An interview with badass HRDWRKER* founders, JJ Anderson + Tito Molina
*HRDWRKER IS A MEDIA + PRODUCTION COMPANY THAT SUPPORTS AND HIGHLIGHTS THE HARD WORKING TRAIL-BLAZERS OF TODAY.
Alright, so, how exactly did you two meet and how did HRDWRKER get started?
TITO // We met at Cabo Cantina in Hollywood, a group of friends met up for drinks and JJ showed up on a date. I happened to sit across from her and her date, and we kind of hit it off from there.
JJ // That sounds super suspect, but its accurate. My date left the country and Tito was funny, so I agreed to hang out with him.
TITO // HRDWRKER was a clothing line idea that I shared with JJ shortly after meeting. I knew I wanted my clothing line to represent something with substance and positivity. After sharing a mock-up of the first HRDWRKER t-shirt with her she immediately jumped on board and began brainstorming how we could create content that would inspire people to follow their passions.
Our “business plan on a napkin” was simple. Document the stories of our friends who were aspiring chefs, music producers, jewelry designers and creatives and package them all into a short inspirational series. We would tie this content back to the clothing line by closing every segment with the statement “My name is…and I’m a HRDWRKER.”
SS // What is / is not commonly featured in media productions or stories that showcase entrepreneurs and creatives?
TITO // We believe every person has a story of perseverance and resiliency, yet most content is focused on the “celebrity” or “vanity” of an individual. When we launched in 2014 we decided to focus on stories that we could personally relate to and gather valuable insight from. We searched for stories that presented an honest perspective on how to find the courage to pursue your passions and reach your desired level of success.
SS // Just a year or two ago, you were pushing out four documentary shorts a month. How did you maintain integrity and quality in your features while working within this goal-structure?
JJ // Producing four documentary shorts a month was a beautiful challenge. We spent many late nights and early mornings in front of our editing bay, working to create authentic portraits of people and meet deadline after deadline.
The catalyst behind our relentless work ethic was and still very much is the integrity and quality of the stories we help to tell. We believe that being given access to someone’s life and story is a privilege that should be honored. We honor these opportunities by creating segments people can be proud of.
So- when our eyelids got heavy and the bed was looking like a piece of heaven, we reminded each other that people were conjuring up the courage and time to be vulnerable with us. The least we could do during those hectic moments was paint their lives in a way that would make them smile.
"We feel that a lot of people confuse their identity with their occupation... which is very dangerous. Any career worthwhile is going to experience plenty of peaks and valleys, and if you’re identity is tied to that career- it’s going to hit those peaks and drop down to those valleys with it."
SS // How did each of you find the kahunas to quit your jobs and just go for it? (Did you feel that there was any security in that choice at the time? Was it a gut feeling?)
JJ // I quit my job at an independent television network almost immediately after Tito shared the idea for HRDWRKER. There was absolutely no sense of security at the time, no real plan, and just a few month’s worth of savings in my bank account. But I recognized the potential HRDWRKER had and I knew that I would regret not giving it a shot.
It was both an exciting and terrifying decision. I felt like I was diving head first into the unknown. I never second-guessed that decision because I realized early on that HRDWRKER was much bigger than Tito or me. It was about community and giving people a platform to share and help others. This made all of the risk worth the stress we experienced in the first few years of launching HRDWRKER.
Tito is still working a full-time job, which is INSANE. I don’t know how he does it. He is originally from El Salvador and arrived in the U.S. at the age of eight. His mother worked very hard to bring him and his sisters here, as well as provide them with a happy life. This tradition of hustle and grind really had an effect on Tito and was ultimately engrained in him. He got a job in his early teens and has been working ever since.
I truly appreciate Tito’s determination and ability to enthusiastically juggle two jobs. However, I also look forward to the day in which he can give himself permission to be a full-time freelancer. There is nothing more satisfying and I can’t wait for him to experience it.
SS // Is there any industry that you’ve noticed invites more risk takers?
JJ // I wouldn’t restrict the level of risk to a particular industry. When it comes to business, nothing feels more risky than leaving a secure job to pursue a passion. I can say that some people accrue more risk because of their personal circumstances. Some of our HRDWRKERS are young parents who have no choice but to succeed in supporting their kid(s) and setting an example for them to follow. Others are immigrants and have their entire family depending on them. Many of our HRDWRKERS spent their bottom dollar on funding their startup and don’t have a “plan b”...
These could all be considered volatile scenarios in which the risk may exceed the payout, but the hard workers we’ve met or worked with who are looking to make their mark in varying industries just go for it.
SS // What do you want your audience to get from watching HRDWRKER?
JJ // Following your passion is such an amazing journey, but it can be very lonely, scary, and unstable at times. There are moments when you'll feel like you have no idea what you're doing and think you're the only person in the world who feels this way. We've met plenty of people who are in possession of true talent, but gave up because they didn't know what the next step was or couldn't cope with the emotional side of the experience. We created HRDWRKER for those people.
We hope that when a budding go-getter watches a HRDWRKER series or segment, they feel like they are part of team and are able to find answers or support through the stories of others. We felt that creating The #HRDWRKER Series: RITUALS was extremely important because it explores themes of self-care and balance, which are often after thoughts when it comes to entrepreneurship. Each person in the series shares practices from their daily routines that contribute to their growth as both an individual and a professional. We hope that viewers will learn that taking time for one's self is just as important as answering emails or rushing to a meeting.
SS // How do you find the people you want to feature in your series?
JJ // We practically scour the corners of the earth and the internet to find people to feature. We usually start with an occupation or industry we’re interested in learning about and then search for people in those areas who are noticeably dedicated to their craft. This search takes place via word of mouth, social media, events, etc.
We also try to include people who are interested in creating for the community vs. just for themselves. For example: Liz Hernandez, who is featured in the The #HRDWRKER Series: RITUALS, worked in entertainment radio and television for many years. She more recently decided to take it upon herself to create a video series that explores the weight of words and how we implement them into our lives. This project, WORDAFUL, is designed to educate people on how they can empower themselves through language.
The idea that someone like Liz made the choice to focus on a project that everyone could potentially benefit from is incredibly appealing to us. Everyone featured in the upcoming series creates for the community in one way or another.
"We've met plenty of people who are in possession of true talent, but gave up because they didn't know what the next step was or couldn't cope with the emotional side of the experience."
SS // Do you think that showcasing these stories will help people discover their own identity? Solidify it? Question it?
JJ // We hope that showcasing these stories will signal to viewers that it’s okay to be themselves and embrace who they are or who they want to be. We all have different values, experiences, and perspectives that make us unique. The people featured in our stories have found a way to channel those elements and create something awesome for themselves and the world to enjoy. Tito and I wish for the examples set forth by highlighted HRDWRKERS inspire viewers to stand tall in all their identity and do the same.
SS // This month’s issue is all about “identity.” How do you think one’s career can impact their identity? How do you think someone is supposed to find their identity? Can they find it through their career, or is it entirely separate?
JJ // We feel that a lot of people confuse their identity with their occupation. They allow their job title to determine who they are, which is very dangerous. Any career worthwhile is going to experience plenty of peaks and valleys, and if you’re identity is tied to that career- it’s going to hit those peaks and drop down to those valleys with it. From personal experience and observation, we can say that this only results in frustration.
Finding your identity is a matter of asking WHO you are and WHO you want to be, not WHAT you do. Do you want to be a good person? Do you want to be supportive of yourself and others? Do you want to stand out or blend in? Once you have those answers and are strong in your identity, everything else becomes clearer.
SS // How does your personal identity come across in your work?
JJ // Tito and I both come from working class families. As mentioned earlier- Tito’s mom worked undeniably hard to bring her kids to the U.S. from El Salvador. She found employment here as a nanny and frequently labored 16-hour days to support her children. While she was not home as much as she would have liked to be- she was doing what was necessary at the time.
Tito’s mom’s deep-rooted work ethic was subconsciously passed down to Tito and plays a large role in his identity. It is very much an inspiration behind the type of people we find. Everyone you see on our platform understands that the path to following one’s passion is demanding, but they walk the path anyway and make it work.
My parents were both addicts (alcohol + narcotics) when my mother became pregnant with me. My mother immediately chose to commit to sobriety, but it took my father a little longer to get there. As a result, I was constantly sitting in AA & NA meetings- listening to testimonies and observing the attendees. Those meetings were my first introduction into storytelling and how powerful the art could be. I can honestly say that those meetings and the people who participated in them helped shape my identity.
What always struck me the most was how each member of the group was able to find the happiness in the struggle. The idea of learning how to navigate the duality of adversity and peace is a motif we are regularly exploring and I believe that The #HRDWRKER: RITUALS series is going to be a great example of this.
"My parents were both addicts (alcohol + narcotics) when my mother became pregnant with me [...] As a result, I was constantly sitting in AA & NA meetings - listening to testimonies and observing the attendees. Those meetings were my first introduction into storytelling and how powerful the art could be."
SS // Do you feel you have defined identities that differ between personal and work life?
JJ // Whether we’re at home, spending time with friends and family, or on the job- we are always JJ and Tito. We work hard, are passionate about what we do, respect our peers, and laugh a lot. While the setting may change, we are consistent in who we are.
SS // So, what are you guys working on now? What's next for HRDWRKER.
TITO // We're launching a new series this month. Is called “The #HRDWRKER Series: RITUALS” -- and it follows the same theme of passion as previous HRDWRKER interviews. The difference comes in our choice to focus on the daily rituals each individual practice that contribute to their growth and fuel the pursuit of their passions. We want our viewers to learn from our content and hopefully implement some of the daily rituals shared by these amazing individuals into their own routines. This series features actor/activist/writer Joy Bryant, creator of WORDAFUL Liz Hernandez, musician VIAA, and founder of Dear Southside Estefani Alarcon.
SS // Final breath of advice for those who are gonna dive in and go for it after reading this?
TITO & JJ // Following your passion is not an easy task, but the good news is you are not alone. Work to become a master of your craft, find a community of likeminded individuals, stay true to your vision, and be patient. The rest will come.
The HRDWRKER Series: RITUALS Arrives in May 2018