James van Kriedt, at center, runs Bootjack Creative, a local branding and design studio. He’s surrounded by some of his work for local clients. Courtesy images.

Successful entrepreneurs often credit inspiration drawn from former bosses or mentors for imbuing them with the confidence to take the plunge. But just as many of those success stories have drawn fuel from moments when they were doubted or passed over.

James van Kriedt, owner of Bootjack Creative, a burgeoning local branding and design studio, has drawn inspiration from a bit of both camps in his professional career, but perhaps none moreso than an ill-advised doubter when he worked in the restaurant industry in Carmel.

Van Kriedt grew up on Molino Ave. in Mill Valley as an infant and later in Sausalito. After graduating from Tam High, he went to San Francisco State, where he studied industrial arts with an emphasis in visual communication. He met his wife, with whom he lives in Sycamore Park along with their 10-year-old son, while he was working at Piazza D’Angelo as a waiter and bartender. 

While taking a break from college, van Kriedt decided that he wanted to open a wine bar in Carmel, and he and his wife moved there for a year. He worked at local restaurants and garnered his certification as a sommelier. “I worked at a really nice restaurant and got wrapped up in it,” he says. “They told me they were opening a place in Napa, which got me excited at the opportunity.”

Shortly thereafter, he was told that he’d never be a manager with that restaurant group. “Now they are telling me what I can and cannot do,” van Kriedt says, noting the irony of the moment, when he’d hear constantly from co-workers how places like Sausalito and Mill Valley “were talked about like they were the promised land.”

As van Kriedt continued to develop his business plan for his wine bar, he came to the realization that he was considerably more excited about working on his would-be business’ logo than he was the actual business plan. It was then that he decided to go back to school for design, graduating in 2012. He started freelancing while also working as a wine buyer for the Tipsy Pig restaurant in San Francisco’s Marina district. 

“The work just kept coming and coming, so I quit the restaurant business and did design full-time,” he says. 

Six years on, van Kriedt says he and his small team of creatives at Bootjack work with a wide variety of entrepreneurs and small businesses that are looking to stand out and have a perception of high quality. Ideally, Bootjack targets clients that aren’t simply looking for one component of their brand – a website or a logo, for instance – but who “are committed to doing the whole process.”

With a background steeped in the food and hospitality industries, Van Kriedt is fluent in the nuances of that business and has many prominent local clients to show for it, including Grilly’s, Flour Craft Bakery, the Pelican Inn and Mountain Home Inn, as well as restaurateur Ged Robertson’s Shoreline Coffee Shop, Bootjack Wood Fired and the soon-to-open Watershed at the Mill Valley Lumber Yard. But he’s well-versed in design and branding across all industries and has also spearheaded the design and branding for local businesses like Iron Lion Gym and the Makery.

“He’s really really amazing,” Robertson says of van Kriedt. “He’s done so much for our brands. And he gets into it fully and he completely understands the process in a way that drives the brand forward.”

So how about the moniker van Kriedt shares in part with one of Robertson’s restaurants, and about which the pair joke over who had it first – where’d he come up with it? 

“I’m born and raised in Mill Valley and Sausalito, and for most of my life, I have lived where I can see Mt. Tam every day,” van Kriedt says. “I love living at the foot of it, I love the trail that bears its name and I will always be connected to Mt. Tam.”

The 411: Bootjack Creative is a branding and design studio. MORE INFO.

Want to know what’s happening around town? Click here to subscribe to the Enjoy Mill Valley Blog by Email!