IN the SPOTLIGHT:
Melanie Lenci and Kick-Ass Entrepreneurs
New Mexico TechWorks had the opportunity to ask Melanie Lenci a few questions about her work and involvement in entrepreneurship in the community. Melanie launched Kick-Ass Entrepreneurs of Santa Fe (KAESF) to combine her love for storytelling and connecting people to highlight the amazing entrepreneur community in Santa Fe. Melanie shares how entrepreneurship and technology allows her to create the job she loves.
Name: Melanie Lenci
Business/Organization: Melanie Lenci, LLC and Kick-Ass Entrepreneurs of Santa Fe (KAESF)
Where were you born: Yonkers, NY
Where do you live now: Santa Fe, NM
Where are you from and how did you end up in Santa Fe?
I’m originally from NY, but I’ve lived in CO, CA, WA, NC, and NH before moving to Santa Fe for a property caretaking gig (one of my many jobs) in late 2016.
How did your personal and professional background influence where you are today?
I grew up pretty poor in a blue-collar household. My home life was a little less than ideal growing up, which led to me spending months in treatment facilities and “celebrating” my 16th birthday while living in a residential home. Still, schoolwork was always a great escape for me and I had some of the most amazing teachers and a guidance counselor who gave me the encouragement I needed to rise above. Educator and activist, Nicholas Ferroni, nailed it when he said, “Students who are loved at home come to school to learn, and students who aren’t come to school to be loved.” I was insanely fortunate to have positive influences at school and that’s why I believe so strongly in the power of the people within school walls to really make a difference and that education is a powerful tool in changing lives for the better. It did mine.
What kind of work do you do?
Other than my property care-taking gig, I do a variety of marketing and event-related work, mostly involving the entrepreneur community here in Santa Fe – and I love it! I also launched the Kick-Ass Entrepreneurs of Santa Fe (KAESF). For KAESF I coordinate monthly-ish events at local venues to allow audiences of up to 30+ to connect with the stories of Santa Fe entrepreneurs.
What business or organization do you work with?
I’m a solopreneur who works with individual clients as well as through misc. project and contract work. In 2018 I worked on some crazy cool projects for the Santa Fe Business Incubator (SFBI) and loved working with NM Tech Works to help the City of Santa Fe with Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW).
Why did you decide to work in tech, or this kind of work?
After moving to Santa Fe 2+ years ago and deciding to dissolve the business I’d built over 12+ years, I become familiar with Santa Fe’s amazing entrepreneur community and resources while working with Sean O’Shea at the Santa Fe Business Incubator (SFBI) through their fabulous business vetting program, Runway. The more familiar I became with the entrepreneur community, the more I knew I wanted to shape my career around strengthening it and bringing people who support it together whenever I can.
Describe your perspective on technology and its capabilities for the future.
Funny enough, I have a Masters in Technology Management (MOTM) degree, but chose not to work directly in tech. Still, I believe that the possibilities for technology are endless. Technology provides opportunities for people to earn a living while living in remote locations – which I took advantage of for years and see as a huge advantage in a state like New Mexico.
Do you use social media? Why or why not?
Hell yeah, I use social media. It enables me to spread the word of upcoming KAESF events. It also allows me to give shout outs to those doing great work in the entrepreneur community and to share info on other events, resources, or programs that entrepreneurs might find useful.
What advice would you give to younger people that are interested in entrepreneurship and technology or living and working in Santa Fe?
I feel like I didn’t even know what an entrepreneur was until I took a few courses on entrepreneurism in grad school. Fun fact, I applied for full-time jobs at universities until I landed one so that I could take advantage of the benefit of free tuition and didn’t have to take out any grad school student loans. I also went to a State school and worked all through undergrad to keep my debt to a minimum, because to me minimum debt meant maximum freedom. So, even though I’d taken some courses on entrepreneurism, it wasn’t until I started dating an entrepreneur and was able to see him creating this business and life that he loved (rather than feeling beaten down by the corporate daily grind like I was already feeling at the ripe old age of 30), that I decided to take the leap. That year I quit my job and started my first business with pretty much nothing more than damn ass determination and faith that I wouldn’t let myself fail. My not being introduced to entrepreneurism until later in life is part of the reason I’m so passionate about trying to find partners to help me bring KAESF and entrepreneur story time to K-12 students here in Santa Fe – to help young people see entrepreneurism as another possible path to creating a future they might not even know is possible.
How has using technology helped you move forward?
Besides using technology to live the life I want – enabling me to earn a living while working remotely – having taught myself how to create and maintain my own websites over the years and to shoot and edit video, technology continues to help me market myself and others, save money, and open up additional income streams for me.
What role do you think entrepreneurship will play in Santa Fe? How do you see Innovation as a part of our current or future economy?
Entrepreneurship and innovation are what Santa Fe is made of. I see support for entrepreneurs strengthening and know that there are a lot of people working behind the scenes to make the path to entrepreneurism simpler and more accessible to all. I know that these changes are not coming soon enough for some, but do believe that the entrepreneur community here will continue to have more and more advancements to help them build the lives and businesses they want here in Santa Fe.
What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur or influencing others to become entrepreneurs?
Honestly, my favorite part of being an entrepreneur is working at home in my robe a few days a week. But I also love being able to perpetuate change and help others by using skills I’m good at, rather than trying to fit myself in a box or tailor myself to some job description. That’s why I love influencing others to become entrepreneurs – so they can take what they excel at to improve others’ lives and work. They say that the Peace Corps is “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love,” but I think the same can be said for entrepreneurism. It can be hard as hell, but you know you’ve found your calling when you’d still have it no other way.
Interview by New Mexico TechWorks, Emily Cole