Marni Epstein-Mervis

I think bringing something to life – even if a very rough version of it – is in and of itself a driver to keep moving the ball forward and truly see your vision come to life.


Marni is a photographer and journalist who is Founder and Principal of STRUKTR Studios, a Los Angeles-based content + communications studio. STRUKTR Studios provides content marketing, photography, video and more, to lifestyle and design brands, like hotels, apparel companies, interior designers, and real estate startups. Marni’s work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, on Curbed, Apartment Therapy, Dwell, and others, and she has been a frequent guest on HuffPost Live. Marni has over 10 years of experience in content and new media. She’s held positions with MySpace and Sony Pictures Entertainment, and before founding STRUKTR Studios, she ran content and social media at a Silicon Beach-based tech startup. She has taught content marketing at General Assembly and has also guest-lectured at USC’s Annenberg School For Communication.

Where did the idea for STRUKTR Studios come from?

I was a freelance journalist writing a lot about design and architecture. I saw that there was such a huge appetite for really great design content. At the same time a lot of designers, architects, and creative entrepreneurs I knew were having difficulty telling their stories (I’d often get contacted by readers of my pieces who loved my story and wanted me to write their bios, brand’s mission statement, and a lot more). STRUKTR was borne out of the idea that the content your brand offers can be just as engaging, entertaining, and useful as the content you yourself seek out in or on your favorite publications.

Our service offerings steadily expanded over time (to photography and video) from content marketing. The ability to tell a cohesive story, across all mediums, is incredibly important (after all, what’s a blog without photos? It’s mixed messaging and inefficient if your Instagram never shares any of your blog content, etc).

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My days are always different depending on whether I have a photoshoot, or it’s a writing day, The one constant is that I start most mornings by making a cup of espresso. Then I’ll go to the gym, or take the dog for a walk to get my day jump started. I love to keep todo lists in order to keep my day productive. There are so many task apps today but for me there’s something so satisfying about physically crossing something off my todo list.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Once I an idea strikes, I typically jump into action. I mean even STRUKTR, for example, I got the idea and immediately started building a draft of the website. I think I was up til like 2 or 3 am building it out. I like to get a version of something down immediately and iterate from there. I think bringing something to life – even if a very rough version of it – is in and of itself a driver to keep moving the ball forward and truly see your vision come to life. I used to keep a notebook on my bedside table because inspiration would always strike while I was falling asleep. So if it’s an idea for a photo shoot, video concept, or new a STRUKTR partnership opportunity I’ll jot down notes. Or inspiration for a client’s blog can often start with one key sentence that keeps repeating in my head – the bigger concept then gets built from there.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The movement towards authenticity. I think it’s great that we’re really seeing this filter into the kind of content people want to engage with. Blogs, for example, we’re seeing more than ever, can be about great storytelling in addition to SEO. Just stringing a bunch of keywords together isn’t anything that someone wants to engage with – and certainly is not something they’re going to return for. It’s an authentic story, or genuinely helpful information that people will keep coming back to engage with.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

One of the reasons I become an entrepreneur was so that I didn’t need to not be tied a desk or cubicle. One of the things that makes me most productive is making sure I work in environments where I feel really comfortable and really inspired. To be honest, that ranges from my bed laying next to my corgi, to a coworking space in a historic and architecturally significant building, or a fun cafe.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Once you discover what it is you love doing, just start doing it. You don’t need to wait for the right time or all the right pieces to come into place. A career, a company, it’s not built in a day. The sooner you can start building your company or your career piece by piece, the sooner you’ll see it come to fruition.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Sometimes you have leap before you look. I’ve learned to trust my gut. I left MySpace a couple months before they did mass layoffs in 2009, and similarly at a couple other companies I’ve worked at. It was leaping before I looked and leaving the startup I was at that started me on my entrepreneurial path.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Meet new people, attend events. I’m generally a more introverted person and so that is not necessarily my natural inclination. But meeting people, sharing ideas and collaborating with other companies is invaluable for growing your business.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Collaboration is key – especially in the beginning. Afterall, a rising tide lifts all boats. It’s essential to think creatively about how you an work with others and in a way that makes sense for your company’s objectives. Seek out like-minded partners and build amazing initiatives together – it’s a strategy that we teach our clients, as well.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Not initially realizing the value of my time, my work, and my expertise. My first project or two I asked an incredibly small project fee for work that took hours. I mean quite literally to the point where where my effective hourly rate was basically $0.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I think design and everything for the home is so big right now, there is a lot of opportunity in that space. There are a number of apps and services that help you with complete interior design of a space, but I think a curated “room in a box” delivered to your door, would be interesting for all the decorative and art pieces (not furniture) in a room.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I don’t know about about $100, but the best $35 I spent was filling up my Toyota Prius and recently driving out to Palm Springs to 2018 Modernism Week, spending six days around town, photographing Mid Century Modern homes, attending events, and connecting with colleagues in the design space, and back to Los Angeles, all on one tank and with gas to spare.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Google Drive, I do everything on it. Photo editing apps like Adobe Creative Cloud, A Color Story, etc are great.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Alain De Botton’s “The Architecture of Happiness.” It’s great at showcasing how our environment the the design around us affects who we are and what we do.

What is your favorite quote?

There’s a great line from Mad Men. Someone says to Don Draper, “This is America; pick a job and become the person who does it.”

Key Learnings:

  • The act of creation doesn’t have to be perfect. Write it down, build it. Putting something out into the world – even if a very rough version of it – will help you move towards seeing your final vision come to life.
  • Value your time, your work, and your expertise. If you do, others will too.
  • Design and architecture influence who we are and what we do. It’s both personal and universal – and it’s the reason why we connect with the stories behind design.
  • Don’t be afraid to collaborate and share ideas with others in like-minded industries or those that have synergistic audiences. It aids creativity and success.

Struktrstudios on Instagram: @struktrstudios