Have you ever wondered how you could develop community culture within your business? In this episode, Camille welcomes Jaci Badzin, the founder of The Badzin Group, which aims to turn ideas into programs and experiences that harness the power of creativity to create change.
Jaci shares her journey starting in the performing arts to now working with different companies and brands to develop experiences and events and build community development. She shares her best practices and tools for women to use when starting new businesses, integrating the creative and the business mind, and building a network of connections.
If you’re interested in learning how to build your business and achieve the culture that you want, tune into this episode to hear Jaci’s advice on how you can build a culture and experience for your business to thrive.
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JACI BADZIN [0:00]
Truthfully, I’m most creative after I’ve had my coffee, but still, that’s super important. So, it’s waking up a little bit earlier and late night is my time to send emails and get things done, make my lists. I’m a big list maker, big advocate of making lists. And then, the third is building your network and making sure that you’re taking time to meet new people and grow it and foster the relationships that you have.
CAMILLE WALKER [0:30]
So, you want to make an impact. You’re thinking about starting a business sharing your voice? How do women do it that handle motherhood, family, and still chase after those dreams? We’ll listen each week as we dive into the stories of women who know. This is Call Me CEO.
Welcome back everyone to another episode of Call Me CEO. This is Camille Walker, your host. And today, we are talking with Jaci Badzin, who is an incredible innovator who started in the arts, but is now helping to develop community culture within a business. And I’m talking big brands here. She’s worked with Nike, Google.
She helps people understand how to make lateral moves that are beneficial and also how to unlearn scenarios that help you improve your business. Today, we’re going to be focusing specifically on what you can do when starting a business to create culture successfully and also create time for yourself as a business owner. Thank you so much for being here, Jackie.
Thank you so much, Camille. It’s wonderful to be here.
Yeah. We were just talking before the show started that you are a New York native or you have been there for years, but now you are on to new things. Tell us about where you are right now, where you’re living, and how you got to be doing what you are doing.
Yes. So, I have been in New York about 15, 16 years up until the pandemic. And like many people, made the leap. And it’s a leap that’s been a long time coming as I was starting my own business. And I’m now living something that I’ve always wanted to live, but it’s a twist on the bicoastal life.
I actually spend my summers in Minnesota where I am right now and spend my winters in Miami. So, I have the best of both worlds. I can work wherever I want and have great communities in both. So, I’m doing that as I’m working, as I’m building my company and doing different events and experiences. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time and I’m really excited to be able to have this free and flexible lifestyle that’s also very robust and exciting.
So, as you mentioned, it’s been an interesting journey and it's unique. I think it’s a pretty unique journey. It’s not something that’s lateral, which is something that I also talk about when I talk about how to unlearn things. I don’t necessarily believe in that lateral life process.
So, I started in the arts as a performer, dancer, choreographer, multidisciplinary producer and went on to get my master’s degree after doing quite a few years of performing and producing my own work and got a master’s degree at The Art Institute of Chicago focusing on arts administration, but really with this emphasis on this convergence of high art and entertainment and how we’re going to be experiencing new definitions of cultural citizenship and how will people engage with arts and entertainment through what’s now known as the experience economy. So, this was back in 2005.
And the work that I have been doing, basically it’s been really interesting and fascinating to watch it grow as this work that I’ve been doing for almost 20 years now has been focused really on these creative experiences. So, the work that I did as an artist was pretty non-traditional. I would go into clubs and perform. I would go and take different dancers and musicians and things that you wouldn’t find in a museum and I would put them in a museum. We performed at the Open Center for The Arts when I went to grad school. I really wanted to focus on this kind of convergence and I did.
And my first step out of grad school was working on film festivals and fashion shows. That’s where this kind of converge was first happening. Now, you see things where you’ll have the Museum of Ice Cream and you’ll have the Museum of Pizza and all these different Instagramable museums, but back then, there was this very separation between the two. So, I’ve been really fortunate to be able to grow these ideas of creativity and experiences from the arts into graduate school into agency and freelance work and then into big brands, most notably at Nike and at Google.
And at Google, I actually did the first Upfront, which is now called NewFronts for YouTube. And it was really fascinating to put on this huge production under the guise of a huge brand, but still, it’s really thinking about everything of the attendee experience, the speaker experience. What are people going to get out of this? How do you bring this all together and make it this really creative explosive moment?
So, after doing that for quite many years, I really wanted to branch out and start my own work. And I’ve always, side note, had a big passion for food and beverage. I love food. I think it’s one of my love languages and when I was at Google was lucky enough to collaborate with someone to build something called the Chefs Google Talks program.
So, Google has a Talks program, T-A-L-K-S. It’s a program. They bring in different speakers, if it’s authors or musicians and we built up this program bringing in chefs in different hospitalitarians. And through that and through this again live engagement, I started learning about how there was this disruption happening in hospitality. And this was back in 2011, 2012 and how technology was really taking over.
And I didn’t like that. I think there’s something really precious about hospitality and the guest experience that you have there. I think technology has a place there. I worked at Google. I believe in that, but I don’t think it’s something that should dominate people’s experiences.
And so, I collaborated with three other women to start a company called TechTable, which still focuses on innovation within the hospitality space. So, it was looking at what are the current processes and programs that are in place and how do you evolve that doesn’t completely destroy the ecosystem? And it’s been incredible.
Up until 2020, all of these ideas that we were talking about of things like thinking beyond brick-and-mortar and delivery and reservations and how is your restaurant a brand? Thinking about that and talking about it for years, we noticed within a very quick moment, all of the things we talked about happened. We thought it was going to be 10 years. It happened in 3 months.
So, it’s been also fascinating looking at the two worlds that I live in, one is hospitality, the other one is events experiences and employee culture. I guess there’s three. All in the time span of 3, 4 months completely just got flipped on its head. And this was as I was starting my own business.
So, it was an opportunity for me to recalibrate, really look at things that I have been wanting to do, things that I’ve been talking about doing and ideas such as do you have to be in an office? I worked in an office at IDEO, but before that, I hadn’t really worked in an office structure. I was working remotely since I think 2015, 2016. Looking at that, looking at what does it mean to have an event and an experience? How do you actually engage people? And then, looking at the hospitality and thinking about this technology and what is the guest experience now and how is technology going to play out?
So, it’s been a very interesting ride. A lot escalated from 2020. And I am now currently working with different companies and brands across the board on these three issues, working with companies to help develop experiences and events, large conferences, launch them, bring people together, community development. I’m also looking at culture and employee engagement and what does that look like now within this new world of hybrid work. And then, also continuing to have one foot in hospitality and thinking about looking at how that ecosystem is evolving through my work.
Wow, wow, wow. I’m just over here nodding my head. Some of you can’t see me if you’re not watching this on video, but that’s a lot. What I love about what you do is that I think when a lot of us think about corporate or people in New York City, it’s like your businesses and you have your entertainment and your food and how little those two come together.
And I love that as a creative and a business woman that you bring the two together because so much of what we do now, especially with social media and the way it’s affected businesses as a whole, it is the experience. It is integration. It is bringing in the creatives to supplement and also embrace the greater whole. So, I think that that’s incredible.
Yeah. So, today I’m curious about how you were able to use all of those tools that you have learned and now into your venture, what it is that you want to share with women that are starting new businesses and how to create integration of creativity and the business mind?
Because I think that that’s something where I always say for those who have heard the podcast before, always hire and be open to bringing people onto the team that are better at doing something than you are because everyone’s minds think different. We have different strengths and weaknesses. And with you, I think you have so many strengths. You have a business and creativity coming together.
Thank you. Let’s dive in.
You’re welcome. What would you say?
I think there’s so much that as people are starting off, the hurdles and the obstacles, and something that I’ve always been I think people call now multihyphenate, that’s changing these days. But I’ve also always done a couple different things.
So, I’ve always had some passion project on the side or a side business or two businesses. I don’t know if that stems from my work starting as an artist and always having to have some sort of supplemental income as anybody that’s been in the arts knows. So, I’ve always had to wear two different hats at least at any time.
So, I understand also how challenging it can be trying to start something when you’ve already got if it’s a full-time job, if it’s a full-time job and kids, if it’s a family and you’re running a household and you’re like, “I want to start this, how do you do it?” So, there’s a few different things, three things actually that I’ve picked up along my journey that’s been super helpful.
So, one is the idea of a 20% project, which is something that I picked up at Google. I feel like there’s been a lot of buzz about this lately. But the 20% project is essentially taking 20% of your time and dedicating it towards whatever it is that you want to start. If it’s a business, if it’s a passion project, if it’s writing, whatever it is, it’s dedicating 20% of your time. That doesn’t necessarily mean 20% of your waking hours just to be clear. It could be within the schedule of if I’ve got 5 hours a day, 20% of that. How do you find that time? And really start creating dedicate space and time to building what it is that you want.
The second thing to build on that is this idea of finding your rhythm. So, I’m not a believer in the “work life balance.” I think that idea of a balancing act, it’s a pie in the sky. And every once in a while, we can achieve it, but really, it’s about finding a rhythm and the rhythm changes. But a couple things how I like to divide it up, when you’re starting a business, to your point, you need to wear both hats of both creative and execution as I call it, getting things done.
So, I always start with find the time that you’re most creative. Is that earliest in the morning? Sometimes, for people, it’s late at night. Is it in the middle of the day? When are you at your most creative peak? And use that time to create, write, dream, mastermind, take a working session, whatever that is, dedicate that time. And then, take another 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, again, whatever the 20% looks like. The other 10% of that should be dedicated to getting things done. And so, if that’s sitting down at your laptop, that means you put on headphones and music and a timer for 30 minutes, just sit down and do it.
The third thing that I’m a biggest believer in as I build my business and I’ve been very fortunate that a lot of my work has all been in bound and that’s through my network. So, I’m a big believer in building your network. That is again coffee meetings. It’s dinners. It’s friend to friend. It’s reaching out to people and scheduling time, which I know for some people is a lot easier said than done.
But if you could make a list of 5 people that you have on your board, that you would want to have on your board, who would they be? Maybe 3 slots are filled for somebody that’s a family member, a close friend, and someone you work with. And you have 2 slots that you want to have people as your board that you have to reach out to and cultivate that.
So, I really am a huge believer in having a strong network, having a robust network and really finding the joy in it which is something else we can talk about later. But it’s something that it’s hard to build a business on your own. So, having that team in place and that support network and knowing who to go to for what within that board structure is super helpful.
So, those three things for me are things that I come back to over and over again even as I continue to build my business. It’s looking at this what am I trying to build now? How am I dedicating time for it? Put the 20% in place. What’s my rhythm? Making sure for me, I wake up, first thing in the morning, I’m most creative.
Truthfully, I’m most creative after I’ve had my coffee, but still, that’s super important. So, it’s waking up a little bit earlier and late night is my time to send email sand get things done, make my lists. I’m a big list maker, big advocate of making lists. And then, the third is building your network and making sure that you’re taking time to meet new people and grow it and foster the relationships that you have. So, those are three things.
I love it. I want to talk to you a little bit about that 20%. What do you think is the best way for someone to determine how much time that they have and how to best allocate that? Do you have tools that you put in place for keeping track of your notes, emails, time? Do you like to use Slack? What are you using to maximize that 20%?
So, I use Slack all the time and chat. Truthfully, I’m on WhatsApp. I have iMessage downloaded to my laptop so that when I’m there, I can focus mainly on my laptop and not go back and forth between my phone. I also have Slack. In this multichannel world, we’re always getting pinged, but I try to keep it one device at a time, which I think is really important. So, that’s something that I would recommend people do is try to keep everything to if you can one laptop or if it’s an iPad, whatever that is, when you’re working. Just giving a heads up, a little nerd alert, I have a color-coded spreadsheet I like to use.
I love it.
So, my color-coded spreadsheet is very much of a hit list of due today, due within the week, and then an ongoing running hit list. And I have it also color-coded within that of urgent needs now and less urgent. And in terms of determining your 20%, we were talking about this a little bit before of don’t calculate 20% of 24 hours.
If you are a mother and your kids are at school or at daycare or you have 4 hours of free time a day, it’s 20% of 4 hours. If you have a full-time job and you know that you have maybe 2 hours within the day, you have your mornings, you have your evenings, it’s about 6 hours. That’s 20% of those 6 hours. What does your weekends look like? Can you carve out an hour there? It’s really about finding those times and prioritizing.
I oftentimes use the analogy to plan your time like you would meal plan and if anybody here doesn’t meal plan, sorry, I am a big advocate for it. But taking time if it’s at Sunday, if it’s a Monday to sit and look at, okay, what do I have coming up this week? Where are the gaps? And actually scheduling it. So, I use obviously my calendar and I build in time for writing, for mastermind sessions, which is one-on-one with somebody else whether in my field or someone from my board, if you will. Again, I have a “board” of people that I go to and dividing it up that way as well.
I love that, okay. First question, did you build that spreadsheet in Google Docs? Is that where you’ve built it?
I am and always will be a Googler. And I did build it in Google Docs. I know Microsoft now has a lot of sharing tools, but I use Google Docs. I use Google Spreadsheets. I just find that it’s the best. It’s also easy to share that way too. You just ping people in. They can comment. It’s super easy. So, yes, I have it. 90% of my stuff is online. It’s on the cloud as we were just talking about a laptop incident. I’m also a big believer in that too of being able to work anywhere.
So, it was one of the things I was trying to attain is being able to have this flexibility in where I work both physically splitting my time, so between Minneapolis and Miami. And then, also just being able to access any of my documents and information. So, for me, that’s really important to have things in the cloud and always available.
Yeah. I love this idea about building your own board and I’m curious about you met a lot of people. You’re very much involved with a lot of different networks and you do work with the UN and you’ve done Google and YouTube and Nike.
What have been some of the best tools for you? Let’s say that there’s someone that you met at a distance or maybe someone you haven’t even met at real life at all but wanted to create them as part of a network or someone that you could have in your wheelhouse of connections. What are some of the best tools or ways that you’ve been able to do that in your career?
Yes. Oh gosh, there’s a lot. I’m going to bounce around a little bit because some of them are mindsets and some of them are tools. I think the biggest mindset is being proactive. So, if there’s someone that I met that I’m curious about, that’s another one we’ll get to, is to take initiative and reach out. So, it’s to be proactive and also with that comes being a little bit bold, which again can be a bit scary, but I think it’s really important that you don’t just wait for opportunities to come to you that you actually put your energy towards them if it’s something that you want and go into it.
Curious, I just said. Curiosity is huge on my list of traits to have and mindsets to have as you’re starting a business and networking. Make it easy for them. Especially now in the world of Zoom, a 20-minute Zoom call, Google, you could do 25-minute meetings, 55-minute meetings, so it doesn’t have to be that 30 or 60 minutes.
And two, craft a nice email. It’s funny. I’m an old-fashioned girl now of send an email. Sure, you could DM them and I would DM them as well. I’ve reached out to people on Instagram, but I find sometimes a very short crafted email is very easy and saying, “Let me know your availability.: If you don’t hear back from them, don’t take it personally and reach out again.
So, I always reach out to people three times. And it’s not back to back to back, but I will reach out once. I’ll put it in my calendar, a reminder to reach out to them if I haven’t heard from them in two weeks. I’ll get a ping to myself to reach out to them. I haven’t heard from them in another 10 days or so, maybe it’s three weeks. I’ll reach out to them a third time.
Another tool that I think is really important again is your own network. If there’s someone that you don’t know that you want to know look on LinkedIn, look on social media. Talk to people and see if there’s a way that you can get an introduction. So, it’s just not a “cold call.” Because I think also that warm introduction just makes things easier.
And I’m happy to do introductions. I oftentimes reach out to my network and say, “Hey, I’m really interested in talking with this person. Would you mind reaching out to them?” And a lot of times, they say, “No problem. Can you just send me an email with a little bit, a couple lines that you want them to know and what you want to talk to them about?” And they’ll send it over. So, those mindsets and tools are important.
That’s really good advice. I love the idea that it’s part mindset and part tools because if you string back and hold yourself back from those connections, the option is never going to be there. You never know until you put yourself in that place.
Exactly. And I think it’s really important to not take it personally. I’ve reached out to people. I’ve had them come back saying, “I’m really busy right now. Maybe we can get a coffee at some point.” And I’m like, wow, maybe. Ouch, okay. I’m like, next, move on. But they did respond and they’re someone I now have their email and there’s a correspondence and a chain. So, you just never know.
Yeah. I actually reached out to someone recently about being a guest on the show and I love that she said, “I am in a super busy season right now. It’s not a good fit. But please reach out at the beginning of the year of 2023 or in the fall or whatever it is.” Or even to just say, “It’s not a good time,” but to respond. I think that that’s so appreciated. Yeah, I’m curious about a time where you have made a connection. Do you have a story or a quick idea of a time that you have done that and it’s changed the trajectory of your career? Did you have any examples of that where you put ourself out there?
Let me see a quick one. This one is actually more bold and it actually involved what was called an adult summer camp. It was a weekend up near the Catskills and I went and I only knew one person. And I was very nervous. I’m an introvert extrovert, but I went and someone that was there actually works at the UN like a diplomatic role.
And meeting them and talking with them and cultivating a relationship and a friendship with them, both a friendship and also, he’s one of the people that I mastermind with as well. He has invited me to come into the UN and speak to the General Assembly about the work that I’m doing. So, I think if there’s one example I can give about putting yourself out there and that’s a big leap.
That was really putting myself out there and what could come from it, that’s one of the best examples. That’s how I got to work with the UN with the General Assembly. And now through that, I got connected with NewWork which is an organization inside of the UN that’s focusing on innovative ways to work together and getting a chance to work with them and really dig in to what they’re doing.
I love that. What a cool example. That’s perfect. You just pulled that out of your hat and that’s perfect. So, one last question for you, I know a big part of what you talk about or you’ll share a lot of times is this concept of unlearning and how that can hold you back. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?
Yes. So, I think that when you are starting out on your own, if you will, and you’re starting your own business, it’s really important to create again we’re touching back on the culture and experience and what not. Even if it’s just yourself, how do you want to work?
I was raised in a very you put your head down and get things done kind of mentality where hard work was huge in my family. It still is. And I believe in the value of hard work. I absolutely do. But there was after 20 years of grinding away as I call it because I really did. I hustled and I still believe in hustle, but hustle non-stop grind. Never not working. These ideas that you have to push and push and push, I was like is that really how I want to work? Is that how I want to live my life?
And a lot of times, I now joke that if I’m heads down in a big project, people will be like, “Come on. Let’s go.” And I’m like, “No, my boss is making me stay here today.” I’m like, “But she’s giving me the afternoon off tomorrow.” And it’s this juxtaposition of how do you want to work? How do you want to live your life? What kind of culture do you want your company even if it’s just you? What’s the culture that you want it to have? Is 24/7 working really something you want to be doing? Where is the joy? Where’s your inspiration?
For me, personally there is this idea of the feminine economy, which I love, which if you Google it, you can see a lot of different examples of it, but it really talks about more of a circular kind of workflow, less linear, more of listening to your intuition, taking the time to create, less about the quantitative metrics and more about the qualitative, so the feelings versus the productivity and finding that balance.
So, for me, a lot of things of having to reimagine and unlearn was this idea of the grind and nonstop working and if I don’t work, I won’t be successful. If I’m not working all of the time and really, what I pointed out before, but finding and allowing yourself to explore and be curious and build a business that feels right to you and the culture that feels right to you. So, those are a couple things.
Yeah. You’ve given us so many tools to work with and a lot to think about. I know that I have and I love the idea that even if it’s a company of just you, you can decide what that company culture is and how you perceive what being productive is. And I think there’s so much beauty in that feminine that we are cyclical beings, that we have rhythms within everything that we do and our bodies do too and so respecting that is beautiful.
Thank you. I think it’s helped me a lot and it’s helped me find a lot of joy in my life. So, I hope that it helps other people too.
Awesome. Thank you so much for coming to the show today. Please tell everyone where they can find you online.
Yes, thank you. My website, www.jacibadzin.com, I’m sure it’ll be typed. So, you can all read it, unique spellings. You can find me on Instagram as well @jacibadzin. It’s a small following. I keep it pretty mellow, but it’s a very interesting snapchat into where I travel and my food and my family and my life And then, also on LinkedIn, you can find me there as well.
Very cool. For those of you who are listening who have larger companies and you’re thinking about wanting to improve your company culture, that is something that Jackie can help you with. So, feel free to reach out and Jackie, thank you so much for being on the show today.
Thank you so much for having me.
Thank you so much for tuning into this episode. Please subscribe and leave a review. And any time you share this on social media, tag me @camillewalker.co or @callmeceopodcast because every time you tag and share, it helps this little podcast to grow and it absolutely means the world to me. If you think you would be a good fit for our show, you can go to www.camillewalker.co and reach out to me as a potential guest. I love sharing your stories, your innovations, your businesses and encouraging you every step along the way. Thank you so much for tuning in and see you next week.
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