2 Minutes With … Emily Stutzman and Ben Hennes, Co-Owners of Happylucky
Emily and Ben are co-owners of brand design agency Happylucky. Emily is CEO while Ben serves as CCO. Both have over 15 years of industry experience and have worked with brands such as Adidas, Chewy, Columbia, Reebok, Stella McCartney and Zappos.
We spent two minutes with Emily and Ben to learn more about their backgrounds, their creative inspirations and recent work they've admired.
Emily and Ben, tell us …
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
- Emily: I grew up Mennonite on a rye grass farm in Lebanon, Ore. I now live in the Pearl District in Portland, Ore.
- Ben: I grew up on the Clark Fork River just outside of Missoula, Mont. I now live in the University Park Neighborhood of Portland.
How you first realized you were creative.
- Emily: I always made jingles for household products. My mom still sings the one I wrote about cling wrap when I was 8 years old. My dad empowered me not to feel stifled by typical shoelace colors and to use my "creative license" to make my shoes my own.
- Ben: I was constantly making up characters as a child—running around the fields of my parents' ranch in outlandish costumes and dressing up my family. As a result, I joined many stage productions, both at church and the local children's theater. When I was eight, I joined the local 4-H club. In addition to raising livestock, I gravitated toward many creative projects including cake decorating, woodworking, photography and leather-craft.
A person you idolized creatively early on.
- Emily: My mom was a professional seamstress, and many ladies would come to her for custom clothing. She had one customer I was very inspired by. Bobbi came to mom for items that matched her personal flair. She always had interesting fabrics and creative takes on patterns. She lived to create the most perfect '80s blouse for herself. She had a mauve Cadillac with tinted windows that matched the tint in her glasses. Her license plate read "ibobbi." She was an absolute fashion icon to me.
- Ben: My maternal grandmother. She was a retired high school art teacher, a storyteller and a novelist. Her house was filled with her own art as well as western and indigenous artists that she admired. She would tell me stories and we would discuss artistic topics.
A moment from high school or college that changed your life.
- Emily: I applied to work for our U.S. senator on Capitol Hill and didn't think I'd have a shot at the position. But, I was selected. This completely changed my perspective on the world. I was there during a Supreme Court confirmation, watched Rosa Parks' funeral procession and rode an elevator with Hillary Clinton. Most importantly, the vastness of our country and the world opened up to me and I believed I could do anything, go anywhere, become anyone I wanted to be.
- Ben: I started college in the engineering program at Oregon State, thinking that I could pursue my love of drafting and design with a more "professional and lucrative lens." Well, I hated physics. Following a particularly bad test score, I found myself complaining to some friends. One of them was in the graphic design program and shared a glimpse into the projects they were working on. This was my first introduction to graphic design/advertising even being a thing! I was like: "What?! This is a career people have?" I switched majors shortly after—never to look back. I had a mentor/professor named Munerra Spence, who I have so much love, admiration and gratitude for. She pulled me aside and taught me that I didn't have to be the world's greatest visual designer—that my ability to lead teams, think conceptually and solve problems was my superpower.
A visual artist or band/musician you admire.
- Emily: Salomee Souag
- Ben: Nora En Pure, a DJ. Her music is the heartbeat of nature and all that connects us.
A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.
Your favorite fictional character.
Someone or something worth following in social media.
- Emily: Adam Grant and Happylucky (duh!). Adam brings a modern and humane approach to age-old workplace culture issues. I appreciate his perspective on how to build a healthy culture as a leader and how to participate in a healthy way as a professional.
- Ben: Local Portland Queen, Flawless Shade. She's fierce, she's unapologetic, she paints for the gods and she's an entertainer.
One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.
- Emily: I'm a community builder and I believe in the power of community. I've loved working on projects that bring people together—Adidas Community Lab and Adidas Women’s Community.
- Ben: Adidas Pride campaigns. As a queer man, being able to create with the level of heart this one had—and to harness the power of community for queer people, and turn the lens toward the Portland Queer community—was really special and powerful.
A recent project you're proud of.
- Emily: Our campaign/video series to combat voter distrust/misinformation.
- Ben: We have been working with the Oregon Secretary of State on a campaign and video series to combat voter distrust and misinformation. We rooted it in state pride, joy and created a gender-ful character named Blobby. And in the latest video, Zombie Blobby.
Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.
- Emily: Keith Haring. I loved how playful his work was but, also, how much meaning it carried and how he helped to shift and evolve queer culture and the perception around the queer community.
- Ben: "Silence = Death." It really impacted me through the power of subversion, the ability of simplicity to be so powerful, and the impact that design can have as an agent for change.
Someone else's work you admired lately.
- Emily: Greta Gerwig. I've watched and loved her emergence and have been obsessed with all her films.
- Ben: I find the public art installations by Daily Tous Les Jours really inspiring. The leaning into spontaneous public joy as a way to find connection is really powerful.
Your main strength as a creative person.
- Emily: Adaptability. I'm not scared of feedback, I love it. I want to produce the best work possible. If there's feedback, I can adjust and re-route, no problem.
- Ben: The ability to connect dissonance—find commonality and connection with people, see inspiration in all life experiences.
Your biggest weakness.
- Emily: Stopping! I always want to keep going, keep making things better and better. When something is perfect, I find how it's not and I try to improve it. This can be tiring (and expensive)!
- Ben: Focus. I am an enthusiast, powered by new experiences, new ideas. It sometimes makes it difficult to go deep, become an expert.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.
- Emily: I'd work on my app, Reco. Or build a lodge/hotel on the coast in Oregon.
- Ben: I'd be a chef. I love cooking, I love the improvisation and the flavors. I love seeing people enjoy the things I make.