Alumni Insights

Melissa Antal, Joe Malcoun, and Brooke McIntyre share their rich, entrepreneurial journeys through their responses to our questions as they impart advice, illuminate their triumphs and setbacks, and talk about everything else in between! As a dynamic group of entrepreneurs, disruptors, and thought leaders who are changing the world and making their mark in their communities and beyond, they represent some of the best and brightest of what a Michigan entrepreneurial education can offer.

Brooke McIntyre

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Briefly describe your company.

Imagine that you are writing a book, or that you want to. You might seek out a writing group to meet other writers, talk shop, and get feedback on your pages. Joining a writing group is also a way to commit to your writing and sustain your motivation over what is a pretty long journey.

But not everybody has access to an in-person group, or an in-person group that’s a good fit. Inked Voices takes the concept of the writing group and brings it online. From one angle, Inked Voices is a platform. Each group has a private online workspace with a built-in workshopping process: when you submit part of your book, your group members go to the workspace and make comments on a clean copy before the deadline. After, the whole group can see all the comments and discuss. So there is learning from observing others’ feedback as well.

What inspired you to create this venture? What was your journey leading up to it?

Back in 2013, I was working with a writing group over email. I had clicked with some women from an online class and we wanted to keep our exchange going. It was exciting to pursue my writing with intent, to be a writer instead of a person who occasionally scribbled something down. But our group felt very pieced together. We had to fish through email for submissions and critiques, and we were always forgetting our schedule. So I started thinking about how to give our group a virtual home base. I love process, and I love teams. My group was like a project team—and I wanted to make that experience better.

How was the University of Michigan ecosystem beneficial to you?

When I attended the University of Michigan, I held the hope of doing something entrepreneurial someday. I took a couple of entrepreneurship-oriented classes and I was briefly involved with the Zell Lurie Institute. I was skirting the edges. But mainly, I focused on my core courses. I wanted to be competent in running a business, and U-M definitely gave me the grounding to grow from.

Where the U-M community has especially wowed me is as an alum. As I began working more seriously on Inked Voices, I reached out to Jim Price, who had taught my entrepreneurship class: “So, it’s been 7 years, but…”. Jim has been a sounding board when I’ve needed one, and he’s connected me to other women founders in New York. He also helped me rediscover the Zell Lurie Institute as such an incredible resource. It’s heartening to meet other alumni pursuing their business ideas, to be able to learn from others and to give back.

What would you consider your biggest setback in your entrepreneurial journey?

The main obstacle I’ve run up against is time. I’m still working on how best to balance work and family, and how best to move forward on my priorities for my business while still handling the “need to do’s.” Calendaring my most important tasks has helped hugely, because those things generally need a block of time. I’ve also found it helpful to decide the key priorities of the day in advance.

What advice do you have for students thinking about starting a venture?

There are many paths to entrepreneurship, and that is totally okay. You’re not too young, too old, or too [insert your favorite adjective]. I know that I had a checklist in my mind that I was ticking through before I determined I was “enough.” Some of the things were real—e.g. building a cash cushion for myself—but most were not. Ultimately, it’s a decision you make for yourself. In writing, there’s a saying that “writers write.” It’s the same with entrepreneurship: you are the thing when you do thing.

Likewise, not every entrepreneur has the same goals with their venture. I think there’s a lot of emphasis on the startup that will seek funding, try to scale quickly, and allow a founder exit. In reality, there’s plenty of room for people who want to serve niche or local markets, and for people who want to continue running their businesses. What success looks like depends on your goals. Why are you starting this venture? What is your endgame? Know what kind of business you’re building.