Model Feature: Melissa St. John

Be Open to Possibilities

Melissa St. John’s career path as a business owner began with a simple tap on the shoulder.

She was a single mom of a one-year-old and seven-year-old, working at Relocation Strategies when her boss tapped her on the shoulder and asked if she’d like to buy the business. Melissa loved the business model to advocate for clients. She had worked for several other companies and eventually realized that she had gained the experience she needed to run a business from those jobs.

However, the road to becoming a successful business owner started off quite bumpy for Melissa. The day she bought the business was Nov. 1, 2007, which is often cited as the day the Great Recession started. She had emptied her 401k and all of her savings to buy the business despite her mom’s objection. She was eating ramen noodles for dinner nearly every night and was now faced with a business that lost every client because of the recession.

Most people would have let this crisis bring them down but Melissa had the guts to turn it around, and it’s paid off considering the business has grown 1,000% since then. Her team has managed successful relocations, renovations and reconfigurations for various clients and industries. She is beyond proud to have helped companies across Indiana and beyond boost their employee engagement and create more productive workspaces.

When you see Melissa at work or at a local business event, she’ll likely be in bright colors and a skirt. “I like being expressive in what I wear,” she says. “I’m always wearing skirts and high heels because I truly feel like I’m in my own skin and dressing for success.”

What advice does she have for someone who wants to start their own business?

“If you pick a career you love, it will never be work and you’ll get paid for doing what you love,” she says, citing what her dad always told her. “Also, you have to surround yourself with your own personal board of directors, people who have different strengths. Find people who can help your business grow and succeed. Identify your weaknesses or areas you’d prefer not to handle and hire people who excel at those skills. Smart people surround themselves with people who have knowledge that they don’t have,” Melissa explains. This will free your time to do what you are passionate about.

One of Melissa’s passions is giving back to the community. She feels it’s important to help others, paying forward the help she has received throughout her career. Melissa has made many donations to Dress for Success and loves the organization’s mission of helping women advance in their careers. While she’s been attending Stepping Out in Style for 10 years, this is the first year she’ll be a model.

Raising money for the American Heart Association, via the endowment she set up called Legacy of Life, is another cause that is near and dear to Melissa. She consistently advocates for this in honor of her daughter, who passed after open heart surgery from congenital heart defects.

Her reason for giving back is simple: “I feel really blessed,” she says. Melissa can relate to many of the women who work with Dress for Success after being a single mom for nearly 10 years and becoming a business owner while her kids were quite young. For the women who are just starting their career paths or are unsure of what job to pursue, she encourages them to “be open to possibilities, you never know who will tap you on the shoulder.”

Contributor: Jennifer Nelson, Content Specialist at KSGilmore Consulting LLC

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