Recently, I was participating in an entrepreneur chat on Twitter, in which creatives offered their best advice on how to move forward with ideas and the strategies that helped them succeed. Monique Malcolm caught my attention with her sound advice on how to navigate from the planning stage into execution. Most creatives understand what it is to be stuck in the purgatory of procrastination, wondering if they should go forward and how to proceed.
Armed with fiery pink hair and a contagious motivational spirit, Monique Malcom provides that detailed roadmap for creatives. Her Visionary Journal is a task manager, vision board and day-planner combined, for maximum effectiveness. Its bright and exciting colors get you motivated to map out your goals in style. Her website, Keep Chasing The Stars, encourages visionaries to be free from boundaries and to make their goals a priority. Anyone with pink hair earns extra points for daring to push boundaries and completely embracing their authentic self. Check out my interview with her below. —Emerald
Why did you decide to start your own business, versus work for someone else?
I never set out to own a business. Initially, my plan was to find a career, get semi-annual vacations and live happily ever after, employed by someone’s company. I was sold on the plan that my parents laid out for me (get good grades, go to college, get a career) and I followed it to the letter. It wasn’t until I had my first job after college that I realized how at-odds I was with the work I chose. It was creatively stifling in every sense, from dress code to my actual workload. I spent three years in the workforce before I decided to start my own business. I didn’t have a plan for anything at all, I just knew that I didn’t see myself spending 30+ years of my life working for someone else.
Can you remember when you first learned about your field of work? How did you discover what it was, and how did you know it was what you wanted to do?
There wasn’t a moment where I discovered my field of work and decided this is it. I’ve worked online continuously for the last 6+ years and my business continues to evolve to fit my strengths. I started as a crafter. Then I launched a t-shirt line. I’ve spent several years trying, testing and launching things. Every year I discover a bit more about the work that I’m best suited to do. There are a few themes that have stuck out to me over the years: I really like developing physical products, teaching, and speaking. Those things are the foundation of this version of my business.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
Just give it a try. Experience is the best teacher.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
Learning to manage myself. It’s so jarring to go from having a set schedule where your start time, lunch, breaks and end time are decided for you to having to figure that all out on your own. When you’re a one-woman show, the lines can blur, especially when it comes to work-life balance. So it’s important to build good self-management habits early on.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
I’ve learned to start with what I have. As creatives, we are our harshest critics and this can cause us to approach problems focusing solely on what we don’t have. What I’ve realized is that there isn’t a readily available solution when you are in that mindset. Your solution lies in your ability to look at what you have and figure out what type of leverage you have to get what you need. Always start with what you have.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences that you learned from or that helped you improve your business or the way you work?
I used to get really caught up in what everyone else was doing. I never kept my eyes on my own paper and constantly tried to build my business like everyone else. The problem with that is you can’t replicate someone else’s experiences and you do such a disservice to your own. It took a while to figure that out. You really have to own your quirks and oddities. There are people that will be drawn to you because of them and those are your right people.
If you were magically given three more hours per day, what would you do with them?
I definitely wouldn’t use them to do more work, I do enough already. I would use one of those hours to play more Nintendo with my son. The remaining two hours I’d spend reading (I love magical fantasy and thrillers), napping and having more sex.
What are the ideal conditions for you producing your best work?
I like to create rituals to help jumpstart my creativity. When I’m ready to get to work I light a candle, turn on some instrumental music, clear my desk, grab a notebook to jot down thoughts that come up and then set my Pomodoro timer. I spend too much time at my computer, so following that ritual signals to my brain it’s time to get to work.
What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
I like to read for pleasure, so I don’t read a ton of business books. There are two I highly recommend for creatives that are starting out: Do The Work by Steven Pressfield (A kick in the butt about moving past procrastination). Start With Why by Simon Sinek. (A great read about why you do what you do is more important than what you do). There are so many great, informative blogs available, my favorite being ByRegina.com. That girl is super knowledgeable and the sweetest person ever. I send everyone that is thinking about starting an online business to her site.
If you were stranded on an island and could only bring four items, what would they be, and why?
Pink hair dye and leave-in conditioner because my hair is my calling card. It needs to be fabulous. My laptop because it is the hub for my business. The entire Harry Potter book series because I’ll need some good reading material to pass the time.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years, I will own a mini stationery empire that provides small business owners, bloggers, artists (basically creatives) with the tools to be successful in their creative endeavors. The Visionary Journal is just the first in a line of products designed to help people plan, dream, and scheme. I want to expand beyond day planners.