We had the good fortune of connecting with Shoghak Kazandjian and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shoghak, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Before starting my branding agency, Etcetera, I worked with many design agencies in Los Angeles and freelanced with my own clients for over 10 years. I have worked on more brands than I can count, of ALL different sizes.
It was a big challenge to discover what kind of work environment I thrive in, and step into my role as a business owner to create that work environment. I felt a bit like goldilocks at first. I tried working at small agencies, large agencies, in-house, or freelancing completely on my own—and it never quite fit. At other agencies, the structure was suffocating or the creative wasn’t exactly what I wanted to be doing. That helped me get clear that I didn’t want to be working 40 hours a week in a cold office, and I didn’t want to settle on creative work I didn’t love. Freelancing on my own, the lack of structure was hard and I found myself needing an anchor. In 2015, I started working with an amazing studio called FaustLevito, where I met my now business partner, Leslie. A female founded studio that aligned with my goals for bad-ass work that was fulfilling and flexible, FaustLevito gave me a taste of the good life. When that studio closed last year, I had to face that the only way I could take the parts of it I loved and evolve as I grew, was to be my own boss—I couldn’t do the employee thing again.
I always imagined myself finding success as a creative director, but I never was clear on the circumstances of how that would happen. I have leaned into whatever gave me the most freedom at work… such as freelancing as a solo designer, only taking on short-term contracts that were “full-time”, and picking companies or people to work with who aligned with my vision for what a job should look like—free, flexible, and fulfilling. Launching my own agency was never something I imagined for myself…but, it was the natural next step.
Now, as a business owner, I find myself so creatively fulfilled with full control of the kind of clients I get to work with. I am also growing into my role as a founder, businesswoman and strategist, learning from my business partners Leslie Levito & Rochelle Groh, who are so trained in business and strategy. This new space of entrepreneurship is much less scary than I expected and way more fun (even when I am doing boring admin work for my business). If you aren’t feeling 100% fulfilled, you need to shift something. You CAN have it all. Now, I get to do my best work for myself.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I am a designer born and raised in LA and recently co-founded my own branding agency, Etcetera, as well as another business, Cutclass.
I had a passion for design since I was a child, and one day I had the a-ha moment to pursue a design career. I have a BFA in graphic design from Art Center College of Design, and have worked with more brands than I could count at this point.
Our branding agency, Etcetera, is unique in how we approach brand. We prioritize strategy AND creative equally. Our goal is always to fulfill on the client’s intention, and show them the possibilities of what their brand could be with the right strategy and creative. We work with clients in food & beverage, hospitality, fashion, skincare, retail, consulting, and so much more. We love problem solving for unique brands who are problem solving for our community locally, and globally. We design brands for longevity.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
As a designer, I love places in Los Angeles that are well designed spaces—the Row DTLA and the Broad museum are two great examples. Other quintessential LA spots include Silverlake & the general area around the Silverlake Reservoir; Highland Park, specifically Figueroa street, which has destinations for bowling, pizza, mid century furniture, tacos, vegan conchas, cocktails, thrift shops, and a weekly farmer’s market; and Tesse restaurant, if you are willing to venture to Weho for some amazing French food and wine. I also recommend Glendale for some Mediterranean/Armenian food (I.e. Carousel). And finally, spend some time outside… take a walk, a hike, a picnic, visit someone with a pool. LA has the most amazing weather and having a glass of wine (or La Croix) outside on a sunny day is the ultimate Angeleno experience.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Big shoutout to my soul sister and business partner, Leslie Levito. She has pushed me into the spaces of my life that resulted in the most personal growth, nudged me out of my comfort zone, taught me so much about business and branding, and been a supportive partner in all parts of my life. Without her, I may have never had the guts to start my own business. And, shout out to Tom McGeoch for nominating me!