Melanie Duncan is a triple threat in the business world. She owns and runs three different successful companies – Custom Greek Threads, a fraternity and sorority apparel seller, monogrammed home décor manufacturer Luxury Monograms and online marketing and business classes that teach how to get your own company started. We talked to Duncan about how she got started and what it’s like to be your own boss.
You started Custom Greek Threads with your boyfriend (now husband) when you were still in college. Is launching a business before you graduate something you would recommend?
I think one of the best things I ever did was choose to start a business in college. I’m shocked that more people don’t do it because for most of us, it’s the perfect little incubator period where your classes really aren’t taking up all of your time. Also, you’re kind of fearless in college. You’re still young enough that you believe you’re invincible and anything is possible. You’re learning from professors with different backgrounds and hanging out with people who are in different majors, so I think that your exposure to ideas and opportunities is at an all time high.
When you’re running three businesses, how do you make sure you’re balancing all of them equally?
It is a constantly evolving art form. The key thing is really investing my time and energy in the right hires so that I have the right people that are solely focused on those businesses for me. My brain can’t be in every nook and cranny of that many different things, so I put all my time into making sure I am building the right team of people to work in those businesses and then doing everything I can to support and empower them to really thrive.
What are some good and bad things about being your own boss?
I think that when you’re your own boss, you’re probably the toughest boss you’ll ever have because you’re constantly evaluating your own performance. I require more from myself than I probably do from anyone that works for me. When you’re your own boss you have to be framing your expectations for yourself realistically. I’ve been running my own businesses for 10 years now, so hitting that point has made me realize that it’s a marathon and not a sprint.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start their own company, but doesn’t have any business experience?
I think that when you get experience it’s by going out there and trying something. What I would say is try to frame whatever ideas you’re testing in the most flexible way possible. I would really encourage people to just get their feet wet with a couple different ideas and gauge off of that experience.