Dave Finstrom has over 30 years of small business experience, providing marketing and creative services. He owns HUTdogs with his business partner and sister, MJ, helping non-profits and businesses with their marketing and promotional campaigns.
Dave has a background in marketing and technology. Earlier in his career, he worked as a representative for a quality assurance business, which provided testing of software and hardware. This interest in technology continues and is combined with his passion for marketing and creativity.
His creativity extends past the business arena, and is a published author of two books. His latest book, “I am Shout Outs! The Book of Me!” is a book that celebrates the power of positive affirmations and encourages readers to embrace their true selves. Through his writing, Dave seeks to inspire others to live boldly and authentically.
Dave lives in Los Angeles and enjoys rock climbing and cycling.
“I drove out here with the bare minimum and went from there. It was time for a change. A lot of trends, ideas, and new thoughts tend to happen in California first and migrate to the rest of the country. My sisters are here, and I thought, what the heck? I’ll just move out.”
“He had restaurants and gas stations and was a milkman when they delivered milk to the door. He’s always had that independent spirit, which I think was inherited by myself and my sisters. Let’s work for ourselves. Let’s figure out a new way of doing stuff.”
“It’s fun to make something that doesn’t exist, right, and then make it have meaning behind it.”
We’ve known Joan for quite a while. We always call her the queen of networking. If you don’t know somebody, Joan knows that somehow to connect you.
She’s been a client of ours. We help her with her B4B think tank, which is the 4th Wednesday of the month. That think tank is where she has guests who are business owners or entrepreneurs who want to have a think tank.
The guests are all part of it, and they talk about their issues or the problems they want to solve. And all the people on the Zoom call would pipe in and say, ‘Have you thought about this with that and that?’
What HUTdogs does for Joan is we’re in the background of the Zoom call. Jones is the front-facing piece, and we’re in the back, making sure everything’s working correctly.
No. We work with technology, but we’re graphic designers and marketing for creative services.
My background is in technology. When I moved to LA, I worked for a tech firm where resellers could make 30% to 40% on a computer. This is way before Amazon and the online stuff.
HUTDogs is based out of Arcadia. We’re part of the chambers of South Pass, Irwindale, and Arcadia. My sister lives in Arcadia, and we are business partners together.
No. I’m from Colorado, but I’ve been here for 30 years. My older sister moved to Santa Barbara and went to school at UCSB. And so I’d come out and visit on my spring breaks. And then, my younger sister moved here after her graduation, and then I thought, I visit seven or eight times a year, and I thought, it may be cheaper to live here.
I moved 30 years ago because there’s a lot of opportunity here. It has sunshine. It’s something different. And a lot of trends, ideas, and new thoughts tend to happen in California first. And both of my sisters are here, and I thought, ‘What the heck?’ I’ll just move here.
No. I drove out here with a carload of stuff, and that was it. It was time to change. Time to have something to do.
I think so. It runs in our family. My dad’s always had small businesses growing up.
He had restaurants and gas stations and was a milkman when they delivered milk to the door.
He’s always had that independent spirit, which I think was inherited by myself and my sisters. Let’s work for ourselves. Let’s figure out a new way of doing stuff. I’ve worked for corporate before to get the experience to understand the nuts and bolts of things, but I needed something else.
I worked for that reseller and then moved to another company where I worked inside sales that sold quality assurance services for other companies. The company was based in Santa Monica and got picked up by a company out of Boston. They ran the company like a spreadsheet. You know, they don’t necessarily run by delivery of products and fostering of people.
The spreadsheet was king, which is what you’re seeing a lot of now. For example, Facebook just laid off something like 10,000 people. I call that spreadsheet management.
The value of the asset is only as good as it is on paper. And I learned the hard way that I’m a cog in the wheel and replaceable.
Whereas owning my business, I am not replaceable right now.
It’s just the 2 of us, and then we’ll do 1099 after that.
Yeah. Marketing, Creative Services. We’re rooted in graphic design. We used to do a lot of print work before the internet blew up. You know, we do a lot of print. We did a lot of print work and a lot of layouts. We still do that when we do our work now; we think about what it will look and sound like. We have that vision first; vision and goal are merged together.
And now our business has kind of evolved along with technology. We do a lot with email marketing, social media, and online activities.
I love designing logos.
We’re in the creative suite of Adobe, but we use Canva a lot now. I mean, that’s what’s so much fun, but I love doing logos. I’ve done quite a few logos.
It’s fun to make something that doesn’t exist and then make it have meaning behind it. So, we do logos, newsletters, email marketing, and social posting.
We do some consultations and things like that. We have some clients that want to have their hands under their hood. But they don’t know what they’re doing, so we provide the direction there and have a one-on-one consultation with them or a one-on-one work session.
Some folks want us just to give them the guidebook so their team can do it. So those are the kinds of services we provide.
I think it’s always kind of been there. I’ve always liked to do wood carving and sculpting and things like that. And that I just like to be creative. I get to create things that never existed before.
I brought my book. I just published it. “I am Shout Outs! The Book of Me!” It stems from watching my niece grow up, and I’ve always wanted to write her a letter about these things in life that are challenging no matter what. And I thought it would be nice if she had a letter to act as a guide for when the challenges are pretty deep. So it came from that.
It’s a bullet-point read. I didn’t want it to be lengthy. I wanted to have space on the page. So, the reader could look at it and write their own thoughts or create their own image there. There’s room to color on it. There’s room to add notes. You know, the idea was most people won’t read a book cover to cover. So it’s nice for you to flip a page a day and have that positive effect. They can flip a page a day, and it helps the reader internalize the point of that page. They can say ‘I am great’ instead of ‘That is great.’ It frames it as if you are the master of your plan, the master of your ship. It’s a very self-affirming book.
What’s interesting is that I aimed it at teens to young adults, but I’m finding older folks like it too. I think it’s because everybody is battling the beast called life.
“I am Shout Outs! The Book of Me.” The Book of Me is because it’s written in the first person. The Shout Out is about you giving yourself a shout-out. Why don’t you tell yourself something good for a chain?
That’s our number one question for HUTdogs, our marketing company. We were in my sister’s office in 2001 or 2002, and the real estate market was on fire. We wanted to have a business that was a graphic service for realtors and real estate agents. We wanted to have a cool name that had a story behind it, like Kinkos.
We had a laundry list from probably here to the door. However, we wanted something catchy and catchy like Kinko’s. We must have been driving her husband nuts because, 2 hours later, he says, ‘Why don’t you guys just call it something like HUTdogs and get over it?’
We knew it when we heard it, and that’s how we landed on the name. It’s actually a division of MJ Creative. So that’s our corporate. MJ Creative. We also were ahead of the curve because our offices are virtual. We can provide our services anywhere as long as we have our computers.
Drawing the vision out of somebody is part of the deal. A lot of people think they know what they want, but some people have no idea. You ask them odd questions, like, ‘If your business was a cow, what would where would it eat?’ ‘If your business was an insect, what kind of insect would it be?’
This gets their brains off the normal track, and we can start to get the idea of where they want to think, how they think differently, and how they envision their business.
This also helps them consider who their customers are. Are they business people, John Q public, or concertgoers? Who are they? What are they? And we go from there.
The other thing we look at is ‘What images inspire you?’ It doesn’t have to be from your industry. It could be somebody’s shoe company or ice cream company.
Now, this gives us an idea of what that looks like. This helps us create content and brand identity.
We didn’t have a choice. I mean, it was there. It’s just like the chat GPT. It’s here. It’s here to stay.
The social media we jumped in because the point was obvious. We hired somebody to do our social media way back in the day. I didn’t want to have my face on the internet. Like, a realtor has it on the bus bench. Then the light bulb went off. If I have my face and my logo out there, other people will see it, too, and this was when Facebook was starting.
We jumped on it because we saw it as media. The word media is critical because everything else we do is for media. Whether it’s print or physical media, like bus banners, is important. It took a while for us to accept social media was important.
TikTok is great for making videos and such, but it depends on your business. For a law firm, I don’t know if you want to do TikTok or not; it would likely do better on a platform like LinkedIn.
Each platform has its own culture set. LinkedIn is very business networking, formal networking online. Facebook is more universal. It has business and personal. Instagram is great for quick attention spans and gives you great information quickly.
There’s a market for everything, but the question we always ask our clients is, where’s your audience?
You know, you may not like TikTok, but your audience may love TikTok. And that’s something you need to embrace.
You have to think when you’re marketing, you think about the end user, not necessarily who you are. What do they want? And that’s often where we start with our clients. What’s the problem you solve or trying to solve?
That’s a great question. With chat GPT, it’s spooky good. I think we’re on the snowflake’s edge of an iceberg on this one. There’s so much you can do with it.
I think technology will only get more and more automated. Still, as it gets more and more automated, I think we as people have to be more and more diligent and become the editor and the verification and make sure that what’s being put out there is accurate.
But where it’s going in 10 years is a who-knows question. I think we will see a lot more automation and ease of use, which will scare many people.
A little bit. Our policy with HUTdogs is to keep it business-like.
Sometimes, I’ll show you what I’m having for lunch, but only if there’s a strategic piece behind it. You had dumplings as your last podcast guest. I’d take a picture of that and say I’m having dumplings with my last guest because that tie ends with their business.
But we are our own editors, and that’s something we have to remember back to critical thinking. You know, our story that gets out there is what we say, and that’s something young folks need to learn as well. Once it’s out there, it stays out there.
There are a lot of people who get vetted via social media before they get a job. If they see you had a big beer keg and a blowout over the summer, that could be a red flag for the company hiring you.
My book is called ‘I am Shout Outs! The Book of Me,’ and you can buy it online, and we are on Instagram and Facebook as well.
You can go to www.IamShoutOuts.com and look at the website.
You can find our company, HUTdogs, at www.HUTdogs.com, and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.