A CONVERSATION WITH JERRI MENAUL, THE FOUNDER OF MY FAVORITE ART PLACE
An entrepreneur with 30 years of experience, Jerri Menaul provides valuable advice and insight to future female entrepreneurs in the U.S.
5 Minute Read
Entrepreneurship is deeply ingrained into Americans’ way of life. Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, Arianna Huffington, Debbie Fields, Beyonce and Tory Burch are just a few of the great entrepreneurs that the U.S. has produced.
Jerri Menaul, founder of successful small business My Favorite Art Place, might not be as well-known as the abovementioned names, but she’s certainly one of America’s top entrepreneurs. In addition to being the founder of a successful small business, My Favorite Art Place, Jerri has over three decades worth of experience in the business world. Today, she shares her insight on her time as a leading entrepreneur in the art and marketing industries.
Jerri Menaul on her first love, entrepreneurship
Jerri Menaul describes her successful business as a “multifaceted boutique art studio” that focuses on three target markets. The first is healthcare and corporate environments, where My Favorite Art Place helps these businesses brand themselves and create a company culture through the use of wall art. Second are the artists, photographers and designers that My Favorite Art Place aids in growing their businesses. And third is the retail side of My Favorite Art Place, which is the business of fine art printing and custom art framing.
“I’m a bit of a marketing maniac, and I love to help people grow their business through the use of wall art.” she gushes. Her passion is reflected in the success of her business - but it wasn’t an easy journey to the top. And as someone who has been around in the business world for more than three decades, there are few people better positioned than her to provide advice to the current and future generations of female entrepreneurs.
Advice to future women in business
It comes as no surprise that Jerri Menaul has become a role model to many over her career. “I mentor a lot of people,” Jerri tells us. “I mentor a lot of business owners and I mentor a lot of artists. It’s just something that I’ve always done.”
She strongly believes that nobody can make it by themselves – and if they do, they’re missing out on the fun and rich experiences that come with finding your tribe. “Understanding that you don’t have to do it by yourself, and knowing that you’re not weak when you ask for help is important.” And she’s right. By networking and connecting with like-minded people, whether they’re in your industry or not, can be the fine line between succeeding and missing the goal. Having a support system and resources that can aid you in your career is a crucial aspect in reaching the top - especially for women. This is perhaps why Jerri pays it forward by constantly mentoring and training others.
Owed to her decades of experience in the entrepreneurial game, Jerri is brimming with valuable and insightful advice for tomorrow’s female leaders and entrepreneurs. One of the first pearls of wisdom she shares with us is to always move forward and never stand still. “One of my specialties is pivoting businesses, because I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and the world has changed, but I’m still here.”
To emphasize this point, she shares a story about how her late husband, Scott, was adverse to change in the early days of their company. One day, she left a bird feeder on his table and he asked what that was. “It’s a bird feeder.” She responded. Scott, perplexed, replied, “But I’m a high-tech photographer.”
Her reply to this was simple. She said, “Well, you are a tabletop photographer. And people that make bird feeders will pay the same green money as people that make chips and dips. So, you shoot what goes on the table.” It was this simple concept that would be their saving grace when high-tech photography eventually died out in the nineties. Jerri and Scott were fine, as they allowed themselves to grow horizontally, instead of just vertically. “And I’ve done that over and over and over again to create different iterations of our business. It’s part of the reason why I started acquiring other businesses. So, that’s probably the best advice I can give to people.”
But that doesn’t mean your career needs to be unpleasant. The journey to success in business won’t be easy and may be filled with a lot of work that you won't like, but there’ll come a time when you find the parts that you like. “By learning more about that particular area [of your job], you could create an opportunity for yourself where you’re spending more time doing the things that bring you pleasure, rather than the things that don’t.” She goes on to say. “It’s very simple. Life is an adventure. And more often than not, we hope that it’s fun. And if you can have that viewpoint, you’ll have more good days than bad days.”
It’s like Jerri says, “If 51% of your day was good, then it was a good day.”
Insights on the past, present and future
As someone who has been thriving in America’s business landscape for three decades now, it’s safe to say that Jerri Menaul knows more than most about the ever-changing trends of the entrepreneurial world.
When reflecting on her own experiences over the last 30 years, she found that the biggest lesson she’s learned is that she’s her own enemy. “I am my own worst enemy. It is my barriers that are keeping the company from growing,” she explains. “And I have to figure out how to get out of my own way.”
She notes that it’s not enough to just grow professionally, you need to also look inward and grow personally. And that means getting to a point when you can hold yourself accountable as a leader and stay open to becoming a better version of yourself for your business and employees. “When somebody tells you that you’re being a jerk, you have to be willing to sit down and say ‘What part of this could be right? How can I make myself less of a jerk?’. When I look at some of the biggest problems that I’ve had in any of the businesses that I’ve owned, it was always typically my fault, because I was unwilling to listen to somebody, or look at something differently.”
Another aspect of growing professionally and personally, is being open to change and embracing the new trends that come your way. “I’ve lived through multiple recessions. I’ve lived through 2008. I lived through the 1980s. I’ve run businesses while the world has fallen down, and I’ve always been able to get back up.” she exclaims. “Things might be outside my control, but my ability to stay in the game, my ability to pivot, and my ability to change my business in order to accommodate the Groupons of the world is what keeps me going. You have to be up for the challenge, and be excited about the challenge.”
It’s definitely been an eventful 30+ years for Jerri Menaul, and now that she’s starting to toy with the idea of retiring sometime soon, her thoughts drift to what the future holds for the next lot of female entrepreneurs. “Small businesses like mine are the backbone of the United States, and I would like to see people not give up on us,” she says. “I would like people who are interested in having their own business go for it because we are the number one employer of people. We have the ability to spend the most amount of money. And there’s always going to be a need for the high-touch, face-to-face personal business.”
And to the business owners of America, she has this piece of advice to part with: “You just have to hire the best person for the job. And it doesn’t matter if they’re male or female, if they’re in a wheelchair, if they have legs or they don’t, or what color they are - smart business is smart business, and smart business says that you hire the best person for the job, someone who can get the job done well, who has the viewpoint and purpose of the organization at heart. And when you do that, and you treat these people correctly… they will help you reach the goals of the organization.