Simon Matthews (MBA ’21) is a natural “creative,” gravitating toward illustrations and animations since he was young. “I wanted to create animations that presented the Bible in a compelling way,” he says. “That’s what fueled my passion to communicate through drawing.”
But, as with many callings, Simon had to overcome a series of challenges before finally taking his place as founder, CEO and president of Open Door Media Solutions—a marketing and creative agency located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He attributes his strong work ethic and “stick-to-it-iveness” to the grit demonstrated by his father as a “tough military man” and father of six. Simon is also quick to acknowledge the inspiration he draws from his father’s heart for evangelism and compassion for the lost and destitute.
Spotting hidden value in people is one of Simon’s special interests—and “seeing what I can do to draw that value out and put it on display.” He says marketing and media are natural avenues for “helping others see value in areas that are often overlooked.”
Answering a Calling vs. Stopping Short of God’s Full Plan.
In typical fashion for some talented people with a desire for creativity, Simon found his education outlets and career pathway were stifled. “The school I went to did not offer animation, so the closest I could get to drawing professionally was drafting,” he shares. Through a high school work-study program, Simon landed his first job as a draftsman at a highly competitive manufacturing company. In a few years, he was promoted to process engineer, and then at 27 was promoted to Operation’s Manager in just seven years. He was the youngest person to hold that position. His tenure marked the first year the company was profitable and continued that trend of growth over the following four years.
“Initially, I didn’t like the idea of being committed to such a technical field, but to my surprise, I was very good at it,” says Simon. While being an Operation’s Manager was rewarding in many ways, Simon felt his heart growing cold and his creative aspirations getting further out of reach.
Managing a four-million-dollar budget didn’t satiate the burning desire for animation brewing underneath: “I always dreamt of circling back to that gifting and first love,” he admits. “I felt I could reach people in a deeper more meaningful way through animation.”
The Regent Transformation
When he learned about Regent University’s bachelor’s in animation, Simon knew it was time to make a shift. As he began to explore Regent’s unique Christian perspective and commitment to academic excellence, he was even more convinced that God was calling him to reignite his calling. He was ready to flex his creative muscles for the glory of God.
“I wanted to see how Regent balanced high standards with compassion and grace. Regent’s unique atmosphere gave me the opportunity to meet some of the most genuine staff members, professors, and students I’ve ever met,” he says. Simon was so impressed with the Regent experience that he followed up his B.A. in Animation with an MBA in Marketing from Regent. Now, he had the tools for his craft and the business know-how to give them wings.
Foundational Lessons in Founding a Business
Today, Simon offers marketing, branding, animation, web design, and illustration services through his agency, Open Door Media Solutions. He says searching for the road that God has laid out for you can be a long and winding endeavor, but every journey can teach us valuable lessons.
“I like that I’m able to be a resource and example of how to navigate this world and culture with Godly wisdom, and I love to be a producer of good works for God.”
“If all a person wants is to live a comfortable life, there are easier ways to get there than starting a business,” Simon warns. He finds that he is tested daily and must activate renewed faith and a willingness “to confront things that are out of order.”
Participating in Regent’s School of Business & Leadership’s Executive Mentorship Program was one of Simon’s most meaningful opportunities as a student. He was paired with Dawn Best, a successful entrepreneur and business development expert and relished her honest and “straight to the point” approach. “She didn’t pull any punches and encouraged me to get more aggressive, stand my ground, fight, and stay focused,” Simon shares. “It was just what I needed to hear, to help balance being a Christian with sound business grit.”
He acknowledges the tendency to plateau at certain career levels and sees candid feedback from successful entrepreneurs as invaluable to keeping you on your toes: “I worried I had been getting too soft over the years, but Dawn helped nudge me back to a place of strength.”
Words of Wisdom
Reflecting on his humble beginnings and decade-long journey to building his business, Simon concedes that life is full of challenges and risks. Unless you are unwilling to put your trust in God and take a chance, you may never find out what truly propels you to the next level. “The thing” that drives you requires a willingness to take on unusual risk, he says. “Both as it relates to finances and reputation.”
He credits God for leading the way but recognizes that he is continually in a phase of discovery: “I’m still learning how to balance reliance on myself vs. reliance on God.”
Simon is on a mission not only to create a flourishing business but one built on integrity and excellence. “I want to emulate Christian leadership in a competitive and corporate world,” he says. “Now, I truly have the opportunity to be like Jesus—to lead like Jesus—and to pour into the people I work with. This has been the best way for me to prove that God’s ways work.”
Leading the Future
Like his father before him, Simon is proud to carry on a family work ethic of discipline and attention to detail. “At the end of the day, I like that I’m in a position to be a good boss to my employees.”
As much as owning his own business is a dream realized, so is following Christ in the daily operations of culture and client services. In a true servant leader format, Simon sees himself as a channel to share his wealth of work experience while rooted in faith: “I like that I’m able to be a resource and example of how to navigate this world and culture with Godly wisdom, and I love to be a producer of good works for God.”
This article is a reposting from Regent University, to view the original click here.