Women in the City – Summer

Business: Cintara, www.cintara.com
Owner: Lisa Tollner
Industry: full-service branding agency

Opening Blurb:  From deep roots in the bay area, working in an apartment kitchen, to a company that now services industries including technology, healthcare, consumer products, hospitality and financial businesses meet the founder and woman behind Cintara.

Today I sat down with Lisa Tollner, owner of Cintara, a full service branding agency located in down town San Jose off Post and First Street. In the interest of being transparent I will admit that I work with Lisa on a consistent basis as her company was one of the integral partners that helped work on this very site as well as currently collaborates with Team San Jose on many of our marketing efforts. I find it a pleasure to work with her and if you have the need of a branding agency I think you’ll find their services invaluable.

Lisa is a bay area native with a family that has ancestry in the South Bay going back to Spanish settlers and even Secundino Robles, who had discovered quicksilver in the Almaden Hills. In more present times, her grandfather was the owner of Leroy’s, a former restaurant famous for its pies in downtown San Jose, and her parents met each other at SJSU.

Inspired by her father’s best friend, Dave Paully an airbrush and commercial artist, and combined with her fine arts studies Lisa began her career in as a graphic artist. After many positions at agencies throughout the bay area, as well as freelance opportunities, she had been sitting down with her boss who had asked her about her goals with her position at the company. She told him of her current desires with the company as well as of her desire to one day found her own agency. To her dismay, her boss told her “That’ll never happen”, but it gave her the motivation to quit her job and take a chance to follow her own path.

It wasn’t easy, but Lisa was fortunate to be able to take a loan from her parents to buy the equipment she needed and start up her business in her apartment. When she started the internet wasn’t around yet and so she targeted the businesses she wanted to work with by researching them, finding out what they liked, and cold calling to set up face to face meetings to pitch her business to them. Her hard work paid off, and after a few months she was able to move her business out of her apartment and into its own office space.

Her story rings true of many creative agencies in the bay area, which have splintered off from the places they worked, to work for themselves and specialize in the areas they enjoy the most. While many creative types have great portfolios, one of the things that helped Lisa be successful at her business was her sales ability and learning about how businesses work. In the beginning she would attend many seminars on how topics like “how to structure your portfolio to gain more clients” and spent a lot of time investing in new technologies she wanted her agency to use, master, and offer as a service to clients.

Fast forward to the present and the current recession, and Cintara, like many businesses, has begun to partner and collaborate with many other businesses for specific needs that aren’t required to be run in-house. One such partnership is with the public relations firm MarketingManiacs; another local San Jose based company, as well as other national companies for development of social media apps and tools for musicians. But it doesn’t end there, Cintara also has a vested interest in many online projects where they were originally hired to work on a company’s branding and marketing strategy, but ended up becoming a financial partner.

Today Cintara is a fully integrated agency with a branding emphasis helping companies meet their unique business objectives, accelerate growth, and compete effectively in a changing environment. They focus on complete development of a brand through strategic planning, research, public relations, naming, corporate identity, print, advertising, and interactive media.

Lisa Tollner is a mother of three and part of an amazingly accomplished family. Her husband, Edic Sliva, is a micro electronics engineer and inventor, the owner of Microlux. One daughter, Nicole a pent athlete attending Harvard University, the other daughter, Corinne a blossoming film student at Mitty high school and her youngest son Marco the comedian of the family. When asked what she would put in a fortune cookie, whether for herself or others, she replies “Believe anything is possible and just go for it!”.

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