Meet the Maker: Melissa Camilleri of Compliment (Giveaway included!)

Meet the Maker MelissaI met Melissa Camilleri – a fellow Sacramento native – through Instagram (I’m telling you, I love that app) when I was organizing a fundraiser. I asked her to vend at the event but she couldn’t attend, so she donated a beautiful pair of earrings. Though the fundraiser didn’t work out, we kept in contact and since she her business and philanthropic spirit are so inspiring, I wanted to share her story with you.

Melissa started Compliment – her stationery and jewelry line that is just as precious as the words that are written on each and every package – when she was a high school English and AVID teacher. She had been making jewelry since she was in elementary school and when one of her students asked her to make ring to match her Homecoming dress, Melissa realized that people were digging her stuff.

Compliment was officially founded over the Thanksgiving weekend of 2011, and since then she was taken the leap into full small business ownership.

Image from Compliment's Instagram Feed

Image from Compliment’s Instagram Feed

I love your story and how you got started with Compliment. Do you feel like your writing plays a big part in your business?

Writing plays a huge part in what I do.  I never set out to be a jewelry designer.  I just kind of went with where I was called.  My road has been a winding one, but each stage has definitely informed the next.  So although I went to grad school for writing to publish for magazines, and write a book, I’m finding that it’s still a HUGE part of my marketing for my business to be blogging right now.  I’m going to write a book someday, though. 🙂

How would you describe Sacramento in terms of a small business owner? Do you feel it’s a good city for your business to thrive in?

Sacramento is on the verge of so many cool things.  I think there are a lot of young people here who want to see their hometown thrive and support local growth.  Old neighborhoods are being revitalized and there is a definite sense of community here among artisans and people who believe in shopping local to support their community.  

I feel like Compliment is definitely able to thrive here.  I have a lot of local customers who stop by my studio and that I’ve met while having a booth at an event.  There’s a nice momentum.

Can you tell me more about the Scholarship Fund? When, how and why did you start it? How do you hope it will better the community?
YES!  This is where my heart is.  I started Compliment when I was still teaching full time as a high school English and AVID teacher.  I thought it would be a fun, artistic way to help some of my most needy students out who had so much potential but not the means to go to college.  I believe education is the only way to break the generational cycles of poverty, abuse and addiction.  So whatever I can do to help facilitate that for young people with a dream, but with little other support?
 
My scholarship has, for the last two years, been donations out of my own pocket.  We’ve been able to give over $1000, which is an amazing blessing for me to even say.  As my company grows, the scholarship grows.  This October, we are having our first ever benefit dinner and dance at Silverado Design Center and I get giddy just thinking about how much more we will be able to give because of it!
 
Melissa with this year's scholarship winners. Image from Compliment's Instagram Feed

Melissa with this year’s scholarship winners. Image from Compliment’s Instagram Feed

What is the Soul Care Series about?
Because my natural inclination is to teach, I wanted my blog to be of service to my readers.  I noticed that there were some pretty amazing women around me doing some pretty amazing things in the world, living whole-hearted lives, and learning how to take care of themselves.  I started the Soul Care Series because I wanted to talk to women I admire and by whom I’m inspired.  And I like to share!  Thus, the Soul Care Series was born!
 
How do you feel about the philanthropy in Sacramento? Do you feel it could use some more? What are some of your favorite Organizations?
I think there is some amazing philanthropy happening in Sacramento, but YES there could definitely be more.  Having worked in the schools so long, I know that so many kids go without.  So many teachers are spending out of their own pockets to help get kids through their formative years.  So I’m always excited about those organizations–ones that help kids rise up and make good choices with their lives and learn to be civically engaged.  
 
Why do you think it’s good to donate and be a part of the giving?
A close friend just reminded me of this Roberto Clemente quote today:  “If you have an opportunity to make things better and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on earth.
 
I agree with that sentiment.  I feel like I am blessed in many ways.  What good is it if I keep those blessings to myself?  Joy multiplies when it is shared.  I was raised that way– if you can be of service, do that.  It’s the whole basis of my company.
 
Gratitude earrings. Image from Compliment's Instagram Feed

Gratitude earrings. Image from Compliment’s Instagram Feed (PS – the blue ones are offered in a giveaway today!)

How do you hope to empower young women with an entrepreneurial spirit?
I employ young women to learn the behind-the-scenes of running a small business.  Like I said before, it’s in my nature to teach, so I see my business as an extension of that even though it’s out of the classroom now.  
 
What do you enjoy doing on your downtime?
People are often surprised that even though I’m social and I’m comfortable talking in front of people,  I’m very introverted, so I like to be quiet during my downtime!  I like to read, go for walks, meditate, try out new restaurants with my friends.  Hang out with my family.  Float in the pool when the weather allows it.  
 
What do you have planned for the future?
Oh gosh… During these past two years, if I’ve learned anything it is that even if I make plans, often God has other ideas of where I’m headed.  Compliment was never “planned,” and come to think of it, anything that I’ve actually planned out, has just been a stepping stone, not the be-all, end-all.  So I guess my plans are to stay open to this wonderful, exciting, abundant journey, wherever it may lead.
 
Image from Compliment's Instagram Feed

Image from Compliment’s Instagram Feed

Favorite places you frequent in Sacramento?
I live pretty close to McKinley Park, which I LOVE.  So I like to head there to walk.  I also love seeing live music at Harlow’s and Marilyn’s on K.  And I’m a big fat sucker for the burgers at The Hideaway in Curtis Park.  Oh and I go to Cafe Bernardo probably like once a week.  That mushroom salad is off the hook (and I never even liked mushrooms!)
 
Melissa is so awesome that she agreed to do a Giveaway for the pair of gratitude earrings (valued at $32) that she originally donated to the fundraiser! In order to enter, leave a compliment for Melissa on the post in the comment section or through any of my social media sites!
 
unnamed 2You can find out more about Melissa and Compliment by visiting the website and you can click here to donate to her scholarship foundation. Know someone who would be a perfect fit for this series? Leave a comment and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramGoogle + and Pinterest!

16 weeks already?

I have officially been pregnant for 16 weeks now, and I have a big ol bump to prove it! I’ve heard that you start showing a lot sooner with your second, especially if they are close in age. And boy is that true! I remember being 16 weeks with Cecilia and I barely had a bump, but now it’s out and ready to party. I’m also feeling kicks earlier. Cecilia likes to laugh at me every time I react to them, too.

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I happened to have this dress from when I was pregnant with Cecilia and because I was a little bigger then, it’s wonderfully loose fitting (for the moment), which is perfect for this crazy heat.

Luckily this time around, I don’t have to be fearful of any food (I couldn’t get anywhere close to spinach with Cecilia), and I don’t have any new cravings either. I also don’t worry about every little thing, read every baby book or research every thing I fear online, because for one…I know what’s going on this time and two…I don’t have the time. The only books I’m reading right now are either written by Dr. Seuss, feature a Disney character or are part of a Baby Einstein book set.

Here are some things I’m loving on right now:

  • Frozen yogurt, but that’s not any different than with Cecilia. It’s the only thing I seriously crave. My favorite spots are Big Spoon, Vanilla Bean and there’s a frozen yogurt/cupcake spot in Roseville that I haven’t tried yet, but I’m sure it’s my favorite.
  • Burgers. I’ve never craved a burger before in my life. And for a long time now, I haven’t been a fan of red meat, so if I do get one, it’s either turkey, chicken or veggie. But right now…I want the real deal. Veggie and turkey burgers never sound good anymore. It truly has opened my world to the variety of burgers I can get now. I don’t eat them often, but when I’m craving one, they hit the spot. I love Burgers and Brew and Habit the best for said cravings.
  • Fresh fruit. Again, not something new. I’ve always loved fruit. But now I crave it more than anything and it always has to be on standby, namely strawberries, blueberries, bananas and nectarines. And with all the unhealthy cravings I have right now, it’s probably not a bad thing. And luckily I live in Sacramento, so I am surrounded by fresh fruit stands and Farmers Markets, like the huge one downtown on 8th and W on Sundays, the Tuesday Farmers Markets at the Fountains in Roseville, and of course – Denios on Sundays!
  • Loose fitting dresses and skirts. It’s too damn hot to wear jeans, and shorts can get uncomfortable so I have been sticking with dresses and skirts that I had in my closet, or have picked up at the thrift stores. They are perfect for your belly to grow in, and still work after pregnancy. I’m also lucky to have a mom who sews, and she’s been working on a skirt and dress for me!
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Can’t stop, won’t stop

So excited that the next time I post a pregnancy update, I will know the baby’s gender – and name!

Thank you for joining me on my pregnancy adventure and be sure to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest for updates, inspiration and more!

Meet the Maker: Print Therapy

meet the maker

Meet Melissa, 30, and Nicholas Wert, 32 from Longmeadow, Massachusetts. They are the adorable and creative couple behind Print Therapy, a handcrafted paper expression company, and I am honored to have them as my guests today. And how perfect (and not planned at all) is it that Valentines Day is officially less than a month away.

Melissa and Nick decided to start Print Therapy while Melissa was in a hotel room during a business trip. She still works full time as a project manager and has one foot in the creative world, one foot in corporate America, as she would put it.

“After several weeks of travel (for work, not for pleasure!) and too many moments of not feeling like my best was good enough and not being able to truly stand behind my work, I called Nick and said “Dang it! We’re starting Print Therapy. For real!” A few hours later, we registered the name and had filled out all of the legal paperwork.”

Melissa has both a Bachelors in Business Management and a Masters in Communication and Information Management. She and Nick started Print Therapy a year after she got her Masters. She admits that at first it felt like a waste – paying off a whole bunch of student loans after realizing that she wasn’t all about corporate America.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“But when I stepped back, I realized how much they would help me run my own business and handle the non-creative portion of my work, which I love almost as much as the creating!”

Melissa says that she wouldn’t rather work with anyone else, and that the secret to their success is working in separate offices. She adds that having her husband as her business partner gives them both an understanding of all the work they put into it.

” If one of us needs to take a break or step away from it for a while, then it’s totally okay. We both know that we each love this business and want it to grow, and that we’re 100% committed to that. Nick doesn’t get on my case if I devote an entire Saturday to Print Therapy or if I fall asleep on the couch at 8pm after a long day of work. We appreciate each other for the work we’re putting in – and make sacrifices together to keep it all going!”

Since Melissa is an early riser, she is able to get a huge chunk of her work done before anyone else gets up and the neighborhood is still quiet. She makes a cup of coffee, checks her email and visits the blogs and social media sites of her favorite creative people. Then, it’s time to handle business. Some days, she works on all the of business aspects and other days, she’s creating a new design.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I am a methodical planner (hence my project management background), and have had to learn that you cannot plan creativity. It’s not something you can schedule on the calendar (yes, I’ve tried), or slot in a certain time of the day. When it happens, it happens.”

The upstairs spare bedroom of their 52 Cape doubles as her office, where she says all of the white space inspires her; yet the beautiful charm and character are her favorite. She has a desk, some storage racks, a Print Therapy design board and a Yoga Dogs calendar. Her only office mate is her dog, Sawyer, who is always hard at work on his comfy bed under the window.

“The bones of the room give me  a warm and fuzzy feeling…being surrounded by color would limit my design sense.”

While Melissa does get a lot of her home inspiration from Pinterest and creative inspiration from Instagram, she is most inspired by things that are not related to stationary at all, a nod to a subject she studied in College.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I studied architecture in college before switching to business, and I tend to find a lot of inspiration in different architectural pieces and in interior design.”

Before Adobe introduced the Creative Cloud, Melissa and Nick were creating all of their cards on Microsoft Word (yowza!). After watching all the Adobe TV tutorials they could handle, they now use Adobe Illustrator and InDesign for all of their designs.

“It’s opened up a new level of creativity and confidence for me. We print most of our items at home, but are slowly beginning to work with a great printing company that prints out of California. They will greatly expand what we can offer, and can help keep our prices reasonable for bigger orders.  It’s hard to let a big piece of the business go like that, but we’ve found someone we trust and really enjoy working with, so … baby steps!”

Since both Melissa and Nick work full-time aside from running Print Therapy, they don’t get a whole lot of downtime. So when they do get a chance to unwind, they will get burgers or Chinese take-out and snuggle with Sawyer on the couch and watch a movie or catch-up on their favorite shows.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“As much as we love working together, getting to unwind together is even better! Both of our families are about 10 minutes away, so we love getting to spend time with them, too. We also treasure dinner dates with our closest friends – whether they be out to a restaurant or home cooked at someone’s home. Quality time together is where it’s at!”

For Melissa, being responsible for it all is both the best and scariest thing about running her own business. She loves having control over every aspect of her company, but also admits that it can get a little hairy when there’s not an IT Department or a paycheck, for that matter.

“You get to know yourself pretty well when you’re the one behind it all, and you have to learn to work within your strengths and weaknesses, and to push yourself farther than you thought you could go.”

When they need to buckle down and get to work, Melissa and Nick have different ways to get in the creative mood. Melissa will turn her workspace into what she calls a “safe space” and shuts the door, turns up the heat, lights a candle and turns up the emotional music. Nick, on the other hand, revisits the 90s with his musical choices. “Method Man, Wu Tang, all of it”

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Nick often jokes how much I love sad music – it’s true! I feel most creative when I deeply, deeply feel something. To me, that’s the point of stationery – to put feelings into text and images that can be shared with someone else.”

And when there are simply no creative juices flowing? Melissa doesn’t force it, and just stops trying. She will start cleaning and organizing and comes back to it later. If there is still nothing, she will just start designing something and eventually the creativity will reemerge.

“Sometimes walking away is the best option though – becoming frustrated with the process certainly isn’t going to help that creativity to start flowing.”

And when there are design flops, Melissa has learned to not rush the process and to work on a design until it feels right. And if she doesn’t love it, she will not have that innate urge to sell it. And when she’s not jumping up and down to promote it…then maybe it shouldn’t be up for sale.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the trends and to try to make something because you think it will sell. But, if it doesn’t fit you and your brand, good luck”

Melissa loves the familiarity of the handmade movement and community, and loves how it feels like “we’re all in this together.” She has a lot of friends who run their own small businesses, and she feels inspired being able able to purchase items that help people support families, fund an adoption and give back to their communities.

“You just don’t get that feeling from a Wal-Mart. There’s nothing better than purchasing a product you love and knowing that that maker is excited by and appreciative of every purchase coming his or her way, and is using that money to live their life. Double whammy goodness.”

She discovered Oh My Handmade! while on Twitter when she was starting Print Therapy. She checked out the website, and ultimately decided that the small monthly fee was worth all of the support she would get from the online community.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Through my OMHG membership, I’ve learned that I’m not alone and that everyone struggles. Everyone has off days. No one feels like a creative successful genius 365 days a year. It’s been eye opening for me, in the best way, and has helped me better accept myself as a maker.”

While Melissa agrees that starting your own business is incredibly tiring, she also knows how exhausting it can be to work at a job that you don’t love. So, she knows this is the right path for her, and if she does have children, she hopes it will be an inspiration to them.

“Every day that I look at Nick, and the family we’re building, I am inspired to go down this path, because it makes me the happiest person I can be. That’s good for me.”

Now that they finally have their website launched (yay!), Melissa hopes to work on a Wedding collection and add more “just because” cards to their shop. “Those are my favorite to send, and to receive, so I want to offer more of those as well.” Next year, they hope to move into wholesale.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I hope to inspire people to do what they love, and to not feel constrained by what they think they should be doing or by what someone else thinks they should be doing. I hope to inspire people to find a partner to share their life with that fully supports their dreams and visions.

I hope to inspire people to rescue their next pet versus buying from a breeder, because man, rescue pets are the best. But mostly, I hope to just inspire people to tell someone else how they feel about them in a way that will always be treasured. Leave a love note, send a card. However they choose, I want to inspire people to tell those they love, that they love them. I want to inspire people to send happiness; from their mailbox forward.”

You can find Melissa and Nick on their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and you can order Valentines cards (like I did) and any other cards you like from their Etsy shop. If you would like to participate in this series – or know somebody who should – leave a note in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you want to be all private, you can e-mail me too!