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.

Required Reading: Umm What? Why?!

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

I have been a business owner/entrepreneur/starter for two years, five months, 29 days and six hours. I’ve been through A LOT in that relatively short period of time–some really high highs and some devastatingly low lows (all of which you will probably read about on this very blog in the not-so-distant future). I entered the world of solopreneurship and now, partnership, with a considerable amount of experience in my field of expertise–strategic communications. So, I thought I knew a lot about what my business entailed and how to handle said entailments. Thought is far and away the key part of that sentiment because though I knew quite a bit about strategic communications, especially where nonprofits are concerned, I knew very little about how to build and manage a business. Being an excellent (if I say so myself) communicator and networker and relationship-builder was a great start, but guess what? That’s right, it was just that–a mere start!

So, what did I do about it?  Well, I started reading; much like you’ve done because you’re obviously reading this right now.

I love to read–I love to read books, blogs, journal articles, especially pieces that can influence my thought process or give me another perspective on something I’ve been trying to master in my business. Over the past two years, I’ve read hundreds of blog posts and articles and quite a few books about everything from registering your business to online content creation management. The latter of which I’ve known a lot about for quite sometime, but I know enough to know that I don’t know everything and that there’s someone somewhere out there who knows more than me. Even if all you have at this point in your entrepreneurial journey is the idea for your new business, the best way to develop, grow and shape your business is by reading all you can about every aspect of business. And, I want to be clear: that doesn’t mean that you take everything that you read as the gospel and apply it all to your business. That would be a very, very, very bad idea.

However, I do think that Dr. Seuss had it right when he said ““The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” So, I recommend you read everything you can and use your discernment to process what you’ve read or what you read on a daily basis. The things that resonate with you–the sentiments, tips, tricks, thought processes that you feel in your heart and soul–keep, act-on, bookmark for later! And the ones that don’t, you can handle in a few ways. For the things (advice, tips, tricks, general sentiments) that I read and violently disagree with–I mean loathe with every cell of my being–I use as fodder for content. Don’t look at me like that! I, simply, respond to it and state why I disagree so passionately and I do that on my blog to spark conversation or dialogue to get the opinions of other folks–other entrepreneurs. And, another way that i deal with pieces i’ve read that don’t particularly resonate with me, but that don’t necessarily evoke any real passion either positively or negatively, is to ignore them. You can adapt my methodology (or not), but you should definitely start (if you’re not already) making reading about improving your business, business processes and even your own personal development a major priority in your quest to develop, grow and sustain your business.

I say all of that to say, that we’re launching this column to share some of the resources that we consider required reading (because well, they’ve helped us…duh!) on our path to take over the world and that we think you’ll find helpful. We’re going to share and analyze everything from specific one-off blog posts and articles that we’ve found helpful over the years, to whole blogs (or the bloggers behind them) and books. Reading is fundamental to your and your business’ success, we want to see you succeed so check out our “Required Reading” every time we post, we can almost guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

Michele A. Matthews is the founder of Agitate Media 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: 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.


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

  • Apt: very appropriate: especially suited to the circumstances
  • Appraise: to make or give an estimate of how much money something is worth

This week seems like fertile ground to talk about value, value proposition, work and worth. Every time I turn around, it seems I bump into a creative business or business owner that is struggling with pricing their product(s) and/ or service(s).


Just yesterday, a member of my Amen Corner* reached out to me because her business is growing faster than she can keep up with due to her current situation as a part time working stiff and part time entrepreneur. What a good problem to have, right? Her business began to require more time- time to build her inventory to meet growing demand, Woohoo! Every entrepreneur’s dream, right? Not, exactly!

Her business recently got a major boost as online retail sales surged and the coup of landing multiple wholesale clients. She crunched the numbers, crunched the numbers again, it didn’t makes sense– the numbers just weren’t adding up. By now, you must be thinking what I was thinking, how could that be?

Once she calculated all of her profit from the wholesale and retail revenue streams she would barely break even, despite the fact that her brand is H-A-U-T-E and H-O-T, hot right now! Why you ask? After a little digging, I uncovered that her pricing strategy discarded the cost of her labor as well as an accurate portrayal of her overhead expenses including product materials, marketing, and promotion.

Then this morning, I was trolling through my email as usual and happened upon a Livingsocial email. I am a fan of Livingsocial.com and Groupon.com, I have had some really good dinners and excursions from deals they’ve featured. However, as a business owner, the concept of some of the deals offered through these sites imply a bit of desperation on the part of the companies but that is a different post altogether. I digress, I was stopped in my tracks by an offer by a local illustrator offering personalized children’s books at a rate of $12 per book.

As an illustrator myself, I know how much time and energy goes into the production of images alone for children’s books and I can tell you that even if that poor sap sold a thousand of those $12 books, S/he will make little profit. Profit that when weighed against the aggravation will amount to nothing and/or drive them either out of business or to the nearest loony bin. As my ever so wise, boyfriend says “the juice would not have been worth the squeeze”.

When someone buys your product they aren’t just buying a shirt, bar of soap, or piece of art, they are buying your brand. This must be a consideration in your pricing strategy and value proposition.

When you price your product, you are essentially assigning a quality value to it. The price, along with the packaging, and pitch tells your customer just how much your product is worth to them and their everyday life. If your packaging is sexy, the pitch is agreeable, and your price is bargain basement–something just doesn’t add up. Not only is it disingenuous to the consumer but you are actively placing yourself, your company and product at a disadvantage. It is impossible to maintain a business when your costs continually out weigh your revenue.

My advice to my friend, poor sap illustrator, and to you- KEEP CALM and RAISE PRICES. Better yet, start off with a mutually beneficial value proposition. What does this mean?

When pitching your product to clients, underscore the superior quality, time investment, labor, and your persnickety attention to detail (aptly appraise your time and labor). Explain how these factors make for a better product and how the cost associated with the product is a direct reflection of it’s quality. Your consumer will rise to the occasion–every consumer is not a fit for your brand. Remember that ‘your consumer’ will appreciate your brand and product for what it offers and does not offer.

I’ll be holding myself to this same model as I prepare for an upcoming exhibition this weekend and grapple with keeping my price point where the level of labor, time, commitment, and study demand!

My fave explanation just in case you are grappling with it: “It took me a lifetime [of study to produce that]”- Pablo Picasso

Happy Ap[t]praising!


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



*=The initial 3-5 people that an entrepreneur confides in when launching a new product, or business. One’s inner circle.