Bennington College - Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts
Minden Koopmans is the epitome of that woman who's going to go out there and change the world. She already is. As assistant director at 3rd Ward, a creative workshop in New York City where individuals can experiment, practice and polish a craft or activity, she makes the kind of personal impact that affects others every day. In her role she focuses mainly on the planning of the organization — from branding and business development to logistical concerns ranging from permits to educational supplies. 3rd Ward exists to help others turn their passion into their daily living or escape from the daily grind by dabbling in a newfound creative love. When Minden isn't helping other bring their ideas into tangible creations, she's enjoying her free time with her husband, friends and New York City, where she says she's lucky to have a strong personal network.
Look at your strengths and make them into marketable skills.
How did you discover your current job?
Craigslist! It is the New York way.
What is your typical day like? What types of things do you do in your job?
I like to get in early. On a good day, I'm the second one here (after our studio manager opens). I like to run through my to-dos, check my email and then figure out a plan for my day. We have several components to our business, and I work with executive staff in marketing, membership, education, retail and facility management. My days vary a lot, but as an example, yesterday, I had three big meetings. I met with our founder to discuss company organization as we look at expanding our unique “creative hub” model into new cities. I sat down with our CFO to review the status of some renovations and how it will affect fall classes and usage of our photo studios, wood/metal shop, co-working space and our other creative workspaces. Then I met with a staff member to review his work performance and talk about salary. My days are a real mix of project management, planning for the future and keeping an open dialog with our 20 staff members. Plus, the normal amount of admin, correspondence and phone calls with the many people we work with to help our business grow.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
I love the planning and problem solving that comes with managing a physical space with tangible needs (construction, education supplies, permits), as well as more amorphous needs (branding, business development). I love to look at the future; what class and membership structures are possible, what impactful marketing opportunities are available, what would the results be. There can be a lot of possibilities, but you only have so many resources (unless something is worth hiring or looking at investors to make possible). I always feel like I get to do my most creative thinking while assessing all the moving parts of our business and planning from there.
The most challenging aspect of my job is resolving staff issues. Personalities can be strong and emotions can be high, but finding a solution that makes everyone satisfied is very rewarding.
What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?
When you really care about what you are doing, it can consume you. I am definitely guilty of waking up in the middle of the night to check my work email or write down ideas for work. There is a day-to-day balance in loving your job of being really passionate about your work, but not losing your life outside of the office.
What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?
Being aggressive with someone who is being unresponsive is not being rude. I am such a small town girl sometimes! I have lived in New York for more than six years, but I still struggle with wanting to be “nice” and not bother people. I like to trust that someone is doing what they promised. But, sometimes “nice” won’t get the job done. I am not an advocate of rudeness, at all -- I am just saying that if someone isn’t following through with a promised action, it can require real persistence, even daily or hourly calls, to get what you need. So, I guess the lesson is more like: “Persistence can still be nice.”
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
I think there are a lot of negative stereotypes out there of the female boss and of women in the workplace. You have the whole “bitch” thing to overcome. I think the more women out there, being strong, working hard, not being meek, the less and less people will throw around that term.
Who are your role models?
I think Indra Nooyi [chairman and CEO, PepsiCo] is a very impressive woman.
I love Hillary Clinton; she really came in as a “wife” and proved herself as a governmental powerhouse. Even if you don’t agree with her politics, watching her overcome all the personal scandals and the stereotypes is so mind-blowing. It shows you, if you want it bad enough, nothing someone else did can stop you.
My mom! She is someone who has really found a lot of balance in life. She also is my constant source of unwavering support while still giving me many needed reality checks.
What are some of the rules you live by?
I’m really into mantras! A few of my favorites are:
Change creates change. If you are unhappy about how something is going, it won’t change unless you start making changes. I think this is a good one if you are feeling frustrated or stuck.
You can do anything for five minutes. Tackling big projects can be so daunting -- especially when you have a lot going on! But, if I can stop and get five minutes on uninterrupted concentration, I can usually get going on something, make an outline, devise my plan and really pick up momentum.
My other big “rule” is: If someone is inexplicably rude or hurtful to you, it’s probably not about you -- so let it go. That person must have bigger troubles.
What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?
Look at your strengths and make them into marketable skills. I started off doing office and financial management for small businesses and got into this job with my experience in basic bookkeeping. As the business grew and diversified, so did my role and responsibilities.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I’d love to be really focused on business planning and strategy. 3rd Ward is embarking on a lot of new projects now: a cafe, expanded space, more classes, a new membership structure, a brick-and-mortar and online retail program, multi-city expansion, a new website with advanced CRM integration and a whole lot more. We have a lot of momentum behind us right now, and I don’t see that slowing down or dropping off.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I am really a planner. I like to write down and reevaluate where I am, where I am going and where I want to be. It is good to stay in touch with your dreams and goals. In times of frustration or short-term disappointment, you can use written goals to remind yourself how far you’ve come or how close you are.
Photo | Liz Clayman