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Think being the CEO of your own company is hard? Try doing that while working full-time as the Director of Communications and Marketing at Boys and Girls Harbor.

That’s the story of Melissa Potter Forde, founder of Think Big! Think You!, who recently spoke to us about balancing her passions as a connector, communications strategist, career and life coach with her love of community and philanthropy. We caught up with Forde and learned how she gets her hustle on, and how we could all be just like her when we grow up.

MadameNoire (MN): How did you conceive Think Big! Think You!?

Melissa Potter Forde (MPF): Although I officially started in April of 2015, it germinated through a long list of experiences I’ve had. After seven years in the entertainment industry working on the personal branding and philanthropic efforts of celebrities, I wondered how I could take the skills I’d learned in representing these clients and top-tier organizations and teach these to friends so they could go on and achieve similar levels of success.

MN: What does Think Big! Think You! do?

MPF: We work to develop a plan connecting the dots in the life you lead. So, your 9-5  is working as an educator but what you really love is doing Yoga. We help you explore how you can merge your experiences as an educator with your passion for Yoga and make that the life you really live and deserve to have. Maybe that means opening a Yoga studio.

MN: How do you think people miss the connections in their own lives?

MPF: We have countless communications throughout our lives, but if we don’t listen to what someone is really saying we may miss valuable take-aways from the conversation. Often times this means learning to better communicate so we can get what we want out of any interaction. Many default to blaming others, as in: my boss is not going to help me get that promotion. But what it really is, is not being specific in asking for what we want and letting those in our network know who we are, what we stand for, and where we want to be.

MN: Is there a system you use to help people better define their goals and personal brand?

MPF: Yes. It’s called the Dot Connector Program and through it we teach people what a personal brand is, how to create that brand, and how to manage relationships and build your network. When these two efforts intersect (branding and relationships) you get the experience you want to create. The program is a minimum of six weeks. The first two are spent helping clients identify what their big goal is.

MN: What difficulties do people have in defining their big goal?

MPF: Working in the entertainment industry, I thought I would be the next Mona Scott. It wasn’t until taking a look at my talents and passions, both inside and outside of work, that I began to realize what I truly wanted to do. You may have answered the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” a long time ago and feel you’re stuck with that. It’s important to really listen to yourself and do an audit of your capabilities. Open your mind to discovering something new and seeing a different big picture.

MN: Tell me about the steps you took in defining a different big picture for your life?

MPF: I started by asking my friends: What do you think of when you think of me? And the answer was basically, “You’re like a connector. You bring people together.” They pointed out that when I walk away from a conversation, I walk away with not only a business card but dinner plans the next week or refer them to a babysitter or end up going on vacation with them. That allowed me to acknowledge that I might have something special here. From there it was natural to ask myself what I could teach people so they could do the very same thing on their own. Promoting themselves and what they do.

MN: What are some next steps for Think Big! Think You! and your personal brand?

MPF: I am working on a book right now. The book centers around teaching people the art of networking, though I don’t like to call it networking. That word has so many bad connotations: it’s boring, stuffy, intimidating. I try to help people with connecting based on who they really are. You are connecting based on commonalities and aspirations. That is how you find value in new relationships. I’m beginning to throw connecting events (the first of which was September of this year at Toshi’s Penthouse in the Flatiron Hotel). We had over 500 confirmed attendees and a wait list of over 200. These are geared toward helping people connect offline.

MN: What’s the scoop on the 9-5?

MPF: Currently, I am Director of Communication and Marketing for Boys and Girls Harbor. It’s a non-profit located in East Harlem that focuses on Art and Education. We provide services through Pre-school, After School, and Performing Arts to over 1 thousand families located in Harlem, East Harlem and the Bronx. All of the educational experiences here are infused with music, dance and theater. This means that walking in any of our classrooms at any given time and our children are singing and dancing. But when you listen closely you realize they are learning while they do the two.

MN: How do you manage being a CEO on the side?

MPF: I’ve always had more than one job. I don’t think you could live in NY with only one job, one hustle. A lot of the work for Think Big! Think You! takes place during the evening since the majority of my clients are professionals as well. My evenings and weekends are spent working with current professionals, recent graduates, retiring professionals etc. It is tiring. But I love what I do, both by day and by night, so it doesn’t really feel like work. Rather it’s just the life that I lead.

MN: What advice would you give to someone trying to get their hustle on?

MPF: Learn the art of time management. I start my day at 6 am and usually go to bed around 11 pm. After reflection and prayer I map out, hour by hour, what it is that I need to accomplish — making time for “Empire” and “Scandal” in between of course. Use the night to reflect on what you want to get done the next day. Jot it all down then put it away. When you wake up the next morning, take those tasks and prioritize. I suggest starting with the smallest thing you have on your plate, that way you feel like you’re being productive, and move up.

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