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Meet Jen Derks of Four Fin Creative

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jen Derks.

Jen, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve always loved art and design, one of those rare people who knew what they wanted to do when heading to college. What I didn’t know is that I would also love running a company just as much. I actually dropped my business minor in college. Instead, I focused on joining Ad Club where we could compete nationally on creativity and execution of a campaign.

After my years at the University of Oregon, I started my career in Alaska, gaining a lot of experience quickly. When I moved to San Diego in 2011, I decided not to get a job. I starting freelance designing because I loved the direct connection to the owner or key decision makers. The efficiency! The freedom! I was able to do good work, without any lost translation.

I worked for 5 years that way, designing for amazing clients, and giving birth to two amazing children. When my second child was one, I was ready for more. I rebranded my design practice from Jen Derks Design to Four Fin Creative, incorporating to an LLC in early 2016. It’s been a wild ride since then, adding the best team members ever, expanding the office space, and creating new services based on the principles that got me started. The future is even more thrilling.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
When you make a decision to challenge yourself, guess what? There are challenges. So, when I’m in the middle of those challenges, I say to myself, “great! you did what you set out to do! Now, what are we learning.”

The struggles we’ve had are the struggles all design firms have: scope creep, cash flow issues, misaligned expectations, finding good talent, and a host of others. We’ve grown a lot, so while some of those are better managed, there will always be a new challenge to learn from.

Personally, I’m a people pleaser, so I have had to find better boundaries, which isn’t always easy. There’s a balance between taking care of our clients and watching out for the team and myself, deciding where our energy is best spent. Saying no comes easier now.

Please tell us about Four Fin Creative.
At Four Fin we focus on branding, specifically setting strong brand foundations. If you don’t know who you are then how can you tell other people? How can you get your ideal followers to rally around your business and support you? Knowing the key principles of your brand will shape the conversation that you want your brand to have. Only then does it make sense to design a visual identity for your brand (think logo, fonts, colors, supplemental graphics) to support it. Once that foundation of strategy and design is set, you can put out branded content and marketing.

So, we focus on that foundation with most of our clients. This year, we found ourselves creating our own offering in the space, called Brand Camp. At Brand Camp, clients are involved in the creative process and review very real time as the brand comes together. We do this quickly, in two weeks to be exact.

Our Brand Camp clients can then sign up to continue with us and build over time on what was started through ongoing design and marketing efforts. Maybe it’s a website, or a professional photo shoot, a print campaign, brochure, or trade show booth. Our clients range in the industry, so we serve all types of needs, from wrapping graphics on an ice cream truck, to advertising in specific industry trade publications.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
There are a lot of good ones. I was very fortunate to have some of the world’s best parents, who prioritized fun, escaping together as a family, and living life to the fullest.

It was a busy and active childhood with lots of adventures and extreme sports. However, two specific memories would be catching my first face wave surfing and laughing so hard with my mom that my brother and dad just stared at us until we stop, shaking their heads.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Heartwork Hill

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