We had the good fortune of connecting with Jamie Kolnick and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jamie, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
It’s pretty funny because I did not intend to be an entrepreneur and completely fell into this Children’s music biz accidentally. My life’s goal was always to be on Broadway. My mom told me I came out of the womb singing and she said I had the highest pitched voice- “almost annoying” (thanks mom). I sang and acted through my childhood, notice I left out dancing because I am NOT a dancer. Repeat. Not a dancer. Remind me to tell you about that time I did a dance call for the show “Chicago” and ended the audition in a double lunge instead of a double split, it wasn’t pretty. Alas, I was a performer and as a child I performed at a local children’s theater in Miami called “ Actors Playhouse.” A Christmas Carol, Babes in Toyland, and Aladdin were just a few of the shows I performed in. When I moved to NYC after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, I started working in children’s theater again- you might know me as the Velveteen Rabbit at The Players Theater? No? Anyone? Crickets. Hey, it was $30 a show that I didn’t have before so not nothing! Clearly that wasn’t paying the bills, and I was a horrible waitress so I started teaching children’s music classes at a private family club in Soho called “Citibabes.” I was the lead singer of the Bandmates band where we did rock and roll baby classes. I loved performing as a means to make (some) ends meet and I loved working with children and families. It was a very natural transition into starting Jam with Jamie and spinning off on my own. My plan was not to grow it to where it is today. I honestly just loved singing with kids and my mom told me she was cutting me off and to figure out how to make money! So this was it. I started off slow, maybe 1 or 2 parties a month. At the same time I kicked off my business in late 2008, my mom unfortunately declined health wise. Her breast cancer metastasized to her liver and in March 2009, she passed away. By that point my business was really picking up and all of my children’s musician friends helped me with the gigs while I was home in Miami. Shout out to my magical community. Before my mom passed away she said “Jamie, one day you are going to be doing parties for celebrities. I just know it.” I replied “Yeah, yeah, mom” thinking she was just hopped on too many meds! She really believed in me and what I was doing, she even came up with the name of the business. When I returned to NYC, I came back with a vengeance to make this something. To make my mom’s faith ring true. Parties picked up and I landed an off-broadway show called “Wanda’s Monster” with music by Laurie Berkner. You might know me as the rock n’ roll granny? No? Anyone? Well, It was definitely a bigger deal than the Velveteen Rabbit and since it was all weekend shows, I needed to get covers for my Jam with Jamie parties. That was when I started to hire and train other people. It was a very natural progression from there- performers I hired and trained would move to another state and say “Hey can you get me gigs in Chicago?” or “Can you get me gigs in Nashville?” I took a leap of faith and said, “Yeah, sure!” And here we are now with 50+ performers nationwide offering music classes, parties, and events for families. And now the silver lining of this whole pandemic- I get to show off all of the incredible talent we offer on our virtual platform to families globally and help bring joy to children with music when they need it most. We have also started to do social distanced parties, classes events, and created an enrichment/homeschool program.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Being the founder and CEO of Jam with Jamie is one of the hats I wear, and the most challenging role I have had in my career. The journey that I have taken to get where we are now certainly did not come without any challenges. But what success in life is just handed to us without road blocks? We have to get trudge through the problems to to get to the solutions. With each problem solved, there is more clarity, and more perspective on the ups of this rollercoaster, enjoying that success but knowing that it doesn’t last forever. There was a time when I was much more sensitive to every single issue that popped up. I remember one day in particular, four years into the business when I had just begun sending out other performers to do birthday parties instead of doing them myself. I was at a friends Bachelorette party and had 4 birthday parties in two different states that day. Talk about multi-tasking. At the time I had no one else supporting me with logistics, it was only me managing schedules and on call for any issues while also trying to have a good time with my girlfriends. We were on a party bus in the middle of the North Fork doing a wine tour when I got a call from a parent that the entertainer was not there yet. She was already twenty minutes late! The client was yelling at me. I told her I would do everything I could to fix it, hopped off the phone quickly and called the performer who was not picking up. I texted, multiple times. I checked the emails and google calendar from my phone to see if there was a miscommunication, find anything to help. I started texting other performers to see if they were available to get over there. I was sweating, freaking out, while the bus stopped at some vineyard and my girlfriends stumbled out of the bus to drink another round of wine and stuff their faces with cheese. I sat there with no clue what to do and then my phone buzzed in my lap. It was the performer who sounded not in a rush at all. “What’s up,” she said. “What’s up?! What’s up with you. Where are you? You have a party right now!” She was incredibly confused and told me that the party was in an hour and she was getting ready to go. She had accepted the party while in a different time zone and somehow it was showing up as an hour later. I rushed off the phone to call the client and see if she still wanted her to come. She did not. She was DONE. She couldn’t even speak so she got her sister on the phone who yelled at me more. I began to cry. I CRIED on the phone with the client. This is so embarrassing. Why would I tell everyone reading this interview about one of the most mortifying moments in my business? Because things happen. Things will ALWAYS happen. No matter how many T’s we cross, I’s we dots, seminars we take, years we work… It is never ending. But with each issue we solve, we get stronger, smarter, more capable, and ABLE to deal with the punches when they hit. Needless to say, 8 years more of running this business since that day, two kids of my own, more work and life load, and I have learned to not take things as personally. I have learned to separate myself from problems so I can be more clear minded when solving them. There are less problems. There are more streamlined processes to help us avoid issues like this from ever happening again and there are definitely more people on the logistic side! Hiring more amazing humans to help run the business is the first advice I can give anyone who is starting up. Doing it alone is ok for a little but at some point- it’s time to get more support! And it is worth it to invest in that help.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I grew up in Miami and have experienced so many incredible parts of the city. I’ll share with you some of my favorite spots that bring a smile to my face just thinking about them! – Park in the shopping center across the street from the Grand Bay Beach Club on Key Biscayne. Walk across the street and there is a long tree lined pathway to the right of the club parking lot that leads out to a secluded beach. There is a small chance that the access isn’t there anymore so I apologize in advance if that is the case, it’s been awhile since I’ve gone. But it is the most magical beach!!!! If that’s a fail, there are ton of public beaches along Key Biscayne you can go to. After your beach time, eat at Sir Pizza on Key Biscayne as well. Thank me later. – Walk around Kennedy park in Coconut Grove with a cold cup of iced lemonade from the all time famous and delicious A.C.’S Icees. Add on a hotdog if you dare. Check out the amazing boutiques in coconut grove before or after your stroll. – Head to beautiful Vizcaya for another Coconut Grove to do! – I love the Miami Design District and if you have a kiddo take them to a class at State of Kid, shop and dine- one of the coolest new developments in the city! – A trip to Wynwood is a must. Ecelectic and artsy- the wynwood walls are the best reflection of the talented artists in Miami. Stop by Zak the Baker for the best baked goods money can buy and delicious eats. New dinner menu coming soon for them, and it’s all going to be farm fresh deliciousness.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Shoutout to HeyMama, founded by the amazing Katya Libin and Amri Kibbler. HeyMama is a nationwide network of women in the workforce who are also mothers. HeyMama has been paramount in my personal growth and growth of my company!
Michelle Rose Photo