Interview with Melinda Massie – Owner of Organizing with a Side of Fabulous

Interview with Melinda MassieTell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey. 

Being an entrepreneur was never a dream of mine. I never even considered it as an option. While I was an event planner, many people told me that I should start my own business but the thought of not having a regular paycheck terrified me. Then gas prices skyrocketed in 2008 and the restaurant I was working for couldn’t afford me anymore. It wasn’t the best fit for me either so we parted ways. However, in working for them I got the idea for the first incarnation of my event business as well as the guts to do it.

Melinda Massie Events was born in August 2008, a.k.a. the height of economic, sky-is-falling hysteria. Everyone told me I was crazy to start a business at that time but I didn’t care. I knew I could do it on my own and the risks no longer scared me. My response to the naysayers became, “I do not choose to participate in your recession.” I constantly adjusted my business to meet the rapidly changing needs of an industry and it went through three transformations.

Just before Christmas 2009, a friend called and asked what I would charge for my organizing services. Her mother had a spare room gone awry and wanted to give me as a gift to help. I immediately smelled the new business idea percolating and in January 2010, Melinda Massie Professional Organizing was born. The response was so positive and it was so personally rewarding that in August 2010 I closed down my event business. In January of 2011 I changed the name to Organizing with a Side of Fabulous to better reflect my personality and business and have been in love ever since.

What did you do before launching your own business?

As mentioned before, the majority of my time pre-Organizing was spent as an event planner. Through college I worked in promotions and produced benefit rock shows. After graduation, however, I became a professional ballroom dancer. I taught, performed and competed in all of the ballroom, Latin and country western social dances. As much as I loved dance, over time I missed planning events and returned to them. I went to work with a local non-profit planning approximately 80 events per year. We did everything from 100 person cocktail parties to producing a Cirque de Soleil style show for a 3,000-person picnic. From there I went to a delicious little restaurant in a small town outside of where I live to help build their events and catering department. Parted ways there and you know the rest.

How did you fund your business?

Spit, fishing line and duct tape. Just kidding. Sort of. Having worked in the arts and non-profits, as well as having student loans, didn’t exactly lend itself to financial abundance and a large savings account. These positions, however, required that I put forth a polished and high-end image and I always rose to the occasion. I think that financial limitations foster great creativity. When I started my business, pretty much all I had was my last paycheck so I got creative. I did everything myself and only spent money where it was absolutely needed. I also leveraged my extensive professional and social circles as well as social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and a blog to their fullest potential. In many ways I still operate this way because it works well for me.

How many hours do you work a week and how much is spent is your home office? 

This is challenging to answer because sometimes I feel like I work all the time but because I love it so much it also doesn’t feel like work. Plus, since clutter affects most people everyone wants to talk about it when they learn what I do – even the clutter free! Rough guestimate would be about 30-45 hours in my home office plus another 10-20 hours in clients’ homes.

How would you rate your success?

For me success is simple…are you happy? When you wake up every morning are you excited to start your day or do you want to hide under the covers? In this case, I am extremely successful. Sure, I’ve won awards and I have a boatload of happy clients which I love, but I’m really happy too. And that helps me do a better job for everyone I work with.

What has been your biggest business struggle as an entrepreneur?

Time management and self-care. As organized as I am, I have SO many ideas I want to implement for my business, blog posts I want to share, books I want to write, programs I want to develop and goals that I am pursuing that it can easily get overwhelming. All of this is on top of taking care of my clients…finding ways to make their lives easier, organize their awkwardly designed spaces, etc. etc. I often step back and ask myself, “What would I say to myself if I were a client?” and then go from there. Because of the time management struggle, it becomes easy to let my own self-care fall by the wayside in favor of business. “Oh, I’ll just pick up takeout instead of cook because I’m tired and it’ll save time.” “I’ll skip yoga to write.” In the end that doesn’t serve me because the better I take care of myself, the more I have to give to my clients and business, as well as friends and family. It’s all about striking the balance that works and making sure priorities are met. Everything will happen in its due time.

What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?

Make friends with other entrepreneurs. Friends, family and even strangers will give you all sorts of advice and they mean well. However, if you aren’t an entrepreneur, you just don’t understand. Even if someone is in management or a boss, it’s still a different game. You need to surround yourself with other entrepreneurs who will innately “get it.” Find a home away from home. When you work at home it can be really challenging to relax and unwind since work will always be there. Finding a place where you can completely detach from work is crucial to your sanity. My home away from home is the yoga studio.

Also, make friends with others in your industry. When I started as a professional organizer, there weren’t a lot of people in my area. Since then I have met and become friends with a few other organizers and it’s great. Even though we’re technically “competition” we refer business to each other, support each other and ask questions about how each other is doing things, approach to take with particular clients, etc. It’s nice being able to talk to someone without having to explain industry particulars first. Most importantly, never give up. If things aren’t working, examine why and make changes. Don’t be afraid of change and don’t be afraid to fail. Fail fast and learn from it so you can tweak and get better.

How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?

A calendar that syncs between my computer and phone. I also never met a list that I didn’t love. Every Sunday I outline what’s going on for the next week. At the end of each day I plan out what I will do the next day. Priorities get done first thing in the morning. I block out time on my calendar for everything – yoga, writing, business development, as well as client meetings and social events. I keep everything together on one calendar so nothing gets overlooked. Time management is a struggle but I also rock it when I have multiple activities at the same time. I’ve turned attending three parties in the same evening into an art form.

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