Dania Denise Mallette is an indie filmmaker, actor, model, mentor, coach, and entrepreneur based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been self-employed since the economic recession of 2008. Mallette is a creative, multi-talented individual who has learned how to market herself based on the skills that she has learned in her past positions as a corporate employee. During Mallette’s college career at San Francisco State University, she realized the importance of time management when she took on a full workload each semester. She took advantage of every resource provided to her by SFSU, while she was studying to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts, Majoring in Radio-Television and Minoring in Journalism. She was also a staff writer for SFSU’s Xpress magazine.
Mallette’s first company, DDM Productions, was launched in the heart of the Great Recession of 2008. She started this company after she was laid off from her position as a Search Engine Marketing Administrator in the Silicon Valley area. As an illustrator for children’s books and murals, she explored work as a freelancer. Mallette launched her website which taught her how to market herself online. As a result of this, she gained a lot of traction and started receiving clients daily. This experience ended up segueing into her ongoing business, called “The Chalk Chica,” where she provides custom chalk art and signage for any occasion. If you are interested in this service, you can find it at https://www.thechalkchica.com/.
Following this, Mallette received an interview from Zynga which led to a position in which she worked as a chalk artist creating work for their quarterly meetings, company meetings, and product launches. She fell in love with chalk art and realized that it was her niche, thereafter making a conscious effort to chase after her newfound passion. Mallette noticed that there was a demand for chalk art in the Bay Area and that not many chalk artists knew how to market themselves. In response to this realization, she began traveling from New York to Texas and Southern California for her work. However, the pandemic temporarily shut down her business as she faced event cancellations. Due to these setbacks, Mallette returned to her original intent of owning her own production company.
Anything but “Run of the Mill”
As a founder of her own production company, Runaway Mill Productions, Mallette has learned to be her own advocate by being confident in her abilities. She emphasizes the nuances of being creative along with having business sense. Her work is filled with professionalism, fun, and passion. As a writer, Mallette has stories and characters that she wants to share with a bigger audience. She wants to make a living out of her work and the pandemic allowed her to do just that. Mallette has never wanted to work for anything that was “run of the mill,” but wanted to partner up with other storytellers to create different stories and characters.
Before starting her own production company, Mallette viewed screenwriting as a bit intimidating due to how it differed from her previous endeavors. As an actor, she read scripts all the time, but now she had to learn to identify the techniques of screenwriters based on real screenplays. She launched her first passion film You Were Just Here, which is a love letter to her father who she lost to pancreatic cancer in 2019.
As a storyteller, she had many ideas to express the trauma that she had faced. As she was going through his old items, she found a train itinerary of a trip that he always wanted to take and thought to herself, “What if I took this trip and documented it?” With the help of her cinematographer, Mallette was able to create the documentary and make it available to the public.
Life as a Model
In 2015, Dania was crowned Miss Petite USA in a Florida beauty pageant. It was an incredible journey that also served as an opportunity for her to identify many business opportunities. Mallette admired how beauty pageants highlighted the concept of female empowerment and had a major public speaking component. She also loved the community service, sisterhood, and family aspects of pageants.
According to Dania, championing other people’s success took nothing away from her own success, which serves as a key reason behind her love of coaching. Women in pageantry learn public speaking, hone their interview skills, work on their presentation abilities, and build their personal brands. As a model consultant, working in pageantry has given Mallette the ability to repay her experiences and efforts to other women who are in an exciting chapter of their lives. Mallette has also founded the California Petite Pageant.
A particular moment that stood out for Mallette was when she watched the assembly edit of her film, You Were Just Here. This experience was her first-time editing, writing, producing, and directing a film. She recalls the moments watching the trailer for her independent film as surreal, seeing the results of her hard work had her near tears.
An achievement that she is most proud of is using her voice to help benefit other people. It’s important to experience trials and tribulations because that is how we grow and become stronger. Takeaways are very important in life, allowing us to learn and give back our knowledge to encourage the right people when they are in need.
A challenge Mallette has faced is not having enough hours in the day. Her accelerated work ethic allows her to excel in specific areas instead of being mediocre in all areas. She is juggling life like an independent contractor; surviving and having a lifestyle that she can afford.
Motivation to Become an Entrepreneur
“It’s better to be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” – Judy Garland
Mallette respects authority but is not a fan of work environments and societal expectations. She doesn’t live by people’s rules because that’s when she feels her voice isn’t heard. She didn’t want to fall into the system and routine of corporate America. She wasn’t meant to be in an office which motivated her to become an entrepreneur. One thing she wished she had known as an entrepreneur was to start sooner. She was inspired to begin her indie film production company because she was tired of other people letting her down and not being considerate of her time. She needed the hustle to be harder, the challenges to be greater, and the rewards to be larger. She had more autonomy and ownership when it came to her own business.
Piece of Advice
Know your brand. We take it from the context of marketing because accountability is on us. You will not get as far as you want if you don’t learn to be uncomfortable with certain situations. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and be open to collaboration. Champion yourself, know how to network, and be ready to step out of your comfort zone.