Melinda (Mann '91) Bowden

Promotions specialist/owner
PromoHits! Ltd.
Bluffton, Ohio

Major: communication

A foundation of communication
Melinda BowmanEarly in the life of her promotional products/advertising specialties business, Bluffton-based PromoHits!, Melinda (Mann) Bowden talked to a man from Lima's Small Business Development Center. He told her that 80 percent of new businesses fail within five years.

Five years ago, when her startup reached that milestone, she called to let him know. "He said 80 percent of businesses fail in the next five years," she recalled.

As PromoHits! prepares to celebrate its 10th birthday in June, Bowden doesn't think she'll bother renewing acquaintances. "I don't want to call the guy back," she said with a smile.

Starting out.
The 1991 Bluffton graduate is an entrepreneur who never took a business course en route to her degree in communication. After graduation, Bowden was a reporter and advertising salesperson at the Bluffton News, then an employee of Boehr Print in Bluffton.

Business (ad)venture.
Bowden was looking to start a business "but had no idea what that would be," she said. Reading about a woman who sold promotional products from home, she convinced her then-boss, Jeff Boehr '78, to sell them through his business, then went out on her own in 2000.

She credits Boehr for teaching her the importance of righting something gone wrong for customers. "That was good for me to see," said Bowden, who now has a process to help ensure her current clients' satisfaction.

About six months into her venture, she began selling products to her cousin's Findlay, Ohio, employer, Solomon Software, which later became Microsoft Business Solutions. By 2003-04, Microsoft accounted for half of her business, but "then Microsoft closed in Findlay, so half of my business left," Bowden said. To rebuild it, "we just kept calling on other people," using Microsoft connections and getting referrals, she pointed out.

Fruits of labor.
Including the Microsoft experience, "being able to weather all the storms that come with owning your own business" is among the career achievements of which Bowden is proudest. "A lot of that has to do with what God wants," she added.

But her top accomplishment, she said, is her husband Dan's and her 11-year-old son, Matthew. "They know the business, for me, is like having another child," she said, but with the flexibility to be either at the office or home when needed, balancing business and family "works very well."

College lessons.
Bowden is part of an industry dependent on the global market, requiring her "to keep up with what's going on in the world," she said. She credits her university experience with helping shape her global perspective.

"Bluffton was really able to show me the world on one campus," the Lyons, Ohio, native said. "It was a great way to learn about people."