Embracing entrepreneurship means you have to stop looking for permission (or approval) at every turn.
Melissa Slawsky, academic turned entrepreneur, is CEO (i.e., “Head Brainiac”) of Brainiac Bundles, a digital collaboration company that provides authors, online course creators, and ‘infopreneurs’ a smart, easy, and free way to market and sell their digital products using joint-venture bundle sales.
Prior to taking the leap into entrepreneurship, Melissa served as an Assistant Professor of music at a variety of colleges and universities in the Southeastern United States until she realized that being “Dr. Slawsky” was feeding her ego- but not her soul. A self-admitted personal and professional development “junkie,” she leveraged her penchant for online business and self-publishing for various digital media to create Brainiac Bundles.
Melissa resides in the Orlando, Florida area where she balances her roles as wife and mother in addition to her entrepreneurial endeavors. In her spare time, she enjoys creating with electronic music and film score composition.
Where did the idea for Brainiac Bundles come from?
I was failing miserably at building a business consulting practice, when I read a story in The $100 Startup about two designers that partnered with 28 other designers to host a “fire sale,” which ended up being a smashing success. It hit me like a ton of bricks that this is what I should be doing! I could combine my obsessions with online business and self-publishing while monetizing people at no cost to them!
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
The majority of my day is spent connecting with potential contributors for my bundles through email and social media. I have a targeted list of Facebook groups that I post opportunities in on a daily basis. I allot one day per week to attend in-person networking events and another to schedule virtual meet-and-greets.
I make sure to batch my activities, so I am not “switching gears” every hour or so and have a daily set-list of activities each day to get in and get out.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a very visual learner, so it starts with writing down a plan. Then, I design a logo and graphics. It then starts to become very real and tangible, which motivates me to buy the domain name and build out a site. When I’ve got this “container” for this creative endeavor, I then just have to connect with enough individuals to fill it.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I believe that the future of self-publishing and digital content distribution is looking bright. However, the new age of Ebook and digital content marketing involves turning your competitors into collaborators. In this case, two (or 25) heads really are better than one.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Batching my to-do list, so I have a set amount of time to work on a particular project helps ensure that my focus isn’t scattered switching between one activity and another. I used to consider myself a “multitasking maven,” but that has changed with age (or motherhood).
What advice would you give your younger self?
There’s more to life than degrees, certifications, shiny gold stars, and stamps of approval. Although I started my first business at the age of 16, I always had a ‘chip on my shoulder’ about being self-employed. I thought “making it” would entail being chosen as a tenure-track professor in higher-education. I quickly found out that my background and experience as an entrepreneur did not translate well for the “ivory towers.”
Embracing entrepreneurship means you have to stop looking for permission (or approval) at every turn. In the words of Ayn Rand, “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
Higher education has no accountability to the real world. As a former professor, I felt a responsibility to my students to equip them with the skills required to sustain a viable living. Unfortunately, the decision-makers in higher education do not consider college to be “career training.” I refuse to remain a part of that system.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Every day, I make sure that any decisions I make are in alignment with my core values. My core values are creativity, innovation, and connection, so I ask myself:
• Is this creative?
• Is this innovative?
• Will this allow me to connect?
This allows me to quickly make decisions and avoid ‘shiny object syndrome.’
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
My business involves putting together joint-venture bundle sales with many collaborators. At first, I was manually reaching out to individuals one-by-one that I thought would be a good fit. As soon as I turned my attention to influencers with communities full of my ideal target audience, that’s when the pipeline opened and contributors started approaching me.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One of my biggest mistakes was being (deathly) afraid of failure in the first place. My background in academia (and as a musician), trained me to be a raging perfectionist. I had to learn how to pivot and “fail fast” in order to move forward.
Now, I try to reframe “failure” as feedback and if something doesn’t work, I learn from it and pivot quickly to something that does.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
It takes time and money to start a business. You can greatly shorten your timeline to success and 10x your efforts if you partner up with other people doing the same thing as you hope to do. Crowdselling allows you to leverage the clout, expertise, and audiences of all stakeholders.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I had a serious problem with my business messaging until I purchased a series of explainer video exports from Raw Shorts. Using one of their video templates, I was able to clarify my message and get rid of any technical jargon. My conversion rate for contributors greatly increased by making that video!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Google Sheets allows me to keep track of details for all of my upcoming bundles. Because it’s cloud-based, I can access it no matter what computer or device I’m using.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Besides James Altucher’s “Choose Yourself”, every entrepreneur needs to read “The $100 Startup” by Chris Guillebeau. Not only does it have practical advice for starting a business, but it’s full of inspirational stories from entrepreneurs who have turned their passions and ‘translatable skills’ into the businesses of their dreams. [A story about two designers running a ‘fire sale’ was the inspiration for my business, Brainiac Bundles.]
What is your favorite quote?
“I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And, I was really…I was alive.”- Walter White
The series finale of “Breaking Bad” features Bryan Cranston giving the ultimate manifesto for the sense of pride and joy one can feel for their life’s work. I think every entrepreneur has that “break bad” moment where we decide to take the leap, bet on themselves, and let the chips fall where they may.
- Learn how to pivot and “fail fast” in order to move forward
- You can greatly shorten your timeline to success and 10x your efforts if you partner up with other people doing the same thing as you hope to do
- There’s more to life than degrees, certifications, shiny gold stars, and stamps of approval
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.