For as long as I can remember, a sense of autonomy has been my nature. As a little girl at family gatherings, I was always the one off to the side doing my own thing. The thrill of freedom somehow spoke to my spirit. As an adult, traveling the world and exploring new ideas without bounds became my new obsession. My inner core felt so much joy in knowing that I could explore, dream and the possibilities of my thoughts and imagination would be endless; I guess that was the inner artist within me. After getting accepted into my dream college- Fashion Institute of Technology and briefly studying fine arts at Parsons New School, I thought I was on the fast track to all of my dreams coming true. I recall in college making my own class schedule. Fridays was the day I took off to have this freedom, Monday through Thursday I booked as many classes as I possibly could. I would start 12 noon and end at 10 pm.
Needless to say that sense of freedom quickly faded after graduating. I had a “real job” 1 month before graduation… My title was production assistant. I thought I had made it big, I had my very own desk, computer and a password only I knew. I stayed at that company for only 6 months due to high stress and roughly 10 employees quitting within a 2-month period. Not what I expected my first year out of college to be.
After that period, I decided to grow my experience despite the often cutthroat environment of the apparel industry, and from there I had a series of different positions from production and design to technical design and development, moving up in tasks, requirements and salary. My most cherished categories were women’s and children’s apparel. I stayed in corporate fashion for over 10 years before I decided to leave. I still remember the day I left. I walked out with my head held high knowing that I would make this work. This being an idea to have my very own design studio and after years of regulations, budgets, setbacks, mass market and creative moderation, I rediscovered my passion from childhood.
That was true art, freedom and autonomy. It wasn't the art or fashion that was restricting, it was the way I was involved. In working with any large mass market, there are definitely politics involved. You quickly learn how to navigate through the deep waters. I knew my energy would be better spent elsewhere.
For the past 2+ years I have been working as Design Director and CEO of my very own design studio, Melissa Mendez Design Studio. I have had the pleasure of working with apparel companies on my terms and also really fun and creative design work for startups. At the end of the day we can all find our passion, but we must be consistent and follow our hearts. Our hearts are always speaking to us. Taking a moment to listen can absolutely change your world. I don’t know where I would be today if I had not listened to that pull on my heart for something more. It took me over 10 years to finally make that leap, but all is not lost. In fact none is lost. I use many of the skills I learned in my years at corporate in my design studio. From communicating my skills to listening to what it is my clients want. I often get questions about production, design, starting a clothing line and threw that opened up my business to a whole new dynamic. Coaching for startups and apparel companies. In addition, I began an online community called Women Crafting Success, where women come together to learn, share ideas and grow their business.
If I can influence just one person, one women to step out on their dreams today, I would highly encourage that they do so. There is no time like the present and yes you will make mistakes. But just know that mistakes are here to help us not hurt or shame us into giving up.
Melissa Mendez is a Small Business Owner and Coach to entrepreneurs and startups looking to grow their business. Melissa through her design studio offers an array of design services to help startups grow and maintain their business with industry expert advice and skill. Together her and her team have over 22 years design experience. Along with her studio Melissa created a wonderful international community of women who think outside the box and work together to help one another achieve their business goals. When Melissa is not working, she is reading board books to her son, or catching up with family and friends over dinner and wine.