Petaluma businesswoman designs a creative career

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Heather Mackin, a Petaluma cancer survivor and arts patron, was creative even at a young age. Growing up in the Bay Area, she would play “store” instead of “house,” selling her creations, such as purses, pillows and jewelry door to door in her neighborhood.

Her interest in creating and shaping the space around her led to a career as a commercial interior designer.

“I grew up in the furniture world in San Francisco and was always redesigning my room, the house, really any space,” said Mackin, 44. “I knew many interior designers growing up.”

Her career in interior design proved fruitful, until the recession that began in 2008 made work scarce.

“There was no design happening,” she said. “I had to pivot on my business education and got into marketing. I fell in love with marketing and saw much of my strategic problem-solving from design was transferable to marketing efforts of businesses.”

Mackin parlayed her creativity and business skills into creating a new venture that combined them both, Mackin Creative. Upon her move to Petaluma in 2010, she became involved in community activism, offering her talents to several local agencies and services.

It didn’t take long for Mackin’s associates to take notice of her work ethic and creativity. She was named one of the 40 Under 40 by the North Bay Business Journal in 2012.

“I was nominated for the award by my then-employer,” she said. “I believe I was selected for this award for my efforts in advocating for economic development in the North Bay through my work with the International Interior Design Association, Northern California. I lobbied to create a sub-chapter of this national commercial interior design professional organization to the North Bay, thus highlighting the design community and the workplace growth happening in the North Bay.”

Due to her efforts, a sub-chapter of the group officially launched in 2014. She currently supports the organization’s graphics and communications efforts throughout the North Bay, and she is slated to be its director in 2018.

Serving as president of Professional Marketing Group-North Bay in 2015, Mackin was responsible for leading their 10-person, all-volunteer board to prepare for their rebranding and comprehensive membership initiative, both launched in 2016.

Currently sitting on the board of the Petaluma Arts Center, Mackin has been engaged in their marketing efforts for their Advancing the Arts fundraising campaign as well as serving on the steering committee for the center’s inaugural gala.

Mackin has accomplished all of this while beating Hodgkin’s lymphoma and becoming pregnant six weeks after her last radiation treatment. She gave birth to a daughter, then endured a divorce and has raised her daughter as a single parent. Mackin thrived, despite those two large stressors, and said they have made her stronger.

“Both have completely changed the trajectory of my life in ways that I never would have imagined,” she said. “I am grateful for it all — the painful and the joyous.”

Setting an example for her daughter of a strong, creative, engaged, compassionate human being is Mackin’s focus, she said.

“She is my everything and if I can help model this role for her then I have succeeded,” she said. “I have learned that I am most alive when I am authentically being me. I am a strong, ambitious, creative thinker with a soft, sensitive heart. I believe good always wins over evil and I believe in compromise over force. I believe change happens best from the inside out rather than from the outside in.”

Mackin points to her mother for giving her the tools to be successful in life.

“My mother is a huge inspiration for me,” she said. “She has a keen business sense passed down from my grandmother, coupled with a commitment to service. At 45, she attended college for the first time and reinvented herself, ultimately receiving a Master of Social Work degree. She has dedicated her life to helping the most vulnerable humans, often in times of crisis. She has a quiet strength that is completely opposite of my extroversion and yet I see so much of her in me.”

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