As a part of the Morning Lazziness series about empowering women who are encouraging and doing incredible things with their ideas in society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Jones.
Melissa Jones is a global leader, international speaker, girls empowerment coach, and highly effective licensed classroom teacher who helps girls learn positive daily habits to feel confident in who they are and connect with other girls in an empowering environment. She has motivated and cultivated connections among hundreds of girls and provides families with resources she has created through over 22,680 hours of experience.
After noticing patterns in girls across four different school environments related to struggles with self-esteem and confidence, and having struggled into adulthood with low self-esteem and lack of confidence and strategies herself, she now uses her personal transformation and research with experience-based strategies to elevate girls to live their best life while linking arms in a community centered around growth and empowerment. Melissa uses techniques that are responsive to each group of girls’ unique needs in creative and engaging activities that motivate girls to take action toward feeling confident and empowered, focusing on their strengths instead of their challenges.
Here’s what we found out about Melissa’s inspiring journey, followed by an exclusive Q+A.
It’s an honor to speak with you today. I would love to know more about your story and your background. Please give us some details about your journey as a digital entrepreneur.
Girls Positivity Club started because I was a girl who struggled with a lack of confidence way back in 3rd grade, but I suffered in silence, not knowing how to truly love myself and believe that I was “good enough” compared to other girls. My parents were loving and supportive of me and got me involved in sports and other activities, but it didn’t help me on the inside. Even though I talked with my mom about how I felt, I needed something more that I couldn’t name. I cried in school so much that I was quickly viewed as a crybaby for many years because I didn’t know how to empower myself from the inside. My lack of self-love and confidence worsened in middle and high school, which took me to my darkest place. One day I was sitting on the edge of my parent’s bed, holding a gun in my hand. I don’t know if I was ever going to use it, and I had never had those thoughts to that extreme, but I was at a loss for what to do. I felt alone and rejected because I didn’t feel I had anything to offer the world. Luckily, my mom walked in on me and saved my life. She found a therapist to help me learn some skills, and I started applying the tools to believe in myself a little at a time.
Over my 23-year teaching career, I have seen the same issues for girls in my classroom that I struggled with no matter the school (small town, urban, suburban, private). I decided it was time to do something about it and pitched the idea to my current 4th-grade girls by getting them together at lunchtime a couple of times a week to teach them how to have confidence in their daily lives in simple ways. This was when Girls Positivity Club was born (the girls named). It has grown from a lunchtime club to a youth organization centered around bringing girls together in a fun and positive environment simply for being themselves and teaching them ways to be confident, self-aware, and find their power. I now reach girls digitally and in-person through clubs in California, Indiana, Illinois, Florida, and Africa. Going digital taught me that I can really do this work anywhere in the world and that I am not limited to the girls in my immediate community but can have an impact and teach girls anywhere in the world.
What do you specialize in, and why should someone choose you over your competitors in your field?
Girls Positivity Club is centered around advancing girls’ confidence, self-awareness, and power. My organization is unique because I’ve not only lived what it feels to be average and invisible, but the lessons I’ve written for the girls are based on both my life experience and also with over 23 years of experience working with girls and their life experiences. Everything I create is designed around building a positive community for girls where girls feel valued for who they are and where they learn how to express themselves in creative ways and where they belong to a community that is positive, uplifting, and year-round. What makes my girls’ empowerment organization different is that girls can join as young as 5 years old and can stay in the community all the way through high school, so it offers long-term support during an entire year of their life. It is a fun and support system that teaches them how to learn how to build their confidence in simple ways to see their value and the gifts they have to offer the world using creative outlets such as arts and crafts, movement, and hands-on connection activities. It is as affordable as a music subscription and is run by women in girls’ local communities worldwide.
What’s your piece of advice for readers who want to achieve wealth and success in life?
Success to me is believing in yourself every day, and even when you make mistakes or have failures getting back up and learning from it. The more wealth someone achieves, the more they can help others. I believe that when you make more, you can help more girls. Success is getting your hopes up and taking steps toward having a positive impact on those around you, which has a ripple effect on the world. Wealth can be measured in multiple ways and to attain wealth to me is for girls to see their potential and to see the value they have in the world. To have wealth in money will help me do more good in the world, which is the ultimate goal.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder, but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
I think women should become founders because women are showing girls that they can do big things in the world. We are told to “follow your dreams” all through growing up, but I think somewhere along the way, women start to doubt it because most of the people who are celebrated for starting the biggest companies or corporations have been men. We need more women showing that girls and other women can achieve big dreams, and the more women who are stepping up to take risks and go for them, the more opportunity opens up for the possibility of change.
Another reason to have women founders is to show our own children that they can do hard things. I think it’s good for your children to see their moms go through the process of building something from scratch. They see in real-time the perseverance, determination, and flexibility in pivoting when things don’t go right, as well as the little and big successes along the way. It shows our own children that being a founder.
Becoming a founder to me is about not giving up when there are things that go unexpectedly, when you fail, when you don’t know who to ask for help, and when you have a great win or momentum, figuring out ways to make it even better. You have to bet on yourself and forgive yourself for failures fast and keep going anyway. Entrepreneurship is about stepping into unknowns and doing things over and over again with little tweaks and changes to help your audience/clients. There are days when it would be so much easier to give up, but entrepreneurship is about pushing through those moments because you care about helping others and for me, my why runs really deep, which is why I chose perseverance to describe entrepreneurship.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
One myth is that you have to have it all figured out to become a founder. The biggest lesson I have learned is that I really am figuring things out as I go and have to have perseverance like I never had before. Being a founder to me is about not giving up when there are things that go unexpectedly, when you fail, when you don’t know who to ask for help, and when you have a great win or momentum, figuring out ways to make it even better. You have to bet on yourself and forgive yourself for failures fast and keep going anyway.
Being a founder is about stepping into unknowns and doing things over and over again with little tweaks and changes to help your audience/clients. There are days when it would be so much easier to give up, but entrepreneurship is about pushing through those moments because you care about helping others and for me, my why runs really deep, which is why I chose perseverance to describe entrepreneurship.
What’s your piece of advice for people who want to quit their 9-5 job and start a business?
I think you should try it out while you are also working a 9-5 first. I worked on the Girls Positivity Club for 3 years while I was still teaching elementary school full time. It is a lot of work and really feels like you are doing 2 full-time jobs at the same time, but it also helps you develop the foundation of your business while you have the stability of a 9-5. I am now stepping into my full business time, which is still a risk, but I figured out what it would take to do this full work time, rather than guessing and struggling blindly if I would have taken the chance in the beginning and having no experience. At least now, I’ve learned what didn’t work and where to go when I need help along the way. I’ve surrounded myself with the right people to help guide me.
Coming to the main part- has the pandemic affected your business, and what have you learned from it?
After going from an all-in-person after-school club for girls, I had to make a huge pivot last year to go all virtual. I had to teach myself everything about running an online business in a very short time span so that I could still support the mental health of the girls I was already working with within my clubs. Today, I have a coaching business and run weekly clubs for girls. I have learned a lot of lessons along the way and am still learning how to serve my audience and expand my reach for connecting girls around positivity and empowerment.
Where do you see yourself and your business in five years?
In five years, I see Girls Positivity Club reaching hundreds of thousands, if not millions of girls, in communities around the world. We will have a team of female leaders focused around growing our mission to give girls the tools to achieve anything they want in life. We will have developed opportunities for women and girls to give back to their communities by becoming leaders. I will have a product line of clothing that will be inclusive to all girls, no matter their body type, and that is empowering to wear. I will travel the world speaking to girls and women about the power of believing in themselves and will help develop programs to take girls through the process of living a life that is happy and surrounded by people who are helping them be their best selves.
What is your favorite mantra or affirmation that you say to yourself to keep you going?
One of my favorite mantras is to say to myself, “Keep on going.” It’s simple and applies to any part of my life. As a founder. As a woman. As a mother. As a wife. If I believe more than anything else that the work I’m doing for girls is my calling in life, then no matter what, I have to keep on going, even through mistakes, sacrifices, late nights, and times of doubt when I don’t know what I’m doing, when I need to take the next scary step, in any area of my life. I tell myself that I can keep on going, and it changes my mindset instantly. One of the biggest things you have to do as a founder and as a person is to be your own encourager first, and ‘keep on going’ is the inner voice that helps me keep moving forward toward reaching my dreams.