OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | PeopleWise: Melanie Jones
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PeopleWise: Melanie Jones

No matter how much we hate to admit, our parents are sometimes usually right. In seventh grade, Melanie Jones’ parents told her that she needed to be an entrepreneur. They were spot on.

Melanie now runs her own firm, Marketing Interface, which helps startups and growing organizations select the best tools and strategies to scale their marketing operations and accomplish their goals.

Growing up in Houston, Melanie later made her way to Montreal to study International Development at McGill University. In order to get a visa to stay in Canada, Melanie had to find a job. After being in sales for seven months, she knew that kind of work was not for her. Then she tried her hand at marketing.

I studied people for four years, marketing was a way for me to relate what I studied to a job I could get.

Right away she knew that this was the industry for her. It was creative, it was strategic, and it was infinitely better than cold-calling people. Melanie began working at a small, growing company in Montreal called Ecom, helping clients develop marketing strategies and accelerate their growth. Melanie spent the next few years working her way up to management. In 2010, Melanie returned to Houston to get her MBA at Rice University.

She immediately plugged in to Houston’s entrepreneurial community, engaging with the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. Upon graduation, Melanie served as a marketing associate at SURGE Accelerator. She later stepped into the role of marketing director, helping SURGE become a top 10 accelerator and the top energy accelerator in the country.

Inspired by the entrepreneurs around her, Melanie wanted to give the antiquated marketing industry a facelift, lending her expertise and shaping marketing into a valuable asset. In late 2014, she founded Marketing Interface to help startups and growing companies identify and implement the right marketing tools. Today, there are thousands of marketing technologies available, and finding the right stack of tools is an integral part of marketing in the 21st century.

As every entrepreneur has experienced, Melanie learned and adapted to a new role, fulfilling responsibilities she never thought she would be doing. From HR paperwork, to required filings with the government, Melanie learned all aspects of starting a business firsthand. However, having watched startups succeed and fail for two years, Melanie picked up practices that helped companies find success, not to mention the connections she made while at SURGE and through mentoring at OwlSpark helped her immensely as she started her own venture.

“I wouldn’t be where I am in my career if I didn’t have that network,” Melanie said. For her, Marketing Interface has been the perfect job. She gets to start her own company while helping others do the same. It is this very reason she also enjoys mentoring startup teams through OwlSpark, “I love being around people who are so committed to their idea that they are willing to go work their butts off to make it a reality – regardless of what the ‘safer’ paths are. It’s such an inspirational environment to be in.”

As a four-year mentor for the OwlSpark program, Melanie interacted with every class and from this has developed a very seasoned perspective. Besides the almighty cash-flow, Melanie had more general advice for our founders.

Be open to the moment. There is so much going on during an accelerator program—your schedule is crazy and there are lots of demands on your time. Try to soak up as much as you can. If you're heading into a session and don't think you'll get anything out of it, you won't. There is at least one thing you should be able to take away from every session, every interaction.