Wonder Women is a blog series that lets me introduce you to amazing businesswomen doing remarkable work. Meet Melissa Agnes, owner of Agnes + Day, Inc., keynote speaker and author of Crisis Ready.
I first learned of Melissa Agnes’ work when she spoke at the 2017 Diversity Alliance for Science Conference in Newark, New Jersey. A captivating storyteller, Melissa cited case studies of companies that were confronted by the power and speed of social media as they wrestled with issues and crises. Those that were prepared to communicate during risky situations fared much better than those that were not. Since that day, I’ve referred to Melissa’s issue/crisis model, and I’ve read her book, Crisis Ready. Yet, it wasn’t until we interviewed her for our podcast on crisis communication that I had the opportunity to get acquainted with Melissa. I spoke with her for this blog about her career and personal journey – and it turns out her path is an inspiration for women who know they have more to offer and are seeking a way to realize their dreams.
Q: Melissa, what made you become an entrepreneur?
A: I think it was beyond my choice. I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 21. Before that I was everything from a dental assistant to a daycare teacher to a waitress to a bartender. Working those jobs, I felt like I was floating — and to me that was my personal definition of hell because I’m an extremely decisive person and I didn’t have clarity around what my purpose was. Even if I loved my job, I wasn’t a great employee. A lot of times I would get nauseous before going into work and I realized that was my physical reaction to what I felt was not “owning my life.” My first entrepreneurial venture was ridiculous. I created photo montages for senior citizens. I lost more money on every sale than I made. But that led me to graphic design, which led to a website development company, which led ultimately to where I am today. I became an entrepreneur out of the sheer stubbornness of not wanting to work for someone else.
Q: How have you gained credibility as a crisis expert as swiftly as you have?
A: The way that I gained credibility in my field is by experience and successfully serving my clients. I work hard, work fast, and work forward.
Q: How do you advise other women who want to own a business or be ambitious in their careers?
A: The best thing is to look around. Are you surrounding yourself with people who push you to be the best self that you can be and know that you have the capacity to reach your dreams? Or are you surrounding yourself with people who doubt you and challenge you in a negative way versus challenging you in a positive, strategic way? My thing is empowerment. I want to empower every single human. There are so many societal issues right now that I am very passionate about. I feel a responsibly to challenge status quo and to empower towards positive growth and progression. It is about asking the right questions, finding the strength within yourself and in your own way. Self-discovery is empowering; it has so much more value than being told.
Q: What is the one issue that is a burning platform for you?
A: Helping people live and own their truth. I think that the world would be a stronger, kinder, and safer place if people weren’t scared to really live and own their truth, whatever that means for them. Unless it’s harming someone else, then that’s not a go! But, I see so often people who are scared to make a change even though they’re unhappy. I’ll do whatever I can to empower them to make the change that will make them happy. Life is too short and the world needs us to be our best selves.
Q: Do you have a role model that you look up to or someone whose career has been an inspiration to you?
A: I have many and they constantly evolve and change depending on where I’m at in my own personal growth. I am very blessed to be surround by so many incredible leaders, humans that are just inspiring to me. From a celebrity standpoint, for the longest time I looked to Lady Gaga because I thought that she was somebody who was able to be extremely vulnerable and authentic in that vulnerability, which gave her an opportunity to help and empower so many people. Recently, I watched Molly’s Game, about Molly Bloom. She is exceptional; she is an incredibly strong, intelligent woman so now I am watching what she does. In my personal life, I surround myself with people who I look up to and respect and we push each other to be our best selves.
Q: What can women do to boost each other in our careers?
A: Support. Don’t judge. Everybody is walking their path and we are all human. I am going to sound so cliché, but I really don’t have judgment ever and I think that without judgment you can be kind and empowering. If I were to pick one place to start it would be that whenever you find yourself in judgment of someone else, just change that to kindness and understanding.