Etana Holowinko is one of my oldest childhood friends. She also happens to be the founder of a growing design/communications company called SocietyJazz. A consummate multitasker, this phone interview started as she was driving her car, and ended on the treadmill; one of the few windows of time she had available between client jobs. On the go as she was, you might think we’d have just a quick light conversation about her business. But my friend is a passionate person, when it comes to her business or any part of her life; whatever activities she was involved in at the same time of our chat, there was no way she was going to let that happen.
Kayla: Why the name SocietyJazz, it makes me think of music, not design and communication?
Etana: You know honestly I can’t even remember how the name came to me first. But when it came to me, it came with the idea of society as in the totality of people and jazz as in “all that stuff“– a sort of culmination of communication. And if you want to talk about jazz as in music – jazz is collaborative, and that is what this is all about. The core concepts of SocietyJazz are people, passions and environments. Every person is different, their passions and what they’re doing in life is unique unto them and how they bring it out into their environment or their work is their own. And SocietyJazz can help to bring those principles out in the way a business is communicating to its clients. And ultimately, the way the communication is happening between a business and its clients is the idea of what SocietyJazz wants to be able to help people create.
Kayla: When did you first decide you wanted to start your own company?
Etana: (laughs) That goes back to riding the school bus with you to Hillel Academy!
Kayla: (laughs) That’s so cute, I want to hear the whole story.
Etana: Do you remember how long that bus was? I could have sworn it took two hours to get to school! When I was looking and seeing businesses with for sale signs, I’d say to myself one day, I’m going to have one of those, and not only am I going to have one of those, I’m going to live inside my business so I can just get out of my bed and go to work in my pajamas if I want to. And that’s what I want to do when I grow up!
Kayla: Wise beyond your years!
Etana: (laughs) Like I said I wanted to stay in bed, I was on the bus two hours longer than I needed to be! The first written work I did on the principles behind SocietyJazz I can recall as early as six years old.
Kayla: Incredible! So from that initial conception you had as a kid, what inspired you to bring SocietyJazz to fruition, to create this company?
Etana: I actually started working on the logo when I was working on my associate degree right after high school. It was a logo project and we had to create a whole letterhead business suite, and I said I was going to do this for me. I’ve been building little pieces of my business probably since that time, since ‘99-2000, building it bit by bit. If I could double duty a task in one of my courses to create something for the business, I was. And when I did my master’s program, I developed an original business process, researched it and proved it as my thesis, so that was another use of school.
Kayla: You’re a real multitasker, Etana! So what exactly are the services you offer?
Etana: You know, it’s hard to break it down into a certain list of services. I do a lot of branding packages for new companies; sometimes I just do product label design or banners. Basically anything graphic that need to convey a business’ message to its clientele, in whatever form they need that in, and making custom packages to fit the client’s needs. At this point I haven’t boxed myself into “this is what we do and this is only what we do.” The more I do for people, the more different kinds of things I do for people, for all varying fields of work, the broader the capabilities of SocietyJazz. If I can’t do it, I’ll let you know. If it’s not in my current realm, I’ll say, “Hey, I need a learning curve on that.”
Kayla: But you’re basically open and ready for the challenge.
Kayla: How would you say you differ from other companies offering similar services?
Etana: It’s a little more personal than a lot of business’ are today. I believe in finding out about the person who’s running the business or the team running the business, and what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and how they came to do it, and building a brand around that. Sure, an elf looks cute in a logo, but if it has nothing to do with your business it shouldn’t be in your logo! And I also believe that this process of working with my clients in this way creates that communication which SocietyJazz is all about. So basically the graphics that we’re creating or the message we’re creating should be speaking for our clients even when they’re not around in a way that is true to the business. And this should lead you to kind of feel like you met the person or the business before you even walk in the door or shake the person’s hand.
Kayla: What a great approach. So where do you see SocietyJazz being in five years from now?
Etana: Five years from now I would like the core fundamentals of what SocietyJazz is doing with communication, to be affecting people’s lives. I would like it to be more than a design process as a communication process that people are implementing.
My business is growing based on that principle alone. I've interacted with so many people over the course of the seventeen years that I’ve been in Arizona, that my business is growing and supporting me based on a true social network that I built. Real people.
Kayla: Not the virtual stuff!
Etana: Not Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter networking. I hate that crap, and please put that in your article!
Kayla: (laughs) Got it!
Etana: I use it, but I hate it. That’s not people, that’s not communication- that’s false advertising. I can be anybody on Facebook. But I’m not- I’m as true on Facebook as I am when you meet me. And that’s one of the most intimidating things about me. People that have been honest enough with me have come right out and said it, “Etana, you’re intimidating because you are who you are. You’re saying what you’re saying and you mean it.” And that’s all I have to give to life in general– to my family, to my friends, to my husband, to my business, to all my clients. If I have no idea what my client is asking for or I don’t feel comfortable, I’m gonna say it, or I’m gonna ask 100 questions, because that’s what creates real communication and a real rapport and a real foundation.
Kayla: You’re building real human relationships.
Etana: Right. And the core part of my logo is a pyramid shape. And a pyramid has what? It has a very large, wide foundation, and then it points upwards to something very broad, to something very specialized, and that’s really what it’s all about. It starts big. I get lost sometimes myself with all the things I want to be accomplishing with my business today, let alone all the things I want to be accomplishing with my life today, but I kind of bring them all in and say, what’s the core that needs to happen today, and bring it up to that foundation, to that small point, and that’s what it’s all about, that strong foundation.
Kayla: Are there any favorite projects that you can share?
Etana: I love all of them. They’re all different, they’re all kind of like my little babies. If I’m working on a piece, I’ll put on music and get so zoned into a piece, it’s literally like a birthing process. And then how do you choose your favorite kid? If you’re a good parent, you don’t!
Kayla: You’re a very good parent! So after a client has signed on with SocietyJazz, what can they expect?
Etana: That personalized process we’ve been talking about. I am a business, and I hope as I get bigger and grow that my clients will each feel that same personal connection, not necessarily a friendship but in terms of a business partnership-friendship, that you can talk to me, you can tell me if what I did for you doesn’t work, and that’s fine, and I’ll say, “Okay,” and we can talk about it more and figure out why I didn’t pick up the message the first time, and get it back to where you wanted it. It’s all a very personalized process, and what you get after working with SocietyJazz is what you expect; not something that you like but don’t love because it’s not you.
Kayla: What advice can you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs out there?
Etana: If you believe in it, don’t give up, keep working on it, talk to as many people about it as you can. Don’t be afraid of them looking at you like you’re a crazy person. If you love it, go for it because a lot of people will probably think that you’re crazy. Just go for it. And talk about it, get excited, get mad. Talk to your friends about it, talk to strangers on the street about it. Just put it out there, put it in the world. It’s not going to happen if you don’t give it life. Give it life! A quote I actually use on my resume and other things basically says, “I fell in love with my ideal life, and now I spend my time not dreaming, but creating.” I wrote that in my early 20s and it’s a principle of my life. Dream all day, but if I’m dreaming and not creating, what good is it? And then if you really believe in it, and you really want it, there’s more, and it never stops. If you want your business to be successful you have to be willing to put into it and know that the idea is going to be larger than you, always. And you are never going to catch up to it, and you are just going to keep working toward it every day. But that’s what makes it rewarding. Not that I want to die today, but if I died today, I’d be able to say, “There’s a lot of stuff I wanted to do, but up to this point I got everything done.”
Kayla: Not everybody can say that!
Etana: That’s where I want to be. That’s why I strive, that’s why I push so hard, that’s why I push myself so hard, that’s why I push my relationships so hard. That’s why if I’m arguing with you and you’re walking away from a fight, I’ll say, “I love you!” It counts for something- I’m angry, you’re angry, because it’s real, and it has to be real, if you’re fighting for anything in your life it’s because it’s real, so fight for it. Don’t be mediocre, don’t just sit around and wait for it to happen, make it happen. Nobody is going to make it happen but you. That’s not to say you’re alone it- you’re not alone in it. You have to pool your resources, you have to build that foundation I was talking about. I am successful now because I’ve been building all these little pieces for years. Because I would talk to anyone about it that would listen. And because there was enough passion in me when I was saying it, that they remembered. And you’ve got to give 155% of you, always, because your dream is bigger than you are.
And we continued to chat, about business and life, as Etana jogged away on the treadmill. When I got off the phone, I felt ready to run too, off to make my own dreams happen at full 155% speed.