It was the lure of a challenge that prompted Russell residents Toby and Melanie Maloney to quit their corporate jobs and accept what would become an even bigger mission in retirement.
That mission took root when they were 50 years old in 2001 and they decided to plunge headlong into entrepreneurship.
The Maloneys would not only invest financially in a promising start-up, helping two young professionals for over a decade bring their idea to life, but would serve as sounding boards and business advisors along the way.
They would help build national and international brand recognition for New York City-based Mental Floss magazine, all from their kitchen table, strategizing, problem solving, and building and sharing ideas.
The Maloneys, each with master’s degrees in teaching, arts, English, and industrial psychology, nurtured and grew the business, leading to their retirement, and have been committed for the past few years to helping others to do the same.
Mr. Maloney calls it his “labor of love.”
“The fun is in helping,” said Ms. Maloney.
The couple act as mentors, using their wealth of experience and knowledge of what makes businesses tick, while combining lifelong lessons they gained while growing up in a family of small business owners.
“When I was a kid, dinnertime conversations revolved around keeping customers happy, going the extra mile and all those kinds of business basics,” Maloney, 74, recalled.
She would also learn the complexity of running a small business at a young age and the idea of having to do it all, which is no easy task, she said.
From her father, a small-town builder, Ms Maloney, 68, said she learned the value of hard work and that balancing a passion for what you love and the pressures of a time-consuming business isn’t always easy. an easy task.
These lessons and others are the ones they offer for free to businesses of all sizes and types. While they may invest in some, for others they simply provide sound guidance and advice that benefits entrepreneurs from all walks of life.
“The most important thing is that we are helping people succeed in their businesses,” Maloney said.
Everything from strategizing to the importance of attention to detail, the Maloneys instruct. They even serve as a friendly audience to air or test ideas.
“We’re not a company,” Maloney said, “just a couple of people helping out.”
Sometimes it’s as simple as having a coffee, paying attention or sharing ideas. For others, they dig deeper and help develop business plans.
“There have been countless people who have sat at that table and have an idea,” Mr. Maloney said, gesturing toward the kitchen table. “It’s not that we have all the answers, but we have the experience,” he said.
They also have the time and flexibility.
“We don’t have children, but many of our friends do. If in one small way we can help Cleveland and Northeast Ohio create more jobs here so their children don’t have to go to Boston, New York or San Francisco,” then they will have made a difference, Maloney said.
The couple have worked with dozens of companies, including bakeries, tech companies, food delivery teams, men’s barbershops, and more.
“When we think about working with people, we determine if we can add value,” said Ms. Maloney. “There are some businesses that we don’t know anything about and we can’t add value, but business is business, and you need a good product, you need to market that product and produce that product.”
The Maloneys, who are involved in various business consortiums, over the years formed an informal network of people in the business world, eventually developing a document they share, detailing the basics of what everyone needs. types of business owners
“It’s not great work,” Maloney said, but it’s several pages of what can be considered a recipe for success.
“One of the key things for me is to pivot their business,” said Mr. Maloney, who once worked in organizational development at Key Bank and his wife in the same capacity at Eaton Corp. “You have this new company, but such a Maybe that’s not what business is (really) about.”
They also describe the importance of working in the business, not just in it.
“It’s not a novel concept,” Maloney said, “but we found that people are so busy making and selling their product that they forget about business.”
They have advised business owners to spend time taking care of their businesses so that they really grow, suggesting getting up earlier or some small change of habit.
It’s about the importance of thinking about all aspects of one’s business, the Maloneys said, not just the part you love.
“Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone,” Maloney said. “To be successful requires a huge commitment. You have to be all in.”
Successful entrepreneurs are those who are motivated and have internal commitment, added Mr. Maloney. “I don’t mean to make it mysterious, but it’s not just for everyone.”
The couple said they believe in the importance of small businesses to the economy and find satisfaction in fostering that.
“Small businesses really are the backbone of America,” said Ms. Maloney. “We feel like we’re contributing to that.”
By meeting with entrepreneurs who may want to turn their hobby into a business, the Maloneys help create at least a rudimentary budget, they said, because any business needs to make money.
The couple, married 31 years, keep busy in these endeavors. They also have fun. It’s about the joy of working with committed people, their intelligence, desire and passion, whether or not your idea can ultimately succeed, Maloney said.
“We can’t wait to work on the next project,” said Ms. Maloney. “For me, it’s this incredible intellectual stimulation of understanding things.
“I call it brain pudding,” he said. “It’s very important that people continue with that throughout their lives.”
And if the Maloneys can help those who have a spark, then it’s all in a day’s work.
“We both get a lot more than we give,” Maloney said.
“We have consciously chosen to help in some small way,” Maloney said. “It’s a wonderful place to be.”