Jennifer Mellon is the Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer of Trustify, the world’s first technology platform to connect clients across the U.S. with a network of highly trained and qualified private investigators. Previously, Mellon was Executive Director of Joint Council on International Children’s Services and Program Director at the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and Founder of Aqua Pure Technologies and Oh My Darling Designs. Follow her @jenmellon.
Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
My father is my hero. He taught me everything I know about business and taking risks. He is the epitome of self-made man. He was a young father with no savings and four small children when he decided to bootstrap his first business, which he is still running 30 years later. He gave me the confidence to follow my dreams, no matter how scary they may be. I am who I am and where I am today because of him.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
My first boss, Kerry Marks Hasenbalg, the founder of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, told me my first day on the job: “Whatever you do here and in life, do with diligence and excellence.” I still hire individuals, not necessarily based on their experience or areas of expertise, but on the basis of their natural drive to complete their role and responsibilities with diligence and excellence. It is truly the most important factor for success in my book.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
My biggest career mistake was not being my own best advocate. At 25, I was the youngest Executive Director in the 40-year history of one of the largest international child welfare associations. It was my dream job that I worked tirelessly to achieve. After the birth of my oldest daughter, my board insisted that I return to work and international travel before addressing her needs at the time. In turn, I resigned as I felt that I could not meet their expectations. I wish that I advocated for myself in having a work-life balance as an executive and new mother. I urge other new moms in that position to lobby for themselves.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
As a tech startup founder, my team (and my co-founder and husband Danny Boice) regularly make fun of the fact that I refuse to use any app or software for my to-do list. Before I even look at an email or Slack, I go into my planner and create my to-do list for that day. There is something so fulfilling about checking each item off the list during the day. Juggling the business, teaching yoga and raising our five children, the only way I can keep it all straight is by putting pen to paper and jotting it all down.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Do not be afraid of investing in your own company. Bootstrapping your dream, especially in the early months, shows your investors you are serious. There is no option but to succeed when you are all in — with your time, your talent and your treasure.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Find time to unplug. Trustify was born out of the first week we ever unplugged as a couple, on our honeymoon. Taking time away from any distraction will help you come up with your best ideas.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Success, to me, is being able to look around and see a business that is truly making a difference — changing people’s lives through the work we do for our customers, our private investigators, our team and our community where we volunteer.