Small Business Champion Interview
By Kirsten Blake, Chapter Be
"You have to live into the answers and they will appear. If you seek out the answer then you find someone else's answer, apply it to your thing and it doesn't work for you."
Jennah Synnestvedt only took one art class in high school before applying and being accepted to Pratt Institute. She packed her bags, moved to New York City and earned a degree in Communications Design with a major in graphic design. Jennah stayed in New York after graduating and decided to focus on being a freelancer – so her experiences have always included working for herself. She was doing typical graphic design work, as well as book and magazine design, but was also trying to be very conscious about not working for companies that might be harming the planet.
She wanted to work on projects and campaigns that reached masses of people, but were also helping the planet. So, she was elated when she started working for an agency that was doing a national campaign for Burt's Bees. This was at the beginning of the green movement, and she felt as though her personal and professional ideals were aligned in this work. Then, in 2008, her sister became pregnant and was going to be a single mom. Jennah made the decision to move to Santa Fe for eight months to be with her sister and help her with the birth of her son.
Jennah took spiritual classes during this time, which helped her learn about her own intuition and energy. She had a major awakening, in that she realized that she could not fix what's wrong with the planet until she fixed herself first. Her time in Santa Fe taught her to approach things from a place of wholeness, and for a while she thought about exploring being a psychic reader. Ultimately, she made the decision to move back to her home state of Colorado, and that journey helped her realize that there was a space to help guide the soul back into business.
Currently a majority of Jennah's work is in website design, where she stresses the importance of visual branding – helping small businesses think about their logos, colors and images that capture people's attention and express the brand. She believes that it is the visual part of the brand that really resonates with others on an emotional level, which she then works into that business's website.
Another major part of Jennah's work includes Aspen Oracle Publishing, which publishes a few oracle decks: Tough Shit Tarot, SynchroniCITY Cards and Aspen Oracle Angel Cards. These card decks are for the individual to help them live their magic, and they also serve as a reminder to connect to your internal guidance and GPS. The oracle cards were a natural way to combine both her skill set in design and her interest in spirituality.
There is a lot that goes on internally when you start a business, and Jennah loves pointing people to their own power, truth and freedom. She approaches her work through collaboration instead of competition and lives by the mantra that you cannot get attached to one person, client or project. If you do, it just causes fear as you look to them as your source.
She warns to be careful about taking work just because you are afraid nothing else will come. Instead, she advises to take action from the place of trust. If you are too busy trying to force something, you could miss other opportunities that are appearing because you are blind to them. Instead give yourself permission to experiment and try new things in order to see where it leads and what you learn about yourself in the process. Let go of perfectionism and the idea that everything has to be perfect in order to start. Because, as Jennah points out, "There is no such thing as failure – it all is just a process of discovery."
How do you measure success?
I measure success by a feeling of being at peace and being at peace with myself. The more I am at peace with myself and the choices I've made and the past, the future the present – that's success to me.
What is the biggest happy accident you have had in starting or conducting your business?
The Tough Shit Tarot cards. My friend, Nami, came to me about creating an oracle card deck. She originally thought it would be a "next step" deck. I wasn't sure what I could do with that, so I told her to go ahead and write it and then come back to me. I figured that would help me with design ideas. She came back to me about 8 months or a year later and told me that the deck she ended up writing was Tough Shit Tarot: A Deck of Rude Awakenings. I thought it was hilarious and knew immediately it was something I wanted to be involved in – and it was the easiest thing I ever designed. That's what led to this awakening that I wanted to focus on Aspen Oracle Publishing. It connected me back to my idea of the Synchronicity cards, which I had wanted to do for over five years. It helped that become more and more defined. It was a big motivator for me to remember that dream and realign with it.
When are you the most satisfied in your life?
I'm the most satisfied when I can wake up whenever I want to in the morning – which doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping-in. It could mean that I feel like waking up at 7am, so I am going to wake up at 7am – or it might be 11am. It's just when I can wake up and not feel like I have to be somewhere at a certain time and wake up being in-tune with my body's natural rhythm. I'd work when I am inspired and feel like I want to work on it, not when there is a deadline looming over me. When clients want timelines and estimates – that kind of kills my soul. It all depends on how they do it. When it is done out of control – I can't stand it.
What was the best piece of advice you were given when starting your business?
I think it was that the answers will just come out of thin air. That is actually how the name "Aspen Oracle" came to me. I always have to let go of the analytical, trying-to-find-a-solution way and just trust that the answers will come to me when they are supposed to – you have to live into the answers and they will appear. If you seek out the answer then you find someone else's answer, apply it to your thing and it doesn't work for you. There is also an element of owning it in your own way, too. Because it might be someone else's answer, but then you need to have filter on it. So, it's good information, but how do you own it in your own way?
What is your biggest struggle in being a small business owner (and/or in starting a small business)?
Thinking that people won’t accept me if I am successful – specifically, more successful then them. There is always this fear of leaving people behind or that they are going to think that I am too rich or too snobby or too materialistic. It also is about how we connect with people on a positive level. Eckhart Tolle has talked about how we connect over "pain bodies" – how we bond over our pain or gossiping. It is about how we can live without that, and I believe that success and money come the more you live without that. So, for example, if you connected with someone over having no money and then that changes or you let that go, how does that change the relationship. That can be a scary thought.
If you weren't doing what you are doing now, what would you be doing?
Traveling is the first word that comes into my head, but I would imagine most people say that! But I think it is really more about what I am trying to do with my business right now, which is working with just one or two clients at a time. Maybe more high end work, so that I can be in that artistic space and my creative zone more. Ideally, I'd be able to travel around the world to create the Synchronicity cards. Creating a deck of cards for each city or site that I go to along my travels. That really would allow me to combine my love for travel to my practical design work!