A Different Entrepreneur

MelanieCohn-Entrepreneur


MELANIE COHN

FOUNDER — YOUNG WOMEN IN DIGITAL

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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’ve always loved commercials. It started at a young age, I can remember watching TV and just thinking “who thought of all these ideas?!”That was something that stuck with me right throughout my childhood, and led me to eventually go on and study Journalism and Broadcast Production in College.

There was something about TV which completely intrigued me, and it was something I knew I wanted to be involved in. Or at least, thought I knew!

After a year internship working behind the scenes on a TV show, I quickly realized the glamor as a viewer is totally different from the reality of it all. It definitely wasn’t for me. However, I did know I was still very interested  in the creative side of it all and was able to land another internship doing marketing for WGBH in Boston. I absolutely loved my time here. The internship gave me the opportunity to stretch my creative muscles in a completely new way. It was also the catalyst for being able to go onto two additional internships and eventually get my first job working in a start-up marketing agency in Boulder, CO. This was in 2010 RIGHT when social media for business was starting to heat up.

It’s funny when you think back and realize you were one of the first people to work in a job that hadn’t really existed up to that point, especially now with social media marketing being at the forefront of many marketing programs.

I loved being part of this first wave and making and immediate impact on my client’s brands. I was particularly focused on building blogger relationships, influencer marketing and of course, social media advertising. The role was the perfect blend of the creative elements I loved about advertising, as well as the more strategic aspect of marketing. It’s fair to say I quickly found my passion and specific space from there.

It wasn’t always easy though, especially in the early days. One of the biggest hurdles I faced was learning how to properly deal with clients. There was one particular client I had early on who was impatient and extremely tough on me. This was a bit of a shock to the system having come straight out of college, where I was used to being a good student and generally always having an answer.

All of a sudden, you’re somewhat thrown into the deep end with a client who expects you to have all the solutions to their problems. I was constantly getting put down which made it hard to maintain my confidence. However, as they say you either give-up, or you learn and grow.

These early says taught me two things. First, you can never, ever stop learning – especially when you first start off and you are very green. Your employer won’t expect you to have all the answers, but they expect you to research, get out of the office, or do whatever you need to find a solution. The second thing, was you need to have a thick skin to work in marketing. I realized not everything was a personal attack, it was just business. Knowing a client didn’t love my work actually drove me to work even harder to gain the skills I was lacking – one of which was an ability to build a relationship with the client!

This really defined my outlook on the workplace in general– it’s ALL about relationships. You can be the most creative person in the world, but if you don’t have a foundation of a relationship with your colleagues or clients, you really can’t get very far.

This realization about the significance of forming relationships founded the basis of another important step in my life. I was going to so many different networking events in Boston and having a hard time finding peers I could really relate to. When I would occasionally find someone I clicked with, and could speak to about similar challenges or wins we faced, I was ecstatic. The only problem was these moments were so rare, so fleeting. I thought to myself, ‘What if I could be in a room full of me’s?!” From there, the lightbulb went off and I decided to stop complaining about the lack of relevant networking events, and start doing something about it.

I tossed the idea around to a few women in marketing and they loved it – from there, I took the leap and launched Young Women in Digital (YWD) in 2013. The main ingredient for success, in my opinion, was that there was a true hole in the community and many women felt it. The demand was there, I simply filled it. 

YWD has grown a lot through pure word of mouth.

Members tell their colleagues, and it continually spreads –  we have true ambassadors. For me, this natural growth really confirms how there was such a big need for something like YWD. It all really came full circle for me earlier this year, when we hosted our first ever day-long conference. It totally blew me away. We sold-out so quickly, and actually had a waiting list. For so long, there hadn’t really been anything for women in marketing to share their experiences, learn and grow. Now, we have this amazing network of the most dedicated women in the business.

I’d love for this to keep growing within Boston and beyond. I want us to be able to impact the careers of young women within the industry and give them access to anything they need to make it in the industry. I know how hard it is to get stuck in the middle levels of an organization. I want to help our members soar to marketing leadership levels in their organizations.

I think there’s still ways to go to get more women in marketing leadership roles, especially at larger companies. The more women that participate in leadership groups like YWD, however, the more skills and confidence they’ll gain to pursue these types of positions. We want to give women the power and confidence to start reaching higher.

It was a massive moment for me when I found out that I would be featured in the Forbes 30 under 30. It was extremely humbling considering the calibre of people who were also featured on the list. I hope, more than anything else, it serves as inspiration for anyone who wants to start a movement of their own.

Being entrepreneurial doesn’t mean you need to own a business.

At Dunkin’ Donuts, I’ve been able to carve my own path by being entrepreneurial in my role. I’m always trying to build new capabilities or bring a fresh approach because it’s in my nature to want to try new things and go outside the box. With YWD, I’m able to tap into my passion to help other women and meet likeminded individuals, while also learning how to build a business and tap into a different side.

Being curious, proactive, and entrepreneurial are a few ingredients that can set you on a path to rising the ranks – and maybe even help you start a movement.

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  • Melanie Cohn

    Founder - Young Women in Digital

    When she's not making waves at Young Women in Digital, Melanie manages digital and social media strategy at Dunkin' Donuts. She has led unique initiatives at the 67-year-old brand. She was featured in 'Forbes 30 under 30' in 2018 for her groundbreaking work in the Digital Marketing field.

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