Women in Print and Promo: Marilyn Malstrom, Welcomemat Austin
Welcomemat Austin, Austin, Texas
Years of experience: 2
How she got her start: I graduated from a technical school that was predominately male, so I was very accustomed to working mainly with men. ... Upon entering the workforce, I was not only entering into a male-dominated industry, but I was also doing a job that very few women were doing at the time. I was a field engineer, which meant I had to go to customer sites carrying a large tool box, and fix their technical equipment [that] cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase, and was now costing them thousands of dollars because it wasn’t working. It was a high-pressure, tough environment. In order to succeed, I really had to know my stuff, be confident, be professional and not be afraid to tear something apart in order to fix it, and then put it all back together again. Sometimes, I had to do this under the watchful eye of the customer who was wondering the entire time if I was really up to the task. This was a tough job for any field engineer, but being female meant I had to often do the job better and faster, in order to gain the respect and confidence of the customer and the management team who sent me in to do the job in the first place. ... And, eventually, I did just that—not because I always had all of the answers or because I was smarter or better than the men I worked with, but because I never gave up.
... I left the semiconductor industry [in 2015] because the job and work environment is very demanding, and completely inflexible. I liked working outside the home, but I ... wanted a career where I could earn a great income, do something I enjoyed and also be able to volunteer at school and pick my daughters up from school every day. ... That is when we found the Welcomemat [direct-mail marketing] franchise that allowed me to contribute to our household finances, do a job I love and still spend quality time with our daughters every day. It took a lot of patience, time and prayer to find the job I currently have, but it was well worth it.
What she loves most about the industry: I love meeting local business owners, learning their stories and also learning about their respective industries. I feel much more connected to my community, Austin, because I know so much more about the locally owned and operated businesses. These businesses are the lifeblood of the Austin economy and, really, of any community.
An average day: I start my day by looking for locally owned and operated businesses that might create a suitable partnership for Welcomemat. This includes businesses looking to expand or those looking to welcome new faces to their growing customer base. Once I find a quality fit that offers a great product or service, I schedule a visit to see if they would like to utilize Welcomemat's services. Our goal is to connect them with new families moving into Austin, Lakeway or Westlake. These businesses choose to partner with our concept because as a small business owner, you are constantly seeking new ways to reach new customers. Part of my job also involves visiting current clients to ensure they are doing well and to see if there’s anything else I can do for them. At night, I have a moment to complete office tasks, which usually involves entering leads, completing paperwork and updating my accounting items.
Her proudest career achievements: I am proud and excited to be able to connect local businesses with new residents. I feel like I am a contributor to the growth of local businesses in Austin because I help build their customer base, allowing them to compete with the larger mainstream corporations. I love the connection I have with so many wonderful owners.
I also help new residents settle in faster by introducing them to these awesome local businesses. So, for me, my career is no longer about moving up or getting ahead. It’s about doing something good for the community. I only win in my career when my customers win, as well.
On working in a traditionally male-dominated industry: After nearly three decades, and now with my new business, I found that my biggest challenge doesn’t come from one specific gender. No matter the industry, people are extremely busy and do not take the time to get to know me or to validate my credibility. This is especially true when working in sales since it’s highly competitive. When someone first meets me, they rush to judge who I am and what I have to offer.
Because of this, I work to establish credibility quickly. I have found that above everything else, being knowledgeable, a good listener and proving that you care about the client and their needs, dissolves any doubt about your purpose. This allows me to establish a good rapport with suppliers, colleagues and customers because they view me as a partner who knows her craft well.
Her job advice to women: The most important thing a woman should first understand before choosing a career path is her purpose. What drives her to get out of bed every day? My business will never simply be “print marketing.” Welcomemat provides a whole host of products that helps local business owners connect with the community, brings in new loyal customers and grows their business. I [also] would tell any woman looking to work in the print, marketing or advertising industry that you first need to care about your clients and your community. Ultimately, you’re trying to help them meet their goals, and this is what should drive you. ... [Finally,] dismiss anyone who says you can’t, and attach yourself to people who believe in you and say you can. I once was up for a very big promotion and a senior vice president did not want me to have the job because, in his words, “I don’t think she can do it. What if we give her the job and then she starts having babies?” Fortunately, I had an awesome manager who knew I could do the job and pushed for me to get it. He believed in me and I not only got the promotion, but I excelled in the new role.
Who she turns to for career advice: My husband has always been my biggest supporter. We have worked in the same industry for 26 years, and now, he and I own Welcomemat together. While I run the business, he's engrained himself in the model and assists when I am faced with a tough decision. Welcomemat also has a reputable CEO, Brian Mattingly, who has been invaluable to me since we purchased the business. He and his wife started the company and help guide us through challenges with their vast experience. The great thing about the franchise system is that they have a web of other franchise owners who excel at what they do and offer advice and support. No matter what comes our way, I have numerous people to turn to.
When she’s off the clock: I’ve been married almost 25 years and have nine-year-old twin daughters who we adopted from China. We have lived in Austin for 24 years, where we attend an awesome church, spend time on our ranch with the animals or play games together. I am a triathlete and love to run. This past January, I completed the “Dopey Challenge” at Disney, where in four days I ran 48.6 miles, completing a 5K, 10K, half marathon and a full marathon. With the support of a friend running by my side, it was the most challenging, yet fun, thing I have ever done.
(The following profile appeared in Print+Promo’s “These Women Mean Business” cover story in the May 2017 issue.)