Laura Meissenburg

Who are you, and what do you do?

I am an entrepreneur. With the help of around 40 employees, my husband and I design and manufacture signage, displays and promotional items for the gift industry, liquor industry and theme parks.

What has been one insight or lesson that has been most helpful in your career?

Never hang on to your idea too tightly. Listen to your audience and be open to tweaks. Your idea might be a good one, but inflexibility will eventually make a new idea obsolete.

What has been your favorite mistake? A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress.

We made the “mistake” of using 3rd party salespeople. They didn’t know our business well enough and frankly weren’t interested in learning the full extent of our product line. We decided to reach our to our customers ourselves, with much better results.

Project forward ten years. How will your industry or field be fundamentally different then? What opportunities do you see?

I see our direct business-to-customer online sales growing. Retail is waning, although I believe the retail segment will continue to survive in destination towns (resorts, ski locales, beach cities) where customers are happy to roam into galleries and stores (presumably on vacation). The large chain-stores will continue to falter. The new generation doesn’t “shop for fun” and will continue to shop online. The other part of our business, the liquor and theme parks will go up and down as the economy fluxes.

What are some bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

“Don’t get a loan.”

You can’t do everything out of pocket and it is not recommended that you grow your business by taking money from the “till” to fund your growth. Financial backing is crucial. Most businesses do not die because their idea is lacking, they die because their money runs out.

In the last two years, what have you become better at saying no to?

Contributions. We get requests for donations almost every day. If we said yes to all of them, we’d be out of business. We no longer give cash to any charity. We donate product and we concentrate on local charities and the needs of our community.

What is the one book you recommend most often and why?

Creativity Inc.

Anything you eventually end up doing involves creativity. Rigidity is the antithesis to creativity.

What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?

My advice is to travel. Get out of your comfort zone. Visit cultures unlike your own. Dabble in languages. It will have more impact on your life than any class you will ever take.

“Go after your dream job.” There is no dream job. They all come with caveats. Work is hard. Get out there and DO SOMETHING. Start somewhere. Once you do, you will find out what you are good at and it may have nothing to do with your degree. It could take years. You have no idea at this point what awaits you. Keep reading. Keep learning.

What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?

Pray to God, but row to shore.