Recently, I had an interview with Burlington County Times who ran an article about my entrepreneurial background and that start of Inverse Paradox. Check out the article on phillyburbs.com by clicking here or just read below!
She’s wise beyond her years
By: KATE FRATTI
I was headed to meet a graphic artist in her 20s. I was expecting an artsy-fartsy kid with an attitude and paint-stained jeans. I should have saved myself the trouble of dredging up tired old stereotypes. I was all wrong.
Melissa Levenduski of Florence defies them. At 24 she is creative director of a Web and graphic design company she co-founded two years ago with Neil Harner, a friend she met during freshman year at Philadelphia University. She’s wise beyond her years, on several fronts.
For starters Melissa’s not hemmed in by the notion of cool or trendy or whether you think her style is unique. “It’s about the client,” she says, and whether a design effectively conveys a client’s message. If you feel differently, Rembrandt, you can’t work here.
She’s a slave to the Macintosh computer, right? Not on your life. There’s nothing you can do on a Mac you can’t accomplish with a PC, and the PC is easier and less expensive to fix or add on to, she preaches. Why spend more when you don’t have to?
Neil’s been pleading for two monitors for his desk. Melissa convinced him that they should save for what he needs. Be patient, she says.
It explains why today the company, Inverse Paradox in Oakford, Bucks County, Pa., has added four employees since 2007 and boasts 200 clients.
Among them is Hank’s Beverage, a Trevose, Pa., manufacturer of a gourmet craft root beer, for which Melissa is designing a new package. It’ll be a snazzy, slim 12-ounce can. Cans are cheaper to produce and sell than the glass bottles now used. The can will have a design that requires “color separation,” a process Melissa doesn’t know how to perform.
No biggie. She’ll farm out that part of the work to someone who does know. And she’ll learn along the way. She’s a can-do kind of girl – ambitious and industrious, but with an eye for fun, too.
When she’s not at a computer screen or meeting with staff, Melissa is refereeing school lacrosse and field hockey games in Mercer County. It’s good to be boss, she says. You set your hours. The extra pay she earns helps her save. She is living with her grandparents in Florence while she and her longtime boyfriend put away money for a home.
The time spent outdoors is good exercise that clears her head so she can return to the office fresh.
Sure, the economy has been “a little stressful,” Melissa says. She coaches herself to “ride it out, go with the flow.”
“Stress just hurts your body. Ages you faster,” she says. That’s not to say she doesn’t have concerns about the current administration in Washington and its direction. Politically she describes herself as “moderate right.” Neil’s a Democrat. The two engage in frequent and spirited debate about things like universal health care.
“Maybe too much debate,” she says with a smile. On work matters, though, they always are on the same page. She respects his business smarts; he admires her creativity. “Neil knows his stuff. I know mine.”
Neil named the company. If a paradox is a contradiction, a problem that can’t be solved, it stands to reason the inverse is better. “It’s basically an unsolvable problem that is solved,” Neil has said.
Other successes for Inverse Paradox (inverse.wpengine.com) include its own Philly Beer magazine, which most recently sponsored Brews for Boobies, a bar crawl through Philadelphia that drew about 120 revelers who raised money to fight breast cancer. Melissa relied heavily on Facebook and Twitter to promote the event. “Social media has exploded the beer magazine,” she says.
A graduate of New Egypt High School before she went to Philadelphia University, Melissa got her start freelancing.
Most of those early projects she found on Craigslist, a tool she has introduced to her father, Florence native Richard Levenduski, 52. A former maintenance employee for the state of New Jersey at McGuire Air Force Base, he’s looking at opening a store in Florence where he’ll sell refurbished appliances and equipment he buys off Craigslist and repairs.
Melissa credits Neil’s parents with providing the entrepreneurs their first office space: the master bedroom of their family home, not far from the current office suite on Bristol Road.
Guess they were smarter than me and immediately looked past the pair’s age to see maturity, wisdom, and business sense beyond their years.