in art direction and production, working with well-known to emerging talent in both illustration and photography. In the age of computers it is super easy to work with talent from all over the world.

For photography I use Lightroom to go through photos with photographers and clients. I am able to post location scouting, model selections and styling images through the online services, which saves time and speeds up workflow. For product graphics I have a talent pool and workflow that allows me to work with talented artists and provide a wide range of looks and designs for companies like Croakies, Buff USA, Camelbak and Socksmith Designs.

Swinnerton: On a tech side, what software, services and hardware do you use on a regular basis?

Oyama: I use the Adobe 6 Suite software line up. I use Illustrator, Indesign and Photoshop the most. I am taking a Final Cut Pro class at Cabrillo College to keep up on tech and to get a hand on the video production and mainly the lead in and out typography, video graphics and short videos for some of the businesses I work with.

I installed the Video Production Premium suite which has Adobe Premiere, After Effects, and a few other programs that will work together to help create what I want to do. I mainly work off a 27” iMac and use a Macbook Pro laptop, present and make notes on an iPad and use the iPhone way to much. I use Dropbox as one of the main on-line file transfer services and Harvest to keep track of hours, projects, create estimates and invoices.

I learn a ton from my kids who seem to find apps on their iPods, from lstop-animation to Mindcraft, that makes you wonder what technology is going to be next.

Swinnerton: Is there a software, services, or hardware that you wish was invented to make your life easier or would help you do a work-related thing that you can’t do now?

Oyama: Not any I can think of. I wish Apple, Adobe and Google didn’t always do things to each others software to create problems that we have to always find patches and fixes for. If they could all play along nice, just imagine how much technology we would have at hand?

Swinnerton: What are some of the projects that you are most proud of?

Oyama: One of my most favorite projects was an idea I came up with from the ground up. Creating a Lance Armstrong poster with illustrator Michael Schwab to raise money for LAF (Lance Armstrong Foundation) and Youth Cycling Org. I had to convince everyone to work out the math challenges of getting them all hand signed and numbered by both the artist and Lance. It ended up raising over $60,000 for both non-profits. This poster was accepted into the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC..

The current project is an art show I help curate and put on for Board Rescue.org which I am a founding member. It was our Third Annual Board Rescue Art Fundraiser. We had more than 30 pieces of art from all over the country up, and several hundred people at the Santa Cruz Boardroom last Saturday, Oct. 13. For the first time we had the Phillips’ three generations of artists create and donate artwork—Jim Phillips, Jimbo Phillips and Colby Phillips—as well as well known skate artists Jason Adams, Jason Jessee, David Swift, Steve Caballero, Lucas Musgrave, Chris Sprouls (art director at Apple Computers—his includes an iPod) and a host of others. We are going to post them on ebay this week and it is our biggest fundraiser of the year.

Swinnerton: What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Oyama: The best part is that what I do doesn’t feel like work. I love what I do. I get to be creative I do not have to commute. I’m able to spend more time with my family. I get up early so I can get most of my work done before the rest of the family wakes up. I have a handful of designers that work with me remotely and in my home office.

I do a ton of work with a local retailer, the Sockshop and Shoe Company, which owns four retail stores in the Bay Area and downtown Santa Cruz.

They own a small sock company that has grown from 250 to 500 accounts since I started doing their catalog and all of their marketing materials.

The owners are the best, and I enjoy working with them and all the challenging projects that come up. I work on everything from sock graphics, photo-shoot art direction, catalog designs, retail signage, trade show graphics, to ads and hang tags.

I feel lucky that I am able to be somewhat selective on with clients and projects. I have to really connect with the work and the client to get the best from my design team and be proud of the results at the end of the project. I work from a home office and am a member at co-working location downtown so I am able to have client meetings and keep in touch with local talent from programmers to patent attorneys.

Swinnerton: What do you like about both living and working in Santa Cruz?

Oyama: I like the slower pace and more casual manner we have compared to the urban cities. I like working with other creatives that live in the area. There are a ton of really talented people in this community. You can see it from the small businesses that have sprouted up to the designers that have made their own apps and gotten bought up by bigger companies. I like that you can go walk on the beach or head to the forest if you need to gather yourself and take in some outside time.

Reprinted from Instant Magazine - www.InstantSantaCruz.com
Interrogated by:
Matthew Swinnerton
Matthew@InterrogationHub.com
Twitter - @Swinnerton