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Behind the Business

In our Behind the Business series, we interview entrepreneurs from all over the world. From copywriting freelancers to the founder of the new Facebook, we’ll talk to them all.

In this week’s article, we will be interacting with James Calcinai, founder and owner of Studio Calcinai. James is originally from New Zealand but is now based in Utrecht in the Netherlands. He works as a Digital Marketing Design Specialist for his company, Studio Calcinai. His company provides design services for sales funnels, landing pages, emails and social media. Fun fact: James is also the brain behind the design of Enter Network’s logo.

A Background of James’ Journey

Hey James! As a start could you tell us a little about yourself and your journey?

Hello! I am James Calcinai. I am from New Zealand originally but now I call Utrecht my home. I was born in New Wellington, New Zealand and ever since my childhood I have travelled around quite a bit. Growing up around temporary places, I guess I am used to transposing and transplanting myself in different situations. Currently, I am making a new life for myself, my wife and our two kids in the Netherlands.

That sounds exciting! How did you roll into the realm of graphic design?

Well, I was always creative. Growing up, I was involved with theatre and music quite a lot and wanted to make a career out of it. I ended up getting part-time jobs to support myself as an actor and performer. However, I got stuck doing other jobs and couldn’t meet my creative needs. I soon realized I probably wasn’t going to spend rest of my life acting but I still needed a creative outlet. With all the confusion, I gave myself time to decide what I wanted to do with my lifestyle and eventually went back to study graphic design.

I didn’t have much of a concept of graphic design but I always got excited thinking about it and realized this was something I actually wanted to pursue. Soon, I went back to study and came out as a graphic designer on the other side.

I worked with a corporate firm for over seven years as a graphic designer. This gave me a chance to grow in a non-threatening environment and time to learn my craft. But I guess I couldn’t be creative when I wasn’t pushing my boundaries. I finally decided to step out and find my own path and that’s how Studio Calcinai happened.


Headshot of James Calcinai

The Business model of Studio Calcinai

That was indeed something. Right now, what do you currently work on with your company?

With everything going on in the world right now surrounding the Coronavirus, I got an opportunity to think about what I want to do and how I should work on my business model. I believe in working with small and medium-sized businesses and helping them find their voice from a brand’s perspective. That again involves working in different types of ways according to a brand’s needs. Sometimes I work with social media or sometimes with brand design and other times I work on pitch documents. I have also made videos of logo animations. So yeah, with my broad skillset, I try to work with businesses ­- small businesses especially, and provide them with the design solutions they need.

Interesting. Is there a specific milestone that you’re proud of, in your journey as an entrepreneur?

Sometimes, I suffer because of my perfectionist attitude and tend not to look back at my successes as much as I should. Getting a chance like this is a good opportunity for me to reflect on what worked well for me. Off the top of my head, I guess I am proud of the fact that I am still on this journey.  I am trying to constantly learn and stay on top of the current trends and not just that; I am trying to learn about my costumers and how I can help in communicating their story. Overall, I am happy that I am understanding the complexity of businesses and working the best I can to help them find and tell their story.

Studio Calcinai logo

Life Lessons Learnt Along the Way

Have you ever had a moment of revelation where you thought that up until that point you did everything wrong but from then on, you knew just the right thing to do?

I don’t know if I can say that there’s one bigger moment. There have been little moments when I really understood that my business is a business. I think the ‘aha moment’ for me was seeing things from a broader context. I didn’t think of myself initially as an entrepreneur but only as a designer.  Now I understand that I need to treat my own business in the same way as I look at other people’s businesses too.

That sounds great. But I’m sure you’ve also had moments in which you weren’t sure whether you were doing the right thing — or when you made certain mistakes?

Yeah, certainly. Perhaps an interesting example is when I was doing a video filming, interviewing, and editing job. I received a job offer and went out to interview the person. I looked and followed what I believed to be the brief. The interview went well enough for what I was expecting but once I was back home, I discovered I couldn’t find the sound files. So, I panicked! Quickly I rang up the guy who I was interviewing and convinced him to do the interview with me again, at his house. We redid the entire interview and it was honestly quite a bit of work. It was also a different context, but I was happy that I got the interview done.

After sending it to the client, they said: “No, this is not what we asked you to do. Can you go back and ask him to do it again?”. Actually, I hadn’t told them that I stuffed up the audio the first time around, so when I called him to do it again, he said: “Sorry man, I’ve done it already twice”. So it was really my fault that I didn’t read the brief properly the first time, plus panicking after making the audio mistake.

Funnily enough, I found out later that I did actually have the original files with me!

Great story, I’m sure you learned a lot from it! How about any advice that you could give to aspiring entrepreneurs? Something you would tell your younger self?

Sure, I think I would advise people to understand what it is that they offer. You should get back to the fundamentals of you as a business. Why are you operating and what’s your purpose? We also need to make sure that our purpose matches people’s needs. Assuring yourself that your offerings are actually solving a problem. If you don’t offer a service that people need you for, then you won’t get too far. You should always know what you’re offering, and what’s your business model.

The other thing that I would recommend is networking. Make sure you have a good network because there are so many people that are in a similar boat. They can offer good advice and can also be your sounding boards. They can be your clients in the future and even just friends as well. It’s about connecting with other people.

Great! For the last question, where can people easily get in touch with you if they want to get more advice or talk to you about your services?

Sure, I’m always available. You can find me on LinkedIn here, and you can also reach me on the Studio Calcinai website.

Thanks so much, James for sharing your entrepreneurial journey with us. If you want to read more articles like these, check out our blog!

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