Here is the second post in the Passion For Change series – meeting people who made a significant change in their lives to pursue a passion, or to simply live a life that feels more authentic. This is another great success story of someone who decided to pursue a very different career path in her thirties.
Melissa has sparkling blue eyes, and one of those laughing smiles that just makes you feel happy when you’re around her. She’s also very tall.
She thinks it was being tall that may have led to her love of fashion. Because of her height she was used to hearing people tell her ‘You should be a model’. But, she says, she was awkward and had bad skin, so modelling wasn’t for her – it did get her following models and fashion magazines though. (She has lovely skin now by the way.)
To compensate for her feelings of awkwardness, she found a way to get creative with the clothes she wore and became known for the unique styles she put together. She was something of a trendsetter here in small-town Indiana.
But stop – hold it there a second. Fashion wasn’t to become her path in life until much later on. First we need to talk about being a pharmacist.
Doing The Right Thing
Like many of us, Melissa grew up doing what she believed was ‘the right thing’. The daughter of two hard-working parents (her dad a successful business owner, her mom had a high-level role at Indiana University), she worked to be the best at everything she did. She wanted to live up to her Dad’s high expectations knowing that the goal was to land a well-paying job that would offer life security.
Sports, grades in school – she gave it her all and was successful, eventually making her way into medical school.
In her heart of hearts, Melissa knew it wasn’t what she wanted, but felt pressured to continue on ‘the right path’. She was not enjoying medical school and made a change to pharmacy instead. While she didn’t dislike it as much as medical school, she didn’t love it either.
“Deep down I knew I loved something else – being creative. I loved styling clothes, but as far as I knew you couldn’t make a career out of that. I told myself, let that be your hobby and continue on with your career.”
So she graduated, pursued her career as a pharmacist and made the best of it.
In 2013, Melissa and her family moved to California. While they were only there for a year and a half, it proved to be an eye-opening experience for Melissa. She saw something there that she wasn’t accustomed to seeing in the Mid-West. Entrepreneurship, creatives, people following their passions and making it work.
It was this experience that lit the spark in Melissa. She had grown up seeing her dad making the rules in his own business and thought that was pretty cool – the idea that she could run her own business was starting to take hold.
The return to Indiana sealed to deal. Back to the old routine, Melissa started to feel more and more miserable. “The unhappiness started to spill into my family life – there was not a lot of joy in things and I felt like I was living Groundhog Day” she says.
She knew she wanted to find a way to make money selling fashion, but didn’t have any specific direction. An invite to a LulaRoe pop-up party was the next pivotal moment. For anyone that hasn’t heard of it, LulaRoe is women’s clothing line that distributes using a multi-level marketing model. She saw the party host was making money selling clothing and she knew this was exactly what she was going to do.
After carrying out research into the company, Melissa made her mind up. Discussions followed – with her parents and with her husband. She and her husband had just purchased a new home and had a mortgage to think about, but she was determined that she would do whatever it would take to make it work.
She decided to jump, and it was Steve Harvey’s motivational words about making that leap that really rang true for her once she had made up her mind.
“I remember telling my district supervisor. I was embarrassed about telling him what I was going to do – that he’d think less of me. That was hard. He was nice about it but I think he thought I’d be back.”
Melissa is determined that she won’t be going back however. She set herself the goal of making the same income running her own business as she was as a pharmacist. She’s even surprised herself at how hard she’s working to achieve that. “I was in the shower the other day and I thought to myself ‘Man! 35 is a good year for me!’ I always knew I was a hard worker but I didn’t know it was my self-motivation. I’ve learned there’s a lot deep down in me, that I can motivate myself to work this hard. It sounds so cheesy, but I always thought it came from somewhere else, like my parents or my spouse – but I’ve learned that it comes from me!”
She started by selling LulaRoe clothing online and via Facebook live sales. It was there that she began to build a following and finally got to realize her passion of styling outfits for women.
After a time, she moved over to a new clothing line called Agnes & Dora which felt like a better fit for her – she has more control over the pieces she orders. She sees both companies as stepping stones toward her ultimate dream of owning her own boutique.
Naturally there are many benefits to her new career. “It’s wonderful being my own boss, being in control of my success and my schedule. If my daughter has a school event at 4pm, I know I can be there. I can say yes to so many more things now.”
“I love the sense of accomplishment that I feel now, that I can put in the hard work and then realize the benefits. It wasn’t always like that as a pharmacist”.
The Power Of Why
Melissa also loves the opportunity to inspire and empower other women who want to make change. “When I hear other women saying ‘I wish I could do that’, I can truthfully say ‘Yes, it’s possible’”.
As with anything though, it’s not all sunshine and roses. “I put in 40 to 60 hours a week, but I work every weekend. In the beginning it was scary every day, and it is still a roller coaster. At least once a week I question what I’m doing and wonder if I’m going to fail. But the next day always brings it back, I remember my deep-rooted WHY.”
It was Simon Sineck’s Ted Talk on inspirational leaders and the power of WHY that Melissa returns to as a source of motivation. And honestly, if you watch any of Melissa’s live sales on Facebook, you definitely buy into her brand as much as the clothes she’s selling – you can tell she loves building connections and making women feel beautiful. “If it was just about the money, I would have gone back to the pharmacy.”
One thing Melissa does miss from her ‘old life’ is the structure that she had in her role. Working from home and the varying hours can sometimes make it difficult to stay focused. To combat that, Melissa has implemented a few habits to keep her on track:
“I no longer check my messages as soon as I get up. I wait until after I have the kids to school and get to it at 9am. I also set up my schedule in hour blocks and make sure I have a break at lunch time – else I don’t make it much past 3pm.”
Just Get Started
I asked Melissa what tips she has for other people who also might be considering making ‘The Jump’. “Take some time to investigate what it is you really love” she says, “And then when you know what that thing is, try and stick to it – don’t try and be all things to everybody. Be consistent. And be authentic. There’ll always be someone who relates to you.”
She also recommends speaking to other people that have done the same thing, to allow you to begin laying some groundwork. But in the end, you just have to take action. “You can overplan to the max and write out 400 business plans, but in the end you just have to get started.”
I finished by asking Melissa if she’d learned anything new about herself since taking the leap. “I’ve noticed that I fall into the comparison trap a lot. It’s something about having my own business, I compare myself to other women and I need to get over that because it can bring me down.”
Here was the best thing I heard Melissa say though: “I learned I’m beautiful – I never really felt that before. Maybe it’s just being able to be myself. I just had this professional picture taken and when I saw it, it was such an a-ha moment – this is a happy person that I see in the picture. I can finally say to myself ‘You’re good enough’.”