In Conversation with Diana Mucci of Back of the Yards Entertainment and Publishing
Describe your business in a few words?
Back of the Yards Entertainment and Publishing is an independent theatre, film and book publishing company in support of diverse independent artists.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
When COVID forced us to close down our Italian boutique and changed the world as we know it, I asked myself how am I going to be relevant? How can I make a difference, when so many people are struggling? And I remembered The Snugawinks of Cuddleton Falls, the naptime series I had written years ago and had tucked away in a folder on my MAC. I figured it was time to dust off the books and publish them myself, so I can share some peace & comfort with children and families in the midst of an extremely stressful time. In the area of entertainment and publishing, the process of getting an artist’s work out there can literally take a lifetime, so I established Back of the Yards Entertainment and Publishing to make it happen now.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I’ve worked in the corporate technology sector as a sales executive for over 20 years and throughout my professional career have launched small businesses, from an independent consulting firm, to an Italian luxury fashion boutique. The one passion that has remained a constant over the last 30 years is writing and entertainment.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Yes, I want to be in charge of my own destiny – to work hard, to see the fruit of my labor and to realize the positive impact I can make within my own personal circle, my community and the world at large.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
My marketing strategy was to launch a Social Media and PR campaign with a focus on Instagram and Facebook. I soon realized I didn’t have the expertise, skillset or time to do it all alone. So, I reached out to my personal network and to the @HeyMamaco community and was lucky to find an amazing team to help me develop my marketing strategy. I’m humbled by how brilliantly talented they are and am so grateful for their support!
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
The greatest mistake I’ve made is to think I could do everything on my own. I stretched myself too thin and didn’t have the time to accomplish everything that was required to handle the day to day operations, the finances and the marketing. I learned to let go and understand I am only human. Leveraging other people’s talents, experience and can take your business to a whole new level, while giving you time to do what you do best.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
My greatest accomplishment to date is raising my four children and seeing them each grow into the kind, thoughtful humans they are today, leaving their own unique mark on this world. They are the inspiration behind my children’s naptime series, “The Snugawinks of Cuddleton Falls” about four siblings who live in a magical place of pillows, blankets and toys, and who take off in a lollipop truck for adventures in Dreamland!
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
I usually ask candidates to tell me about themselves, and I don’t mean just about their work-related experience. I want to understand their story first – what brought them to where they are today and why they do what they do. I think it’s important to connect first and get a good sense of their character. Most of the time, experience is secondary to me. It’s about their mindset and willingness to learn, to know if they’ll take the initiative to try new things, to help solve problems. My advice would be to follow your intuition and don’t make decisions based solely on years of experience. Heart matters.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Although COVID-19 has impacted a great number of small businesses in a detrimental way, I believe we as humans are resilient and are doing our best to be creative in pivoting to new ways of reaching our customers. Book sales are up since last year, and authors are doing their book tours online and reaching massive audiences. Regional and community theaters have closed their doors, but many are now hosting virtual readings and plays to keep performance art alive. We can’t give up on art, we need it more than ever now.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
I’m finishing my memoir, “Growing up with Big Hair”, a collection of short stories about an Afro-Latina moving to an all-White neighborhood. The stories are based on my real-life experiences dealing with systemic racism, told with a bit of comic relief. I’ll be working on publishing the memoir and finding other BIPOC writers and producers to collaborate on adapting those stories for the stage and film. I’m also looking for another city for “Come ‘n Go”, a romantic dramedy about two sisters trying to navigate their disastrous love lives.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
The biggest, most humbling lesson I’ve learned is that we really don’t have as much control over our lives as we thought we did. There is a force much greater than us that has altered the direction of our lives forever and learning to adapt to this change will be critical to our survival mentally, physically and emotionally.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
I am not an island. Community outreach is critical to our well-being and success.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
I stay grounded by reminding myself what matters most – Love, health. family. friends and connection.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Oh my yes! Go for a walk or bike ride and enjoy the fresh air. Try to take a lunch break – these days it seems to be getting harder to do! Be sure to carve out time for dinner with your family or close friends, following COVID guidelines of course. Get out of the house on your days off to just go for a drive or to visit a place where you haven’t been. Learn a new hobby or language.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I now have 7 children! Four of my own and three that I inherited from my husband.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- Start off the day with a short meditation, intention or prayer.
- Drink coffee or tea or a protein shake for energy.
- Take Breaks to recharge throughout the day -great advice from my life coach daughter, @antoinettebeauchamp_
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being a part of the Entreprenista community means joining the ranks of like-minded women entrepreneurs who understand the joys and challenges of growing a successful business, while juggling womanhood, motherhood, sisterhood, wifehood and any other hood you can think of. I sincerely appreciate Entreprenista’s support of the BIPOC artist community. Please read our books, participate in virtual theatrical events and watch our films! Thank you so much for support and for the opportunity to share my story!