As a 22-year-old graduate of the University at Albany, Jacques Bastien made one of the biggest decisions of his life in August, 2012. He signed a three-year lease on what would be the first office for boogie, his fledgling graphic design business. After making the deal, he had a total of $250 in the bank.
But all has turned out well. Very well. Today boogie has ten employees, offices in both Albany and Brooklyn, and an impressive list of clients who prize the firm’s ability to connect with millenials.
Supremely confident in his ability to teach himself any new skill, Bastien has done it all with a built-in curiosity, a penchant for hard work, and a profound understanding of the importance of hustle.
“I’m a hustlepreneur,” he says.
Sharing his story at Patrice Perkins’ August Startup Grind Albany event, Bastien was born in Haiti, moved to Brooklyn in 2000, and lost his mother in 2004. Suddenly sharing responsibility with his father for raising his younger siblings, “I grew up faster than I otherwise would have,” he says.
Heading off to the University at Albany in 2008, Bastien established his first business in way that can almost be called accidental. Unhappy with the way barbers generally cut his hair, he bought clippers to cut his own. But soon he was cutting hair for as many as 20 or 30 UAlbany students per week. The name he gave his new business: “Boogie Cutz.”
Cutting hair turned out to be a great way to network. Soon Bastien was organizing campus events. Then he was designing posters and flyers to promote the events. Then he was handling the printing of those posters and flyers. Then he was doing the event photography.
In this way, what started as a hair-cutting business evolved steadily into what is today a thriving graphic design, marketing and social media consultancy that serves such clients as the NBA, Vent Fitness and Mildred Elley.
“Our journey has been a series of pivots,” says Bastien, who majored in information sciences and minored in business. “We look at the needs of our customers and do everything we can to meet them. We look at what’s working and what’s not working. Most importantly, we welcome change with open arms.”
A true master of social media, Bastien even turned his 2014 proposal to his wife and business partner Dahcia into a viral online event. The video of his proposal was viewed 40,000 times in a few days. Fox News NYC so loved the story they picked up the cost of the wedding and showed highlights on the air.
Enlisted by Upstate Venture Connect chairman Martin Babinec to be a UVC “Community Connector,” Bastien values his role as a teacher and mentor. Each fall, he teaches a course in interactive design at UAlbany. True to his philosophy of learning by doing, he requires his students to build a mobile app from scratch as they study the process.
To young people who dream of starting their own businesses, Bastien offers simple advice: “Work hard.”
“This is especially important in school, where you might not be taken seriously,” he says. “You may not have the right skills and you may not have enough experience to get from A to B. So the only way you’re going to get to where you want to be is to hustle.”