When deciding who to feature in my first spotlight, Melanie was the obvious choice. I am so grateful to have connected with her when I was an undergraduate student leader at FSU, and she visiting as an FSU Alumni. She is the founder of Spread Your Sunshine, a female-owned inspirational products, keynote speaking, and consulting small business. Melanie's niche products and services inspire recipients to believe in how fabulously awesome and uniquely talented they are! Melanie gifted me with Chiamanda Ngozi Adichie's book, We Should All Be Feminists, which became an influence on my inclusive and embracing definition of feminism.
Learn more about Spread Your Sunshine here:
I hope you enjoy getting to know her below. Melanie embodies the Lift & Be Uplifted philosophy and is impacting our community in such a positive way!
1. Rarely is someone's journey linear. Can you explain what you wanted to be when you grew up, and how your career landed where it is right now?
Sometimes it’s joked that I became a lawyer because of the picture taken of my 4-year-old pre-school class on “Career Day.” Generally, everyone in the photo is a doctor, lawyer, police officer or fireman. Not because those were the only available occupations or the only roles for which we would be skilled, but because those were the jobs about which we knew. Children born in the 1980’s, like me, were raised and mentored by parents and grandparents who were often loyal to one employer their entire career. The word “entrepreneur” was nonexistent. If you did well in school, the path was to continue onto grad school and enter a traditional career. Obediently, I dressed as a lawyer for Halloween when I was eight, went to law school at twenty-two, and practiced law full-time from 2007-19.
Also in 2017, I formed Spread Your Sunshine, a then passion project with a mission to expand my mentoring capabilities and build confidence in others, particularly professional women. Over the following two years, Spread Your Sunshine grew into an inspirational keynote speaking, consulting and products company that empowers audiences throughout the US and Canada. Reflecting on this journey, I realized that while I am a good lawyer, there are lots of good lawyers. My unique skillset is helping others overcome the fear of failure and believe in themselves. While my legal background is the foundation of my Spread Your Sunshine work, had the career that best fit my personality and skills been critically analyzed earlier, I may have sooner realized that being an attorney was not an ideal full-time profession for me.
Reaching this conclusion, in 2019, I resigned from serving as an Equity Shareholder and Tampa Office Managing Partner of the firm at which I worked for thirteen years. I transitioned to an Of Counsel role at a law firm with an entrepreneurial culture that allows me to serve my legal clients well while affording me the opportunity to spend significant time “spreading my sunshine.” It is the best of both worlds and a true blessing to have pivoted the trajectory of my career to meaningfully serve my community and focus on my life’s work.
2. Which single word do you most identify with?
3. What is the biggest barrier you experienced as a woman in your career?
Monetizing my hard work.
4. What advice would you give other women going into the professional world?
Have at least one strong professional male mentor. Research shows that mentorship by someone of the opposite gender has significant benefits. This has certainly been true during my career and helped me navigate difficult business challenges with which I would have otherwise struggled.
5. Go-to ice cream flavor?
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. So good!
6. How do you define what it means to be a woman?
Empathy, diverse perspective and unleashed power. Oftentimes, women humanize and bring compassion to life’s events. In this way, and many others, we diversify group perspective, especially in industries where to date, more than 80% of leadership and owner roles have been male-dominated and not benefitted from a woman or minority at the helm. It is incredible thinking about how the world will continue changing for the better once women and minorities gain access to such positions and have the opportunity to exert their influence.
7. What do you think holds women back in the professional world?
Lack of self-confidence and dwelling on the past instead of learning from and acting on it. Generally, women do what it takes to improve their physical health and appearance – eating healthier, going to the gym, getting more rest. They universally accept that nothing will change through repeated behavior. Yet, when it comes to mental health and success, they do not invest the same hard work. Just like physical health, you will not level-up and grow without mentorships, coaching, constructive criticism, self-evaluation, strategic planning, and risk. Be willing to try something new. Disregard what “other people think.” Challenge yourself to dream bigger. You may not land where you initially intend, but you will be far beyond where you were stuck in the past.
8. Who is your female icon?
Kate Middleton. You may have expected a deeper answer here, but I think she’s the epitome of grace, class, professionalism and beauty. And, how cool would it be to be “a royal?!”
9. You have had a novel of accomplishments! Which are you most proud of?
My positive impact on the hundreds of students and young professionals I’ve mentored.
10. You are incredibly generous. What was the kindest thing someone has ever done for you?
While I don’t mentor for a “thank you,” it’s guessed that after receiving the information sought, roughly 98% of mentees never contact me again, or at least not in a way that provides insight about how our time together changed the mentee’s life or career. There are rare gems, though, who circle back and share the impact of our mentorship. Those writings and phone calls are amongst my most treasured possessions and memories.