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Meet Melissa Mel of The WoMi™ App

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Mel.

Melissa, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
After moving to LA from CT in 2018, I met so many amazing creatives & entrepreneurs chasing their dreams & *killing it!* I was both empowered to believe I could achieve more than I’d ever thought was possible, and inspired to become more intentional with my own spending and help others do the same to support small businesses over big brands.

At the beginning of 2019, I launched a weekly series on my Instagram Stories to shout out women + minority-owned small businesses & review their products, WoMi Small Biz. I started with Eniale Cosmetics, which was the first brand I modeled for in LA, and kept up with it for 5 seasons. Season 2 featured short IGTV interviews with local LA brick & mortars that offered safe spaces for marginalized communities, from Junior High LA to ComeUp LA.

I organized my Story Highlights to make it easier for people to browse the brand reviews and moved to a more stylized graphic approach once ordering from a new brand every week became too costly & timely with shipping worked in. But eventually, my highlights began to max out, so I started to think how else I could keep this up to be more useful. There are already sites with huge databases, & I wanted something that maintained the personal storytelling & ease of use right on mobile.

Quarantine measures & the fight for justice provided starter funds, time & drive to work out a solution. Between May & September, I worked through most nights to build The WoMi™ App, the first directory app for woman & minority owned small businesses, now available in App Store & Google Play!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I don’t exaggerate when I say, every half step forward was a step back. I’m a graphic designer by day with branding & UX experience, but I’d never built an app from scratch before & didn’t know anyone who had. It was all a step by step by re-do process, learning as I went along with Google & YouTube to guide me. There’s so much “they” don’t tell you about the process until you’re in it. A big example is in order to publish to the App Store as a business (without your first & last name out in the public), you to have an LLC – they don’t accept DBAs for business developer accounts. In California, that means an $800 fee four months after filing and every April for forever, regardless if your LLC is bringing in any money or not.

I thankfully partnered with a contractor to teach me the programming & she was great – she held on through like 4 of my “level 10 emergency” panics which is a feat in & of itself. But at the end of each panic, I had to figure out workarounds & get things done myself, which is just a very common lesson about entrepreneurship: no one else is going to care about your calling as much as you do. You can’t expect anyone, even if you’re paying them, to lose as much sleep as you will over your baby, so if it’s not something you can do 100% alone (which is rarely healthy or sustainable), relying on others requires leniency & adaptability on deadlines & details.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about The WoMi™ App – what should we know?
At the heart of WoMi is our mission of Accessible, Authentic Amplitude. In an economy where women & minorities face economic challenges & inequalities on a day to day basis, pursuing entrepreneurship despite the odds stacked against them is a feat worth celebrating & amplifying. Small businesses depend on our consistent support to survive these pandemic circumstances & to thrive beyond them. With our free app, we hope to encourage more authentic, intentional spending & amplify as many magical small businesses as possible all in one place!

The WoMi™ App is the first native directory app for women & minority-owned small businesses. The app allows you to browse small brands by industry (beauty to lifestyle to podcasts), founder (Black to woman to LGBTQ+ owned), process (sustainable to vegan to handmade), and location. Brands sign up for free & create a profile featuring their brand story, processes & website link.

What’s special about this directory is that Brands can offer exclusive discount codes for anything from 15% off to free shipping, whatever they can track & sustain. Shoppers can become WoMi Warriors for $8 a month & access ALL Brand discount codes!

To get more visibility for their product catalog, Brands can subscribe to a Premium Profile for $8 a month. This allows adding Featured Products to their profile, each with a unique link driving directly to newest releases or best sellers. Swap, edit & add products as often as it serves your Brand!

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I think patience, persistence & adaptability have been absolutely necessary throughout this journey. As much as I resisted at times, I had to accept that having things go right would take longer than having them go fast. There was so much I didn’t know that I didn’t know, which at times would get really overwhelming. But every single mini-milestone, I’d be in complete shock that I made it until it clicked that yea, I got here, and I can get to the next point that feels just as far as the last. And of course, adapting to whatever hurdles get tossed in from seemingly nowhere – they’re at this point a normal occurrence.

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