JinJa Birkenbeuel, CEO of Birk Creative, a brand agency, designs visual identities and multichannel strategies to scale brands and assist with their adaptability with the market. With over 20 years of experience, Birkenbeuel and her team work with established brands including Tesla and Google.
Birkenbeuel played an intricate role in establishing Google Digital Coaches as a part of a larger Google initiative called Accelerate With Google. The Digital Coaches program was designed to provide equal opportunity for all business owners and entrepreneurs to thrive online. Since launching in 2017, the program now has nine coaches across the nation. Birkenbeuel traveled around the country asking small businesses and entrepreneurs what they’re experiencing in business, where they need help and trying to figure out what problems they faced on a day-to-day basis. Through her research, she was able to show Google where they best could provide resources.
At the end of 2016, Birkenbeuel became a digital coach. “That was a big deal for me,” she explains. “But, it was also scary. I thought, ‘okay, if I become a coach, that actually becomes a job. How am I going to make it? How am I going to manage my other clients? What am I going to do?’ When you take on something like this, you have to basically say to yourself, ‘I’m going to have to Google size my results, which means I’m going have to Google size myself and Google size my process to get to the results.’” Three years later, Birkenbeuel is still helping small businesses and entrepreneurs scale their companies through the Google Digital Coaches platform.
Before Birkenbeuel became an entrepreneur, she worked in the corporate world as a senior level designer brand strategist. She worked on developing brand messaging, brand strategy, understanding how the company could communicate their products and services effectively to the customers they were trying to reach. She credits Accenture for establishing her professional career and learning how a corporation operated. “That was a tremendous experience working in a real tight, corporate controlling environment where you really had to align yourself with a brand,” she comments. “You have to understand what their supply chain is, their pipeline and how they make their money. It was a tremendously powerful training ground for me.”
As she advanced in her career, she realized that she wasn’t able to reach the end client; she had to work through the middleman to deliver services. After working for a couple other companies, she realized that her work wasn’t fulfilling; she wanted to work in a position where she brought her best ideas from ideation to execution. During this period of time, Birkenbeuel and her husband had a band and began creating music together.
Parallel to starting her firm, she also launched a record label with her husband. “We put a record out,” she explains, “Amazon pretty much had just started. It was around 1997. They launched a new platform on Amazon that allowed independent musicians to put their records on Amazon and sell online. It was a pilot. We were part of the first pilot and they featured us in the top 10 Americana albums of 1998.” Although she and her husband still create music, Birkenbeuel focuses on expanding her 20-year-old company by helping mid-market companies launch their brands.
As Birkenbeuel transitioned from the corporate world to starting her firm, she focused on these essential steps:
- Address any fear you may have about the pivot before actually transitioning. Once you start to pivot and you haven’t addressed your fear, it will paralyze you from moving forward.
- Ask for what you want. People don’t know how to help you if they don’t know what you need or where you want to go in your career.
- Involve the people in your life who the pivot will affect in your decision to transition. Make sure it’s the best decision for all stakeholders.
“I never really thought of myself as a minority-owned agency,” Birkenbeuel concludes, “which I know sounds really strange. I always saw myself as a creative brand strategy agency.”