Jess Munday

Jess Munday

Co-Owner / Custom Neon

BlogFounderHuman Resources

It’s always massively thrilling to come across someone that follows their intuition and goes for it. They make you sit up a bit straighter and pay attention. And if that person happens to only be in her twenties, and is generous, friendly, and a super-smart businesswoman? Well, you have me hooked.

Jess Munday is the co-founder of Custom Neon, a multi-award winning company that creates epic neon custom made signs for people all over the world. What started from her dining room table, servicing local customers, is now a global operation with almost 40 team members dispersed across Australia, USA, and the UK. In fact, Custom Neon is forecast to turn over $18 million in 2022.

From the wild, Custom Neon HQ in Geelong, Jess told me about her down to earth childhood that helped to ignite her passion for people, HR and entrepreneurial spirit, The best advice that she ever got, and what she wished she had known in her twenties when starting out. 

This #careerstory is exactly what you need to kick start some massive goals for the second half of 2022. 

Let’s begin.

Jess, thank you so much for joining us today. Let’s start at the beginning. Where did you grow up and how did your experience shape the person you are and the career you ended up in today?

I grew up in Adelaide and I’ve always been a people person and enjoyed working with others. I secured my first job aged 16 in a fast-food outlet. This environment was great for learning to work under pressure, thinking on your feet and adapting to differing personalities, all experiences that would become invaluable as my ambitions grew. After school, I worked as a store manager for a global retailer, alongside studying for my degree in HR Management. I invested a lot into my role and was very passionate about the management, aesthetics and prosperity of my store and team. These were certainly experiences I found invaluable in shaping me throughout my career. I enjoy working much more than studying; I definitely prefer to learn hands-on. Once I completed my degree, I began my career in HR and recruitment roles.

After high school did you go on to further education? Where and what did you study?

I graduated from the University of South Australia, with a Bachelor of Management and Human Resources Management. Whilst I did learn a lot, as I previously mentioned it wasn’t an environment in which I flourished. Nevertheless, I still committed to it, and completed my degree. In hindsight, this was an important stepping stone in securing my first HR position and went hand-in-hand with on-the-job experience.

Do you think it’s important for people to have a degree in your line of work?

Honestly, no! I do think a degree teaches a lot of valuable lessons and theory that is relevant in the workplace, but in my line of work you can also just learn as you go. HR has many facets, and businesses operate in different ways; so, there will always need to be a certain degree of “on-the-job” training.  Whilst I don’t think a degree is essential, I am a huge advocate for continued learning. It is crucial to invest in learning opportunities regardless of your role. I like to learn by networking, workshops, video tutorials and listening to podcasts. Whether you are an entrepreneur or an employee, always seeking to learn more can give you a competitive advantage in the ever-changing marketplace.

Love this. Did you complete any internships or volunteer placements? Tell us about your experience.

I completed several short stints of work experience throughout my schooling, at a local gym. Every opportunity is a great way to learn new skills. I have met many incredible candidates that have used volunteering and internships as a great way to upskill, while they were attempting to find more stable, full-time work.

Jess and Husband, Co-Founder Jake Munday.

How did you get into the job/career/business that you are in now?

My husband Jake Munday and I cofounded our business, Custom Neon, in 2018. What started from our dining room table, servicing local customers, is now a global operation. We have almost 40 team members dispersed across Australia, USA, and the UK and are forecast to turn over $18 million in 2022.

I’ve certainly utilised my experience in retail, recruitment, and HR in my role here at Custom Neon as the People and Culture Manager. I have applied much of what I’ve learned from previous roles to cultivate a culture of fun, ambition, accountability and team cohesion. Working in corporate environments previously has been extremely beneficial for us in implementing the processes, strategies and structures required as Custom Neon grew exponentially!

Custom Neon Team Wall at CN HQ.

What does a typical workday look like for you at Custom Neon?

My workdays usually consist of multiple meetings and conversations. Working with teams, both interstate and overseas, means there are a lot of zoom calls as well. I will usually have an hour or so to catch up on emails at my desk and then before I know it the day is over! Some days meetings are back-to-back. But I love the energy and enthusiasm of our team!

What piece of career advice do you wish that someone told you in your early 20s?

Work hard and the career progression will come, though it will likely not happen overnight. As someone who is very ambitious and career-driven, I felt impatient at times. Don’t let yourself fall into a negative mindset about this, though. Instead, use it as a motivator for continued growth. Look to mentors, and continue investing in your learning and networking opportunities. Get yourself known in influential circles and don’t give up!

What is the worst piece of career advice you received in your 20s?

That I should leave the company where I worked, because I would never get the role I was aspiring for. I lived in Adelaide at the time and the headquarters were in Victoria. Being told this only made me more tenacious! I worked really hard, secured an opportunity at head office and eventually, achieved my dream role, which most definitely changed my life! The advice wasn’t great. I often wonder how different my life would have been if I had heeded it!

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Dream stealers and naysayers are abundant when you’re scaling that ladder, just take pleasure in proving them wrong!

LOVE THIS ADVICE JESS! So, tell us. If you could start your career all over again, what would you do differently?

I’ve had the pleasure of working with many incredible leaders, and I’m certainly grateful for these opportunities. But, if I could go back again, I would seize the opportunity to learn more from them!

List the most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your career?

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