As we are responding, growing, and adapting to the new ways that clients look to us to lead and serve — from hosting virtual shoots to producing even more here in Chicago — one thing has become clear: Grey House Productions has grown into a company whose founder, Hannah Soto, is ready to take on a more visionary role, focusing on the company’s strategy for production and the future of the industry. As Hannah transitions away from her role on set (though, of course, she’ll always be a producer at heart!), we are thrilled to introduce our new Producer, Denisse Robledo.
Although not new to production, Denisse has spent the last six-years producing for brands directly, and at times running eight shoots simultaneously.
“Denisse is one of those people who ingrains herself into a team, inspiring other members and becoming essential to their growth. For the past six-years, I built my career with Crate & Barrel Holdings, Inc,” she says. “At Land of Nod, I started off as part of the photo team, and within six months, they created an Assistant Producer position for me…and again at the 12-month mark was promoted to a Producer.” As Producer across all Crate & Barrel brands, Denisse was responsible for overseeing the creation of all eCommerce assets — the main driver of sales for the company.
Denisse has produced countless photo and video shoots, both in studio and on location. As someone who always looks for the opportunity to learn and grow from transition, she states, “In all of my roles, I strive to look beyond the responsibilities outlined in my job description or the scope of a project to identify ways I can add value to my team and the production. In 2018, I was an instrumental partner in the rebranding of Crate&kids, not just within the photo studio, but the larger company as a whole. I also helped coordinate the move and integration of four remote studios into the new studio headquarters, partnering with the leadership team and multiple departments across Crate to create a strategic plan for keeping the team on schedule to meet launch.”
For Denisse, the path to production was a long and winding road that allowed her to curate her unique skill set along the way. After graduating from DePaul University with a degree in Communications, she worked as a professional makeup artist, then in human resources for corporate America; she was even a fitness instructor for a short time. One of her last jobs before her Land of Nod hire was working with award-winning designer Martin Kastner, where she assisted with everything from operations and photo shoots, to navigating manufacturing agreements with vendors in China.
“Looking back, the experiences I’ve had either helped me get my foot in the door that led to my discovery of production, or they sharpened skills that have helped me succeed in this role,” Denisse remembers. “It’s almost as if I was going about my life, collecting and sharpening all these different skills, and now they’ve all culminated into this new role.”
The Producer position came about organically last year, when Denisse reconnected with Hannah after a Crate & Barrel shoot in 2019. The two initially met at a industry event in 2015 and had an instant connection, knowing they’d want to work together at some point. But the timing was off: Grey House was just getting its footing, and Denisse was deep in a groove in her career. But in early 2020, the stars aligned — initially with a few freelance jobs, which led to a full-time job offer in late summer.
“I feel like this is the opportunity that I’ve been working toward my whole career,” Denisse says. “Not just because of the job — you can be a producer anywhere — but because of Grey House specifically. This is the company I’ve always wanted to work for. These are the values I’ve always held, and wanted to align myself with professionally. At Grey House, we’re not just producing a shoot and handling logistics. When we say that we value people, we mean it, no matter their role. We walk that walk, and we let that guide all of our decisions. That is super, super important to me.”
For Grey House, having Denisse on the team means having another ambassador to bolster the values that have been in place since day one. As Hannah says, “We have the same approach to work ethic and production: integrity is the bottom line. Even when Denisse was doing exit interviews at Crate, people were already associating us together. We really align on values.”
Those shared values are sparking new opportunities off-set, too. Denisse is co-leading Grey House’s anti-gatekeeping initiatives, which will culminate in a workshop in early 2021. She explains that as an immigrant Latinx woman, she’s noticed a lack of diversity in the industry, which she’s been working to improve upon since her days at Crate & Barrel.
“That’s where I want to be a disruptor: to be that champion for other under-represented folks that are interested in getting into this industry,” Denisse says. “It’s been so affirming to come to work for a company that is like, ‘I celebrate everything about who you are — a woman, a Latina, a mother — and recognize that all of those things make you better at your job, and that our team is better for it.’ That is incredibly empowering. And rare.”