As part of our series called “My Life as a TwentySomething Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jordan Obinger.
Jordan Obinger is a creative entrepreneur and founder of a luxury-focused ad agency, Edition Studios, that specializes in branding, marketing, and web design. With a background in startups and investing, Jordan brings a unique perspective to the industry and is always looking for innovative ways to drive growth for his clients. He’s an avid traveler and draws inspiration from his experiences around the world to brands around the country.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! What is your “backstory”?
Edition Studios really started because of my curiosity and desire to create. I’ve started, owned, and sold several businesses over the years, but my favorite has always been Edition Studios. Even though I wasn’t the brightest student in grade school or college, I’ve always been drawn to beauty and design. I believe design has the power to move, change, and inspire people to take a chance on greater opportunity.
After college, I landed my first job at Nerland Co., an advertising agency that I would later buy out. But before I became the owner, I worked at North Corp. where I had the opportunity to work on several iconic brands including Askov Finlayson, The Bachelor Farmer, and Marvel Bar.
Although I enjoyed my time at North Corp., I knew that I needed to return to the agency side. That’s when the previous owner of Nerland Co. approached me and one of my colleagues with a deal of a lifetime: to purchase the company. It was 2015, I was 26 years old and since then, we’ve been on an incredible journey.
I’ve learned a lot over the years, but the most important lesson I’ve learned is that people make mistakes. No project is perfect, and budgets can’t be stretched to infinity. However, a team is only as strong as its leader, the visionary. As the leader of Edition Studios, I aspire to be someone my team enjoys working with while leading a company that offers the most creative value of any other agency out there.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company? What lessons or takeaways did you take out of that story?
Picture this: it’s one of our first couple years of our business, and we’re tasked with driving bookings for a luxury sailing charter company in the British Virgin Islands. We’re not just creating web content and doing SEO, oh no. We’re fully immersing ourselves in the brand by getting ready to embark on a five-day yacht trip. Talk about a dream gig!
But disaster strikes before we set sail. Hurricane Irma ravages the BVI, causing billions of dollars in damage and leaving us unsure of the fate of our client’s boat. As it turns out, the yacht drifted out and was lost at sea and our services were no longer needed. Thankfully, the boat was not occupied and no one was harmed.
Yet, amidst the chaos and devastation, a silver lining emerges. We formed a lasting bond with the boat’s crew and owner, who has since become a dear friend and business partner. It’s a reminder that even in the face of tragedy, connections and relationships can endure.
The lesson we learned. Always seize opportunities to connect with clients on a deeper level, even if it means embarking on a wild adventure. And never take a single moment for granted, because you never know where it might lead you.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We have 5 rules we live by at Edition:
1. Reduce friction wherever possible.
2. Streamline and increase efficiencies.
3. No bullshit
4. Be nice, we’re all human.
5. Don’t just check the boxes.
Are these items that make our business stand out? Maybe not, but we’re a hungry, nimble team of creatives who desire to push the boundaries of traditional design and marketing. We don’t just create beautiful and effective campaigns, we’re in the business of making business owners money and turning CMOs into office celebrities. But that’s not all — we believe in having fun while we do it. We’re a team that loves what we do and we pour our passion and love into every project we take on. And that’s what sets us apart and makes us stand out from the rest.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Yes, and too many to count! I think owning a business can be one of the loneliest jobs on the planet. Without my closest friends and family, I don’t know how I would have gotten even half as far as I have! Running a business will have many ups and downs. It’s extremely important to have people in your life that you can trust when things go south. That being said, I’m extremely grateful to have the support of all of these people over the years to help provide reassurance and support. It’s also important to surround yourself by happy, optimistic people. One business hack I’ve found to be helpful over the years is manifesting ideas amongst your closest friends. Even if they aren’t great ideas yet, your friends will let you know if it’s a good idea or not. If you have really good friends, they’ll also help you stay accountable to work hard and achieve your goals. I’ve found this to be one of the most beneficial aspects to my success.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We don’t just work on exciting projects; we live for them. One project in particular has taken our company to the next level was when in 2017, Todd Chaffee, a renowned venture capitalist from LA, approached us to collaborate on an unprecedented luxury tequila brand. Despite being new to the spirit industry, Todd could see our unmatched enthusiasm and knew we were the ones for the job. And let me tell you, we were! We hit the ground running and have been involved in every aspect of the brand, from strategy, brand identity, bottle design, packaging, web, social photography and more. The result? Cierto Tequila: the ultra-premium tequila is the most awarded on the planet, with over 600+ international accolades.
This project has been years in the making, but it’s been worth every single moment (including many nights and weekends working around the clock). We’ve pushed the boundaries of our skillset and unlocked limitless possibilities along the way. As an ad agency, we’re constantly challenged to balance commercial work with projects that ignite our passions. But with Cierto Tequila, we’ve found the perfect synergy between business and creativity. And the best part? Not only did we gain an exceptional client, but we also made an amazing friend. Working on projects like this is what motivates us to be world-changers, innovative thinkers, and leaders in our field.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
What a fantastic question! While achieving success can be fulfilling, it often comes at a cost. Throughout my life, I have actively participated in non-profit organizations. My initial board membership was with the Carson Glore Foundation, a non-profit that constructs educational infrastructure in Africa. In 2013, I had the honor of visiting Nairobi where we inaugurated a school and identified a site for a future educational facility. In 2018, I became a member of Smile Network International, an organization that offers life-changing cleft surgeries worldwide. Contributing my time and effort to these non-profits has been a gratifying experience.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
The motivational influencer, Zack Pogrob, once said “Surround yourself with relentless humans. People who plan in decades but live in moments. Train like savages but create like artists. Obsess in work, relax in life. People who know this is finite and choose to play infinite games. Find people scaling mountains. Climb together.”
This really resonates with me on many levels. So many people have goals and aspirations and overly focus on every little step to get there. Focus on your top priorities and spend time with people who inspire you and motivate you to push even further. Ever since I can remember I’ve watched and learned from several individuals — how they operate through work, life, and everything in between.
Another great quote, this one by Tom Stevenson, “We can work harder or longer to earn more money. We can go to the supermarket to get more groceries. We can buy the latest and greatest gadgets. But no matter how hard we try, we’re stuck with an ever-diminishing amount of time.”
This also hits home. Be careful where you spend your time. Know where your strengths are and definitely know where your weaknesses are. Time is the most valuable currency in the world. I find it extremely liberating to prioritize 50% of my time on work, 25% of my life on my closest friends and family, and 25% of my life on me. If I can delegate housework, grocery runs, errands, bookkeeping, and laundry — I can spend more time on areas that will bring me further. No one ever obtained their dream by mowing their grass or doing laundry. Delegate.
Can you share 5 of the most difficult and most rewarding parts of being a “TwentySomething founder”. Please share an example or story for each.
1. In the world of business, even the best-laid plans can fall apart, and unfortunately, sometimes that means legal action is necessary. No matter how detailed your Scope of Work is, I’ve learned that even the most ambitious entrepreneurs can face financial challenges that impact their ability to fulfill contractual obligations. It’s never easy to deal with clients who refuse to pay, but it’s an unfortunate reality of the industry. That’s why it’s essential to have legal counsel readily available so we can focus on what we do best: delivering exceptional results for our clients.
2. Collaborating with friends can be an absolute blast, but it’s also a lot of effort — though the rewards are more than worth it if you can strike a harmonious balance. I am fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work alongside my closest confidant, Michael Caswell, for well over 5 years now. Michael initially joined the team as a part-time consultant and has since ascended to the role of Agency Director. I am elated to have a partner-in-crime by my side to spend 365 days a year with!
3. Thinking back to my twenties — the main aspects I remember are networking, endless coffees with people I admired or wanted to meet, and assessing what the next move is. Don’t overthink it. Your twenties are about saying yes. Your thirties are about saying no. When you find what works, and it doesn’t feel like work, you’ve won.
4. Making sacrifices is essential for achieving success. I have vivid memories of missing my friend’s birthday dinner several times because of work obligations. One of our biggest clients requested me to lead a photoshoot in Cabo during Thanksgiving. I didn’t have a traditional turkey dinner that year, that’s for sure. I even had my laptop open on Christmas Eve that year. It’s amusing that people boast about working 24/7 and always hustling on social media. Watch out for those people, impersonating hard work. Real hustlers do not show off their hard work. Bragging about it may feel good at the moment, but it diverts your attention from the bigger picture. Success is not just about feeling good today; it’s about making sacrifices and setting yourself up for a better future.
5. And finally, one of the most rewarding parts about being a business owner in your twenties is the unlimited PTO! Identifying a hobby or passion that helps motivate you is extremely important — at least in my opinion. I think I realized that the more unique experiences, cultures, and people I surrounded myself with, the more ideas I had when it came to working. For example — we help companies’ re-brand. New name, design, packaging, web, etc. During one trip to Paris and London, I started noticing how branding was much more bespoke and original. Retail, bars, and restaurants all had identities that embodied their culture and heritage — everything had a completely different flair to it. One of our entire mood boards for creative direction for a rebrand came from photos I took of stores in Paris. I honestly can’t remember what client it was, but I’ll always remember walking around a city across the globe taking note for client ideas. All that to be said, travel and experiencing new things all can greatly impact your company. Dedicate time to get out of the office (or your home) as much as possible and experience cultures that help inspire your way of thinking.
What are the main takeaways that you would advise a twenty-year-old who is looking to found a business?
Since I was a young child, I always envisioned myself owning multiple businesses. My first venture was reselling items on eBay in 5th grade. Looking back, I wish I had a photo of biking boxes to the post office! During my senior year of high school, I started a denim brand that sold designer jeans. In college, I established a photography business and then gained experience working for various individuals. After years of working for others, I took a risk and acquired the advertising agency where I presently own and work. During the pandemic, a friend and I started a CBD brand, which we sold to a THC brand in Beverly Hills two years later. Recently, I seized an opportunity to invest in a luxury tequila brand, which we helped establish with a venture capitalist out of LA. Reflecting back two years, I never imagined being able to invest a substantial amount of money for a long-term return.
All that to say is invest in your future. Take a risk now for a big win later. Your life right now is a result of what you did a year ago. Your life a year from now will be a result of what you do right now. Act accordingly.
If you know the destination, don’t overthink the path.
You can either admire successful people or you can let jealousy get to you. Often times we wonder how it came so easily for others — it never comes easy. The more effortless it looks, the more effort it took.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Ok, this is a fun question. Dozens of individuals ran through my head, but the most recent human that I admire is Captain Sandy Yawn from Below Deck on Bravo. If you’ve ever seen an episode featuring Captain Sandy, its undeniable that her leadership and coaching is unmatched in the industry. As a woman captain in an industry dominated by men, she’s undoubtedly gotten knocked down hundreds of times. Yet, she’s made it to the top. And after dozens of years working towards her dream job, she’s somehow still in love with the job she’s worked so hard for. From watching endless episodes of Below Deck, Captain Sandy has taught me many things about leading a team of smart individuals. One of her most recent quotes, “So many people are on autopilot in their lives, repeating the same behavior and getting the same results yet expecting different outcomes”.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Edition Studios: www.instagram.com/edition.studios
Jordan Obinger: www.instagram.com/jordanobinger
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
About the Interviewer: Douglas E. Noll, JD, MA was born nearly blind, crippled with club feet, partially deaf, and left-handed. He overcame all of these obstacles to become a successful civil trial lawyer. In 2000, he abandoned his law practice to become a peacemaker. His calling is to serve humanity, and he executes his calling at many levels. He is an award-winning author, teacher, and trainer. He is a highly experienced mediator. Doug’s work carries him from international work to helping people resolve deep interpersonal and ideological conflicts. Doug teaches his innovative de-escalation skill that calms any angry person in 90 seconds or less. With Laurel Kaufer, Doug founded Prison of Peace in 2009. The Prison of Peace project trains life and long terms incarcerated people to be powerful peacemakers and mediators. He has been deeply moved by inmates who have learned and applied deep, empathic listening skills, leadership skills, and problem-solving skills to reduce violence in their prison communities. Their dedication to learning, improving, and serving their communities motivates him to expand the principles of Prison of Peace so that every human wanting to learn the skills of peace may do so. Doug’s awards include California Lawyer Magazine Lawyer of the Year, Best Lawyers in America Lawyer of the Year, Purpose Prize Fellow, International Academy of Mediators Syd Leezak Award of Excellence, National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals Neutral of the Year. His four books have won several awards and commendations. Doug’s podcast, Listen With Leaders, is now accepting guests. Click on this link to learn more and apply.