Woman With No Regrets

Woman With No Regrets

The Pot and Bead in Ashburn is packed.

There is a birthday party going on and several young girls crowd around the store’s center table painting pottery. Three mothers sit at a table nearby, painting their own pieces. A woman sits at one of the front tables while two girls examine the pottery on the shelves trying to decide which pieces to paint. One of the store’s employees shows another girl the different types of things she can make with beads.

Amongst the people, the laughter and the painting stands Adeena Mignogna, the store’s owner, has her head bent over rows and rows of beads. Mignogna, 32, spent the morning at the International Gem and Jewelry Show at the Dulles Expo Center and brought back many new beads for her store, including white beads with pink ribbons for breast cancer.

"Aren’t these beautiful?" she said, holding them up. "They have so many amazing things there."

Besides owning a busy and successful store, Mignogna works as an aerospace engineer for GeoEye on Route 28. The satellite she has been working on is set to launch in early 2007.

Recently, Mignogna tackled another industry. Her nonfiction book, "Cute Little Store: Between the entrepreneurial dream and business reality," based on her experiences opening The Pot and Bead, was published July 3.

While she has been able to work in three very different fields, Mignogna downplays her successes.

"Usually when I get an idea that I want to do something I at least try it," she said. "Just to see if it will work out."

BY HER OWN admission, Mignogna has always been a "space geek," who even once applied to be an astronaut. While at the University of Maryland in College Park, she double majored in physics and astronomy and did mechanical engineering on space crafts. After graduating, Mignogna worked at OrbImage and AeroAstro, two local engineering companies, before quitting her job to open The Pot and Bead.

"I always wanted to open my own business," she said. "I found that owning my own satellite company was not likely, so I really just wanted to own something that had a chance of success."

Since she didn't know exactly what she wanted to do, every time Mignogna had an idea for a business, she began writing a business plan.

"I was really self-taught," she said. "It was all trial and error. Each time I learned more about what I needed to know about a potential idea."

The idea for a pottery and beading store came about after a conversation with her then-business partner, Tony Robinson.

"He was complaining how people don’t make gifts for each other," she said. "I told him how my sister had made her wedding gift to me at a [pottery place] and that it was my favorite gift."

That conversation got Mignogna thinking and when she discovered that Loudoun County did not have a make-your-own-pottery store, she went to work. Even though she had no previous experience with pottery or beading, Mignogna’s previous experience writing business plans helped expedite the process. Six months after first coming up with the idea, The Pot and Bead opened four years ago.

WHILE MIGNOGNA HAS always enjoyed writing, the idea for the book came about a little slower than the store.

As she moved through the process of opening The Pot and Bead, Mignogna would write down different things she did.

"I do a lot of journaling and writing," she said. "So I would just write down things as they happened and pretty soon there was enough for a book."

Although there was enough for her book, the idea was put on hold while Mignogna went to work at GeoEye. After two years of owning The Pot and Bead, she realized she missed being an engineer and decided to go back to work full time. It was not until October 2005 that she picked up her book project again.

"I had written about maybe three-quarters and it was just sitting around," she said.

In "Cute Little Store" Mignogna wrote not just about her experiences starting her store, but about the various experiences she had after The Pot and Bead opened.

"She really tells it like it is," Bev Barker, who met Mignogna through the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce, said. "It will strike a chord right around this area of Northern Virginia where entrepreneurialships are really strong."

THE WRITING OF the book was easy, Mignogna said, mostly because she was writing about real experiences, not trying to create fiction, but the process of getting published was more difficult.

"The traditional publishing process is so demoting," she said.

After trying to figure out how to find someone to publish her book, Mignogna discovered Outskirts Press. Outskirts is a small self-publishing company that provides guidance to authors through an author representative.

"It was really great," Mignogna said. "All I needed to do was finish the book."

As part of the deal with Outskirts, Mignogna’s book is being sold on Amazon and at Barnes and Nobles' online store, but Mignogna needed help getting the word out there.

Barker first met Mignogna when The Pot and Bead was opening and she was intrigued by Mignogna’s story.

"She really has something that differentiates somebody from everyone else," Barker said. "I would just drop in on her and see how everything was going."

Barker worked with Mignogna at several chamber events and says they had what she calls a "mutual admiration society." When she read an announcement that Mignogna was publishing her book, Barker offered her marketing services.

"It seems every time I sit down with Adeena she has a new story to tell," Barker said. "She has a sense of work ethic no matter what she is doing."

FOR AS BUSY as she is and as hard as she works, Mignogna does not feel overwhelmed because, she said, she loves what she does.

"If you really enjoy what you’re doing professionally, it’s personal," she said. "I never wanted to be that type of person who hates their job."

Her love for what she does has spread throughout her store and her book, with people picking up her dream and making it part of it theirs.

"I love this place," employee Jennifer Sherman said. "I used to come here and paint all the time. I’d get out of class and come over. When I saw they were hiring I jumped at the chance."

For now, Mignogna is focusing mostly on her first book, although she is working on a second nonfiction book about her experiences working full time and operating her store, but she says there are still many things she wants to do.

"I would really like to write fiction and science fiction," she said. "That is still on my list."

No matter what happens in the future, Mignogna says a person needs only look at her bumper sticker to understand her philosophy on life.

The bumper sticker reads, "Destined to be an old woman with no regrets."

"I think that really says it all," she said.