Melissa Jones, founder of Girls Positivity Club, 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 4 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 the unique needs of each group of girls in creative and engaging activities that motivate girls to take action toward feeling confident and empowered focusing on their strengths instead of their challenges.
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
Girls Positivity Club started because I was a girl who struggled with a lack of confidence way back in 3rd grade in Indiana, 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 got increasingly worse in middle school and high school, which took me to my darkest place. One day I was sitting on the edge of my parents’ bed holding a gun in my hand. I don’t know if I was ever going to use it, and 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 start believing in myself a little at a time.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
I started my journey of being an entrepreneur because of the struggles I faced growing up, which followed me into adulthood. I struggled to believe in my own self-worth, which would shock most people who looked at me from the outside because I got good at hiding it in my 20s and 30s. I never truly showed how I thought about myself. Another moment brought this all to light again when my dad passed away in 2018 of brain cancer. Surprisingly at the saddest time in my life, I was also going through a huge transformation in my own confidence because I had joined a health and fitness group where I also started learning about personal development and changed my lifestyle by joining a positive community of women. Here I finally felt I belonged for simply being myself (and learned simple ways to do it). This is when I had the big “aha moment” to take action and start something special with girls where they could actually learn about these things as they are growing up instead of having to suffer in silence as I did. Over my 23-year teaching career, I have seen the same issues coming up for girls in my classroom that I struggled with no matter the school (small town, urban, suburban, private). I decided that 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 is when Girls Positivity Club was born (which 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 own power. I now have clubs in Indiana, California, Illinois, Florida, and Africa.
What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
The biggest lesson I have learned is that ‘your why’ and drive have to be so motivating, that they will push you through the days you feel like giving up. For me, it always comes back to the bigger picture and vision. Every mistake I make I have to look at as an opportunity to get stronger and learn from it so that I can continue to build this into something so huge that it impacts girls around the world and in order to do that, I need to dig deep each day, even when it’s hard to learn and do everything myself.