When Janzen Tew picked up a camera as a side hustle during college, she knew she’d unlocked something special. Five years later, she founded Denim & Velvet Marketing + Design, a full service marketing company for which she is the photographer. In March 2020, Janzen was honored onstage at RFD-TV’s The American Rodeo as a member of the first class of COWGIRL 30 Under 30.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
Oh boy, I don’t know if there is enough room on this paper because there is nothing typical about my days. From the moment I step out of bed, I am on the go. It starts by letting my cuddly pups outside, feeds the funny farm (5 goats and two donkeys), and then get myself ready for the day while they have their morning adventures. While I’m getting ready, I turn on a podcast and absorb what they are discussing. Then it is time to load the car up with all of my things and a GIANT cup of water. I am always on the go, so staying hydrated is essential. I try and get to the office around 7:30 every morning so that I can have some quiet time to review any emails that came in the night before and look over my daily to-do list. By 8, I am rolling. It can be anything from prepping for shoots, answering emails, scheduling photo shoots, shooting on location, answering questions the girls have, etc. I rarely stop for lunch and do my best to leave by five to get home and take care of my funny farm. After they are all fed, I sit down, review what did not get completed and how I can fit it into the next day. It is an ever-growing and evolving cycle of to-do lists and not enough hours in the day. But I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m blessed.
WHAT STRENGTHS DO YOU BRING TO THE COMPANY?
I bring the muscles. I am the one who searches for clients and new avenues for us to continue to grow and evolve. I am also the photographer here; I make sure that we have stunning content to promote us by making sure our customers have gorgeous images that will help them make money with their business.
HOW DID YOU HONE YOUR SKILLS FOR YOUR POSITION?
I am always learning. I do my best to learn something new daily. It doesn’t have to be BIG, but there is still more to learn from running a business to new things to do with my camera. There is no such thing as a dumb question in my book, and the want to learn is mighty.
TELL ME ABOUT WHERE YOU ARE FROM AND A LITTLE BACKGROUND OF YOUR FAMILY AND EXPERIENCE GROWING UP THAT HAVE SHAPED WHO YOU ARE TODAY:
I have one brother, and while we were not the best of friends growing up, we are super close now. I am almost five years younger than him and thought his best friends were my best friends. I was THAT annoying little sister. I grew up in the cutting horse industry and was almost born horseback. Raised in the alley of a barn, I learned a lot about business in the process. When you are a horse trainers kid, you have customers always at your place to see the progress of their horse or even bringing in a new one. I thought they needed me in every conversation, so I stuck around during all the “grown-up” talks. It may not have been the typical childhood, but by the age of 13, I had a full-time job working for Bill Freeman. We were on the road most of the year at aged event cuttings and weekend shows; while working for him, I learned how to be efficient and organized. We would have 10-12 horses showing a day at the cutting, and it was my job to have each one of them ready on time for their class and rider. Why he ever trusted a teenage girl with so much responsibility is beyond me. Still, I am forever grateful that he did. He set me up for life on managing people, priorities, and to always be prepared because anything can happen. I have taken the skills I learned from that job into each job I have had since, along with my mom always instilling that your work ethic speaks louder than what you say you can get done. I am a nose to the grindstone type worker; there is always a job that needs to be done, from cleaning to meeting with a client. I am not too proud to do any task, thanks to the way I was raised.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR EDUCATION AND WHY YOU CHOSE THE CAREER PATH THAT YOU DID:
This is always a fun one. I had no clue what my career path would be. I went to college for Dental Hygiene, and along the way, I picked up a camera to make some extra money. I didn’t have a lot of time for an actual job, so I saw it as a flexible opportunity. Somewhere between getting a camera and being in college, I realized that I didn’t want to have the same tasks every day. And that would have been my life as a hygienist, it might have been new patients, but the overall day would have looked very similar. So I switched gears and dove into every YouTube video I could find on working a camera. I asked all of my friends to model and grew my portfolio. I took every “exposure” job I was offered, and I was B R O K E!!! Then I revamped the process sat down and figured out how much I needed to make vs. how much I wanted to make. From that moment on, I realized exposure didn’t pay my bills and that I needed to run it like a business even if it was a side hustle. Over a time frame of 5 years (2011-2016), I worked for other companies and made money while I learned a lot. 2017 Denim & Velvet Marketing + Design was born. I had garnered enough credibility that I was proud of my work and prices, along with the services that I could offer businesses.
WHAT INSPIRES/MOTIVATES YOU?
Making people feel empowered. When you have an idea and want to start a business, you are nervous about sharing it with others; what if they think you’re crazy or that it won’t work? Instead, I want to build people up and tell them they can do great things. Denim & Velvet can help them establish their business from day one. We want to make their dreams become a reality. Yes, I am working to have a financially comfortable life, but empowering others with this business is the driving force. It is not the be-all-end-all. I want to build a company known for the excellent service that our customers receive and credibility that keeps referrals coming to us. Making other businesses successful by what we offer them is the driving force behind my doing what I do.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A WOMAN/GIRL TRYING TO BREAK INTO THE INDUSTRY OR CAREER ADVICE IN GENERAL?
Be honest in all that you do. Never be afraid to ask a question; the worst someone can do is tell you NO. And with every no that you receive, it is a building block to grow from and get better. Too often, people miss out on opportunities because they are afraid to introduce themselves to someone or ask questions that could change their future, whether personally or professionally. I love it when I have that butterfly feeling before I speak to someone. It shows me that I still have a passion for what I am doing.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE YOU HAVE OVERCOME?
Knowing when to use the growing pains of your business and hiring someone to take a project or job off your plate. You have to spend money to make money, and that is a hard path to navigate at times.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT, AND WHY?
I have several.
I am proud that Group W Productions took a chance on a start-up marketing company to take over their intense needs. We design and manage over ten websites and social media accounts that are under their umbrella. Along with all of the signage for the major events produced during the NFR in Las Vegas.
I am proud to be an international photographer getting to go to Australia to shoot a wedding and taking branding images in Paris.
I am proud to have been on the first round of recipients of the COWGIRL 30 under 30 award.
I am also proud of the business that I am still growing. I have the most incredible team, and I would not be able to accomplish any of the fantastic things we have done without them.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FUTURE CAREER GOALS?
This is an answer that evolves regularly. I want to see our work on a national platform. I want to create images that businesses HAVE TO HAVE. To quote It Takes Two movie, I want our pictures to give you that “can’t-eat, can’t-sleep, reach-for-the-stars, over-the-fence, World Series kind of stuff.” I also plan to continue to grow and expand the business. I strive to make us better each day.
WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?
My mom could have, maybe should have, sold me to the circus as a child. I have over 14 double joints and was always trying to do strange tricks with them. Growing up in the country, self-entertainment gets real weird.
WHO ARE SOME OF THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE BEEN THE MOST SUPPORTIVE/ENCOURAGING THROUGHOUT YOUR LIFE, CAREER, ETC.?
My mom, she’s a saint. She always pushed me to do great things, and when I said I want to be a photographer, she helped make that dream come true too. My brother, he was my first model, and don’t let his gruff cowboy exterior fool you; he still likes his picture taken, my dear, dear husband. Cody has sat with me as I’ve sorted hundreds of thousands of images. At the same time, I ramble on about photoshoot plans or pull over on the side of the road because the lighting was dreamy. He has cheered me on with every idea I’ve had to grow Denim & Velvet Marketing + Design. And my friends. I don’t want to list by name for fear of missing one. They know who they are. They cheer me on daily. My squads not big, but they are mighty.
WHAT IMPACT DO YOU HOPE TO HAVE ON YOUR FOLLOWERS/COMMUNITY/READERS?
I want people to be able to see their self-worth. When we got these questions, I asked each of the girls to describe their coworkers in three sentences. And then I read the others’ answers back to them. It’s important to hear how others see and perceive you. More times than not, they see the true you. You are worth so much; you are valuable; you have great talents. You are enough. Don’t feel because you aren’t the most creative, best-spoken, or best whatever you aren’t good enough. You have the talent of you, and no one can take that away.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE COWGIRL READERS TO KNOW?
Denim & Velvet Marketing + Design is a team of fun, mismatched people. When you meet us separately, you wonder how it works, but then you see its motion, and ever question goes out the window—our island of misfits. We didn’t fit the regular business structure, so we poured our mold. And man, is it rad!
For more information on Denim & Velvet Marketing + Design, visit their website at denimandvelvet.com.