Mikey Rox Pursues His Passion

Mikey Rox (right) started his own company in New York City.

Mikey Rox (right) started his own company in New York City.

Young Roanoke alum starts his own business in New York City

For many college students nearing graduation, it is hard to imagine exactly what lies ahead and what the next segments of their lives may bring. For Mikey Rox­­­­ '03 (whose legal name is Michael Knipp; Rox unofficially altered it for professional purposes), circumstances may have changed over the course of the years. In his time at Roanoke College, though, he never once second-guessed what he wanted out of his life. He wanted to be a writer.

Though Rox is unrelentingly ambitious, the past few years haven't been uncomplicated. Employment has taken him to Roanoke, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and finally to his current home, New York City. A poor job market following Rox's graduation led him to a position where he worked for $250 a week and had no benefits. His career path has been on an upward spiral since that harsh starting point, however. He's landed positions as an assistant editor, a copywriter and a freelance journalist.

Rox experienced his first lucky break when Joey Coakley-Beck, then editor of City Magazine, accepted him into her team as an intern. Rox was the main music columnist for the southwest Virginia arts and entertainment publication for three years before leaving to fulfill his freelance writing ambitions.

"If it weren't for Joey taking a chance on me, I never would have built up my [portfolio] to show other publications what I was made of," Rox says. "Somebody has to be willing to take a chance on a kid, and in my case, it was Joey."

After leaving City, Rox created Line/Byline communications, which soon became a successful venture. Rox managed to create two syndicated entertainment columns and expand the number of publications in which he was published from 10 to more than 70.

Though he was thankful for the experience gained in each position following graduation, Rox knew he had a talent with words that wasn't being fully appreciated.

"I don't believe that anybody should stay at a thankless job just because it's a steady paycheck," Rox says. "The way I see it is that I get one shot at this life - and I'd prefer to do things my way. So I took the plunge."

Rox formed Paper Rox Scissors, a copy and creative consulting company in New York City, in the midst of a bad economy. He recognizes and appreciates that he has been able to pursue his passion so freely due to the support of his partner, who takes on the bulk of personal expenses, while Rox continues to work and grow as principal of his own company.

"It's been tough, but prospective clients keep calling and past clients keep coming back. I must be doing something right, which makes me hopeful for my future as a self-sustaining business owner," Rox says.

Though he's relocated several times and keeps busy building his company, Rox still has a strong connection to the College. He keeps in touch with all of his friends and a few staff and faculty, and he credits the College for allowing him to grow.

"I was interviewed for The Roanoke Times a few years back when a book in which I had a short story released," Rox says. "and I remember telling the reporter that Roanoke is where I grew up. Not physically, but mentally and emotionally."

At one point in his time at Roanoke, Rox questioned whether he would be able to return to the school. He recalls that Tommy Blair '85, director of financial aid, intervened on his behalf, helping Rox to get back on track. Rox points to Blair's support as one of the main reasons his College experience was so positive. "He went out of his way to ensure that I stayed where I belonged - at Roanoke College. And, for that act of kindness, I will be grateful always," Rox says.

"Those four years were some of the best of my life," Rox says. "They're times that I will remember fondly forever."

Ten years after Rox first stepped on Roanoke's campus, he is finding success by his own means. He is not sure what the next years will bring, but this young alumnus is determined to succeed. The Web page of Paper Rox Scissors explains why Rox started his company: "Words have power, and when combined with the other necessary components - eye-popping design and a strategic marketing plan - well-constructed creative can move mountains."

Rox's experience thus far has inspired him to give something in return. Through Paper Rox Scissor's new Community Change program, Rox's company has donated over $500 to several organizations since October. The online program was established to engage Facebook fans and encourage activism among the fan community Rox has built.

"My journey hasn't always been smooth sailing, [and] I've been lent a hand here and there," says Rox. "It's only fair that I pay it forward in how I live my daily life and how I run my business."

Rox not only has managed to start his own business in New York City doing something that he loves, but he also is giving back to the community. He may have left Roanoke upon graduation seven years ago, but it is evident that what he learned at the College has not left him.

For more information on Paper Rox Scissors, visit www.paperroxscissors.com.


About the Author

Megan Semmelman is a sociology major with a communications concentration from Pennsylvania. She is a student writer for Roanoke College Public Relations and is active on campus in several organizations, including Chi Omega and Relay for Life.

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