We had the good fortune of connecting with Eric Junker and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Eric, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I’ve always either been a freelancer, in various creative industries, or had my own businesses. I’ve often joke that the main reason that I’ve always worked for myself is that I hate to wear shoes. There are few paths in being employed by others that offer career advancement without having to wear shoes. Shoes aside, it’s crucial for people wanting to start their own businesses to know that they will work much harder as your own boss (and the boss of others) than you generally will working a regular job. If you run your own business, you’re always working. You might not be “at work,” but you’ll be working weekends, working on vacation and probably working while you sleep. For this reason it’s extremely important to only start a business doing something that you’re very passionate about. There will be no work life balance, so you should enjoy what your doing. There will be great days and horrible days, but the fundamental balance should be that you’re enjoying what you do.In a previous life, I was a partner in a branding and marketing firm. At our peak we had about 20 employees and offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. It was thrilling, at first, doing creative work, winning accounts, not wearing shoes, and building a successful business from the ground up. But eventually, as often happens, I lost myself in the day to day pressure of satisfying finicky clients, making payroll, and worrying about cash flow, while my creative staff got to have all the fun designing things. Eventually, I stepped away from that world. I just wasn’t happy.
I’m not even sure if what I do now, for a living, counts as a business. I guess it does, because it involves work and cash flow. In painting murals, designing posters and wine labels, helping my friends with their restaurant business and teaching at USC, I’m really doing what I love. And I rarely wear shoes. I’m in a pretty good place. The other day I was thinking that if I won the lottery, I’d keep doing all the things I’m doing now. I just might buy a larger house, and I definitely buy a tricked out Sprinter Van. But I’d keep doing all the same work I’m doing. I wouldn’t drop everything and move to Hawaii. I think people who want to start their own businesses should anticipate giving a lot of work away for the first year. This giving-away should be strategic, meaning, work that’s going to build you reputation in meaningful ways. Doing pro bono work for non-profits is an excellent way to build a meaningful reputation. It will call attention to what you’re doing and it will help build your network. Also you’ll be doing “the thing” that will make you who you want to be. By that I mean, if you want to be a filmmaker, you need to make a film. Make a film with your iPhone. If you sit around waiting for someone else to call you a filmmaker, that might never happen. If you want to be designer, start designing stuff, right now. You’ll become a designer by doing design, not by waiting for opportunity to come your way. If you want to be a mural painter start painting murals immediately. There are plenty of empty walls out there. In my case, when I left the agency life, I knew I wanted to paint murals and design posters. I thought to myself, “for one year I’m going to find as many high-profile opportunities to paint murals and design poster as I can, even if I’m not getting paid.” I did a lot of pro bono work for non-profits. By the second year, I wanted to be designing posters and painting murals and breaking even financially. By year three I wanted to be making a living and supporting my family painting murals and designing posters. Those first few years were lean and challenging, and I did a fair amount of unsavory graphic design work to make ends meet, but by year our, I really was making a living doing what I wanted to. That’s the ideal of owning your own business: to be doing what you really want to do, and possibly on your own terms.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Any week long trip with a friend would involve a trip to the Eastern Sierra Nevada, because I’m always looking for any excuse to get away to the Eastern Sierra Nevada. The drive up the Owens Valley along Hwy 395 is one of this country’s most spectacular road trips. Our ideal itinerary would include rock climbing in the Alabama Hills, fly fishing in Rock Creek, and a night or 2 backpacking into the back country at one of my favorite trailheads: Lone Pine Creek to the Palisades Glacier or maybe Kearsarge Pass to Bubbs Creek, for more fishing. Prior to Covid, the night in L.A. before the roadtrip would include either a Thursday evening at Silver Lake Wine drinking wine and eating Tumaka Truck chicken sandwiches and croquettes, or dinner and drinks at the unbeatable HiPPO in Highland Park. At both of these places, you not only enjoy exceptional food and wine, you’re also bound to connect with fun, interesting, and exciting Los Angeles people.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Shout outs to 3 people: My old business partner, Jeff Wagner, for being patient with me while I learned the ropes of business, back in the day; My wife for having faith that I could turn my back on an obviously profitable career and do something very much less obviously profitable, and Noe Montes (the most-exceptional photographer) for dropping that first life-changing poster design opportunity in my lap at exactly the right time.