Jen & Philip Oloo:
Jen & Philip Oloo:
Jen & Philip Oloo founded SPACIALISTS in order to develop stunningly realistic 3D visualizations and Virtual Reality experiences for all types of spaces. Jen says, “Imagine a structure of any kind and we can transform that reverie into reality”.
This power couple transformed their own dreams into reality when they started their company 5 years ago. Jen has spent most of her professional career as an executive in advertising and marketing technology. Up until 2016, she was still traveling thousands of miles each year for her corporate gig, managing millions of dollars in revenue from Fortune 100 clients, raising two young children, and directing a large staff.
Philip grew up in Kenya and came to America in 2004. The son of a teacher and an engineer, Philip developed a love for architecture and had the intuitive gifts of mathematics and design. Growing up in Kenya wasn’t always easy, but Philip was fortunate to have parents who believed in education and had brought themselves out of poverty. Philip recalls living in a home without electricity or running water for parts of his childhood. Still, his parents worked tirelessly to provide for their children, eventually sending Philip to the US to continue his education.
Jen tells us a bit about starting SPACIALISTS and what life is like working with her husband while raising two young kids at home.
- What’s your mission? Tell us about your organization/business.
Our mission is to bring our clients’ vision to life. We love technology and believe that the spaces we live in can create immense joy or can hinder our ability to live to our fullest potential. Spaces are so important. Our role is to help bring those sketches, building plans, or even mere thoughts to life through visual technologies. We love working with brick and mortar entrepreneurs to develop their retail spaces (http://www.spacialists.com/retail-portfoilo/) for investment pitch decks. It is so rewarding when a client says, “That is exactly how I saw it in my mind!”. Essentially we help clients see their space before it’s built. It empowers them to make better design decisions, solve problems before they happen, and save money. We also spend a great deal of our time serving architects, franchises, and homebuilders.
- How long did it take you to reach important milestones in your business or organization?
5 years ago, Philip was working freelance for individual architects and earning about $25/hour. He came home one day and told me he saw a hefty design invoice come across his desk and was shocked at how little he was earning based on the total cost of the project. We decided that night that he would formalize the offering and start SPACIALISTS. I worked on initial branding and business setup while he reached out to associates to let them know he was official. In our first year we made almost the same as Philip had been making on his freelance gigs, but what we discovered is that he had a lot more time for family and fun. We’ve doubled the business each year and most of that growth has been through word of mouth.
- Tell us about the “start-up scares”: Was there a moment where you ever seriously contemplated quitting?
We try to keep in perspective that even when business is slow, Philip is earning more per hour than he ever had AND the rest of the time we get to work on new technologies including Virtual and Augmented Reality. It is a super fun industry. During the first four years, my corporate income was a safety net, but in December of 2016 I resigned and that was our first huge leap. It’s really scary to leave a secure job and a regular paycheck. What I can say for certain is that no amount of money stress we feel now even comes close to the corporate stress and sacrifices we chose over the years resulting in poor health, lack of spirituality and freedom, as well as the loss of time with our family.
- Did you ever “fail” or make a substantial mistake in business or organization? Any serious Challenges? How did you overcome and resolve it?
When we were living in Texas for a couple years we really struggled as a couple. We failed to communicate, had trouble being far from family, and dealt with a community who wouldn’t accept our multiracial family. I was working on my MBA, traveling a couple days a week, and running a huge staff for my last employer. We had also just had our second baby. Philip was working on the business and homeschooling our then 5 year old son. We were over-committed and it showed. We lost one of our larger clients that year and we lost a lot of ourselves. Thankfully we were pretty quickly able to recognize the issues, take responsibility for our part, and begin to make changes.
- What’s the most impactful action you’ve taken to reach your goal/s?
Several things come to mind. The first is not working for less than our worth. In the freelance days Philip would take jobs for $200 or less just to keep busy. It was stressful and not productive to building a business. Today, our one off projects range from $1,500-$15,000 based on the requirements. We do offer bulk pricing for consistent clients who have recurring projects. That feels great. We’ve realized that the clients who beat you up over price are usually the ones also asking for more. Often they aren’t the most fun bunch either. Ha ha, we like to have fun!
- What would you tell your younger/earlier self? Any piece of advice?
Just start. Start something, anything, and do it early. Don’t be afraid of what others will think. I know this is said a lot, but seriously, surround yourself with likeminded individuals who have similar goals and energy. If you have a couple friends who drag you down, detach with love and trade up for one who really gets you. It’s never to late to find YOUR people and they can make all the difference in your success.
- What the best advice you’ve ever RECEIVED about pursuing your vision?
Don’t easily buy into labels you’ve been given by others because they could be wrong. For a long time in my career I was told I was aggressive, a bitch, intimidating, and demanding. What I’ve learned is that I’m actually assertive and that’s awesome! It’s something not everyone has, that ability to wake up each morning, be clear about your goals, and go get it. I used to own those negative words even though I never felt in my heart that they were representative of my personality. It was a huge stumbling block.
- Has having success in your business/organization or money changed you? In what ways?
My parents both grew up struggling financially. My dad moved 22 times before graduating high school so his dad could find work. My mom thought ketchup was spaghetti sauce until she was 20 because they couldn’t afford anything else to put on noodles. My parents divorced when I was 8, but both worked very hard to provide for us and did well for themselves and our family. Taking the risk of quitting my corporate job was a huge thing since my family has always valued the stability of a “job”.
For Philip, having a successful business means less worry and an opportunity for self-development. Not having money takes so much of your energy. When you’ve got a solid foundation you can spend more time perfecting your craft and enjoying life. Having even the littlest bit of success is a window into what is possible if you get off your butt and do the work.
- How do you create, innovate or break the rules in your life/business/organization?
I feel like we break all the rules, haha. People say, “How can you work with your husband?”, “Don’t you get on each other’s nerves?”, “Are you worried about socializing your homeschooled children?”, “I would never have the patience to homeschool.”, or “You should take on every client, don’t you need the money?”
We love our clients (because we choose the right ones!), we love our life (because we have time to live it now), we love each other (because we communicate and give to one another), and we love our kids (even when they’re assholes). The keys for us are flexibility and self-care. We’ve learned we need time to breathe and enjoy the abundance of GOOD. There is so much good if you take the time to see it, even when life is hectic.
- Stevie Wonder or The Beatles? (this, I must know.)
I’m a Beatles girl. My family drove everywhere when I was a kid. We had a 70’s VW bus with vinyl seats (woo hoo!) and The Beatles were on regular rotation in the tape deck.
- Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
Yes! We are looking for a give back partner who would benefit from 3D renderings or VR experiences. Ideally, we’d like to work with a non-profit organization who is focused on housing developments in the US or abroad. We believe having a home can make a huge difference for people and aside from food and clear water is the most vital need for all human beings. If you have any thoughts on a like-minded organization, we’d love to hear from you! Send us a note through Facebook or shoot an email here.
Jen Oloo recently earned an MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology and has been in executive leadership for most of her professional life. Having recently made the daring leap from corporate America to entrepreneurship with her husband Philip, SPACIALISTS is now a thriving 3D visualization and Virtual Reality company. Jen has 2 kids (3 and 7) whom are homeschooled with a combination of online and one-on-one curriculum. The Oloo’s live in Los Angeles, CA and develop 3D rendering and Virtual Reality for clients around the world. Take a look at their stunning spaces at www.spacialists.com.