Melanie was born in New Jersey, but spent many of her childhood days in New York pursuing modeling. So much so that her and her family ended up moving to NYC. Right down the street from her grandmother, to be exact. Her mother and grandmother were also successful business women. As she shared stories with me, I could tell by her voice inflection and enthusiasm that those two women are a huge inspiration to her. Mel credits her savvy intellect to her grandmother. “When my friends would come over she would make me and my friends watch Jeopardy, then afterwards would have to take a Jeopardy quiz that she prepared for us. My grandma was pretty intense.”
I caught up with Melanie during Career Day at Delaware Valley Charter High School in Philadelphia. The coordinator invited us to speak with their seniors about college and entrepreneurship. Melanie was dressed for success. I was impressed by her confidence, wit, and public speaking prowess. Naturally, the girls adored Melanie’s work and the boys wanted my insight on the latest Nike’s. We fluently tag teamed the Q&A from the young men and women. Our teamwork was dope. Perhaps #HamptonMadeUsThisWay? It might even be time for us to take our 1,2 leadership punch on the road. Following the speaking sessions, we made our way to the banquet hall away from the commotion and found a suitable place for this week’s #ShineHard conversation.
What is your Passion and when did you know?
Mel: I just want to be successful in whatever I do. My passion is to earn money while still living life, having fun, and doing something that I can see other people appreciating.
I started doing accessories and bags around 23 because that’s what I wanted to do. I knew it was my passion after I started doing it. I really fell in love when I saw how much everyone else liked it and how good it made me feel. I think it was always my passion but that’s when I really put the Drive behind it.
Tell me about the brand MELANIE MARiE
Mel: MELANIE MARiE is an accessories line. Bags, bracelets, earrings, necklaces, hats, phone cases. It started out with hand bags and costume accessories but recently #MM has expanded to silver, gold, and rose gold accessories. I make trips to the post office 3-4 times a week to ship orders. Our premier bag right now is called the “Show Stopper.“
Who did you look up to growing up?
Mel: My mother and my grandmother.
My mother, she’s not an entrepreneur but she works in sales with chemical engineering. My mom does really well and we always had nice things because she worked hard. We were able to live and travel all the time and do fun stuff. The type of success I plan to emulate.
My grandmother, she’s such a strong woman! Her parents died when she was 13. She raised her 13 brothers and sisters by herself. She put herself through school at NYU. She’s an artist. I have always been inspired by her courage and her exquisite fashion.
I noticed your confidence in the classroom, not a stranger to the spotlight?
Mel: I’ve always been comfortable speaking in front of people. My mom let me do a bunch of speaking/modeling stuff when I was younger. My grandmother is a very articulate speaker. I practiced.
What motivates you to succeed?
Mel: I like to see that people enjoy what I do. Being able to make people happy and seeing that people accept my work. Touching peoples livesthrough fashion is what motivates me.
Johnny: With social media and the whole landscape of branding yourself…
What frustrates you the most about today’s culture?
Mel: How everyone thinks perception is reality. It annoys me that people are so brain warped into social media that they believe anything. Because there are people out here really doing “it” and they don’t get as much credit as the people out here defrauding.
Johnny: That’s so true. Why do people try to get maximum return for minimum effort? Somebody needs to tell the kids success is made in a slow-cooker not a microwave.
Tell me about the #MM Gems and Jewels program?
Mel: The mentor program I started for young girls 10-18. I got the idea from my experiences speaking at local schools. After the first time I spoke, all of them asked for my email. I was getting so many emails from those girls that I realized there was a need for this type of program. I mainly focus on one particular group home in the area. I give them an opportunity to meet new positive people.
What has been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur?
Mel: Ugh, Struggling! Not having any money. Like when I had the store I was broke. Every time I would make some good money I would be happy, but then I would just end up putting it back into the store. I learned how to pay myself. I had to budget like crazy.
What lessons have you learned from your business?
Mel: I learned time management and organization. Well I’ve always been good with those two but I’ve gotten much better. Oh yeah, discipline, budgeting!
Oh yeah! So what was it like meeting Drizzy Drake? New friends or Na?
Mel: So I get a text from Clue about a private birthday party. Me and my girlfriend hop in the car and drive all the way across Manhattan to get there. A good friend of mine works with Rap Radar and he wanted to introduce me. Drake told us he wasn’t taking pictures. It was cool, I understood. But then as I’m walking away he grazes my arm and asks to take a picture. I said “sure” but on the inside I was like “aaaaahhhh!”. Afterwards everyone was looking at me like “who is she??” It was great *giggles*.
Johnny: Sounds like new friends lol.
What is the #1 secret behind your success?
Mel: My personality. When I meet people I’m friendly, and very personable. I’m nice to everybody I meet and I feel like that leaves a lasting impression. The way I interact socially and how I treat people with kindness.
What advice would you give to the young aspiring entrepreneurs out there?
Mel: Never give up. A lot of people may try and persuade you to give up if they don’t share your same vision. You can’t quit. If you believe in yourself you have to keep going. If you fall, get back up and try again. The most successful people I know failed multiple times! Invest in your dream and just make sure you go as hard as you can. Never compare your success with others. Just do it the best way you know how.