A Seat at the
“If that right person came across my IG tomorrow, would I be happy with the content that’s on there and how I present myself to the world?” is the eternal question Caláh Jones asks herself to keep her social soul in check. The ATL based creative is the archetype multi-hyphenate, with an object studio, consulting agency, and female collective under her snatched spandex belt. A few years growing up in Nepal taught her to “appreciate life in all forms, and be at peace with where you are and who you are,” and she’s here to democratize the digital dopeness. Yes, her feed is full of plants, bawdy, and sunlit selfies, but she’s serving yoga, music, workshops, and other experiential content too. Whether web designing for other creatives like wunderkind photographer Quil Lemons or hosting a female empowerment panel, community, diversity, and accessibility are all pillars of Caláh’s brands.
Ask her what she does, and she’ll say “a little bit of everything.” And she manages to do it all without doing the most. Caláh’s entrepreneurial to a fault, but revels in each business bringing more challenges, more learning, and ultimately more self-awareness. She knows her voice, her audience, and what she’s creating and isn’t willing to dilute the substance for that #sponsored life. But rather than keeping the secret sauce to herself, she wants to pull people up with her, using her platforms to encourage others to build themselves, their communities, and their businesses. You got a dream? Her advice is simple, do you, but more importantly, just do it.
Read on to get to know more about Caláh, her work, and how she keeps it positive and poppin’ online.
You describe your work as “ a little bit of everything.” Touch on that “everything” and what you’re creating in the world?
When I was younger I always felt pressure to have a singular path and career. I’m good at a lot of things and found it super limiting. Finally, I felt confident enough to break free of that construct and said to myself, Caláh you’re just gonna do “a little bit of everything.” You can do whatever you want, just do it. If you wanna do 20 different things cool.´
Yeah, I’ve never been a single Linkedin line either.
It makes it fun and what makes you a hustler. If you’re the business or you own the business, every day’s a different job. One day you’ll be the graphic designer, then the writer, then the talent, then the creative director. That’s the beauty of it all. You learn so much in the process, always putting on more hats. The first business you do is the hardest, it gets easier from there as you learn all the tricks.
My overarching brand is Kopan Studios. In Kathmandu, I lived near a monastery called Kopan. “Studios” because whatever I do has to open enough for me to breathe and do whatever I want with it. I always encourage people creating their brand names to make it as open as possible so you give yourself more room to grow. Don’t just google weird words, I chose a word close to home that made me feel good.
Private Yard is my multi-disciplinary studio consulting for lots of different companies. Web design, graphics, understanding what direction they wanna go in, etc. It’s an interactive studio. A lot of companies produce content, but it doesn’t feel like the consumer can be a part of the brand. That’s one thing we really strive for. We make sure the consumer can be just as involved as the brand, make things interactive for everybody.
female.genius is a safe space for ladies to come and be. I’ve always believed the collective is stronger than the individual so we bring girls together and see the relationships/creativity that comes out of it. Empowering place for women to learn how to go with the flow and be their own boss.
Community and accessibility are recurring themes in all of your work. How have you adapted to the digitization of community? How do you hold the same space with social distancing?
I love in-person interactions. We were supposed to be on a national tour this year, but with COVID we ended up hosting events digitally every Sunday during Quarantine. Yoga, panels, workshops. Launching Kopan Studios playlists. Just trying to hold space for people to enjoy. It’s been a learning experience, but cool to figure out how to implement as much online as possible. If we can’t come to your city, I still want the experience to feel as accessible as possible. You can reach more people than you ever will IRL on social media.
And with the female.genius series, what are you trying to convey to your audience?
Freedom. You can be whatever you want to be. It’s important for people to see the diversity of not only what’s being created, but who’s behind it. You can look however you want to look, be however you want to be, and do it however you please. Anything you wanna do is possible.
And yet the internet can be such a toxic, comparative place. How do you keep it positive and inspiring?
Totally, there’s so much ignorant stuff on the internet. You gotta be that online place that people can go to and know they’ll find something happy. Bring the positives out of people, and things they didn’t see within themselves. Encourage people to do what they want to do and build businesses. Building community is our core philosophy.
Do you have a moral compass to keep it real when brands hit you up?
When I first started I’d work with brands that weren’t super aligned with mine. But it never felt right, and it would be so much back and forth working the product into my lifestyle in a genuine way. Now I’m at the point where I ask “can I try the product first?” Even with design work, there has to be chemistry with clients first. Work is so much more fun when it aligns. I love it when things are natural and free-flowing. Understanding who I’m working with and why they wanna work with me.
And who the audience is. Making sure you’re not a pawn in their influencer Rolodex, etc.
When brands do their PR outreach and influencer marketing, it’s too often a template email they’re sending to a million people. I love it when they take the time to personalize it and understand who I am, and what I bring to the table. Companies are lazy. They don’t look into people and value stories. They don’t wanna understand who they’re working with, it’s just for money. Same when they send a “brand kit’ for a product shot. Every product and brand has its own aesthetic, but so do content creators. So when you send us a box with step-by-step guidelines – shoot the product exactly like this, etc – to me it defeats the purpose of collaborating.
For those scrolling through your socials on a surface level, thinking, “OMG she has everything. I wanna be like her.” How do you stay poppin’ on the internet?
If you wanna be poppin’ on the internet – it is a lot of work. It’s a lot of sacrifices. Being an entrepreneur, I’m always working and never really off. Do what you can as much as you can. Post as much you can, connect with everyone. Feed the human attention span. We see so much on a daily basis, if you post twice a month, people aren’t remembering what you’re doing. You wanna stay top of mind. It’s not about posting for likes, don’t be overposting and lose your sense of creativity. People are always on stories, tapping thru all day. I’ve always had the mindset, ‘I’d rather be the person creating the content people are tapping through, than the person that’s laying down all day tapping through.’ There’s nothing wrong with laying down all day and tapping through, but I wanna be a part of what you’re seeing.