Women to Watch: Twinpreneurs, Melissa and Michele Matthews

We are so incredibly honored to be featured in Pink, Candy & Stilettos’ Women’s History Month feature series “Women to Watch!” We live and breathe the work that we do day in and day out and are ever thankful to share our passion with others who have similar entrepreneurial aspirations. Special thanks to D’Sheka Perkins (editor-in-chief/blogger-in-charge at PCS) for ranking us among this very impressive group of hardworking women; we are thrilled to be celebrated amongst these brilliant changemakers. Check out our full interview and be sure to favorite, follow and take a good, long break to read all of the fab articles at http://www.pinkcandyandstilettos.com.

Pink Candy and Stilettos

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES Left: Melissa, Right: Michele

The entrepreneurial spirit, there are some people who think they have it and dabble a little here and there, then there are those who live and breathe it.  Today’s Women to Watch are a set of identical twin entrepreneurs.  These women may be pint-sized, but believe me… they pack a big punch and are well on their way to taking this world by storm!

Please introduce yourselves…

We are Melissa and Michele Matthews! We are the owners of MAM Squared LLC, a grouping of five small businesses that include strategic communications consulting, fine art production and creative services, retail and professional development training consulting.

We know, we know it sounds like a lot but we are passionate about so many things. Being twins and spending the last 29 years working together on multiple projects be it, stay out late strategies as adolescents or graduating college…

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Hide Ya Kids, Hide Ya Wife: Hobbyist on the Loose!

In last week’s post, I touched on the idea of a business article induced euphoria of laziness. This week I touch on the exact opposite, this is when one wounds oneself so tightly into the “reality” of business as served to you in a 4-5 paragraph amuse-bouche of “You suck and let me tell you why,” the fast and loose conventional wisdom of business traditionalists.
I read these words, “Any business that isn’t turning a profit after 3 years is a hobby”.
My response:
The AWKWARD moment when you realize that your “business” is far less than a business in the true sense of the word and more like a Hobby which you have quit your “job” or the-misery-of-working-for-others-with-a-guaranteed-paycheck  to pursue full time. And you, you have traded one misery for another. You my dear have plummeted yourself into the debasing hell of self-employment-failure-to-launch syndrome. What is that? that is the space where your “brilliant” ideas are sucked into your vortex of inexperience, incapability, and general overarching failure never to return.
Pick your head up off of that desk! Stop banging it [your head] on the wall!  Back away from the flight of steps you’d planned to throw yourself down…SO what? Your business and your journey haven’t followed conventional wisdom.
Do you love it?
Are you subsidizing it by doing odd jobs and looking the mirror thinking “when will I be able to really make a living? Did I make a huge mistake?” But every time you sell a new product or someone inquires about your biz, you light up from ear to ear and it renews your faith?

Being called or considered a hobby[ist] isn’t the worst thing you can do or be. Let them call you whatever they’d like. Call yourself a student of entrepreneurship, maybe enroll in a marketing class online to help yourself learn how to get to the next level. Sit down with your financials, your bizImage plan and/or biz history and outline the shortcomings, weaknesses, etc. Make a plan to fill the gaps and give yourself the time YOU need to get it right.

Check out our FREE DOWNLOADS for some help with getting organized.

1618555_10202292391703163_1112116865_nMelissa A. Matthews is author of the e-book, An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out and co-owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

Never Hope More Than You Work…

This week,  I read so many really inspiring stories about successful entrepreneurs including  that of a 13 year old wiz kid. These stories were great but one thing struck me, even as a somewhat seasoned business owner these stories can lull you into a false sense of reality; there is an element of luck and “the stars being aligned”.
As a new or aspiring entrepreneur who might be struggling to garner support for one’s business, I can only imagine  that it can seem like everyone but you is winning the  successful business lottery. And for some reason your lucky number just hasn’t come up! I mean if a 13 year old has cracked the code, just what are you doing wrong, right?
As hard as it maybe to admit, you might just be hoping more than you are working. Hope a45152_670958499622838_1876837059_n(1)nd faith can be your best friends when building a business because they allow you to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. However, reading too many entrepreneurial blogs, and business mags can make them your worst enemy. These things can put you in a state of wonder — a euphoria of sorts–about all that is possible and how you just have to wait your turn. What you can sometimes miss in this bubble of successful bliss, is that these people work everyday on their businesses.
Reading and waiting is not enough. Use that inspiration as motivation to spur your venture forward. Learn new techniques to build your business and try them.
What steps have you taken to put your hope into action this week?

One way to move forward is to register for MAM Squared LLC’s Support is A Verb Webinar. Learn how to decipher and cultivate appropriate supportive relationships for your business, get one free consultation with MAM Squared LLC’s experts, and two handbooks to kick start your new support strategy.

Melissa A. Matthews is author of the e-book, An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out and co-owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

The competitor …

The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time. – Henry Ford

One of the most valuable lessons we can learn in business and life is that your competition lies within. You have no idea what motivates the next man, thus his success(es) or failure(s) should not motivate you. Play your own song. Make your own product. At your own pace. Only you can do business the way you do!

Back to [Business] Basics: Stretching…Getting Over Yourself to Promote Your Brand

This week, we delved into the archives of mAmLtDaRt Musings and found a refreshing and reassuring post for first-time or “starter” business owners. This post which was published some time ago (we cannot remember when) is about stepping outside of your comfort zone to develop and grow your business. If you’ve ever shied away from an opportunity or multiple opportunities to advance whether entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial, this message is definitely for you.

Stretching: Getting Over Yourself to Promote Your Brand

By: Melissa A. Matthews, Co-owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

Finally taking a little time to compile the mAmLtDaRt/ MAM press clippings over the past couple years. I have always been a bit apprehensive about pumping press coverage of both myself and the brand. Often thinking it’d be a bit self-absorbed. I recently read an article that said this type of apprehension breeds  “false humility”.

I’m still uneasy about it but what I’ve learned in art and business is that you have to be a bit uncomfortable — it stretches you. If you aren’t uncomfortable,  you aren’t growing or evolving in either realm. So that said, I am going to stop stalling and start organizing these links.

What have you been afraid or apprehensive to do that will help you stretch yourself or your brand? Leave a comment or tweet me @mamltdartbrand on twitter.  Let’s stretch together, I have it on good authority that working out is easier with a partner…

 Photo Credit: Guidinginstincts.com (http://bit.ly/12qpiWf)

Melissa A. Matthews is author of the e-book, An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out and co-owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

Back to [Business] Basics: Do-Over! Righting and Rewriting Your Business & Branding Blunders

Making mistakes or bad choices are par for the course in this thing we call business ownership, but a single bad choice or mistake does not have to equal devastation. It’s all about your recovery. In a post she wrote for mAmLtDaRt Musings months ago, Melissa encourages us all to use our blunders as a learning opportunity and to make an effort to do damage control wherever possible.

Do-Over! Righting and Rewriting Your Business & Branding Blunders

By: Melissa A. Matthews, Co-Owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

Last week, my very business and branding savvy sister sent me a link to a popular blogger’s page. Said blogger was reaching out to her followers via blog post to figure out how she might be of assistance to them in their various ventures. My sister was like “this is a great opportunity for you. Tell her about your book. If she reads it and reviews it— she has thousands and thousands of followers.” And she was right, I knew that but I was also mired in a virus that had latched on to me like one of those movie-alien-creatures or a parasite to host and was sucking all of the life out of me.  

I don’t know about you but when I’m sick, I could careless about branding. mAmLtDaRt, although my baby just can’t compete with a raging fever, cold sweats, coughing  and overall I’m dying-I know-I am-I’ve seen the light-itis. Therefore, I scribbled a one line note to the blogger. Something along the lines of “I wrote a book, it’d be really appreciated if you reviewed it…boom!” No backstory, no real info. just a link to the e-book online.

I know, I know, very Good Fellas/ Soprano-esque of me but hey, I’m only human and I was sick. This morning got to thinking about it…like “wait, did I really do that?” And then reality hit…”yes, yes, I did do that!”

I didn’t panic. I pulled out my do-over button and pushed it. Chances are even if she saw that first email, she read it like “what?” and quickly disposed of it. So I penned a new, more polite and comprehensive email asking for assistance and a few hours later, I had a response. She requested the free copy of the book I offered in order to do the review!

Now, righting every misstep isn’t as easy as sending an email or rewriting a letter.  However, admitting you were wrong or made a mistake and asking for a do-over is perfectly acceptable as a business person. This isn’t playground tag or primary school lunch trade, backsies are allowed. Take back control of the situation and move forward in a positive direction. Don’t know how? Here’s a solid start:

  • Forgive yourself.

  • Address the mistake head on.

  • Make an apology if necessary.

  • Research or simply ask what the appropriate way to move forward is.

  • Don’t make the same mistake twice, especially not with the same person.

Melissa A. Matthews is author of the e-book, An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out and co-owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

The World Needs More Entrepreneurs, Not Necessarily More College Graduates

By: Michele A. Matthews, Co-Owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

I know that the title of this piece may seem a little disingenuous especially for those of you who know me personally and know first-hand that I, myself, am indeed a university graduate. However, I’m really not sure that I am better off for having spent ridiculous amounts of money on a college education when there are more than a few very successful entrepreneurs who never stepped foot on a university campus as a student. That said, about 18 months ago, I read an article that seemed to tout college or university as the only path. And, it infuriated me! So, I wrote a blog post in response to said article on my company ( Agitate Media–now, one of a few since the advent of MAM Squared, LLC. just a few months ago) blog, The Movement. I ran across that post today and must say, that I am as passionate about this issue now as I was then. Hence, I thought I’d share my post on this topic with the hopes of sparking the conversation again and perhaps, getting a feel for how other entrepreneurs feel about it. So, here’s the post I published on The Movement in June 2012:

I am a 27-year-old, starter OR small business owner OR entrepreneur OR whatever the new, exciting or trendy buzzword is for people who feverishly work full-time to make their passion a reality.  I’m that and my business is growing in terms of name recognition tremendously.  Clients are falling in my lap at every turn, but cash is slow to flow.  I am also a college graduate with over $30,000 USD in school loan debt (oh, and, I had scholarships and grants) to my name that is weighing me down like an anchor to an ocean liner. I am indebted to the United States government and to blood thirsty private education lenders like Sallie Mae.  I often dream of being free of the shackles of debt my tertiary education has left me bound by. It is at those times that I think of the many successful business owners out there who never graduated from university. I think about how they had a head start on me in terms of time to learn and grow and perfect their business before life’s pressures of bills, true adulthood in the way of self-sustainability (rent, car payments, etc., etc.) all took over. I also think about the fact that they were debt-free before they became business owners which means that they didn’t have to add insult to injury by piling small business debt on top of school loan debt.  So, it really befuddles me when I read articles like, “A Gap in College Graduates Leaves Some Cities Behind.”

Studies and articles like this one assert that the future of the nation’s cities is predicated upon how many people go to college.  But, I’m starting to think that the state of both the U.S. and the world economies indicate otherwise. How many unemployed or underemployed college graduates have to enter the market for us to realize that perhaps, we need to take a different approach to preparing our young people for the world that awaits them?

I am, by no means, advocating the dumbing down of our young people, BUT I am protesting the overwhelming, continuing indebtedness of the next generation.  It’s been proven time and time again that one does not need a college education to own and run a successful business or by extension, achieve a measure of socially acceptable success.  And, I can anecdotally prove by citing all of my many classmates who are grossly underemployed after now being out of school for five years or more. Let’s see, there’s the girl with the print journalism degree who is gainfully employed at the neighborhood grocery store as a cashier. Oh, and there’s the super smart waiter who graduated Summa Cum Laude with not one, but two degrees—one in mathematics and the other in physics. Last, but certainly not least, what about the poor chap with a degree in education who is detailing cars at the local carwash? There has to be a better way.

And, I think organizations like the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and the National Federation of Independent Business’ Young Entrepreneur Foundation have the right idea. They have programs in place that don’t necessarily discourage higher education pursuits, but certainly instill or recognize and reward an entrepreneurial spirit in young people of high school or secondary school  age and younger.  I think we need more programs like these—programs that take this work a step further—and perhaps, they are already out there and I just haven’t heard about them so I’ll throw my idea out and you guys can tell me what you think may or may not work OR throw out your own ideas. I like the idea of starting incubator programs throughout the nation (and the world) geared toward secondary school graduates. These incubators would help them identify their passion or a viable business pursuit, provide them with mentors and micro-financing as well as guide them through starting a sustainable business and offer them some support through the first two years of their new business.

For those who lack entrepreneurial skills, let’s make apprenticeship and intrapreneurial programs available to them where they can learn practical skills that they can apply in the workplace as well as critical thinking and analysis skills that they don’t need thousands upon thousands of dollars in scholarship, personal or loan funding to access. I know that many people will disagree with me and I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but I started Agitate Media to rally people to think outside of the box, to look for alternative solutions where others have tunnel vision and so this is my offering to start a new discourse on this issue.

Michele A. Matthews is the founder of Agitate Media and Co-owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

Back to [Business] Basics: Make ‘Em Want More!

Introduction by: Michele A. Matthews, Co-owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

As business owners, it is easy to complicate and over-analyze our businesses, the choices we make and what makes our clients or customers tick. Sometimes we get so bogged down in this indepth analysis that we ultimately miss what’s right in front of our faces. As the managing director of mAmLtDaRt for just over nine years, my business partner (who I assume you know is also my twin sister) Melissa A. Matthews has become very savvy about just what is and what isn’t important or mission critical to making one’s business a success. In her blog—mAmLtDaRt’s Musings—over the years, she has posted about many of her insights on this topic. So, at the start of this and every week, we’re taking you “Back to [Business] Basics” by sharing one of her many still-timely and still-relevant posts about business growth and development. So without further ado, I present to you “Make ‘Em Want More…” first published on mAmLtDaRt’s Musings on April 19, 2013. It is all about how to get your clients or customers to crave what you have to offer.

“Make ‘Em Want More…”

By: Melissa A. Matthews, Co-owner of MAM Squared, LLC


So I was watching an AT&T commercial with a little girl talking about what it means to want more:

“Its like when your parents give you a little because there is only a little bit but you really like it. And when you really like something, you want more but there isn’t any more because there was only a little but we want more because we want more”

As funny as that commercial is and as cute as the little girl was, I mention this because the feeling of wanting something or “wanting more” is the same at any age. Longing for a product or service can very well be this intangible and inarticulate… you want it because you really like it and you just want more because its that good and you want more!

The question is how do you make people want more of what you’re making, producing, or selling? And not a logical necessarily “need more” (though you’ll take that as well), but an obsessive craving-like “want more?”

To be honest, there is no magic bullet to achieving that moreish quality. This is something that I’m struggling with and slowly getting there. Here are few tips that I have to remind myself of along my journey:

Be Genuine.

If you cooked it and don’t want seconds, don’t think for a second that anyone else will.

Make, produce, and/or sell something that is true. True to you and your brand. People can spot a lack of authenticity instantly and will—as if you were a used car salesman in a cheap suit—avoid you and your disingenuous attempt at success.

Pace Yourself.

I don’t know about you, but I have Earth-shatteringly-amazing ideas and sometimes I consider what it may be like to find the biggest soapbox and loudest bull horn, stand my lil’ 4’9” self up there and shout it for all and sundry to hear.  That’d be a big mistake. You know why? Because no one cares!

  • Secondly—don’t force a steak down anyone’s throat…new concepts and products are best served in tasty little bites think amuse bouche. Limit the amount of posts, their length and the information you supply about your new idea. Entice people to ask about it.

  • Thirdly— don’t be annoying. No one and I do mean NO ONE— not even your mom wants to read a diatribe, manifesto or soliloquy about your new idea. Best way to avoid this is to “twitterize” your 60-second commercial. If it’s longer than 140 characters, you have already lost us (your audience).

Build Trust.

Release your products one at a time and take your time between them. Let them marinate. Give your audience a chance to soak in your brand.

Endorsements, Reviews, & Partnerships.

A huge part of building trust is being endorsed, reviewed or partnered with brands that your target audience already trusts. Reach out to bloggers who service your audience, join forces with people and businesses that have similar values to those of your business. Make sure your product adds value to their agenda and vice versa. Don’t be afraid to cyber stalk potential partners (in a professional non-creepy way). Find possible commonalities and ways to relate via email, make dates to meet up, join professional networks on and offline.

←Melissa A. Matthews is author of the e-book, An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out and co-owner of MAM Squared LLC. Michele A. Matthews is the founder of Agitate Media and Co-owner of MAM Squared, LLC. →

Sketched for Success: A Blueprint to Constructing A Strong Company

“You can’t wait until the weight is applied to design the construct. You design the construct to bear the weight” – TD Jakes
Have you built your business to withstand the growth that you hope to achieve?
Today, you are a solopreneur i.e. a one (wo)man show servicing a small area, but within the next five years you want to go global. What steps are you going to take to get from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow?
There are several factors you’ll have to consider as you structure your company so that you can transition from one phase to the next.
1. Structure:
Jargon and Fractions

I don’t know about you but legal jargon makes my head hurt and in third grade—when we started fractions—is when I realized, math is not my thing. However, these things are virtually unavoidable in business. There are just some things you have to know and do. This part isn’t the sexiest part of constructing a lasting business but no one complains when the checks start rolling in because they are in place.

Legalities: Is your business registered/licensed to do what you do?
Fiscal responsibility and planning: How are you financing your business? Is it sustainable?  Do you have a contingency plan?
PANIC NOT! If you have begun to read this section and are thinking ” Legalities? Fiscal Planning? I’m gonna fail! I’m gonna fail! I don’t have any of those things in place.”
STOP! It’s not too late. Get informed and begin your planning today. Your business is a living, breathing entity and it’s never too late to make a change. There are tons of online resources. Start with SBA.gov, maybe invest in a financial management system like Quickbooks, Outright, or have an informational session with financial consultant.

DON’T GO OUT & DO EVERYTHING TODAY! Take baby steps; you are building your business for the long haul so taking it one thing at time—making small incremental changes to your operations—as you grow is completely acceptable and in many ways preferable.

Team Work Makes the Dream Work
I don’t know about you, but I’m a twinmeaning I had to share everything when I was growing up.  So now, I tend to be a bit less apt to share. I don’t like sharing my ideas and getting all fuzzy in front of the fireplace listening to other people’s. However, as a business owner, I understand that my business can’t just be built around my own genius. First off because I think every idea I have is “AMAZEBALLS” and want to implement them all. Secondly, I don’t know everything and have realized that other people’s contributions might add a great deal to the mix. Last, but not least, if I am the center of my company’s universethe nerve center, brain, and  ultimate idea haven from which all greatness flowsif anything should happen to me, my company would die with me (not built to last)! So since i plan on having kids one day and want to leave something for them, me and my ego have acquiesced to the idea of team building. Won’t you join me?!
Building an operational system that is NOT completely dependent upon or centered around  you and your skills is paramount to your success.  An atmosphere of like-minded, but divergent talents that you can consult, train and eventually hire is the best possible solution to help your business grow from a small force to a force to be reckoned with.
Employ talented interns that can grow with your company. You can train them to meet your specific needs and as soon as you can afford to pay them, put them in a position to take some of the responsibility off of your plate.
Hire consultants on a project-to-project basis until you can hire someone to fill those absolutely essential positions in your company. These  jobs will become apparent as you grow because you will see which tasks demand the most attention and just how beneficial they are to your operation.
P.S. Don’t feel obligated to build a HUGE team. What you need is an effective team and that can only be defined by you and your company’s needs. Exactly how many people do you need for optimal efficiency and outstanding production?
Okay, so now you’ve got your business all registered, your taxes straight and your accountant or management system in play. You’ve got a hot-to-trot dream team making all your ideas come to fruition and your product is dare I say, “AMAZEBALLS!” Now what? Whose buying it? That’s what! 
Cultivating Relationships:
Build a NETWORK of stakeholders through messaging, marketing,  media (both traditional and social), and public relations.
Network is a buzzword in this social media driven society, but what does it actually mean? It is both a noun and a verb.
Who are your network? Friends, family, potential customers, partners, community members, and the press; these are what you call potential stakeholders.
How do you network? Position yourself to meet people who are running similar businesses ( you can find people through online forums as well as your local chamber of commerce), you also want to identify your target audience and begin building relationships with potential consumers you can do this by hosting meet-ups, product demonstrations, etc. and attending them as well.
Now that you have a network, you have to speak to them.  Everyone wants to feel special and it’s your job to make them feel that way.
Every different type of stakeholder in your network will require their own message. The nuances of how to craft messages in your marketing and promotion to each sector can be difficult, but is absolutely necessary for your success.
MegaphoneMarketing & Promotion Strategy: 
You’ve identified your players and how you want to sweet talk them. Now you need to figure out when to talk them and how to tie it into a thought-out and consistent calendar of business promotion.
Strategy is the key word here. You can’t decide on Dec 24th that you want to do a Christmas promotion.
Make a promotion calendar. Give yourself at least two to three months lead time for planning and executing a promotion (especially a holiday promotion). At the beginning of the year, try to identify possible promotional opportunities for the first six months of the year. Well, really, from March through let’s say June or July (because January and February should have been planned before the end of the last year).
Your promotions don’t have to be huge price slashing ordeals, either. You can offer smaller discounts for a longer time period or institute a rewards program for clients or customers. Play with different types of promotions until you find what works for your business. Refrain from annoying the hell out of your consumer with obnoxious or unnecessary emails. if you email about one specific promotion twice, leave it at that. NOBODY likes a pest.
This is a topic, I can go on and on about but then this post would be a novel and it’s already at short story level. So if you aren’t quite sure how to identify your stakeholders, network and how to build sustainable relationships with them, stay tuned. MAM Squared LLC will be opening registration for our new Webinar series “Brown Bag & Biz Tips,” in just a few weeks. Among the topics it will tackle are “Support is A Verb” aimed at identifying your network and stakeholders and what to expect from them; ” Wooing & Winning: Telling your Story to Grow Your Business” all about crafting your message; and an ” An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out: using your talent to make a profit”. 
For now, happy sketching!!!
IMG_9853Melissa A. Matthews is author of the e-book, An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out and co-owner of MAM Squared LLC.

“The best lesson learned…”

“The best lesson learned — No one owes you anything. The beauty in such a revelation—you [or your business] owe them nothing in return.

Setting yourself free of obligation unlocks, unblocks, and releases literal and figurative blockades. [do not try to win new customers by feeling like you have to be and do everything for them]

Operate in a space of freedom & truth…say what you can do, say what you can’t…do what you can do, leave what you can’t— this may open doors you’d previously closed with your need to do and be everything.

In doing so, you forge an honest relationship and set realistic expectations of your business with your audience.”- MAM Squared, LLC.