The best entrepreneurs will tell you that everything in life can be a learning experience. We learn from our successes—and from our mistakes. Along the way, we figure out what we’re good at, what we’re passionate about, and what we have to share with others. For Jacob Laskowski, 86 Creative is the result of a lifetime of experiences. Even the name, 86, grew up out of that story.
As a millennial-driven enterprise, 86 takes its name not only from a great decade, but from an old expression that’s said to have grown up in the restaurant industry: “86 it” – get rid of something old and replace it with something better. At 86, we view this as an invitation: we help our clients ditch the old ideas that aren’t working and replace them with fresh, new ideas that bring excitement and energy to their business.
This has always been Jacob’s passion. As he likes to say, it all started in 2nd grade when he entered a school-wide art contest, competing not only against his fellow students, but against dozens of other schools. He watched the other kids use typical media—crayons, markers and paints—and he thought, “If I’m going to win this, I can’t do what everyone else is doing.” Instead, he created an imaginative collage using a die-cutter available in the school.
Ask him about it today and he’ll chuckle. Okay, so his creation wasn’t quite ready to be showcased in the Metropolitan, but his effort to stand out in a positive way from the crowd paid off. The school principal chased after him on his walk home from school about two months after he submitted his entry. Breathless, she told him he was one of four winners. The prize: a brand new Packard Bell PC. It was his family’s first computer, and for Jacob, it opened up a whole new world.
There’s an incredible power in the combination of creativity with technology and communication. Jacob discovered it when he was eight years old, publishing personal greeting cards, a family newsletter, and even his own business card. As he got older he began to harness that power for positive change, resuscitating his high school’s defunct newspaper and using the power of communication and branding to breathe new life and pride into his small parochial school.
Combining creativity, communication and savvy use of technology, Jacob reignited positive energy and school spirit, eventually receiving a national Spirit of Community award and the Distinguished Hoosier Award from the governor of Indiana for his efforts.
Jacob carried this creative energy to Ball State University, where he worked for the Ball State Alumni Association, designing the association’s prestigious monthly magazine. Again, it was an opportunity to combine his love for design with something bigger and more far-reaching. After earning his degree in Public Relations, he dove into missionary work that eventually gave him his first chance to lead a national organization successfully through the rebranding process.
That success led to the official launch of 86 Creative in 2013. Since then, Jacob says every day is another opportunity to learn new things, to grow and to do what he’s great at: creating with intention. He considers intentionality the hallmark of his business—of his brand.
Ask him about his pet peeves, and without missing a beat he’ll tell you: mediocrity, small-mindedness and power cords. Hopefully the first two are obvious. The third? “Cords are unintentional,” he says with a shrug and wry smile. “Cords showing on your desk or in your living room clogs up the visual. I have to be intentional even about electricity; otherwise it distracts from what really matters.”
Really, that’s what 86 is all about: putting the focus on what matters most. “At 86, we don’t just build iconic brands,” Jacob insists. “We make brands that work.”