We’re thrilled to have our Hera Hub tribe spotlighted in local media, on Voyage Phoenix

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Kovacs.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
FirstEval was born out of the 2009 recession. I had just moved to Phoenix from northwestern Pennsylvania, to escape the lake-effect snow, and couldn’t land a full-time job. I was cobbling together a part-time job and various researcher-for-hire projects and decided to form an LLC and make it official. In 2010, my boyfriend at the time (now husband) surprised me one day with a website mockup and I was all in. I continued “traditional” employment through 2015 while doing statistical consulting and data work on the side as FirstEval. In 2014, I had to turn down a project because I couldn’t fit it in with my day job. The project involved applying data analytics to look at civic engagement and democracy – something really important to me. Giving up this project really broke my heart, and inspired me to craft the long view so I could do consulting full time. Today, I have a solid group of fellow consultants and contractors I partner with on projects – my work family. Now, I’m lucky that I’m never bored since my clients include marketing agencies, nonprofits, foundations, local governments, and attorneys.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has not been a smooth road! I don’t think it is for any business owner. And, I don’t expect smoothness around the corner. For me, I am either overwhelmed with work or wondering where my next project is coming from. There’s rarely a smooth, happy medium. But, I’m more and more comfortable with this entrepreneurial discordance. I get to practice my “living with uncertainty” skills a lot!

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the FirstEval story. Tell us more about the business.
FirstEval provides statistical consulting and data analytic services to companies. Our primary client areas are marketing analytics and research; program evaluation work for nonprofits; and litigation support for attorneys, in the form of expert statistician services. Aside from the technical skills, all of this requires communicating data concepts clearly and understandable to any audience. I’m really proud of the reputation I have as being able to pull meaning from data, talk about data, and make it understandable. I’ve had clients tell me they really value the way I explain things and how I can just sit down and talk about data and it makes sense.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
It is all about connections! Even as an introvert, I love to network, and connect people with others. I’ve definitely experienced luck or serendipitous meetings with others that have helped move my business along. Like they said in La La Land: “Someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know…”

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