Authentic Conversations with Entrepreneurs Episode 6: “Be the Box” with Jessica Matthews

In this episode of “Authentic Conversations with Entrepreneurs,” I spoke with Creative Consultant Jessica Matthews of Frame Brain as she shared her journey in building, defining & designing her own ‘box’ in her business!

Katherine Morales: Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for joining Authentic Conversations with Entrepreneurs. I’m Katherine Morales, founder of Inflection Point Communications. And I am so thrilled to have Jessica Matthews here. This is our sixth episode of Authentic Conversations, and we are talking today about “Be the Box.”

If you’re wondering who Jessica is, she is a Creative Consultant and Founder of the Frame Brain, which I know we’ll hear much more about. But I also have to share each time, what is an Authentic Conversation? What are we getting into? I created this show to have real conversations with entrepreneurs. I think that we can find the success stories all day and the surface if you will. But I believe that it’s important to share the human journey of entrepreneurship, the struggles and the triumphs. So this is a full circle conversation and I’m so thrilled that you are willing to share it, Jessica.

Jessica Matthews: Yes, it’s my pleasure to be here.

Katherine Morales: I have to get a shout-out to Jeff Bond since he connected us.

Jessica Matthews: Yes.

Katherine Morales: And from the moment we connected at the top of this year, I just have been so looking forward to this conversation.

Jessica Matthews: Well, thank you. Same here. Same here. Thank you, Jeff. I owe him so much. He really does make the world a better place in so many ways. So, yay.

Katherine Morales: Yeah, for sure, for sure.

I think when it comes to be the box, I’m just going to say we’ve all heard it, whether in our upbringing, but definitely in our careers. Fit in the box, just fit in the box. Or think outside the box, that’s the famous one. But I guess my first question for you is, what does this phrase mean? Where did it come from you? When did you first hear, be the box?

Jessica Matthews: Sure, sure. So this phrase, I do have to give credit to the fantastic comedian Hannah Gadsby, whom I got to see live recently. And she has a fabulous bit in a show, not her live show right now, but it’s available out in the world already. Where she sort of talked about that question of, thinking differently than other people. And she tells this story about when she’s in school and they were working on prepositions and there’s like inside the box, outside the box, behind the box, et cetera. And she like raised her hand and was like, “Can I eat the box?” And of course, she has this whole great bit about it. And so, I won’t steal her thunder on it, you should all go listen to it. But I loved her play with that phrase and it just resonated with me a lot. As an entrepreneur, when you’re trying to figure-

Katherine Morales: So we almost titled this, eat the box, right?

Jessica Matthews: Exactly.

Katherine Morales: Sorry, go ahead.

Jessica Matthews: No, you’re good. Eat the box. Can I eat the box? Do I become the box? If I eat the box, like so many questions you can go from here. So, yes, go take a listen.

But for me it resonated a lot, this idea of being the box. Because when you’re an entrepreneur and especially like a sole proprietor, who’s really selling like a service or a product that you’re entirely responsible for. It can be hard to figure out like where to draw the boundaries of what you’re giving to people. And also to try to make it fit into the market. And there’s a lot of pressure to understand like, “Okay, what am I working with here? And how can I package this up?”

Katherine Morales: I love how you just did the frame.

Jessica Matthews: Thank you.

Katherine Morales: So on brand.

Jessica Matthews: I know, right?

Katherine Morales: Love it.

Jessica Matthews: And it really is a very visceral, physical, acting it out, and I talk with my hands all the time. And becoming an entrepreneur, really embracing the value that you have to bring to people and letting the things that define you as a person, be part of how you package yourself and present yourself to the world. That you can be the box. You can set the boundaries, you can decide where your values are going to show up in your workplace. You can decide how you want to show up in your meetings or in your branding, or even in what you’re offering for sale in the market. And so be the box resonated with me, when I’ve really found a key moment of identity as an entrepreneur when I turned into, “Okay, what makes me, me? What do I enjoy the most? What do I want to do every day?”

Katherine Morales: When you began your entrepreneur journey? That’s what you’re saying, when you began your journey? Okay.

Jessica Matthews: Yeah.

Katherine Morales: So yeah, yeah. Let’s unpack that box.

Jessica Matthews: Oh, sure. Absolutely. So anybody that looks at my branding, you’ll see, it’s like rainbows everywhere. I resonate with the iconography so much, for a lot of different reasons. But part of what it represents to me was an embrace of color. So that’s a great example of something when I was working out, okay, what am I going to brand? Or how am I going to show my business consulting services for creative people? And I sort of like went all the way back to high school.

I love color. And we had this teacher in ninth grade that gave us so much information in our history and geography class. That it was like about … and this is back when notes were on those like blue-lined paper. There were no iPads and stuff, everything went through your fingers.

Katherine Morales: Right.

Jessica Matthews: So, doodling and color was a really important way to help me separate an influx of a lot of information. Right?

Katherine Morales: Yeah.

Jessica Matthews: And so, gel pen packs with like 20 different colors were my jam.

Katherine Morales: I love how your eyes lit up. There’s like a sparkle in your eye when you said gel pen.

Jessica Matthews: Oh yeah. My husband … this is how I know that he’s the perfect partner for me. He went to Costco one day, a couple years after we got married and he came home with a 300 pack of gel pens. With like a little stand and everything. It’s like, oh my God, you love me so much.

Katherine Morales: Like Christmas.

Jessica Matthews: But instead of feeling like it was something to be embarrassed by, like it was juvenile or it was too hands-on or not keeping up with the tech age or the ways that we can scale our communications with each other. I just sort of embraced it and ran with it. And incorporated it into my brand and how I present the way that I consult, as being hands-on and being a little bit like joyful and whimsical. And willing to maybe go into different places or approach things a little differently.

So it led to … this is how I think now. I carry this with me everywhere, I brought props. And these colors, they not only help me think by building on sort of what my brain is used to from all that note-taking in high school. But it’s interestingly turned out to be a way that I’m identified in public workspaces. People will come up and ask me about my pack of colored pens. They’ll be like, “Oh my gosh, they look so pretty. Where did you get it? How do you use it?” And it sparks this conversation-

Katherine Morales: That’s me with the green.

Jessica Matthews: Right? Yeah, exactly.

And then it led to doing things like when I embraced that sort of connection back to my past and how I thought as a younger person and carried myself and was willing to be more tactile in my approach. Then it led to also doing fun consulting things like my cutie catchers. Which are a decision tool for entrepreneurs … I don’t know if you can see it-

Katherine Morales: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jessica Matthews: But another thing where you’re still like-

Katherine Morales: I still remember that moment from high school.

Jessica Matthews: Right? Exactly.

Katherine Morales: That was the best.

Jessica Matthews: So much fun. But I was like, what if we can make it that fun to make decisions about your business to ask yourself the right questions, to have a meditative moment with your values. And so I just started incorporating a lot of those tools and differentiating myself in the marketplace when I was willing to be the box. When I was willing to say like color is going to be a really important part of my brand, my toolkit, how I communicate with people. And that’s going to be like a running theme. That’s one wall of my box. And I pulled that out of who I was, not out of any market research that said that, “Oh, people are bored.”

Katherine Morales: Color is like trending now.

Jessica Matthews: Right? Like is on-trend or something.

Katherine Morales: I will say rainbows were trending during the thick of the pandemic though.

Jessica Matthews: True. True story. True story.

Katherine Morales: Can I back you up a minute? Because I mean, I absolutely love … I want to go like wall by wall with your box. But for the entrepreneurs or business owners that are listening that say like, “Okay, I’m either in a box right now. How do I get out of the box?” I mean, is there a moment where … I don’t want you to go straight to advice, because I know you have it. But I want like-

Jessica Matthews: Sure, sure.

Katherine Morales: It sounds like you went to high school and you’re like, “Yeah, I did the colors and everything.” But was there ever a moment … like surely between high school and entrepreneurship, there was some box you were put in. So how did you get out of it? How did you find your path and make your box?

Jessica Matthews: Oh, that’s such a great question. I think that one of the keys to getting out of the box was to surround myself with people that loved what I brought to the table. So I really filled my life with supportive people who appreciated what made me Jessica.

Katherine Morales: I got goosebumps when you said that.

Jessica Matthews: Right? And then especially of course, as a child of the eighties like this Jessica, as opposed to the 500 other Jessicas that live in Metro Atlanta were born in the eighties.

Katherine Morales: And maybe like Jessica Matthews, that’s a-

Jessica Matthews: Right.

Katherine Morales: Common name. Yeah.

Jessica Matthews: Exactly.

Katherine Morales: But there’s only one me.

Jessica Matthews: Right. But there’s only one me. And in being able to crawl out of a box, I think one of the ways that I was able to do that was surrounding myself with people who said, “Look, this is something you do really well. I love this.” For example, when I show a color-coded shopping list to my sisters and I’m like, “I’m just feeling this list.” They don’t respond by making fun of me, they respond by saying like … like little star eye emojis or something like that. Like they encourage and reinforce and celebrate those things about me, instead of making it a joke or saying that it … “Where are you going to go next with that idea?” Or whatever.

Or if I send an email that’s like color-coded based to a team that’s like based, this is your job and this is your job, and this is your job, blah, blah, blah.

Katherine Morales: The rainbow in your inbox.

Jessica Matthews: Right. Rainbow in your inbox. People that I was working with responded with like gratitude and enjoyment of that. And they didn’t reject it. And it was really, I think having those kind of voices that I could turn to that helped me start to enjoy who I was. And to see value in it as being different, something that I could bring to the world because I naturally think that way, I didn’t have to work hard to think about organizing in color or breaking things up into segments or-

Katherine Morales: Right, right.

Jessica Matthews: How am I going to present this? That’s something that comes natural, a skill set that I enjoy building and have had. But over the years, I didn’t abandon who I was in high school because I had people in my life that were loving what I brought to it every minute. So, I think that’s a really, really important thing is to build a community around yourself. Whether it’s other entrepreneurs or your family or your besties or a networking group that you go to regularly. People that like you, just hang out around people that are like you.

Katherine Morales: What I’m hearing is like, go to where you’re celebrated. And then I think there it’s like, if you don’t already know, but I guess if you’re going there … figure out what your box is made of.

Jessica Matthews: Yeah.

Katherine Morales: How do you build that around you? I’m like totally picturing a Legoland.

Jessica Matthews: Yes. Yes.

Katherine Morales: So I want to follow the rainbow.

Jessica Matthews: Sure.

Katherine Morales: Forgive me for all the plays.

Jessica Matthews: Hey, I was an English major, you can use all the metaphors you want.

Katherine Morales: Yay.

Jessica Matthews: I will go right there with you.

Katherine Morales: Can you tell we’re like communication nerds right now? So following the rainbow, I wanted to say like, I love how you’ve hit on your box being, obviously, it’s a colorful box, each side is a different color, I’m sure. But like how you’ve pulled it in visually for your brand, how you’ve pulled it in, to how you organize and operate your business and the … I don’t even know what that thing is called.

Jessica Matthews: A cutie catcher, fortune teller.

Katherine Morales: Cutie catcher?

Jessica Matthews: Clover catcher, yeah. There’s-

Katherine Morales: It must be something different in Florida.

Jessica Matthews: Well, there’s like a thousand different names for it. Because kids come up with crazy … it’s a kid’s game, so there’s lots of different ways to refer to it. I like clover-

Katherine Morales: It probably an all new name now.

Jessica Matthews: Right. Exactly.

Katherine Morales: But I love how you’ve brought it into all these different ways in your business. But I guess one thing I want to hit on, I’m sure you were going here, but like it lives in your brand because you actually serve colorful people. Right? So can you describe, what is a colorful person?

Jessica Matthews: Sure, sure. So, a colorful person is somebody that is okay with like inspiring a reaction out of somebody. So I’ll use a real estate metaphor for you here. Like part of why houses, when they’re built or being sold, are painted in all these neutral colors is because color has emotion and feeling attached to it. And so, a potential buyer could walk in and see this purple wall and they could just eat the color purple because it just has all these associations for them or whatever.

And so a colorful person is somebody who wants to show up in the world in an authentic way. And is okay with people reacting to that. They’re not trying to be available for everybody. They’re trying to be available for their people. So that’s one meaning of colorful is like people who want to show up in the world with their values and not try to present themselves in such a neutral way that they don’t get a reaction. So, that’s one definition.

Katherine Morales: I love that definition, inspiring a reaction.

Jessica Matthews: And then another piece of being a colorful person for me was also sort of a reference to the arts and creativity. That’s where we see colors show up a whole lot in painting, graphic design, website design, music sort of has color to it. I mean, anybody that’s seen Disney Fantasia or whatever, Disney understands that music and color go together, that they trigger these different, amazing experiences in our brains and bodies. And so for me, a colorful person also indicates somebody who’s expressive. Who’s not only willing to create a reaction, but also practices the expression of themselves and their values in their work or in artistic endeavor.

And those are the kind of people that I want to help. Who are not perhaps on the journey toward scaling everything up so much that it has to sort of become neutral enough. It’s very particular, color is so particular. And it resonates with particular people and it creates a really special bond, but a much smaller, more intimate, maybe experience. That’s part of why I work a lot with sole proprietors. So, they enjoy building their world and coloring their world around them in a way that they want to keep it theirs. They’re not trying to grow a business to sell it off to BC Capital or something like that. Like they’re building a world that they really want to inhabit and stay in.

Katherine Morales: Like an extension of them.

Jessica Matthews: Exactly. Those types of folks tend to be in the more creative fields, but not exclusively. So that word colorful instead of creative or instead of artistic, sort of broadens that out a little bit. Because certainly you can build a business that way without it being specifically an artistic business.

Katherine Morales: So can you … I don’t want anyone to be confused about like your business. I mean being artistic –

Jessica Matthews: Yes.

Katherine Morales: I mean, it’s artistically inclined. Can you connect for me like when you connected with this truth, like be the box, like how did that help you to ignite your business and how you ran and market it? So I mean-

Jessica Matthews: Sure.

Katherine Morales: Like you have your pens, you have your process. But how are you meeting these colorful people? And I want you to share this because I think that people can tap into what they love. But they’re like, “Okay, well how do waterfalls connect to my business?” Random example.

Jessica Matthews: No, no, don’t be-

Katherine Morales: Hello, it’s just me by the waterfalls.

Jessica Matthews: Right. Well, one of the ways that I connected to what I can offer people was to ask myself, “What did people approach me for help with regularly?” And that was people outside my family, friends, colleagues, people in volunteer organizations. What did people come knocking on my door for help with? And a lot of times it was organization. And that’s kind of where the box came into play, was like, “Okay, well, if people need help kind of putting some parameters and definitions and structure to their world.” So that, a box makes things easy to carry. It makes things stackable. It makes things containable. So you can have an element of performance involved with getting it in and getting it out, et cetera, et cetera.

And so I recognized that I was being asked to help people with a lot of those types of things. Like, “Hey, can you take a read of my resume?” “Hey, this doesn’t look good. I tried something in Canva and it sucks. But I don’t have the budget to hire a designer. Like, can you just point me in the right direction?” Like, those were the kind of things that people were approaching me for on the side. Or like, “Hey, I have this idea. Can you help me figure out what steps I would take to make it happen?” And that could be planning a party or something. But I sort of took stock and inventory of what did people approach me to get help for.

And then really embrace that oftentimes the way that I showed up to give that help was through color or through systems or through processes or through connecting the dots. And so that’s sort of how I connected those two pieces to create a consulting service. Was that I recognized what people were looking … what they perceived as helpful in me and something that came naturally to me.

Katherine Morales: I love how you just so … it’s just like, I call it like Marketing Flow when it just comes out of you like so naturally. And that’s what I was feeling coming from you. Like how you just followed that … like putting your finger on and what people enjoyed about you. The only thing I would also say, I’m sure you did this because obviously you’re lighting up talking about it. But I think it’s also important to say, “And does that bring me joy?”

Jessica Matthews: Yeah.

Katherine Morales: And that’s why I say it’s about harmony.

Jessica Matthews: Yes.

Katherine Morales: In and out of the box, but it’s got to connect outside too. So find that harmonious point, I think.

Jessica Matthews: Right.

Jessica Matthews: Yes. That’s why it’s so important that the being the box is, if you build it with components of yourself that you like and are happy with, then it’s going to last a whole lot longer. Then something that is built out of other people’s materials.

Katherine Morales: Yeah.

Jessica Matthews: I mean, it’s just going to have a better foundation and be more durable if it’s connected to what sparks joy in you. What you want to learn, what you’re naturally attracted to exploring in life, those sorts of things. And so storytelling was also an element for me. And part of that structure or process that people were looking for, for me, was kind of understanding where they fit in their own story of themselves. And that sort of tied back to my love of story and writing and history and all sorts of these other things-

Katherine Morales: English major, right?

Jessica Matthews: Yes. All sorts of other things that-

Katherine Morales: Like, yes, yes.

Jessica Matthews: Yes, yeah. That you would classify maybe even as sort of like hobbies or something you enjoy. But it’s like, sometimes those things can be really helpful for other people and so don’t be-

Katherine Morales: They’re not ancillary, they’re essential to you.

Jessica Matthews: Right. And don’t be afraid to embrace them as something that somebody else might need. And I see that so often in the clients that I work with, is they might be coming to me for some structure and support. And sometimes what they need to hear is, you are bringing something valuable to the world. Like the fact that you think differently than other people is important. Because it unlocks new ideas that other businesses need to have.

Katherine Morales: Yes.

Jessica Matthews: So don’t be afraid to show up as yourself because if you don’t, that might never get out into the world, it might never hit the marketplace. That idea might never come to fruition and there could be people out there that need it.

Katherine Morales: I love it. I love it. So I know everyone’s probably excited to check you out, so where can they go to do that?

Jessica Matthews: Sure. So my website is framebrain.co. And from there you can click the little social icon things to get to all the other places. And I also host a podcast. So you can tune in there, as well.

Katherine Morales: Yes, please plug your podcast. It’s How I Create.me. So, tell us about … what’s your podcast about?

Jessica Matthews: So I started it because as I was working with all these colorful people, I saw just like-

Katherine Morales: I like how that inspired a dance.

Jessica Matthews: I just saw a gap in content that was out there for people who had sort of a divergent productivity types. So, there’s a lot of great stuff out there for people who work five days a week for eight hours and take a lunch break in the middle of the day. But a lot of times, that’s not how work rhythms play out for folks. Especially, depending on your industry or your services, et cetera. And as sole proprietors, you don’t have colleagues to like chat about this stuff with, or to kind of be in it together. And so How I Create Me was really born as a way to build community for people who are creative professionals, thriving in the commercial world, to feel celebrated and heard and hear stories that resonate with them.

Katherine Morales: You gave them the place.

Jessica Matthews: Yes, it give them a place.

Katherine Morales: I love it, I love it.

Jessica Matthews: Exactly, exactly. Because you can also use a box as a picnic table.

Katherine Morales: Nice. Love it.

Jessica Matthews: Make a place. I have a toddler right now, so boxes and what you can do with shapes that are different than normal is like a big part of my world.

Katherine Morales: Like front of mind. Yeah.

Jessica Matthews: Yeah, exactly.

Katherine Morales: Oh, I love it. Well, thank you so much, Jessica, for being here. I just know it takes so much courage and I just feel the heart coming through the screen with you. And it’s not every day that you meet somebody who is so creatively inclined and equally analytical, like being able to bring that structure. That’s such a unique gift and I see it and I love it. I celebrate it for you.

Jessica Matthews: Well, thank you. Thank you so much, Katherine. It’s such a pleasure to get to share one’s voice and story. So thank you for making space for us on your show.

Katherine Morales: Of course, of course. And I’m excited. I’ll go ahead and plug the next one, it’s on July 14th at 1:30 ET with Bisi MacGregor on “Breaking through the Grip of Fear.”

Jessica Matthews: I’ll make sure to tune into that one.

Katherine Morales: Important human journeys here, right? If you are an entrepreneur and you haven’t felt fear, then yeah, you need to come to this show just so you can be real with yourself. But you can always catch episodes afterward on my website, inflectionpointcomms.com. And for now, we’ll just say goodbye until next time.

Jessica Matthews: It was good.

Katherine Morales: Thanks so much. Go out there and define your box, be your box and just be you.

Jessica Matthews: I love it. Thanks, Katherine.

Katherine Morales: Bye.

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