Recently I had a chance to sit down with editBIOMED's founder Melanie Styers to pick her brain about her experience with starting a new online business after prevailing as one of Launchpad's much heralded seed money recipients.
Who is She?
Melanie, a native of Decatur, AL completed her PhD at Emory University in a program for Biochemistry, Cell Biology, and Developmental Biology after majoring in Math and Chemistry at Birmingham Southern. She had originally set out to earn a degree in accounting but after being placed in Chemistry she fell in love with it and has since returned as a Cell Biologist and full-time member of the faculty in the Biology Department there at Birmingham Southern in Birmingham, AL.
She is also married and has a 20 month old baby girl.
What is her business?
editBIOMED specializes in editing biomedical manuscripts, grants, and other scientific documents for non-native English-speaking scientists. Their editors are highly trained scientists with advanced degrees in a wide variety of biological and clinical disciplines, including medicine, biochemistry, cell biology, neuroscience, cancer biology, and developmental biology, to name a few. With a thorough understanding of science and a sharp eye for English, they have the expertise to help you clearly communicate your ideas and results!
Science is beautiful. Scientific writing should be.
How did she get into the business?
Melanie did her post-doctorial (post-doc) at UAB. Her husband was attending college at the time and they needed a way to supplement the income to help raise the funds to send him to school. She hung signs around campus promoting that she would be available as a Scientific Editor. After six years she has built up an impressive list of clients. Melanie states,
"It is the breadth of training that has become so helpful in the editing because I can read such a broad array of science and that makes things easier for me as an editor."
While she was working as a Professor of Cell Biology at Birmingham Southern, raising a young toddler, supporting a husband's education, and moonlighting as a scientific editor she decided to begin a new business...why?
After working in the Scientific Editing industry for 6 years she had the opportunity to work for several different editing companies. Some paid a fair wage but there were many that didn't. Her goal was to start an editing business that would pay well to attract and keep top editors .
What was the Launchpad process like?
When Melanie first heard about Launchpad she went to watch the finals of the season prior to hers to get an idea of what would be involved. She shared her thoughts with us,
"The nice thing about Launchpad is that I know I can edit, I'm good at editing, and I can teach, I'm a scientist. But what I knew about business you could hold in the palm of your hand"
She also points out that going through that process was really useful because they set her up with mentors in the community through the Birmingham Business Alliance and made her look at where the money was going to go, what the legal aspects were, and how she would need to sell herself to other business people.
As a competitor she had to write a business plan and pitch on stage in front of a live audience. For Melanie, writing the business plan wasn't that difficult because she was used to writing Federal Grants and there were similarities between the two. But having to fit it into a 10 minute pitch proved to be difficult because she had to pitch to an audience that didn't know anything about what the business did. After all was said and done Melanie reflected, "It was great because I figured out a lot of things along the way, like how the business should run."
We asked Melanie what the hardest part of it was so far?
"Trying to balance all the things. Where do you put your energy? Because you are trying to get the business off the ground during this process, plus do all the paperwork, meetings, and get your presentation prepared. Plus on top of that working full time, I have a young child and a husband that expects to see me sometime. It's the balance that's so hard. It's also different to be in the spotlight when I am used to being behind the scenes. And now I have publicly started this business which is great but then there is more pressure to not fall behind."
We asked Melanie for some words of advice were for any woman trying to get her foot in the door of technology or business:
"Get a mentor to help guide you through the parts you don't understand.
Be prepared to do your own leg work.
Plug yourself in to networking. Most women, in general, don't tend to be well networked. I noticed that a lot of the men already knew each other and were already plugged into a network and I wasn't, so it's important to get plugged into a network.
Don't let not being networked get you down and don't get discouraged, find someone who will work with you. "
We would like to thank Melanie Styers at editBIOMED for taking the time to talk to us and to share her experiences to our viewers.