The Story Behind WEofC
BY MELISSA BARKER, Founder
I've had the honor and privilege of working with some of the world's most valuable and iconic brands: The Coca-Cola Company, Sears, The Weather Channel, FIFA World Cup, and The Olympics.
But when I moved from Atlanta to Charleston, SC in March of 2015, I decided to bring my experience in enterprise-level marketing to startups and small-to-medium sized businesses, by launching my very first company, MEL BAR MAR.
During the first two-and-a-half years of running by business I experienced immense joy, extreme despair, and everything in between. I made money, lost money, was brilliant, was out-bid, and was pushed to my limits.
I discovered that while I was quite good at marketing, I lacked many of the skills I needed to run a company.
I spent hours behind my computer sorting through startup blogs, buying business books, sitting through webinars, and reluctantly latching on to those more experienced than me and kind enough to give me advice.
I attended any meet-up, happy hour, networking group, and conference that had the word "start-up," "women," or "entrepreneur" in it -- often at the sake of time home with my son -- but there was still a tremendous gap for me.
I couldn't help but think... there has to be a better way. There has be a way that I can get answers to the questions I have and overcome challenges faster. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.
Being a business owner has given me 3 incredible gifts:
- Personal Fulfillment
I was able to turn an idea in my head into my livelihood and that is humbling and incredibly fulfilling.
- Financial Freedom
When I moved from Atlanta to Charleston I faced a likely $50,000 pay cut due to the market variance in my industry. Starting my business allowed me to overcome this chasm and take control of my financial future.
- Time Freedom
Flexibility of my work hours means missing out on less with my family and the things I enjoy most.
I decided to focus on Charleston because I believe that while there is tremendous value in the mass reach that technology provides through online forums and social networks, there is little that can replace women gathering in a single place with a single purpose. I also believe local city dynamics are a major influence on the small businesses in which they are born out of.
Despite the advantages of business ownership, only 36% of businesses are women-owned. And, I believe there are unique differences in women and men interact, learn, and share information that were important for me to capture.
Finally, I believe there should be a place where learning and knowledge exchange can take place in a way that aligns with the demanding schedule of a woman business owner. And, because I believe that if I had had access to a community like WEofC when I started my business I would have run a more profitable, more efficient business, even faster. And that is what will make more women embrace the benefits of entrepreneurship.