Interviews: Melissa Monroe, Nikki Nuckols, Rachel Nash

In this post, you will find three interviews with three entrepreneurs. They were created to reflect on the possible parallel between entrepreneurship and the mythic structure of the journey of the hero, as articulated by Joseph Campbell. These interviews were conducted as part of the Arts Entrepreneurship program. 

Melissa Monroe

Melissa Monroe is an interior designer specializing in private aircrafts. She also is the Melissa Monroeproject manager, which goes far beyond the interior design aspects. This morphs into architecture and multi-disciplinary design. She went to college At the University of North Texas, where she got her Bachelors of fine arts. While she was an art major, she paired it with a concentration in interior design as well as architecture. After graduating, she went to work for KC Aviation (Kimberly Clark Aviation). KC Aviation was an independent outfitter for private aircrafts. She started as a junior designer then worked her way up to senior designer . In 1991, Melissa became the director of the department of design. In 1998, Gulfstream bought the company where she was apart of the deal. She was needed to bring the innovation created at KC aviation to Gulfstream. It was hard to bring this innovation and change to Gulfstream. She was catapulted to another level in her career. She was on a larger stage working with Gulfstream, then became a consultant where she was able to focus on research. When she left Gulfstream, for a multitude of reasons, she began to do a mixture of individual clients or work OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer). When Monroe broke off from Gulfstream, she began to be “able to define [her] life better. It brought a lot of flexibility and freedom to [her] schedule.” She says that “it has been the most amazing blessing and It has caused so much joy to get to do what [she] really loves.” This is the hero journey, to find what you were created to do. Melissa can confidently now say she is following her bliss.

 1.In your process of entrepreneurship, can you describe three significant obstacles you faced and how you overcame them?

  1. Having Limited Resources: “When I worked with Gulfstream, I had a whole staff behind the scene doing the renderings and research. Now, It is just me. I am forced to wear many hats from researching, checking stock, verifying, creating the presentation, to giving the presentation. It makes my time less efficient.”
  2. Island: “Sometimes I feel like I am an on an island, I once got a lot more information from the company than I get on my own now. I once got information from a marketing department. I have to be very proactive with what is going on in the industry with aviation, and with business in general.”
  3. Marketing: “Marketing my services, drumming up business, and getting my name out there. I have been fortunate to have a steady flow of business, but if I wanted to be working 60 hours a week I would have to work harder to get more steady workflow.”

2.Were there any moments of your entrepreneurial process when you considered giving up or were there moments when there “seemed to be no light?”

            “I have never thought that. I have always thought that this is what I should be doing. The only thing is if I did not have steady constant work. Because I have another steady source of income (my husband) I have been fortunate enough to not feel that way. If I were the sole provider, having to pay the bills and put food on the table, I would have had more of those thoughts.”

  1. What role has change played in your process, if any? Have you changed?

“ The change from corporate America brought flexibility and freedom in schedule as well as a confidence that I can do this. Gulfstream was able to bring me notoriety in the industry.”

“It took a long time to come to the decision to leave Gulfstream and it is one that I struggled with for around 2 years. I loved Gulfstream, the opportunities, and the benefits. I was an executive. This was the ego part of the job but, it came at a heavy price with two young kids. It took me a long time to get there because it was hard to give up all the good. I think a lot of people stay in jobs like that. They say, ‘I may not be the happiest, but I can’t give all of this up’.”

Would you say leaving was a good decision for you?

“ It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

– Did you oppose change? Were you nervous during Change?

“There were definitely some nerves. There was apprehension leaving the security of having an executive job with stock options, with a steady great paycheck. The change fortunately worked out great!”
4. What key takeaway or knowledge have you gained as a result of your experience?

            “I would say my number one thing would be do what you love. If you are not doing what you love, you need to keep looking until you find what you love. I can pick clients I want to work with and if I don’t want to work with them, I don’t. I can take the clients I am passionate about. It has been the most amazing blessing and It has caused so much joy to get to do what you really love.”

 Nikki Nuckols

1.In your process of entrepreneurship, can you describe three significant Nikki Nuckolsobstacles you faced and how you overcame them?

  1. Quit the Day Job: “You must decide when is the right time to quit your day job in order to go all in. I think that was the hardest thing in the last 5 years, when I was working full time at an ad agency. Let me get to this quota and then I will quit and that continued until I didn’t quit. Then I got a job where I could freelance.”

2.Deciding to Hire: “ When I decided to hire someone and put someone’s financial stability into your own hands. Because when it is just yourself, if you don’t make what you wanted to make that month, it is only you that you are affecting. You have to start having to be responsible for another’s well being.”

3.100% Confident: “You must be a 100% confident in the product that you are putting out and not worry about your competition, because now you don’t have a committee telling you what looks right. It is ultimately you.”

2.Were there any moments of your entrepreneurial process when you considered giving up or were there moments when there “seemed to be no light?”

“Before doing this, I was an art director at an ad agency and I knew I loved having the freedom to design, but I knew I was lacking so much being a hamster on a wheel. I was only one tiny component to the larger product. You don’t get to talk to client. You don’t get to present your work. You are doing your one little part. Once I began doing things on my own and turned it into a business, I don’t think I ever looked back. Because even on the bad days, you are still getting to do exactly what you wanted to do.”

  1. What role has change played in your process, if any? Have you changed? “You have such a huge responsibility as a business owner. You move 6 steps up the ladder in one night when you own a business. The responsibility aspect of it changes, the sense of pride you must throw out the window. You have to own the reality that the client is always right because they are the ones ultimately paying you. You are the one presenting to the client. You have a different relationship and can’t get your feelings hurt easily. You must develop tough skin to get through the hardest moments with creativity.”

  2. What key takeaway or knowledge have you gained as a result of your experience?

How to manage. I was always in a leadership position. I never stayed at the junior level, but until you actually do it and there is no one above you, you will never understand the pressure of it. There is a lot more weight. ‘Running your own business is like having a tail of the tiger held over your head and making sure you never drop it because it will bite you.’ It doesn’t matter what time it is, you now have a 24 hour job. It is all worth it. I would never change it.”

What was a deciding factor of you leaving your job?

            “ I once was working for larger companies like Best Buy, and in my job I was essentially only filling out templates and layouts. ‘I was just dropping in tests and photos. I wasn’t using all of my creativity. I was just filling in. I also didn’t believe things were being done as efficiently as they could have been. It seemed inefficient. I only worked in that role for a couple of years. I came home one day and my husband had printed out a job description that I wanted. He encouraged me to start now. Then I took the step and it was one of the best decisions of my life.

Do you feel you have reached your passion?

“ I don’t know what I would be doing if I wasn’t doing this!”

Analysis: Nikki Nuckols started a company called Doodled Dog, which is primarily focused on branding and web design for small to medium sized businesses. Her company usually starts with the beginning phases of business work with logo design, business cards, marketing material, and websites. She also works with clients 3-5 years down the road. She says that everyone “must decide when is the right time to quit your day job in order to go all in.” This was a moment where she struggled accepting the call to her hero adventure. Then her mentor figure expressed through her husband, told her to press into her call. She explained it by saying, “I came home one day and my husband had printed out a job description that I wanted. He asked me what I was waiting for. Then I took the step and it was one of the best decisions.” She just had to take the first step into her journey and she would never go back. This journey began when she left the comfort of just simply filling in. She stressed the idea that you must take the plunge to experience your calling fully.

Rachel Nash

1.In your process of entrepreneurship, can you describe three significant Rachel Nashobstacles you faced and how you overcame them?

  1. Finding Talented, Motivated Artists: “It is easy to find artists out there, but I wanted artists that were driven, disciplined, and organized. I also wanted artists that were ready to show.”
  2. Location: “The space I was in is in a neighborhood that was undergoing a lot of change. There wasn’t a ton of walking around traffic. I would sit in the gallery all day long and no one would walk in the door just because there was no traffic in the area.”
  3. Starting a Business in General: “Starting a business in general and figuring out who you are targeting. I had to grow my mailing list and get more traffic in the door. When you have an art gallery with a show once a month, you must keep people coming back.”

“ I overcame these by networking, going to different events, telling people about what I do, going to happy hours, being in the community. I donated my time and the space. I would let people come in for free and host their young professional happy hours there. So, by donating the space and art work, people began to learn about the gallery. To me, that was better than paying for advertising.”

2.Were there any moments of your entrepreneurial process when you considered giving up or were there moments when there “seemed to be no light?”

            “ I didn’t really have any of those moments. I really did feel like I was called to be in that space at that time in my life. The landlord said when someone comes along who is willing to pay far more money; I am going to have to ask you to leave. The most challenging moment for me was when that moment came. I had to decide ‘Am I going to get a new space or am I going to take a break?’ Since I am pregnant I decided to take a break. Even if I weren’t pregnant, something I would have to think about would be the fact that I was always at the gallery when I needed to be out networking. I didn’t have enough money to hire anyone but in order to make more money, I needed to be doing other things. I was working a retail job with those hours and I didn’t want to run a store. I would rather be meeting with artists, learning more, and going to people’s homes.”

When I open up a new space in the future which, I am going to do, I am going to make sure I can hire so that someone can work the gallery so I am able to go out and bring in more people.”

  1. What role has change played in your process, if any? Have you changed?

The space change has lead me into creating an online gallery. I want to do some kind of pop up shows because I don’t have a real space. When changes come, you must be creative in how you handle it. I am working with artists and interior designers to help find art for their clients. When that change came, I was forced to get creative in how I wanted to continue the business. In most situations there is a solution to whatever problem there is unless you are not meant to be doing it.”
4. What key takeaway or knowledge have you gained as a result of your experience?

It is hard. The more prepared you are, the better. You must go in knowing how much money you have to spend and the amount of money you are willing to lose. It takes a while to start making money when you are starting your own business. You must be patient and persevere. On the other hand, it is totally possible and very fun and rewarding. There is a need for this art. It is hard and you are never off the clock when you own your own business.”

What is your reward? Why are you called to this?

“ I want to make art accessible to everyone. I believe that we were all made to create. It is important for people to create and it is important that artists are supported. I love working with new artists who have never shown their work. I get to help them market themselves for the first time. When I got to witness an artists selling their painting for $1,000 for the first time it was the most rewarding. This is what I love about it. I love working with people. People say, ‘I want a cool piece of art, but I can only spend $500,Can you help me?’ Those are the questions I love.”

Analysis by Anna Scott Phillips: Rachel Nash started an art gallery after graduating from SMU in 2007. Her primary job is working as an art therapist and as a licensed professional counselor. It is her dream to have a gallery connected to my art therapy practice. She was presented with a space and an opportunity to run with that idea. . She said,“ [she] really did feel like [she] was called to be in that space at that time in [her] life”. She always thought she would not open a gallery until she was around 40 years old, but had an opportunity to run with the idea. She wanted to create an affordable art gallery that allowed people who wanted to buy original art to do so without spending tons of money. She wanted to do so by allowing new, upcoming artists, who had never shown before, a space to get themselves out there. It was a goal to make art more affordable and accessible to a whole new group of people who would normally not go to an art gallery. This new target group includes people buying a new house, people who had never bought art before, people who would normally go to Z Gallery type-places to buy art. She began to deal with change as she is forced to change the location of her gallery. When that change came, “ [she] was forced to get creative in how [she] wanted to continue the business. In most situations there is a solution to whatever problem there is, unless you are not meant to be doing it.” She believes that she is called to expose people to art and support the artists.

These interviews and analyses were conducted by student Anna Scott Phillips for the class Entrepreneurship and the Hero Adventure and are part of a blog series called Heroes Among Us. This class is part of the Arts Entrepreneurship program at Meadows School of the Arts, SMU

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