We had the good fortune of connecting with Melissa Mel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melissa, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
For the past year & a half I’ve been shouting out, showing love to & supporting women & minority owned small businesses on Instagram. This was born out of inspiration from so many entrepreneurs I’d met & discovered since moving to LA, as well as an effort to be more conscious with my own spending & who that spending supports. Eventually, my IG highlights maxed out & I started to think how else I could be of service to the community while flexing my own design & entrepreneurial skills beyond social media. Can I propel this mission to make it easier for people to shop small & minority? Can I eliminate some of the barriers I’d come up against myself, like the amount of time spent searching for & researching small brands? Can I help integrate conscious shopping into consumers’ everyday life & routines? Having spent so much time surrounded by independent artists, entrepreneurs & business-savvy minds, attending workshops & webinars, I finally felt empowered enough to answer with a resounding YES. The next step was the How. My first instinct was a website, but then I discovered the world of code-less app building – something I’d long felt HAD to exist already, but never had a purpose to research further or invest in teaching myself the technology. Once I found a platform & built a business model around WoMi, and with the help of an independent contractor, two months later the app is built & open for Brand signups!
What should our readers know about your business?
The WoMi™ App is a directory of women & minority owned small businesses. From beauty brands to podcasts, vegan to handmade, Black owned to LGBTQ+ owned. It’s free for Brands to sign up & create a profile sharing the details of their business, their story, & linking out to their online shop. Shoppers can sign up & browse for free, or upgrade to WoMi Warrior to access exclusive brand discount codes. The ultimate goal is to make it as easy as possible for consumers to integrate shopping small into their lifestyle, while serving up a platform for small businesses to gain exposure & face-time with an engaged audience eager to support them. We offer visibility to all entrepreneurs that venture into an industry that often overlooks & underfunds them solely based on their gender identity, race or orientation. Now more than ever, ownership & group economics are shifting how we spend & invest, and this is another way to move the needle away from big box brands’ shady practices & into the communities that fight for opportunities that should be just as much their birthright. Building this brand & platform has been a rollercoaster of emotions, setbacks & breakthroughs, and we’re only 3 months in! There’s an entrepreneurial mindset to pivot & push that no amount of reading or research can prepare you for until you put foot to ground & just START. Prioritizing where you put your energy is key when it comes to keeping things moving. When it’s all new to you, imposter syndrome can be the death of any idea. I’ve had to flex my abilities to let go of certain details & focus my energy on the areas I can affect, and appreciating every milestone regardless of size. Every new step that gets accomplished, I make sure to take in just how far from zero I’ve come, and that’s inspiration enough to keep pushing to the next one.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I’d definitely recommend a few mural tours, starting in Long Beach & hitting up Roscoe’s & Retro Row while you’re there. The cafes & book shops in Leimert Park are another must, plus Hilltop Cafe. I’ve kept a running list of restaurants recommended to me since I’ve moved to LA – I haven’t even made a dent but I know another must is Ricky’s Fish Tacos. When outside opens up, hit a Soulful Sunday at Comfort LA & a Brunch 2 Bomb for the best vibes & best people! And for sure a ComeUp LA market for more vibes, great food & tons of Black small businesses to support.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have so many mentors that likely don’t know I’m their mentee! From the soul-homes that are a vessel of inspiration and resources to everyone around them, to the friends that offer unwavering support & encourage every endeavor I set my eyes on, to the social media besties whose authenticity, career and gusto I idolize and aim to emulate. Off top there are four people, all entrepreneurs and creators in their own right, that fit all those bills: Cameron Miller of comedy collective Dormtainment; Louis Hatcher of Green Bench Comedy & future founder; Tony Jones, future Michelin star chef (@strugglechefpapi); and Zoila Darton of Word Agency & Our House media. Plus the friends who always show love & signed up for my first ever mailing list before I had anything worth emailing about – all creatives, too! – Alexandra @alexandra.nicholson, Marvin @marvintelp, KC @chefkccardwell, Eleni @elenidigitaldesigns & Destiny @d3stiiic, love ya’ll! And no doubt, my family back East who are never more than a call away from a grounding vent-session or pep-talk. There is no match to surrounding yourself with people & content that build you up. To that end I also want to mention Morgan Debaun, founder of Blavity, as her WorkSmart program has offered so many resources & opportunities to entrepreneurs of color, including the free workshop that inspired my dive into app building. And of course every single minority owned small business I’ve come into contact with – your magic inspires me most!
Other: Learn More about The WoMi App: http://shopwithwomi.com Sign Up for The WoMi App: http://womi.app Follow on IG: http://instagram.com/shopwithwomi Mel’s Website: http://meltifaceted.com Mel’s IG: http://instagram.com/meltifaceted