MEET SHELLEY MILES—A HIGH ENERGY, HIGH INTEGRITY EXECUTIVE15 May 2014, Posted by Animation, Edtech, Expert Interviews, kids' media in
Shelley has spent her 25-year career leading the growth and development of consumer-based entertainment and technology businesses. Shelley began her media career at the Walt Disney Company where she ran the children’s music group and started Disney’s interactive group. Later she worked in a number of startups including US Animation, Mommy & Me, Kidthing and Revizzit. Shelley is one of those rare individuals who came to media very much from the business side (accounting) but embraced and succeeded on the creative side, too. In this interview, she candidly describes lessons she has learned in her career—including both successes and disappointments.
- 1.You have held important positions in major corporations and start-ups. How are those two kinds of working environments different? What would you say are the chief virtues/drawbacks of each?
I’ve enjoyed both working environments. Working in a large company provides many benefits – adequate working capital, an existing infrastructure, easy access to talent and strategic relationships. While working in a smaller company gives you the flexibility to fully focus on your product and the nimbleness to iterate and move quickly without the distractions that come with a larger company (corporate agenda, decision layers, etc) I find that start ups are less forgiving of mistakes – there is no air cover. But I think this leads to real excellence and accountability.
- 2.What are you most proud of in terms of career accomplishment?
The most important thing I’ve achieved in my career is building many relationships with the many wonderful, talented and smart people that I’ve been fortunate to work with. These terrific people have allowed me to have success on many levels. And many of these working relationships have turned into trusted friendships – a big bonus. In terms of projects, there are a few that stand out for me – getting Disney software off the ground with a string of hits, bringing US Animation from the brink of bankruptcy to profitability, and turning Mommy & Me into a brand with books, toys and videos with a team of people all working from their living rooms.
- 3.Sometimes products don’t succeed. In your experience, what would you say causes seemingly great ideas to fail?
A few of my projects haven’t panned out for a variety of reasons. The failures have come from 1. Lack of capital, 2. Not enough marketing. 3.Choosing the wrong platform. 4. Not spending enough time working with clearly defined, ideal customer to get all the details right. 5. Leaders who have let their egos get in the way of their vision.
- 4.We call this blog, Influences and Influencers, who are the people who have influenced you? Have you ever had a mentor? Can you tell us about him or her? Whose work or input has impacted you the most in your career and how?
One of the people who has been a big inspiration to me is Cindy Bunin, the founder of Mommy and Me. Cindy started teaching Mommy & Me classes in a studio above a chicken restaurant in 1978. She had a vision to bring her classes to the masses. She has never lost her passion. And continues to plow through roadblocks on her way to realizing her vision.
In terms of projects, there are a few that stand out for me – getting Disney software off the ground with a string of hits, bringing US Animation from the brink of bankruptcy to profitability, and turning Mommy & Me into a brand with books, toys and videos with a team of people all working from their living rooms.
- 5.What product or service have you seen lately that really excites you?
I’m currently very excited with what is going on in the 3D printing space. While the printers and the things that people are making are still in their infancy, I am looking forward to the day that I can order replacement parts for my dishwasher and print them out at my local Kinko’s. And for content creators who have a big enough following to offer toys or collectibles to their fans, but who aren’t big enough to command licensing deals to be able to create product.
- 6.If you could start all over again, what career would you pursue?
If I could start all over again, I would probably pursue the same career. I’ve had a lot of fun.
- 7.What have you discovered that is important to you in your career?
There are principles that guide me in my career today. One- I want to work on things that matter. Things that make a positive impact in the world – education, better ways of doing things, non- profits, etc. Two. I want to work with people that are great to work with.
Shelley put forward several reasons why a product can fail. I think she’s covered the bases and unfortunately I am familiar with them all. What about you? Have you worked on anything that you felt should have succeeded but just couldn’t quite get there?