Local Profile | Jason Olsen
This is Jason Olsen — entrepreneur, pilot, traveler, car-enthusiast, lover of Goldschlager, man. I asked him a few questions about his life’s delights and that which makes him tick. We love, looove his local loyalty. Read on.
What do you love about each business you’ve opened? I’ve always tried to find a niche in anything I do. It usually presents a lot more opportunities and is more exciting to me, as it requires that I cover new territory in order to learn and create something new. My first business was “Street Looks” — an online car-parts and accessory storefront that specialized in lighting accessories; I started it in 1998 and sold it after I moved to Utah in 2004. Prestman Auto was started by my father, Cory Olsen, in 1989, and I joined the team in early 2004 after Street Looks was sold. We’ve tried to niche ourselves within the car industry (which is extremely competitive), so as to ‘stand out’ from the rest. We started by designing a facility that was cozy, comfortable, and had a great energy to it, so people will feel at home when they come in. Our marketing also reflects those objectives.
Image Studios was created in late 2009 with my brother, Shaun Olsen, and the consulting wisdom of my best friend, Megan Oviatt. It takes two familiar salon concepts that have existed for years (booth rental and commission salons) and merges them into a new “studio salon” model that marries the best of both worlds. The freedom to be creative and innovative is what excites me most with Image Studios. Every move we make is uncharted territory; it’s allowed us to really put our heads together and make something incredible.
Do you consider yourself a good boss? I hope so. I tend to stray from being a micro-manager. Instead, I try to empower my employees to be self-sufficient, pro-active, and take an active role in the company they work for.
Speak about running a business in Salt Lake. SLC is a great place to run a business; it’s an affordable place all around. Rents are fair, the economy is strong, and the infrastructure is solid — all of which are keys to launching a successful business from the ground up.
If I owned Salt Lake, I would…require that builders and architects design/build more contemporary structures for all new projects — or at least put some incentives in place for those that do. Salt Lake is one of the few cities that is still growing AND building, and I think that more incentives should be offered to push the creativity envelope and really see what we can do. I look at cities such as Almere [in the Netherlands], Berlin, Sydney, Barcelona, Shanghai…they have such a creative momentum going, and its contagious. People often complain of the homogeneous feel that Salt Lake has, but if we can convince creative minds to create more incredible spaces, I think Salt Lake would be complete. Sure, Salt Lake is small compared to those places, but it’s easier to make something small absolutely incredible. Start small, think BIG.
You’re into cars. What are the 3 most memorable cars you’ve owned/driven? My 1959 Cadillac Coupe DeVille — at over 20′ long with only 2 doors, she was a dream boat on wheels. She only got 6 MPG. A 2002 Acura NSX — my all-time favorite car. A 2005 Dodge Viper — so fast, it’s scary.
Share something about yourself. I’m a private pilot; I fly a single-engine Cessna 172 out of the Bountiful Municipal Airport. Although I find it hard to fly as often as I’d like, one of the things I love most is the complete detachment I have from everyday worries when I am in the air. There isn’t time to worry about what didn’t get done today, or what has to be done tomorrow. It’s very simply cathartic for me.
What inspired you to open a business like Image Studios? I saw opportunity for something new that I could manage with the skills and experience I had acquired up to that point. At its core, Image Studios is people management; we lease salon studios to professionals within the industry who, in turn, operate their own salon. The retail salon aspect of it lies within the hands of each salon professional, and the business management side of it (rental agreements, maintenance, leasing, marketing, advertising) is what Image Studios handles.
What are your dreams concerning Salt Lake, and your place in its future? I envision Salt Lake one day becoming a big “little” city of its own, similar to Denver, or Seattle. We’re on the verge of some very exciting growth, and I’m glad to be here during all of it.
So what will you bring to Salt Lake next ? A few more Image Studios locations may be created along the Wasatch Front within the next year or two. I’m also working on some other ideas that have some great potential both here in Salt Lake and beyond. I have so many ideas running in my head all the time. I wish I could get someone else inside of my noggin to help organize it all.
Do you plan to stay in bed with theCOLLECTIVE on your future Salt Lake projects? That sounds sexy. And yes, a company as creative and savvy as theCOLLECTIVE will always be an asset to me.
So, why Salt Lake? Salt Lake is this hidden gem that I think is just waiting to be discovered. The first year I moved here, I wasn’t having any of it — I wanted to move back to Atlanta. Then I started skiing and fell in love instantly. After that, I discovered Lake Powell, Zion’s, Escalante, Moab, and everything else that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. I’m constantly sitting next to Europeans on the local ski lifts, or seeing them in the houseboat rental office at Lake Powell…that tells me have something really incredible right in our own backyard.
Who or what inspires you? Henry Ford, JFK, and Steve Jobs.
How do you view success, and how do you strive to reach it? Everyone has their own definition for success. I feel successful if I can help others achieve their own success along the way. Having the freedom I desire would equate to that, as well. I love watching things come together, which I think is why I love being an entrepreneur. Creating, building, designing…these are all things I love to do and, thankfully, I get to do it almost every day.
What is your favorite drink? At the moment? Goldschlager! I love the cinnamon flavor.
What’s your favorite room in your house? Well, right now it’s my living room…it has a view of the city. I have my piano here and it’s nice to play with SLC in the distance. In the dream house that I’ll build one day, my favorite room would be the Alice in Wonderland room. I have a board on Pinterest that describes what it will look like; you can look it up here.
What’s your favorite place you’ve ever lived? Sydney, Australia. It’s my favorite place, but I have bittersweet feelings in regards to it. I love it for what it is and what it has to offer, but being there on an LDS mission brought some feelings of frustration and difficulty . Naturally, when I’ve been back to visit, I have mixed emotions.
Share a pivotal moment of your life. I think that would definitely be when I came out to my family and friends. “Gradually” would be a good way to describe it. Finally coming to terms with myself and who I was had such a huge impact on me; everything came together when I started being honest with myself, my family and my friends. A couple weeks ago, I was talking with my mom about it; she said that it was like I just “blossomed” after I came out. I asked her to choose a different word next time she described me, but it works. I had finally come into my own, and everything in my life became authentic. I can’t imagine where I’d be if that hadn’t happened when it did.
What’s in your purse/bag/wallet? About 30 euros from a trip to Paris [I am flying back to the states as I type this]; not much good back home. Also, a used-up train ticket, and my COSTCO card.
What piece in your closet means the most to you? The vintage tuxedo I bought the last time I was in St Louis. I think its from the early 60′s, and it was a steal. I can only imagine what a tuxedo that old has seen.
Which of your body parts is your favorite? My hands. Without them, I couldn’t eat properly, type so fast, or point when I see something funny.
Do you have a hidden talent? I can type 90+ WPM. Mother would be so proud! I am also self-taught in American Sign Language.
What book(s) are you reading right now? Incognito, by David Eagleman; The Magic of Thinking Big, by David Schwartz. Oh, and I just started The Hunger Games…after being scolded by so many people for not having read it by now.
Do you follow any blogs? Tell us your 3 favorites: www.boredpanda.com — for all things creative and inspiring. I love www.dornob.com — it’s an amazing design website that has a wealth of ideas. And a good site for creatives to display their work is www.behance.net.
When you close your eyes, you travel to…Paris.
How do you stay healthy? Who said anything about being healthy? I could do a LOT better in this department [I give in every time I see a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup]. try to get to the gym at least 2-3 times a week to help balance my sweet tooth, but I can probably do better. Having a workout partner helps, too.
Where have you found your family? Definitely here in Salt Lake City — until I moved here, I had never really found my place with any one group of people. I have made some amazing friends in SLC that continually inspire when we’re together.
What thing can you not tolerate? I am turned off by pompous attitudes and arrogance. I also hate seeing disparities of reward or praise amongst a group of people — I feel that the innate worth of each person is the same, and everyone should be raised up equally.
Describe, in a sentence, your perfect life. I would be free to travel anywhere, anytime, at the drop of a hat.
How do you travel? One of my best friends is a pilot for Delta. I’m her travel companion, which allows me the same employee benefits she has. I try to take advantage of these benefits as often as possible.
What could you not live without? Laughter. Like the saying goes, it’s the best medicine.
What helps you sleep? The sound of running water or rain. I have a stereo at my bedside that plays a rain storm all night for me.
What’s cozy? When it’s snowing outside, fire is on inside, a snuggle buddy and a nice glass of wine.
Were you born in the right time period? Yes and no. I feel like I once existed in the 50′s/60′s, as I’m completely drawn to that era, but I also feel like I should have existed many years in the future. I love dreaming about what the next 100 years has in store for us. If we think things have changed a lot in the past 100 years, I can’t wait for the next.
What attracts you? Someone who is real; 100% themselves, 100% of the time. I love a good sense of humor…and if they laugh at all of my jokes, even better.
Crowds or solitude? I love a good crowd. During the week, though, I tend to find solitude. Since I was young, I could entertain myself for hours working on little projects, drawing or creating things, taking things apart and never putting them back together right, etc.
Oceans or lakes? Lakes. Lake Powell!
Describe your ideal work space. A quiet office with solitude, large windows, high ceilings, and a great sound system to play while I work.
We’re fans of anyone who contributes to the growth and richness of SLC culture. We heart Jason.