Business: Technology sales and service
Year Founded: 2003
2021 Revenue: $100 million
Rank on List: 17
Sandra Nasseri started her business in a classic way: She saw a developing niche and filled it.
She is chief executive of Melrose Inc., which provides technology products and services to the entertainment industry. But founding her business was only one challenge. The biggest one today, she said, “has been to learn how to adapt to a constantly evolving industry” that causes her and her team to regularly remold their products and services to stay relevant.
Interestingly, she said one of her most rewarding moments came the day after her shop was looted and burned in the unrest of the summer of 2020. That morning, clients and staff showed up to help her clean up so she could start anew.
Nasseri answered the Business Journal’s queries about starting and running a woman-owned business this way:
Question: What prompted you to go out on your own and become a business owner?
Answer: I started my business when Apple was at the start of entering the editorial market in Hollywood. I worked for a small company that serviced post-production houses and media companies, and Apple’s new product, Final Cut Pro, was starting to take off. When reviewing the marketplace and evaluating the competition, I realized that there were very few companies serving this market. Also, my clients at the time, who were mostly Avid users, started to ask me to design different solutions for them. I decided to reach out to Apple to become an authorized reseller, and it was quite a challenge to find the right people at Apple to do so. There were no Apple stores like there are today. The authorized providers were named “Apple Specialist” and were mostly serving Mac users in the print, photography, and publishing industries. There were very few who specialized in editorial workflow and the building of technology solutions for audio and video animation. The demand for this new market niche created opportunity and I decided to go for it!
In your experience, has being a woman helped you more or hurt you more in starting or operating your business?
I believe that most businesses share the same challenges and practices whether you are a male or female operator. The daily tasks of managing people, inventory, banking, rent, etc. are common to all. Entrepreneurs are a unique breed of people who make decisions based on logic and evaluating the market trend. Being a woman may imply that we “think with our hearts” and not fully with our minds, which has been true for me personally in some instances. Although I am a firm believer that all things happen for a reason, there were times when I felt that being a woman was a disadvantage and uncomfortable. I met bankers who rejected our business because it “offered no value.” I had vendors refuse to provide us with terms, I received different access to a licensed product, and I was often excluded from certain meetings at conferences. But eventually things turned around. The more my company was rejected, the harder I worked to find new, creative solutions, new paths, new partnerships… And in doing so, I found that I made better choices in the long run.
What’s been the biggest challenge to you in your business? Conversely, what’s been the biggest reward?
The biggest challenge has been to learn how to adapt to a constantly evolving industry. I and my team must reinvent and reshape our product and service offerings to stay relevant and appeal to our clients. I have learned that continuing to invest in our people and in our clients is imperative. The most rewarding moment was the day after our store was looted and burned during the civil unrest in May 2020. We had staff and clients show up as early as 6 a.m. the next morning with bagels, coffee and brooms to help us clean up our shattered store and corporate office. It proved to me that building trust in a non-trusting world will be paid forward. Leading with the basic values of care, honesty and love allowed our company to shine through the darkness that day, and we will work to preserve those values to ensure our light never goes out.
What’s your assessment of the likelihood of a recession coming? What, if anything, are you doing to prepare for any slowdown?
In my humble opinion the recession is already here. Prices on most of our products are constantly rising and the shortage in chip manufacturing, along with the supply chain issues, are adding more fuel to the fire. Sadly, the cost has trickled down to the consumer and to our clients who are paying for it with other unallocated budgets. Basically, this is causing a slowdown in purchasing and future business expansions, including our ability to hire more people. Our team has partnered with numerous financing and leasing companies to offer affordable payment plans to help buffer those costs for our customers. Most purchases are being shifted from capital expenditures to operating expenditures, which helps with depreciation and taxes. In addition, we have been very proactive in stocking items ahead of time and purchasing in bulk to provide competitive deals. Our engineers have had to design new workflows with products that are made in the United States that have faster turnaround times to meet deadlines.
What advice would you give another woman who wanted to start her own business?
The advice I would give another woman who wants to start her own business would be the same advice I would give my children. Work hard, believe in yourself, and trust your instincts. Having a supportive environment and belonging to different boards and groups helps build a good network of people and mentors. I am fortunate to have had many incredible men and women along the way who provided me with constructive criticism, who loved and cared for me and who made sure I was staying on a positive track. Owning a business is a highly personalized adventure and meeting all kinds of people along the way enhances the experience so much more.
If you could back up the clock, what would you do differently in regard to your business?
I would have loved to invest my entire seed investment in Bitcoin and Apple stock! But seriously, I wouldn’t do anything differently. The journey has shaped me into who I am today, and for that I am grateful.
– Charles Crumpley