Pixel Bakery Episode Transcript

Kyle00:00

If you haven't noticed the world is changing. Consumer and talent demands are evolving and businesses are being held accountable to a broader purpose. This is The Stream of Conscience Podcast, where we celebrate the businesses that are prioritizing purpose to achieve both financial returns and greater impact.

These stories highlight business as a force for good and good as a force for business.

Welcome back to our listeners. And thank you for choosing The Stream of Conscience Podcast. I'm Kyle Cartwright. And as always, I'm joined by my cohost Graham Pansing-Brooks. We are also co-founders of SEAchange, a social enterprise advising company located in the heart of America. We have a special episode planned for you today, and we would like to welcome our guest Jordan Lambrecht, director, and founder of Pixel Bakery Design Studio.

Jordan is here to tell us all about Pixel Bakery, which is a design studio focused on creating animations, web design, videography motion graphics, and more for businesses and non-profits, and even though pixel bakery doesn't sell edible sweet treats, their business model is well worth consumption. Um, Jordan, let's start out.

Why don't you just give us a little background on yourself and maybe what kind of brought Pixel Bakery.

Jordan01:27

For sure. Um, and you are correct. There's always a lot of confused secretaries about our name, uh, every once in a while we'll actually even get, uh, catering requests, which we'll, um, we'll go into a Shutterstock or something, find a watermark photo of a croissant and send it back to them.

But, uh, um, yeah. Uh, so Jordan Lambrecht, uh, you nail it, uh, director and founder of Pixel Bakery. Uh, we've been around for six years now, which is insane to me. Uh, me and, uh, two other people founded it back in 2015. Uh, it's one of those stories. I wish it was more glamorous, but, uh, it was December and, uh, we were all graduating college.

And as, as you know, the, the job market in Lincoln can sometimes be pretty bleak in December for recent graduates. So. We, uh, we're kind of like, we applied to like 20 jobs each of us and didn't hear anything back. And we were kind of like, well, we're going to do this for ourselves. Uh, I was having a conversation with my mom actually.

And, uh, I was floating the idea past her. She's very much like a she's an accountant. If that gives you any, she's a German accountant. If that gives you any frame of reference on her personality type. And so I was immediately expecting her to shoot me down, um, explain the idea to her. And she was like, Jordan, you know what?

You're broke. You're single. You don't have a job. You don't have kids. You have nothing but student loans, you're literally at rock bottom. You have nowhere to go, but up, go for it, buddy. Uh, so yeah, that was that it was born. Um, and, uh, it was the past six years. Uh we've we've learned a lot, I've an art degree.

Uh, they don't really teach you any of the business savviness about art degrees, uh, or a business in art school. But, um, Yeah, we started out terrible. Uh, and over the past six years, we we've continually failed and failed, but we've, um, failed less and less, uh, and grown more and more. Um, so now we're we're to the point where we know what we were doing and because we allowed ourselves that room to fail, uh, where we're pretty on lock.

Kyle03:37

What more can you ask for to fail less and less. I love that.

Jordan03:40

Right.

Graham03:42

So Jordan over, over those six years, obviously there's been a tremendous amount of growth and development that's occurred at pixel bakery. And, uh, you know, one of the things that we've talked about in the past is how one defines corporate purpose.

And I'm really interested to dive in a little bit into Pixel Bakery and your own perspective of a growing a business with purpose. Um, but also, you know, how is it that you're defining culture impact purpose within, within the organization.

Jordan04:14

Yeah. Uh, great question. So it's, there's always an inner struggle as a business owner, right?

Like, uh, I consider myself pretty socialist, I don't know if that's a frowned upon here, but, um, but I own a business which is, you know, and partner the capitalistic dogma to sound weird. But, uh, so there's always that struggle about finding purpose, uh, within my own identity and how I want to shape my company.

Um, Uh, really there's, there's no good answer to it. Uh, you have to segment yourself to some degree and, uh, the best you can do is trust your gut. Do what you think is right. And stay true to your personal values. Um, so I'm from an outside perspective, looking in that's how I've kind of handled that. I always tell my team, they can, they can always have their personal beliefs about anything.

I will never judge them and we don't even have to talk about it. Uh, but as a business, you know what, I have my beliefs and what's the point of running a business and if I can't have my business share some of those beliefs too, um, as far as the, as the inside workings of everything, uh, It comes down to one simple thing.

Uh, treat your people with respect and love them. Be kind to them, be kind to everybody. Um, I think that there's parallels between that right. Uh, corporate, you know, you think of corporation and you get this like Scrooge McDuck image in your head. That's like just treating his employees like a cog in the machine and we'll lay off thousands of people or whatever, uh, and sure that might work for IBM or Microsoft or whatever.

Uh, but, uh, we're not, we don't sell a product. Right. We don't have something tangible, uh, that we can put out into the world. We have. Uh, human capital. Uh, so I sell the brains of my employees and at that I sell the creative brains of my employees. Um, so it's, there's a symmetry between. I guess um treating your employees right.

For their own benefit, because it's the right thing to do and taking care of them, uh, because they, they look to you to put food on their table, but also that human capital, if you treat them right, you, you give them, uh, exceptional room to grow. Like we do a four day work week so they can recharge, uh, I'll pay them to.

It's basically experiment with anything they want to do, go learn, something, anything they want to do. And if you invest in your employees like that, the human capital aspect of it grows as well. We perform better as a company and we make more money as a company. And my employees are, are fulfilled in life.

They're fulfilled creatively and they're professionally developing.

Kyle06:55

That was beautiful. Yeah, no, and we, we are firm believers that you can have both a social, you know, commitment to social good or environmental good, or what have you, and, and also be a very viable and successful business. In fact, we kind of see that as just like you described where you're investing in your people and they're motivated, they're productive.

They're, they're fired up. Their work and they're excited to go to bat for their client or for, you know, for the product or whatever, you know, whatever the business may, may be, um, selling. So yeah, we are, we are absolutely on board with that. And I'm glad that you have found that, you know, we like to share these kinds of test cases.

So thanks for sharing that.

Jordan07:37

Yeah. Um, uh, I think one of the other sides of it is, uh, the, the cold hard truth. The reality of it is everybody will eventually leave your company, right? Like that's just, that's how it works. Um, and it's a good thing. Uh, because again, if you treat your employees right, they will go off into the world.

They will get cooler jobs because you set them up for success and there'll become a bastion of your company. Um, they'll for example, uh, we have a employee that went off to an Amazon. AWS. We have one that went to Hello, Fresh and a bunch of others. Uh, but you know, they carried the name, Pixel Bakery with them.

And a lot of the times, if you do that, they'll come back as a client.

Kyle08:17

Hmm ambassadors.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That, that

Graham08:20

the flywheel is so important of, um, you know, you're not necessarily doing these things because there's tangible benefits that come ultimately come back to you. But I think that that's certainly something that you see is, is as you further embed purpose into what you're doing, you know, that that flywheel starts spinning of.

Business as a force for good, but then also that good becoming a force for business and there's, there's no, there's no reason that those two aspects shouldn't be heavily prioritized together. Um, and, and Jordan, I want to dive in just a little bit more into what you were just talking about in terms of, uh, paying, uh, time off for employees on Friday, uh, to be able to explore and do things that they're interested in.

Can you give us a little bit more detail on that and maybe some examples of what types of projects team members are have been, uh, uh,

Jordan09:13

diving in. Yeah, for sure. Um, so it's kind of, it's in the experimental phase. Uh, it's getting to the point where I can officially put the stamp of hypothesis hypothesis proven on it.

Uh, but jury's still a little out, take it with a grain of salt, but essentially after, after COVID, um, And we got back into the office. Uh, we decided to switch to a four day work week, um, and on Fridays, employees can either choose to not come into work at all. They can work from home. Uh, we give them the option to work from home regardless, um, or they can, uh, work on a passion project.

Um, so. One good example is, uh, I have a couple of videographers and cinematographers that are going out into the community and they're collecting the stories of, uh, black owned business owners. Uh, so we can highlight that. Uh, my personal one is I want to eventually, if I, if I have time and I finished our new website update, uh, I'd like to go around and.

Just document all of the art in Lincoln, uh, and build kind of an interactive map website where the general population can do that, um, my animators, you know, uh, animators are always, you know, a little bit more introverted and they want to stick to their craft and not go out and interface with the community.

And I respect that. Uh, so a lot of them will, they'll take time to just learn a new skill, right. Um, Like, uh, my, one of my animator, my animation lead the other day spent four hours messing around with how to individually morph shapes. And he created this cool little Kirby graphic of Kirby, flying an umbrella and it looked 3D, but it wasn't, and that's a new skill that he has

Kyle10:58

one of my favorite games.

Jordan10:59

Yeah. That's a good one. So yeah, he has that skill that he didn't have before and he loved doing it. He's passionate about it. He feels cool for making it. Uh, and then on the flip side, uh, I know have an animator that can make a faux 3D look and manipulate shapes like that. Uh, and he got better at his craft overall and he can work faster the next time, something like that comes up in a client project.

So again, going back to what you said, uh, Graham is it's mutually.

Graham11:29

Yeah, I love that. And it gives again, it's, it's rejuvenating, it's inspiring. It allows for the creative outlet, it allows you to be able to, to challenge yourself and, and, and move towards those passion projects. Cause how many times in life do we all wish we had an extra couple hours in the day to get things done and what a gift to be able to provide to team members to say here's that extra time?

Uh,

Jordan11:56

I, uh, I adjunct at the university on the side. I always teach a design slash animation class every semester. Um, and, uh, a lot of the projects that they do throughout their college career is it's very, you know, checklisted, you got to follow the rubric, you got to go through these projects on a syllabus.

Um, and I try to open it up for interpretation to them. Uh, first day of class, when I walk in and I'm like, look guys, here's, here's the rub enjoy college. Once you get into the workforce, chances are, you're not going to get to do things for yourself. As far as your craft goes, like you're going to be doing it for other people and for clients.

Uh, so enjoy your time now. Uh, and that's part of it. I'm trying to, I'm trying to break that.

Kyle12:41

Kind of in a similar vein of, I don't know, kind of highlighting your team and giving them space to do things you it's. It's interesting on your website, you have a livestream of your space as I checked it this morning.

I mean, it sounds like there's some reasons for, for why it's empty right now, but, uh, I'm, I'm curious, what's the kind of thought process behind, you know, that, that kind of a voyeuristic like, Hey, you know, check in on us, what's going on.

Jordan13:08

Yeah, I'm mostly it's so my parents can check in and make sure I'm okay.

Kyle13:13

Mom I'm working hard.

Jordan13:17

Um, I think there is, I'm an entertainer. Uh, that's at the core of what I am. I'm an entertainer. I like making other people happy. Yeah. Uh, so I always think that's a, that's a cool way of doing it. Um, but beyond that, uh, one of my fundamental beliefs is transparency and vulnerability.

Uh, and that's, uh, that's a small aspect, you know, it would be a hard stretch for me to say that there's like a huge link between that and the concept of being fully transparent, you know, but that is, that is a moving part of it, uh,

Kyle13:48

adds to the brand feeling. Absolutely. I got that right away too. So

Jordan13:52

yeah, unless the office is empty and then it doesn't, and

Kyle13:56

then you're transparent about not being at the office, which is, you know, you take that as it is.

Jordan14:01

Yep. And, uh, I think it also, I think there's also a wall between skill levels, right? Like, uh, again, when you graduate college, it's, you kind of put advertising agencies on a pedestal. Um, and you're like, oh my God, I'm nowhere near good enough for that. Um, creative. I could go on a rant about imposter syndrome and about how it's just drilled into an artist brain.

I'll save you that soapbox, but I think that's a really good way. It's kind of right. Um, that's a really good way. Kind of overcoming it, you know, like if somebody's going to go onto our website and see that we just have a really small studio and we have a tight-knit team and most of them are even twenties to early thirties.

Uh, and we all just are like doing it, you know, maybe that can help them gain a little bit of confidence.

Kyle14:48

Yeah. Breaking the mold a little bit I like that.

Um, I'm curious. So you know, a lot about your team, uh, and your, your commitment in these regards. I, I sense, and you've kind of alluded to the fact that it's really helped you retain great people, help develop them.

Um, are, are you hiring right now? And I mean, as you have been hiring in the past, have you found that this kind of ethos and your ability to talk to this has really helped you attract outstanding people that kind of get the right people on the bus.

Jordan15:22

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Uh, so we are not hiring right now.

Sorry, whoever's listening. Uh, we're fully staffed.

Kyle15:28

I was asking for myself, no I'm just kidding

I want Fridays off,

Jordan15:32

Right

Kyle15:33

Graham we need to talk

Jordan15:35

we'll start you off with an apprenticeship and see how it goes. So, yeah, we're not hiring right now. I'm really, really slow to hire. Uh, I think a lot of companies will, they'll, they'll just explode and they'll get carried away with the ideas of just being a huge business.

Right. Um, and that terrifies the shit out of me. Um, my biggest fear in the world is having 25 people on my team and not being able to have payroll. Right. I, I don't want to ever be put in that situation. Uh, so really, really slow down. Um, we're currently at 11 people and for now that's okay. Um, we take on 10 clients a year and we want to make sure the work that we're doing for those clients is at the highest possible quality.

And if we have runaway costs, runaway labor, runaway employees, that we're not training and having the, the time commitment to train them up, then quality of work, dips, uh, employee happiness dips, the amount of hours that I spend in bed staring at the ceiling worrying increases.

Graham16:41

That's never good.

Jordan16:43

Now what was the second half of your question again?

Kyle16:46

Oh, just the, the ability to attract really outstanding people who share the vision and, um, you know, you're getting the right people on the bus by, I don't know, emulating and, and just really. Giving voice and giving a vision to your purpose and to kind of, you know, this ethos you're talking.

Jordan17:07

Yeah, for sure.

Um, so we're really, really hardcore with hiring, but also we're really, really chill with hiring. It's kind of weird. For example, a, we call our internships apprenticeships, uh, because that's the time to grow and learn. Uh, again, I could go off on a tangent about never doing unpaid internships, but I'll save you that one too.

Um, then when we're hiring, you know, we don't require a college degree or anything like that. Um, I'm a firm believer that we can, we can teach you craft and we can teach you skill. I can teach anybody to do anything. The other day, my studio manager and assistant, I needed her to help like port some old blog posts over to our new website, which is like react JS, yada yada technical.

And she was like, sure, no problem. Show me how to do it. And an hour later she got, she got it. Um, so we go for that, right? We, we go for adaptability, passion people. Care about the same things as us and work ethic. The rest of the stuff I can teach. I don't care if they don't know how to work an app, when they come in.

Graham18:18

That's that's a wonderful way to approach it. You know, that looking at this, especially during the last two years, to be able to adapt and evolve, to be able to really lean into that vulnerability, to find ways to, to navigate, um, a set a ever increasingly uncertain world, um, those types of skills are, are invaluable.

And I'm sure that that's you also ultimately see the benefit of those types of individuals and people really working through, uh, the challenges and the roadblocks that are put in front of them. Um, but as you know, as you're looking towards this upcoming year, You know, w where, where do you see Pixel Bakery growing?

Where do you see your next steps leading you? Um, I know you're talking about growth and not necessarily, you know, wanting to get that 25 number, but, um, how, how do you balance it and where are you going to go? Uh, uh, moving forward in this year.

Jordan19:16

Yeah. Um, great question. We actually just did our end of year KPI servers with our employees.

So I'm fully equipped to do this. Um, I'd like to healthcare, number one, uh, we're too small to offer healthcare right now. It's not beneficial for our employees. Cost-wise, it's better to go through marketplace. Um, but I'd like us to get to that point. That's the one thing that I hate that we can't provide.

Um, so just from that aspect, um, beyond that, um, I would say. More national clients, uh, right now where we're talking to a couple of national organizations to work with, but I'd really like to block that. And, um, another thing that's important, uh, since COVID anyways, for me at the, at the top level, working with finances, um, that during COVID was hard, it was hard for everybody.

We, we thought we were goners, honestly, like I went three months, not taking a paycheck just to make sure that I didn't have to lay anybody off. So it was rough and have a little bit of trauma from that. Uh, so the, the new trajectory is we're trying to get some more passive income coming into the door or just retain our clients, uh, when can I cuss on here?.

Is that allowed or no? Okay, cool. When shit hits the fan, you know, Uh, our clients, the first thing that they're going to pull back on is, is their marketing and advertising spend. Um, so we're the first on the chopping block. Um, but if we can kind of diversify our revenues and make sure that we have other streams of income coming in, uh, we can shield ourselves from stuff like that.

Right. So that's, that's big on my agenda right now, uh, beyond that. Uh, so we just started working on our first TV show, which is awesome to me. Uh it's really, we just got the, the opening credits, like the opening title sequence done, and it like flash produced by Pixel Bakery on the screen. And then it was like executive producer, Jordan Lambrecht, and.

I was like, so cool. I'm so pumped about this. Um, so yeah. We're also, we're working on, uh, this other just short, uh, kind of music videos, ambient music videos for children to fall asleep to called Rocks Socks, put on YouTube TV. Um, so more so dabbling our toes into like this indie film kind of production art for the sake of art.

Looping it from being meta looping at way back around to that, that idea of you're only going to be designing for clients the rest of your life. That's so that's, that's a personal creative outlet for me to kind of explore, you know, making stuff, having full creative control over. So those are the big things.

Graham21:58

Watch out Meow Wolf,

Jordan22:00

right? I wish, um, actually one of my, um, interns, uh, slash apprentice, uh, she got a grant to go study under Meow Wolf over the summer. She spent like two months out in Las Vegas.

Kyle22:14

Wow.

Graham22:14

That's dope.

Alright. So also what we're hearing is like, we need to, when you have an opening and send it our way and, uh, uh, Kyle and I are more than happy to,

Jordan22:24

oh, I'll add you to the top of the list.

Kyle22:29

You know, Jordan, uh, with just, I think the last, maybe a couple of minutes before we capture, you know, how people can find you and stuff like that. Um, you know, on your website, it talks a lot about, uh, you know, the clients you really like to work with. Um, not, you know, there's some nonprofits, I wonder if you would be willing to talk about some of the clients or projects in particular that you feel like define your brand around again, this kind of commitment to people, transparency and a lot of what we're hearing from you today.

Jordan22:56

Man, I need to look at our client roster. Um, I'm always so bad at this on the spot. I know this was on the list and it was like, ah, I can rattle off clients. No problem. Um, but uh, I would say my favorite one is, uh SoulPancake um, they, I don't know for those who aren't familiar with. SoulPancake uh, they're now owned by Participant Media.

They did I even inconvenient truth. I might be wrong on that. Supersize Me. I might be wrong on that one too, but they've done. They do more social awareness documentaries. Um, I don't know if you've seen The Office, or not have you guys seen The Office

Kyle23:30

what's that about.

It's about an office,

Jordan23:35

but a Dwight Schrute on the office.

His name is Ray Molson in real life and heowns SoulPancake, uh, so

Kyle23:44

I knew I recognized , the name somewhere. Yeah.

Jordan23:48

Yeah. Um, I've only been on a conference call with him once it was for like 30 seconds. Um, but, uh, so we got the opportunity to work on. Two pieces that I really, really cared about. Uh, one was called America To Me, uh, which was about a black woman's equity journey in New York growing up and just highlighting some of those social injustices that she went through, um, talked about, or her and her parents being like the first time she realized she was black.

And, uh, it was when her and her parents got pulled over by the, by the cops for the first time. And it was a really, really bad experience or talking about how often, uh, people would commit a microaggression by walking up to her and telling her things like, oh, you speak so eloquently as if they didn't expect her to or touching, touching her hair without permission, you know, stuff like that. Um, then my other favorite projects we did for them, um, we, it was part of a docu series that they were working on. We came in and did the animated segments. Uh, and it was about, uh, this man that lives in, uh, the India region of the world. Um, and he essentially, he raids cobalt factories, uh, with like a many militia and he, he frees child slaves from out.

Yeah. It helps them recover and puts them in a better place. Uh, I'm going to help on that. Um, that one, yeah, that one I had to take breaks from. Um, yeah, I'd walk away. Yep. Uh, I definitely had to walk away and at the time I smoked, uh, so every, every scene I would finish up and I'd go outside and smoke a cigarette, like cry.

Um, yeah, the child advocacy center. That's another one of my favorites and I'm very, very glad to hear about them. Yeah. Yep. Yep. As far as local go. Um, that's another one I started getting teary-eyed every time. They, we, we work with them, you know, they'll, I'm getting teary-eyed now I'm just thinking about it.

Um, like they'll send us statistics, uh, and it's insane. Like there's, there's thousands of children that have been victims of such sexual or physical abuse that they'll, they'll help regain a voice. You know, that's, their motto is it's smallvoices.org and they give a voice back to the downtrodden children of Nebraska, which is really, really important to me.

Kyle26:20

Yeah, absolutely.

I find myself leaning forward as you're sharing these experiences. So yeah, I can tell you're very passionate about them and I'm feeling that passion. Um, so Jordan, we're really grateful for the time you spent with us today. Uh, if folks want to find you or learn more about Pixel Bakery, where do they go?.

Jordan26:38

Great.

Yeah. Go to the website. pixelbakery.com.

Kyle26:41

Right now.

Graham26:43

There it is. Well, Jordan, thanks so much again, we really appreciate you taking the time to connect and talk with us, so

Jordan26:50

appreciate it. Yeah. Thank you. Honored to be here and honored that you chose me.

Kyle26:56

Thanks for listening to The Stream of Conscience Podcast. Please subscribe to our feed, share your favorite episodes with a friend. And of course don't hesitate to reach out to us at SEAchange. The company that brings you The Stream of Conscience Podcast. You can find us online at www.seachangeltd.com that's S E A change L T D .com.

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