Who we are:
We are James and Michele and now our expanded and loyal team.
We started our business fig in 1993 right after moving to Chicago. It’s first iteration was fig entertainment and was James deejaying and sales full time and Michele doing some marketing, all the accounting while working first at Whole Foods and then at Shabby Chic.
James is our pioneer in the industry, he ran the production team for a company called Horizon Entertainment in Houston Texas, he deejayed and emceed all types of events from weddings to Fantastic Sam’s national hair shows and Kids Expos. He also supervised and operated the video portion of the business for it’s owner Gary Seline. They drove Ford F150 extended cabs and drug these huge enclosed trailers with gear to events. He has some hilarious stories about his teams and clients.
Having studied film and photography in school, James helped run the Southwestern Alternative Media Production (SWAMP) project in Houston teaching media literacy to children. He also took a stint and went to London to study film and assisted student filmmakers at the London International Film School and worked with Gorinda Chowdury at the British Film Institute. He made his first film there on his own dime with a friend and a Royal Shakespeare actor.
Michele and James decided to make themselves and item and they got married on a Wednesday, at the courthouse. The best thing he ever did quips James. As James’ sister said- only you two would do it backwards, get married in divorce court. Sammy the horse and his carriage took them to their afternoon reception where they had 100% turn out. Why don't more people get married on Wednesdays? The cake was fabulous, a friend played guitar with his buddy on cello. Another friend screwed up about 150$ worth of black and white film and Michele’s dad hired his golf buddy, because he insisted, and these are only photos of wedding. The video was them holding the camera, apparently when they thought it was on it was off etc. They moved to Chicago right after getting married as it seemed like a good exercise in expanding our their own horizons.
Michele has her BFA from Kansas City art institute in painting, printmaking and some video with film history. She’d received awards for her academic achievement from the High School for Performing and Visual arts in Houston, also awards for her academic achievements, her drawing portfolio and frequented the deans list regularly at the KCAI. She has received certificates from state of Texas for her studies in the arts and she participated in numerous group shows with her paintings such as the Houston Area Exhibition with noted juror Andreas Serrano.
James completed his BA in philosophy, under his thesis advisors Ross Lence, Cynthia Freeland and John McNees. After switching from geology at the U of T and stint in legal at U of H, he became president of his pre law society, a reporter and photographer for the U of H Cougar newspaper and went on to study photography and philosophy. He was an honors scholar at the University of Houston, under the leadership of Ted Estes and Bill Monroe. He then went on to study film and photography as well as social interaction, current politics and is an avid media buff.
James & Michele decided that Chicago was a new adventure worth having. Michele got job merchandising the first Whole Foods Market in the midwest, right on Sheffield and North avenue. James got a job with Record A Hit deejaying and emceeing gigs and events. This lasted for a short time before Michele left Whole Foods appalled at it’s nepotism and her own inability to fight back with authority. The Gustin's kick themselves for not buying all the stock they were entitled to before leaving after 5 years of “gold button” service.
Insert photo of [gold button] here. James offered a partnership to his current employer, when his ideas about making the business a better place were not welcomed, fig was born.
Michele went on to work for a New York interior designer Julie Dobies who had recently relocated to run Chicago’s Shabby Chic to support the new fig birth. At Shabby Chic Michele worked within the interior and furniture design field for 2 years before being invited to move to Malibu to work with Rachel Ashwell, Shabby Chic’s owner, to help open up their European boutiques. She failed miserably at making that a reality and still owes Rachel Ashwell an apology for her lack of professionalism in leaving. She feels she continues to pay penance for this bad behavior every time an employee acts like a jerk or projects their mom onto her.
James' love of learning lead him to study improvisational comedy with Del Close and Sharna Halpern at the Improv Olympic, then at the Second City. He worked with the Upright Citizens Brigade. Unfortunately for James and his not so evolved emotional intelligence he failed to accomplish anything significant and weaved through multiple mediocre improv teams before moving on to real group therapy where he thrived and spent twenty years diggiing into therapy and coaching.
James joined a men’s group that studied with the Wright Foundation and is currently completed with his field studies and half way into the academic required for his masters in EDu.
Michele went on to join James studying social and emotional intelligence as it lead to better team development, better standards and improving fig’s ability to connect our team to higher purpose in service and mentorship. Her original intent was to learn how to have a great marriage in the throws of working with her highly verbal and demonstrative husband. The rest was a big AHA as the lessons were applicable to so much our team was up agains. She has completed her field work, gone on to lead and mentor groups, learn to support others to have great lives, facilitate purposeful learning and growing, lead from purpose and teach others to live from same. She studied group process and facilitated groups as a volunteer leader for over10 years. Michele is complete with her field studies and applied learning and has the other half of her academic to complete with her masters in EDu.
Recently Michele was invited to mentor at 1871 and is excited to meet and support other business leaders.
How did we come to have the name fig?
The name fig was an encrypted symbol of good luck for James and Michele.
In Houston a friend’s band, 3 Day Stubble had a song that with the lyric: Mary Jane changed her name to Figshta when she started hanging around with the wrong crowd.
James and Michele lived in a tree house, complete with mushrooms growing under the sink and a tree, a little calico cat wandered in one day and they told her she was hanging around with the wrong crowd, they didn't need a cat. She stuck and became known as Figshta, as she was definitely hanging around with the wrong crowd. Later she became the best rat killer ever, her claim to fame was she killed a rat as large as she with no discernible marks on it. Michele likes to claim that if we still had plague the Gustin's would be saved. It is also not widely known but calicos are considered lucky in some cultures and they are only female. Figgy came to Chicago with the Gustin's and was the best little cat ever, she became the secret name sake although the business fig took the fruit or internal flower of the fig tree as it’s symbol. The amazing DH Lawrence poem about figs is another reason we selected it.
The Gustin’s initial idea with fig dj was that tasteful music could be played instead of bad music at events. This sounds ridiculous now but in Chicago in 1993 that was not happening. DJs still had a program of hits that they hammered clients with, they still wore tuxedos and hopped around- not a bad thing it just is not always the thing. In fact, it seldom is anymore.
When Michele met James she considered herself a music snob, she’d dated music gurus, gone to some of the hippest shows (in her opinion) like the front row Police at the Music Hall in Houston, Peter Gabriel at U of H, Steve Reich, ACDC Back in Black tour, Robert Fripp with Adrian Belloo, Rush, she grew up listening to Led Zeppelin and still partakes. She later dated a classical pianist, learned about classical from him, worked in an exclusive jazz record store Pennylane Records Kansas City, learned about jazz there. She's an avid music fan and gravitates to unusual mixes, alternative, loves new rap if it’s controversial and not misogynist. Michele sees music as an opportunity to connect to spirit and to each other.
When Michele met James in Houston her high school friend Erin McAfee, the consummate music snob, said something wise: you can always tell a guy by the type of music he listens to. James’ had cassette tapes of Wagner and could yodel. This was tantamount to how Michele fell for him, he is still outside her scope of predictability and as she loves that type of danger, here is where fig lives.
James was very intent on getting to know his clients, he was also driven to please Michele and became a deejay to connect to the part of spirit she followed. James is a driven entrepreneur. His background traveling with his family all over the world gave him a world culture and dominance that is the basis for his openminded viewpoint. He sees people from all cultures and admires them and wants to connect to them and adores getting to know them more.
James has evolved fig to connect more deeply to people, Michele and James continue to work as a team to use the models and concepts they are evolving to connect more deeply to themselves and to each other.
Learns in business:
Biggest mistake: “empowering” our team as per Ari Weinzwag “empowering” [A Lapsed Anarchist's Approach to Building a Great Business] them sets up the game for them to take/steal/abscond (interpretive words, not necessarily his) with everything we teach then fling the concept of loyalty or integrity back in our faces whilst transferring their parental upset. Goody for us, we most certainly did that the hard way.
We teach someone how to do everything we do, person gets to take it, not be thankful, in fact gets to remain sullen and angry and withhold, then get James mad enough to explode. Person then get to be victimized by his explosion, aka no one gets to speak to me like that, it’s unprofessional etc. but, here is the cool part, this person then gets to use it as an excuse to have no integrity, take everything including clients and proprietary information and training continue to do what we do but not with us. Brilliant!
The best thing we did was stop “empowering” them and start expecting them to figure things out, amazing things started to happen. Our current team is better and smarter than we ever will be. We will still be the dedicated, steady strong ones and when we move along, the toughest strongest ones will step up even more. fig has always survived, now it thrives.
Fig is evolving, thank god and goddess
Gustin and fig’s greatest accomplishment: that we and our employees are nourished in service and to use the work to have greater lives. Our clients feel the love as there is not a dearth or limited cup.
Our wedding philosophy:
We serve and are served in the service. Nourished and fulfilled by service.
Dry husk theory: Old model, I will be used up and there will be nothing left of me.
People and families are gifts. Weddings are connection opportunity.
We had a client say this: I was invited to a girlfriend’s wedding, I bought a new dress, I booked a hotel and traveled there, I sat at the event, it was huge and lovely, and I felt irrelevant, like I didn't matter.
This is exactly what we talk about when we discuss who is it you are including in your event. Why include them if you would like to exclude them. Well, to punish them publicly? We’d rather not. We had a wedding where the daughter insisted we play techno all night as her parents were ballroom dancers and would hate it and leave. Why do this? You may as well elope - that would be more fun than punishing your family.
Traditions are to be examined and either included or not included based on conscious decisions not neglect or anger.
Who we are in the community:
Vision and thought leaders, a large percentage of the DJ companies here in chicago spawned off of us and our training.
We were making stories about our clients when many of our current competitors were not born yet. Other companies were making very bad wedding videos.