A journey of fearless, creative self-discovery led renowned New York City jazz musician and music educator Jody Espina into founding JodyJazz, a global manufacturing business. And at a recent TEDxCreativeCoast talk he gave, he said he couldn’t feel happier about the success this journey has brought his way.
“When you’re in this positive creative flow, amazing things can happen,” he told the crowd filling Savannah’s Jepson Center for the Arts for the event.
Espina is founder, owner and designer of the popular JodyJazz line of saxophone and clarinet mouthpieces. He moved his company from his live-work loft in Tribeca, New York City, to Savannah in 2008, bringing two employees. His staff has since grown to 10. He has also relocated his manufacturing and distribution facilities to the area, which he says has welcomed him with open arms.
“Creative Coast and SEDA threw me a welcome party,” he says. “The Savannah business community has been really good for me and
my business.” They also introduced him to the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center.
His first contact at the Savannah SBDC was consultant Lynn Vos. She helped him develop a business plan to apply for a loan to move his production facility in-house and expand his product line. “Lynn helped me get an SBA loan for the place and the equipment. It’s the first time I had a real factory,” he says.
Espina returned to the SBDC seeking additional assistance for some expert web search engine optimization (SEO) strategy with Kyle Hensel, the Savannah office’s area director. “JodyJazz has had top Google status since 2001, but to stay on top with ever-changing Google algorithms required some tweaking,” he says. “Kyle was able to help us.”
Again looking to expand, Espina sought Hensel’s assistance in developing new projections to submit for a second major loan.
“Kyle helped me with the business plan for the loan we just secured. He helped us show big savings in our production costs with the purchase of new buildings and equipment,” says Espina. “We bought two more buildings with the new loan, tripling our floor space. And we are getting a new machine, which will be a big step up in automation and what we can produce.”
“The purchases will allow Jody to cut his internal costs and control his supply chain,” agrees Hensel.
JodyJazz is now at the proverbial fork in the road. “We’ve got a very good pres- ence in the U.S. We’re in all of the biggest online and brick and mortar retailers. We’re known as a high-end brand but have a product that appeals to schools, which is our main target in the U.S. mar- ket.”
Yet despite the large and growing domestic market for his mouthpieces, over 65 percent of JodyJazz’s sales come from Europe and Asia. So with the improvisational intuition that comes from a secure knowledge of one’s craft, Espina enlisted the help of Dimitris Kloussiadis, the SBDC’s international trade consultant, to help open doors to new markets.
Espina enjoys living and working in Savannah, a “city with flavor” he notes, and staged to help businesses thrive. “The SBDC has a good relationship with all organizations, including our bankers, so there’s a good climate of cooperation. Their goal is to create more jobs, and that’s what we’ve done.
“I’m a sax player. I didn’t have a business school background. I had to get help, and they were the help I needed. The SBDC has been very crucial to my company’s success.”