Meet the Hood Sisters, Amy & Jennifer, Co-Founders of Hoodzpah
Tell us about Hoodzpah.
We are a boutique brand identity design studio based out of Orange County, California. It’s the most fun job on the planet (well aside from Disney Jungle Boat Cruise Captain). We help businesses small and large connect with their audiences aesthetically, experientially, and emotionally. We do that through services like logo and identity design, brand strategy, illustration, layout, environmental design, type design and more.
How did you and your sister get started?
We were studying to be artists at a community college, and honestly, we got a bit lost. Art was hard, we were working full time and trying to pay for college and rent and life, and we were 4 years into a 2-year degree with no real end goal in sight. I (Amy) was working at a coffee shop and one of my favorite regulars, Jason Staggs, was a designer and was looking for help at the new magazine he had just started with a few partners. The magazine was one of those coupon style local mailer magazines. He noticed that I was kind of floundering, and he offered me a job in design, an applied artform. He told me he’d teach me everything I needed to know, apprenticeship style, and asked if I knew anyone else who could help. I obviously thought of Jen! I wouldn’t trade it for any 4-year degree because Jason taught us EVERYTHING. We learned client interaction, how to use all the Adobe programs, text hierarchy, sales, marketing, how to run a small business, print file prep, how to do a press check – it was incredible! It’s the glory of working at a small business over the big fancy name: you get to learn a little of everything because everyone is required to wear many hats.
What’s the best thing about working with your sister?
We always joke that we don’t know how people run a business without a twin (the ultimate sister). It’s so nice to know that regardless of what happens your business partner has your back, and at the end of the day you’re family and you love each other. Of course, there are those funny fights that start out about the business and then descend back to long standing tiffs you’ve been having since you were in pigtails. But that’s how it goes when you’ve lived your whole life together. If anything, working with your sister means they usually know when to give you a little more grace or mercy when you’re having an off day, week, or even month.
There’s also an innate trust there. We were raised to work hard and be wise with our money, so we never have to worry that things won’t get taken care of.
Are you and your sister similar or different? How does that help your business?
People assume we are similar because we are twins, and that is basically true when it comes to our value system and business sense, and we even share a very similar visual design aesthetic. But we are very different when it comes to personality strengths and weaknesses which is great. Jen is a numbers wiz and handles a lot of the accounting and business, is super witty and clever with words and concepting, and is the voice of reason. Amy is the one who gets a hair brained idea and chases it with blind fervor, (roping Jen in of course) jumping into everything from leading business workshops, to speaking at conferences, to designing fonts.
Can you share a funny childhood story about you and your sister?
When we were probably 10 or 11 we were obsessed with tv and pop culture. Maybe because our Mom would only allow us to watch 30 min of tv a day (she was trying to raise child savants). We’d sometimes catch Ricky Lake or Maury or Sally episodes and we were fascinated. We created our own TV show, Amy was the star and Jen was the director and producer. We designed a set in our living room, created title cards (“The Amy Lake Show”), invited a select few friends over to be guests, and recorded it on our Mom’s boyfriend’s video recorder. We’ve been creating our own little schemes for decades now and roping in any friend we could.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your business to date?
Just say yes. When someone asks us to do something we’ve never done, or when we see something cool that we want to do, we just say yes if we think we can reverse engineer that skill via a mixture of Google, Skillshare, and good ole fashioned trial and error. It’s how we started our business, gave our first keynote talk, wrote our first book (Freelance and Business and Stuff: A Guide for Creatives), became Professors at Laguna College of Art + Design, learned out to design typefaces, learned how to design websites, and the list goes on.
What advice would you give an entrepreneur who is just starting out?
Don’t be afraid to focus on profits. People love touting revenue, but profit is what really matters at the end of the day (unless your Amazon). Money tends to feel like a four-letter word, especially in creative circles, but you have to focus on being profitable if you want to be able to live a full life (in work, and personally) AND offer the best you to your clients. You deserve to make a living wage just like anyone else does, so don’t apologize when presenting your rates, and don’t underbid yourself. You don’t have to be a greedy villain about it, of course! But you gotta get paid, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you want more info on presenting your pricing and communicating your value to get the rates you deserve, it’s all in our book. 🙂
Favorite spot to hang out with your sister? Anywhere with sun and water: the beach, the pool, in a duffy boat on the harbor, with a mai tai and a window seat at Harborside Saloon in Newport.
Favorite road trip? We took a road trip all the way from Newport Beach up to Tahoe through the Eastern Sierra Nevadas and it was incredible. The 395 is gorgeous and wild.
Favorite song you and your sister love from growing up? Any marketing jingle: Burlington Coat Factory, Red Robin, The Folgers song, the Meow Mix song – we were (and are) little mocking birds for any catchy little jingle.
Instagram Handle: @hoodzpahdesign, @amyhoodlum, @thegoodhood