Q&A | A Conversation with Partners Alana Jordan and Carol Smith from big eyed bird creative

big eyed bird creative

Creativity is key to innovation, period.

That's why the Carolina Money team decided to talk to the founders of a company that has been active in the community through the creation of unique perspectives for clients, such as Evolution Partners, Rosewood Crawfish Festival, TransformSC, Columbia Classical Ballet, Alumnify, Wishbox, and many others.

Carol Smith and Alana Jordan are the founders of big eyed bird creative, a marketing and advertising agency located in Columbia, South Carolina. Carol and Alana are united by a passion: to create artful, authentic and strategic communication.

Q: How did big eyed bird creative start?

Well, that could be a very long story, but the short answer is that we wanted to be in control of our own destiny and use our talents to create a company that embodied who we are and what we believe in. We worked together well and believed in each other, so when the opportunity presented itself, we went for it.  

Q: Is there a reason for the name ‘big eyed bird’? 

There is a reason behind everything we do. My business partner Carol came up with our name and it comes from the idea that birds, especially big eyed birds, like hawks and owls, see the world from a different perspective. We like to think that we bring a different perspective to our client’s projects and to the way we approach work, in general.  

Q: Have you ever been a startup? How did you gain traction?

We are now more than two years in, and I think you could certainly consider us a startup during our first year. In that first year, we made a lot of personal sacrifices and relied heavily on our existing relationships to get things started.  We put ourselves out there in our community and hoped that our reputations and work history would get us where we needed to be, and it did. For lack of a better word, we hustled, put in long hours and worked through every hurdle, mountain and mole hill that stood in our way. We proved ourselves with our first clients and gained traction by delivering quality creative work and building lasting relationships.

Q: Why Columbia?

The easy answer is that this is our home, but that isn’t the only reason why.  I am not completely convinced that we would still be standing, if we had started this business in Columbia five or more years ago.  Columbia and surrounding areas are experiencing a major culture shift.  There is a greater appreciation for culture, art, music, and entrepreneurism, and with that, we saw a space for an all women-owned creative agency that did things differently.  We felt the idea would be embraced and people would be open-minded to the services we have to offer, and so far, we were correct in that assessment. 

Q: Tell us a little bit about the business, what you do and how many people work on your team.

We are a creative agency that specializes in visual and verbal communication.  We offer our clients public relations, campaign planning and development, advertising, marketing, event marketing, social media, graphic design and web design services. We have two partners, Carol Smith and Alana Jordan. We also keep one to two interns on staff.  

Q: How do you decide who is going to work on each project, or do you all work together? How do you make it happen? 

We are a collaborative team and we work on almost all projects together, sharing our thoughts and ideas and building on them. Carol is the right brain and I am the left brain, and together, it just works.  Carol works more on the graphic design and creative projects, and when we need strategy, communication or words, I work on that part.

Q: What do you do to get into your creative zone?

Brainstorming is always a good way to get into that creative zone.  I think Carol likely lives in a creative zone, so for me, I tap into her.  We like to challenge our brains by sometimes asking ridiculous questions that might seemingly not be related to the task at hand.  We ask a lot of questions and really listen to our clients, and that usually gets us where we need to be.   

Q: Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people - or do you think creativity is a skill that people must develop?

I think Carol would say that everyone has the ability to be creative, and the more I work with her and our clients, the more I see that.  People like to put creativity into a box, thinking it is a certain thing, but really creativity is about problem solving.  For us, it is thinking of a new and different way to approach a situation that will stand out to the intended audience.  I think the more you practice being creative, the more you tap into the thought process, the better you will get. With that said, after working with Carol, some people, like her, are also simply gifted at the art.  

Q: If your creative work were edible, what would it taste like?

Thai Cuisine, because Thai chefs not only pay attention to how the dish tastes, but they are also concerned with how it looks, how it smells, and how it fits with the rest of the meal. They think of all the parts of the meal as a whole, and that is very similar to how we approach our work.  

Q: Could you mention your favorite quote (or) best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Alana: Someone once told me I was fearless. I responded by telling them that I wasn’t fearless, but that I didn’t let fear stop me. There is a big difference. My parents instilled a very strong work ethic in me and a belief in myself and my abilities.  It is because of them that I don’t let fear take over and I believe that anything can be accomplished with a little ingenuity and a lot of hard work.

Carol: My favorite quote is "Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it - the only thing we can control is our attitude.” I remind myself of this regularly. A positive, optimistic, never give-up attitude has helped me through many challenges.

Q: If you were to spend a day with one creative personality (past or present). Who would that be? 

Alana:  For me, right now, I have recently been inspired by Jack White and his creative team.  They are constantly pushing boundaries, and understand the value of good design with his record label and his music.  He understands that in this world, that is so rich in content, you need to stand out in a very different way.  You can’t do what everyone else is doing, or you will get lost in the mix.  When everyone else is going left, he goes right and is not afraid to do so.  Also, there is meaning, symbolism and reason behind everything he does, he doesn’t just do it to do it or because it looks cool.  There is always a reason and I think it is smart.      

Carol: Wow, that’s a hard one. There are so many artists and designers whose work and process I appreciate. If pushed to choose right now, I'd say Milton Glaser. Because of the era in which I grew up, his work was new and fresh, it still stands the test of time. He loves bold, bright colors and pushed the boundaries of design.

Q: How does big eyed bird creative contribute to the innovation of this community? 

We work with a variety of clients that range from startups to nonprofits to government agencies.  It is our hope, through better design and storytelling, that the message of our clients is received by their intended audience.  The result is more successful companies, startups, nonprofits and government, which all help to build a better community and will hopefully attract and encourage new, innovative businesses to locate here and be successful, too.