Project Wonderful

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Firm of One's Own: Madalene Mielke

Editor's Note: Especially in today's political climate, where jobs are difficult to come by it seems like every Regional Field Director dreams of starting their own firm. I've always suspected this is a lot harder than it sounds but I get questions about doing so frequently. Since I've never done it I decided to ask some people I know who have! And so I bring you the first installment of "A Firm of One's Own." Thanks very much to Madalene Mielke, our first participant.

1)Who are you? Tell us a little about your professional background.
I help people get elected to public office.

2)When and why did you decide to start your own firm?
I started my firm in 2002. I didn’t want one boss. What I wanted was the flexibility to work with a variety of people and organizations. After I finished working on the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) in 1997, I made the decision that I wouldn’t go into the Clinton Administration, although I had worked at the DNC and on the coordinated campaign for the general election chair and on VP Gore’s team. I knew that policy wasn’t my speed and that politics would be the way that I would make a career. That decision was the basis for the other decisions that I made for professional advancement. The culmination of those decisions resulted in me going out on my own.

3)Tell us a little bit about your firm and what you do.
My original focus is based on the tenants of political fundraising and training. In its 15 years of existence, my firm’s focus as well as my individual focus has evolved to include more political strategy and leadership development. Technically, people see me as a fundraiser because that’s what I do as a job. What I find more interesting is my ability to help individuals who are inclined to run for elected office, counsel them on the strategy to succeed as well as what leadership skills they need to develop to get them to a place where they’re seen as political leaders.

4)What the biggest challenges to owning your own firm?
It’s easier to do the work vs spend the time to hustle for new business. Time management is an absolute must!

5)What are you most proud of?
Being able to work with people who are making a difference in the world.

6)What do you wish you had done differently?
Nothing because I wouldn’t be where I am now as a person, as an operative, as an entrepreneur without making the choices I made. No regrets and no looking backwards other than to reflect on lessons learned.

7)What should someone know before starting their own firm?
In my line of work, finding business is a cyclical nature and having people who will advocate for you whether it’s for a job or as a potential client is important to have in any kind of business. Being a small business owner also means doing things out of your wheelhouse that may not involve any of the skills you may have acquired along the way. Need a business license? Opening a business account? Filing property taxes? Hiring an accountant, payroll specialist? Office space? Hiring staff? Now scale it all!!! All the details that can come back and be a real PITA need to happen before you can really focus on getting clients and producing quality work.

8)What is there left in your career that you are still looking forward to accomplishing?
I like to learn! I’m a student and at the same time experienced from years of practice. All industries evolve and how quickly we learn how to incorporate or retire methods is vital to staying relevant. I’m excited to engage in more leadership development and to get more women and communities of color elected to office as well as help them progress in their careers.

9)What is one thing you think everyone should know (can be professional or non-professional)?
Your success is built on your brand and your brand is built through your actions. People need to see you as solving a challenge for them. Bring solutions and a “let’s get it done” attitude.

Madalene Xuan-Trang Mielke is the Founder and Principal of Arum Group, LLC. She has nearly 20 years of experience working in political campaigns and specializes in political/non-profit fundraising and political training focused on the advancement of people of color.

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