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“The biggest challenge as a business owner has been to stand above the day-to-day weeds of operations on occasion to envision more clearly the overall direction of the company.”

iCreate engages kids in the K12 classroom through simple technology that bridges hands-on exploration with digital creativity. Founded on education research, iCreate’s flagship software uses stop-motion animation as a medium for students to express and develop conceptual understandings through all subject areas. Integrated into existing curriculum by thousands of teachers around the world, iCreate fosters the young innovators of our future.

MO: What inspired you to launch your business?

Melissa: I started my career as a mechanical engineer for Walt Disney, more commonly referred to as an “Imagineer” – or roller coaster engineer. Surprisingly – even at a place like Imagineering, the minds behind Disney parks around the world, I had very few colleagues that were female or close to my age. At a place that some may refer to as the ultimate creative group, why weren’t young college grads flocking to such a career? My hunch was kids are not getting enough hands-on opportunities in the classroom to express and engage their creativity and problem solving skills. At that point I sought to launch an education technology business that would provide kids with the tools to create and explore, fostering the natural innovator within.

MO: What has been your biggest challenge as a business owner and how have you met that challenge?

Melissa: The biggest challenge as a business owner has been to stand above the day-to-day weeds of operations on occasion to envision more clearly the overall direction of the company. With so many fires to put out every day – from customer issues to channel partner conversations to employee management – it’s very easy to forget the bigger picture and find yourself loss, frustrated, and discouraged. One of the ways that I’ve tried to avoid these types of ruts in the weeds is to reach out to mentors who know how to ask the right bigger picture questions on the status of the business and what’s to come that forces me to get out of the day to day and think more broadly.

MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you/your Company?

Melissa: The most exciting thing for me looking ahead is continuing to build out a talented team. A dedicated, energetic, and innovative team is core to not only an entrepreneur’s success, but also becomes an emotionally support system on the roller coaster ride. While it’s very difficult to find people that are the right fit for you and your business, it’s worth the time and energy to do so. I’ve been lucky to engage a handful of folks in believing and contributing to iCreate thus far, and look forward to more of the same!

MO: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs and business owners? What do you wish someone told you?

Melissa: This advice may seem pretty basic and like a no-brainer, but I really wish I would have realized from the beginning how imperative it is to understand the books of your own business. Knowing basic accounting principles and how it applies to your business is imperative. If you launch your business without having a baseline of your income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow, then I would highly recommend taking a crash course or sitting with a mentor or friend who can get you up to speed. And once you do, make sure to always keep them current for your business.

MO: What’s the biggest risk that you’ve ever taken and how did it turn out?

Melissa: The biggest risk I ever took was launching iCreate 3 years ago with a small savings account, no salary, and little more than a domain name with a logo. We bootstrapped our way to a strategic investor 2.5 years later, and while it was far from pretty, we’ve survived. Stepping out into the unknown – particularly with the option to easily maintain an engineering job – was a huge risk that looking back on I’m shocked I actually took, but cannot imagine life any other way as I continue to build iCreate and love it.

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