By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, www.writerruth.com
A native of Haiti who has become such a confirmed Rochesterian that he now prefers local weather to tropical climes, Michel "Mike" Frantz Molaire
of Penfield, owner of Molaire Consulting LLC
, is a dedicated RPCN member with a well-conceived consulting business based on a long-term career at Kodak.
Molaire's primary consulting business is "basically technical," he says. "I help clients develop new materials and put them into formulations. They're often developing new products. I help them plan to fit into their timeline and budget. I provide advice and sometimes help their staff implement the project."Here is a video interview with Mike where he explains his relationship with RPCN.
His consulting firm helps clients develop materials, coatings, processes and formulations for high-tech applications, including polymer coating development, nano materials, pigment dispersions and dip coat processes. According to his company website, "We can generate new materials for lab experiments, pilot development and ultimately production, working with our partners. We conceive, provide, formulate and develop materials for high-technology applications. We are currently working with international and domestic clients on formulation improvement and materials reverse engineering projects."
That may seem like a lot to offer, but Molaire brings a substantial level of skill, training and experience to his consulting business. He absorbed much of that background as a chemist in materials and formulation research and development at Kodak for 36 years, where his job was to invent things - and he did just that. "I have more than 50 U.S. and 120 international patents," he says. Kodak helped him enhance his education while working; he earned his BS and MA at the University of Rochester and also was in the Executive Development Program. "I was using what I was learning as I was learning," he said. In November 2012, he was recognized by the Museum of African-American History as one of 100 "Inspiring Minds: African-Americans in Science and Technology."
Molaire is originally from Haiti and joined his mother and younger brother in the U.S. at 21 as a college student. He always knew he wanted to be a chemist and attended a school in New York City from which Kodak used to hire, but almost missed the opportunity to work there. "I moved right after graduation," he recalled, "and it took them three months to find me." He accepted a job in Rochester thinking that "I would get experience and then go back to New York City - and here I am, still in Rochester!"
Molaire launched his consulting business about a year ago. "Officially, I'm a retiree - I was eligible (to retire), but was actually downsized," he said. "I didn't see it coming, because I was on a hot project and thought it would continue for another two years or so." Ironically, he and his wife, a chemical technician, were laid off from Kodak within 10 minutes of each other on the same day, but she was ready to retire, while he preferred to keep working.
Molaire's reaction to leaving Kodak was typical of many RPCN members. "As soon as it happened, my primary thing was to find a new job," he said. Also like many RPCN colleagues, Molaire's lengthy history of employment worked against him in a job hunt; prospective employers were reluctant to pay what he was worth. For that reason, "I also looked for consulting work - it gives you freedom; you can go anywhere," he said. "I had always thought I might do that, and aimed at whichever came first."
The first client for Molaire's consulting business was a company in South Korea, proof that a consultant "can do the work without leaving home or moving."
One way Molaire promotes his business is to focus on his inventive streak by using his patents and publications to demonstrate what he can do. Although he might add employees to his business in the future, Molaire is currently a one-person shop. "That means I can be lean and keep costs down." He connects with people whose expertise complements his own skillset as needed, through resources such as RPCN, LinkedIn, and contacts he has developed over his years in the field and membership in other professional organizations, such as the American Chemical Society, Society of Imaging Science & Technology, Association of Consulting Chemists & Chemical Engineers Inc., August Group and Digital Rochester. He has served as president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers and as a member of the Kids on Track Committee of the United Way of Greater Rochester.
Molaire prepared for consulting by reading. "Whenever I get into anything, what I do first is find the best book on the subject," he said. "Typically, I buy my books because I mark them up - it helps the information register in my mind and find details when I go back to them." He looked into the Labor Department's Self-Employment Assistance Program (SEAP), which was how he learned about RPCN. "I started going to every Friday meeting," he said. "I also went to every SCORE meeting. It all helps."
He formed an LLC and established a policy of requesting 25% down before starting a new project (especially from overseas clients), after finding that contracts are not quite enforceable outside the U.S. if a company does not have a U.S. base or assets.
All that research helped Molaire realize that consulting can be a feast-or-famine experience, so he also indulges a lifelong interest in photography (houseKALLfotography). "I've been into photography since age 15 - I would take photos at school events, make booklets or proofs, and sell them to fellow students," he said. "I was also a wedding photographer while in school in New York City. I always meant to start a photography business when I left Kodak. It's another source of income - I use it to fill in when I'm not busy with consulting."
RPCN has made important contributions to Molaire's consulting business. He has learned a lot about technical and general business matters from the group's meetings, conferences and other events. Among other practical details, he learned about the Pinterest technology from an RPCN presentation and promptly applied it to his website, using it to share illustrations from his patent documentation to better promote his business. (See http://pinterest.com/molaireconsult/
). "They are the best way to show people what I've done and can do for them now," he said. "I can cite them because they're public information."
"Learning what other people are going through and hearing answers to questions that I would never have thought of asking has been invaluable," Molaire said of RPCN sessions. "You may think something is your question, but it relates to all of us. By asking something, you aren't only helping yourself, you're helping everyone, so don't be shy about asking questions."
In return for the benefits he has experienced, Molaire now serves as program chair and board member, which helps both RPCN and his own networking efforts. He would like to see more RPCN members link to each other's websites and business pages and publicize each other's events, to help make each other more visible and gain more traffic to their online presences. "I'm trying to get members to do more toward supporting each other," he said.
Mike Molaire is also an author and publisher. He published the African-American Who's Who, Greater Rochester Area
and the African-American Who Was First, Greater Rochester Area
in 1998. His poetry book, Shadow of Dreams
, was published in 1995. He is currently updating the African-American Who's Who
RPCN member Ruth E. Thaler-Carter is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and proofreader. She can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com.