Capitol Communicator is running “Up Close and Personal” profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this profile we feature Melanie Cox. Photography for the series is by award-winning Cade Martin, wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire and Sybil Street for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson, Janice Kinigopoulos and Lori Pressman for THE Artist Agency.
Melanie, please provide us a short bio.
I was attending a local fair where there was supposed to be a live broadcast uplink of the happenings and the commentator, of sorts, fell ill. The director, who ultimately became my mentor in the business, noticed that I had a “big mouth” and asked me to interview people live. Instantly smitten with television production, I followed the major through undergraduate and graduate degrees at Virginia Commonwealth University, while continuing to learn from and work for that mentor. Thirty-six years later, I am the President and Chief Cook at Spang TV in Richmond, Virginia.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
I attend advertising club meetings in different cities and multiple virtual industry groups. As for non-profit, what really energizes me about the visual media is having the opportunity to harness and redirect the power of the medium for causes that can use support. We have helped the homeless in Richmond, a diverse day camp for kids in Nashville and missionaries in Uganda.
What are the things you are most proud of?
I wrestle with the word proud because humble was a more common word in our family vernacular. What does make me grateful is that I followed in the steps of my mother and started a business at my kitchen table, was devoted enough to foster it into a company that employs and empowers others and that I’m surrounded by teammates that care as much about our brand as I do.
Who are your personal role models?
Hold onto your hat, there are a number of people who are important to me.
My mother, Jackie Coleman, who arguably started the first child-care business on the east coast. It was the early 70’s and the Women’s Liberation movement was beginning to open doors for female entrepreneurs. My mother and her neighbor dreamed up the concept of child-care for the children of women who were going back to work. They secured a seemingly astronomical loan for $20,000, built a facility and opened the doors with five children, of whom I was one. My mother fostered and maintained a magnificent business for nearly 50 years and, at 80 years old, recently sold that business. When it came time for me to take investment steps in a facility, I simply did what my mother did. I thought every woman did.
My father, Lee, who consistently told me I could do anything I put my mind to. He held the bar high and encouraged fierce independence balanced by unwavering integrity. He was forthright and taught me to shake hands like a man, a trait I passed to our sons. He introduced me to the great outdoors where we still float the James River and wet a line together.
Jay Sears, the man that pulled me into the industry. While I was still young he put professional cameras in my hands, taught me how light works on faces and sets, handed me a local cable show and told me to write, interview, produce and edit. Looking back, he gave me the opportunity to learn the foundations of production from a purist and, for that, I remain grateful.
My husband, Jeff, who has allowed me to pursue my passions with his full support. When it came time for me to walk away from a stable income to start a company with only one project at our kitchen table, he never hesitated and reminded me that I could. His quiet support has given me confidence through every season of business.
My son Coleman, who fought a debilitating illness for over four years, he ultimately won and still has to decide to win daily. I know of no other human with his strength, commitment and compassion. I frequently say when I grow up, I want to be just like him. His brother, Spencer, inspires me to push the boundaries of creativity through his thoughtful, artistic expression.
My friend, Amy Grant, who demonstrates a selfless commitment to others. I have watched her allow her sprawling farm to be used by multiple organizations as a touch-point for community. I’ve been with her when she commits her resources to study and facilitate relief for people experiencing brain trauma. I have watched her empty her pockets for someone on multiple occasions and I have seen her give her abiding love to her family. From Amy, I have learned that giving relentlessly of whatever I have, is the key to both a successful life and business.
Did anyone offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
My mother taught me that the best risk to take is on one’s self.
My father empowered me to know that my gender made no difference in pursuing my passion.
Jay Sears showed me the power of the medium and encouraged me to wield it.
My husband encourages me to look at the long game – he’s a coaching type.
My sons are continually my ethical sounding boards.
Amy Grant demonstrates what it means to be present in the moment – a valuable tool in a fast-moving industry.
What professional advice do you have for others?
I hope any professional advice I have also applies on a personal level. Here are some things my coworkers frequently hear me say:
You’re only as good as your last spot.
Work hard and be good to people.
It’s not how you fall down, it’s how you get back up.
Keep that glass half full, it’s easier to drink.
What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?
Music is a cathartic hobby for me – I’m an omnivore and enjoy an array from Haim, John Mayer, Hillsong Worship, Brandi Carlile, Shawn Colvin, Bahamas, P!nk, Johnny Swim, JP Cooper, Steve Moakler, Ray Charles and Paloma Faith.
What’s your favorite restaurant?
Buddakan in Philadelphia – it’s Asian fusion with a dim vibe. Incidentally, my coworkers surprised me on my 50th birthday by renting an SUV, piling us in and taking me on a five-hour mystery drive. The drive ended at Buddakan for lunch. We gorged and drove five hours back home, a favorite memory.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
I’m inquisitive to a point of bother, I play guitar and attempt to write lyrics, and if I wasn’t in the creative industry I would have pursued some sort of medical profession.