The Visionary Behind Female-Led Production Company, Honor Society

The Visionary Behind Female-Led Production Company,

Honor Society

After years of clocking in overtime for advertising industry giants, many people dream of the moment when they can hand in their notice and become their own boss. That was the case with production company Honor Society’s Executive Producer and Managing Partner, Megan Kelly, who recently made the leap to not only launch her own production shop, but took a further leap of faith to do so in the male-dominated industry of advertising.

Megan has over two decades of experience on both the advertising agency and commercial production sides of the business and was an early adopter of digital content. While things may seem to have perfectly aligned for her, it was anything but easy to conquer the “Mad Men” industry and forge her path to entrepreneurism.

Ever since its inception in December 2015, the female-led production company has successfully taken off and produced commercial spots for Chase, Burger King (reuniting Napolean Dynamite stars Jon Heder and Efren Ramirez), Michael’s (ft. Snoop Dogg), State Farm, Honda, SKYY Vodka, and JetBlue, among many others.

Megan Kelly
1. What made you decide to launch your own company?

I realized that I could be doing what I was doing for other people, but for myself. I have always had a very strong point of view and opinions and I knew exactly the type of company that I wanted to create and how to run it. All I needed was a push out of the nest and once I decided to do it, I jumped and haven’t looked back!

2. What was the biggest challenge you had in the first year of launching?

The biggest challenge for me was learning to be patient. I’m a pretty high-strung person with lots of energy and when I have an idea, I want it to happen all at once. It’s been difficult to craft a plan and a vision and wait for it to come together. More so, wait for it to come together correctly. As grateful as I was for the growth and constant activity that we had, it was never enough for me. I want to be at the end of my five-year plan in five months, so I’ve had to learn to have the patience to watch things play out, guide the vision and enjoy the journey. A great piece of advice that I got early on was “you only have your first year once.” Whenever I felt frustrated, I would think about that and repeat it until it became a mantra.

I knew I had an obligation to lay the correct groundwork and build the best brand that I could, so understanding that everything I did in the first year would impact how people portrayed us in the future was a great way to slow down and focus a bit more on the details. I had to realize that five-year plans are given that time frame for a reason.

3. What is the best part about being your own boss?

I have partners and always collaborate with them on business decisions, but the best part for me is getting to create the vision and set the tone. I get to create a culture that I want everyone to live and work by and most importantly, to enjoy.

4. How do you adapt in an industry that is constantly evolving?

Honestly, the media landscape has never not been evolving for me. I got into advertising at a time when budgets were bigger, yes, but there was still a lot of uncertainty. We had the dot com boom and then bust, 9/11, the start of YouTube and social media, the rise of online video, the transition from film to video, the great recession, etc. Now, I feel like every three to six months, it all changes.

I think because it has never been a stable business for me, I’ve become very adaptable. At Honor Society, we are constantly rethinking how we approach projects and how we can make the impossible work. I had a boss once, who when faced with some impossible project, would look at me and say “well, we have to figure this out, because if we don’t someone else will.” That’s the nature of this business, there is always someone who is going to figure out how to do it better, faster, cheaper, etc. So, you can’t dismiss anything. The nerd inside me always wants to be the first one to figure out the puzzle. Embrace the change!

5. What makes a great commercial spot?

Storytelling, of course, but with an element of surprise. I like the unexpected and/or the inventive. That can be either in the storytelling or in the casting. I love a spot where I can tell that someone took a risk. So much of the work being made these days is very safe and I find it refreshing and exciting when a brand is brave enough to take a chance.

BK Commercial Courtesy of Honor Society
6. What is your advice for other women trying to get into commercial production?

Don’t be afraid to start in an entry-level position and work your way up. Learn everything that you can by watching commercial spots, staying updated on industry news and familiarizing yourself with all the work that you can. Ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid to ask to get close to the camera on set. Don’t get stuck being in the office or being a wardrobe production assistant (where entry-level women tend to be). Figure out who’s in the career position you’d want to be in and find a way to work with (or close to) them. Make it known that you want to be a director, a producer or in the camera department. Help the people that can create opportunities for you and be damn good at what you do. Because unfortunately, let’s face it, women need to work harder and be better to get where they want to be.

7. What kinds of things do you try to implement into the morals of your company?

When we started thinking about starting our own production company, we came up with the name Honor Society (which conjures lots of different visions in people’s heads). I was thinking about who we are and the type of people who we want to attract. So I came up with the five pillars of Honor Society: creativity, bravery, passion, intelligence and character.

I would even add a sixth pillar: humor. We apply this lens to our staff, directors and freelancers. We want to work with great people who care deeply about what they do and who treat other people well. I also tend to refer to this as our “no- asshole” policy. I don’t work with disrespectful people.

8. What is your advice to someone thinking about taking the leap to launch their own company?

I would tell them to be prepared to work all the time. I tell people that Honor Society is my third child because running a business is a lot like being a mother. I’m constantly putting the company needs above my own, making sure it has everything it needs to properly grow and develop. It consumes my mind and keeps me up at night.

I think in order to launch your own business, you really have to be prepared to do that. Make sure you have the time and are willing to make those sacrifices in your personal life. You definitely have to be 100 percent invested in what you are doing or you won’t make it through the tough times.

9. What is your advice to other women working in male-dominated industries?

That your mentors and champions do not have to be women. There are plenty of amazing men who really step up into those roles naturally. I am extremely lucky that almost all of my mentors and champions in my career have been men, and I want to call this out because I think so many young women think that they can only be mentored by other women. We also need to encourage more men to mentor women in the workplace.

As a woman, you have to refuse to be intimidated by being the only woman in the room and learn to embrace it. I feel like hard work is valued, but you have to value yourself and know that your opinions matter and that you deserve to be heard. Remember to take yourself seriously and don’t back away from a great opportunity.

10. What was the biggest lesson you learned in the first year of launching Honor Society?

As someone in a leadership position, I have to have confidence in myself to know what’s right, while also not being afraid to challenge the established rules and have the balls to follow a vision. Basically, not being afraid to ruffle feathers.

I learned to trust myself, my instincts and my feelings. I have realized that I have strong gut reactions to things, both positive and negative, and I need to trust them. The times, in the past year, when I have gone against my gut instincts have led to less-than-positive outcomes. So I’ve learned to state when I don’t feel good about something and persuade other people to listen to me, but also not demotivate people. On the flip side, convincing people that some crazy idea is really what we need and getting the team to trust you.

Evelyn Covarrubias

Southern California-native Evelyn Covarrubias is an Account Executive at bicoastal PR agency Press Kitchen, where she focuses on the fusion of traditional and nontraditional approaches in forging creative communication strategies. As a storytelling devotee and media-obsessed millennial, she prides herself in providing fresh content and staying ahead of media trends. With an educational background in Journalism and Public Relations, she is an avid consumer of information, always in pursuit of her passion for creating newsworthy and interesting content.

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