I AM CEDIA: Jason Voorhees and Jim Bras of Cantara

Ed Wenck | Oct 23, 2019

CEDIA: First things first: How did the company get started?

Jason Voorhees:
 I interviewed for a position at a company where Jim was working. I wasn't quite sure about the company, but Jim said some things that really resonated with me, and I took the job because I wanted to work with Jim. At some point that other business wasn't doing well, and we had the misguided idea to start our own company.

Jim and I loved doing high-end projects. And being two younger guys in the industry, we realized that the typical path to starting your own company is that you pay your dues your first couple of years, and do smaller projects, and work your way up to the top of the ladder. Jim and I didn't want to have to do that because we were experienced and qualified and confident. We figured if we wanted to immediately start doing higher-end projects, we would need to partner with someone that was already at that level.

So we had lunch with the owner of a high-end electrical contractor. We said we'd always wanted to open up an AV company. We offered to be equal partners if they’d help us launch. They said yes on the spot. And the next day we were at their offices launching Cantara. In six weeks, we had signed a $600,000 project on the most expensive home in Orange County.

CEDIA: What got you interested in the business to begin with?

Jim Bras: I kind of feel like I was born into it. I did a lot of music in school and then got into recording and audio equipment. Then, one day, I was sitting at a coffee shop that my mom owns and met a guy who was going to a soundcheck, and I asked him if I could go and he said sure. I started helping him out with live sound and staging, and it turns out he was also a projection calibrationist. So, we were hanging TVs in people's basements in LA. I was doing a lot of mechanical work and wiring and all that kind of stuff, too.

You know, I'm really passionate about solving the problems that this work presents, and I love audio.

Voorhees: I've always been the kid tinkering with stereo equipment and lighting. I was in college, and I needed a part-time job, and I was also looking for a pair of speakers. I stumbled into a hi-fi shop near my house and just kind of fell in love with all that stuff. I got a part-time job as a warehouse guy and, over a few months, found my way on to the sales floor. One day I sold a large ticket, about $75,000. The client asked, “Can you guys install all of this stuff?” And I just BS’ed my way through it: “Yeah, let's do it, we can install it.”

I told my boss what happened, and he said, "Jay, we don't install — this is a retail store. You better figure it out.” So, I figured it out. I'm not proud of the install quality of that very first job, but it definitely ignited the career that I've been in now for 19 years.

CEDIA: Does Cantara have a mission statement, a guiding philosophy? What's hanging on the wall that gets you through every day?
Voorhees: Yes, it’s called our “Why” statement: Why does our organization exist versus what does it do or how does it do it? Why do you guys wake up every morning?



At Cantara, we believe in equipping people to create and experience more in the world around them.

With our clients, we enable them to make everyday more beautiful and connected to the things they love.

With our team and partners, we seek to inspire each other to do incomparable work. 

CEDIA: What technology or aspect of this business really excites you?

Bras: I can't point my finger at any one thing and say, “Hey, this is the most exciting thing.” There's just so many facets to it. It's about listening to the clients, finding out what they want. So even if somebody's going to do a simple Sonos system, say, with no wiring — if you don't have a network that works well, you’ll have problems. You can't really have one without the other.

CEDIA: What’s the biggest challenge you see facing the industry right now?

Voorhees: We need our design/build partners to understand what we do. We are always coping with, “Oh, I'm going to bring the audio-video guy in right after the electrician starts wiring the house.” At that point, it’s way, way too late. Yet we still face that constantly on the largest projects that we work on, where all of this wonderful stuff is available to the homeowner, and they would pay for it, they would fall in love with it. Except it's not being brought into the conversation at the right time.

Bras: I think it’s education on the differentiation of systems or levels of equipment. You can go online and buy a video doorbell, but the client may have five or six doors that they want to connect in a controlled system with other features, such as fingerprint ID, for example. And the conversation is still, “Why can’t I just go buy one of these things and hook it up? Why do I need you folks?” I think that the public in general is still not educated about what those different levels of systems are.

CEDIA: I imagine Cantara is working on becoming a CEDIA Member of Excellence, correct?

Voorhees: We are. I was part of or volunteer group that created that, and now I'm a volunteer for the membership committee. We are promoters of the concept that there needs to be a higher bar, and there needs to be stratification of qualifications in the industry.

CEDIA: You just picked up two more CEDIA Awards: Best Integrated Home, Level II, and Life Lived Best at Home.

Voorhees: I think that second one meant more to me than the first. It goes to the heart of what we do — creating beautiful systems that work with the architecture and design of a home.

CEDIA: That’s terrific. So what’s been your favorite project?
Voorhees: Our favorite project is our next project.
CEDIA: Outstanding. What is your next project, if I may ask?

Voorhees: I don't know.

CEDIA: Oh, I get it.

Voorhees: The reason Jim and I love this is because tomorrow is a new chance to see the new stuff, to meet the next client, and to find the next challenge.

Bras: One of the really cool things about what we do is we get to be involved in the creation of art -- architecture as art -- and it's awesome. I wouldn't want anything else. I want to be involved in these beautiful luxury rooms.


3187 G Airway Avenue

Costa Mesa, CA 92626