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!

Friday Finds: Sacramento Beer Edition

Oak Park is a community in Sacramento that has had its share of downfalls. In the early 1900s, the economy was booming there due to the strong community there and the proximity to the historic California State Fair site. By the 1960s, though, the community started to decline and poverty started to rise as a result of the freeway expansion. Families moved out to the suburbs and by the 80s and 90s, gang violence and street crime were daily occurrences.

So, when my good friend told me she was moving there, I was a little anxious. But as it turns out, the sense of community is coming back. There’s good coffee, good food, good clothes and of course, good beer. Last night, we went to Gather – a street festival in Oak Park – for the first time, and it was evident that Oak Park is definitely back on the rise. The street was lined with food vendors like Thai Basil and clothing vendors like Ana Apple, a local business I have followed for some time, and a craft beer selection that was curated by Beers in Sacramento.

Image from Beers in Sac

Image from Beers in Sac

I’m a little sad that I learned about Beers in Sacramento when I was well into my second pregnancy, but now that I think about it – that’s probably a good thing. It’s a relatively new app that serves as a guide to where craft beers are served around Sacramento. Their motto is “We find the beer so you don’t have to.” The app offers an interactive map and up-to-date beer event calendar.

Through their website, I learned of Farm to Glass CA: A short film from Beers in Sacramento that documents the push to bring hops back to CA, since the majority of hops are sourced elsewhere. The film features United Hop Farm – a farm in CA that supplies brewers with local hops

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Image from Oak Park Brewing Company

While at Gather, we saw a few people walking around with Oak Park Brewing Company shirts on. Since Oak Park is such a small community and my friends and I had never seen such a place, we did some research (AKA: went on Facebook) and learned that it’s a new brewery, restaurant and beer garden that is opening in either late September or early October! They are renovating an old building that has been vacant for some time, and it will be a huge boost to both the Oak Park economy and community.

At this point in my life, I don’t drink to party and/or get drunk. I’m a huge craft beer advocate because I simply enjoy drinking good beer. And even though I’m taking a break for a while, I’m really excited to these new additions to the Sacramento craft beer scene.

What’s your favorite brewery in Sacramento? Have anything to share? Post in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramGoogle + and Pinterest!

 

Giving Tuesday: My favorite nonprofits

Today marks the second annual Giving Tuesday – a national day of giving. Since I have worked with nonprofits before, and I know how hard it can be to raise money, I thought I would share some of my favorite nonprofits and different ways you can support them. All of these organizations are run by volunteers who are doing this because they truly believe in the cause and helping other people. That’s kind of an amazing thing, when you think about it.

Photo from Krochet Kids

Photo from Krochet Kids

Krochet KidsI wrote about this awesome nonprofit before, and I am doing it again just because I love them so much. Kohl Crecelius learned to crochet from his older brother, and soon taught his two friends, Travis and Stewart. Though they all went to different Colleges, they would volunteer together in developing countries. After one of the founders, Stewart, returned home from a Summer in Uganda, they were motivated to teach Ugandan women to crochet so they could rise out of poverty. The clothing and accessories are signed by the makers and all of the donations fund their efforts. They recently You can read more about their story here and you can donate here. They recently worked with twin sisters Jennifer and Amy Hood – who founded Hoodzpah – to sell limited edition screen printed posters, one of which is shown above.

Photo from Out of the Dark

Photo from Out of the Dark

Out of the DarkThe moment I read about this nonprofit, I immediately felt inspired. This organization was founded by two brothers who work with disadvantaged kids to restore old furniture. They also founded Street Dreams, which they have run for 13 years now, and started this charity as an outreach of that organization. Since I recently fell in love with the art of restoration, I instantly felt a connection with Out of the Dark. Their work is beautiful, and looks super professional. I could definitely see myself buying some pieces – once I have a place to put them. You can learn more about getting involved here and can donate here.

Photo from Musana

Photo from Musana

MusanaMuch like Krochet Kids teaches Ugandan women to crochet beans in order to make a living, Musana works with Ugandan artisans to sell their beautiful beaded jewelry. All of the sales, donations and grants they receive go back into their foundation and helping the Ugandan artisans grow through educational and vocational training. They source their material locally in Uganda, and work with local artisans, academics and professionals. You can find read more about their story and artisans here and you can get involved here. I’m thinking of holding a Musana Market, myself.

And for some local nonprofits…

Photo from Sol Collective

Photo from Sol Collective

Sol CollectiveFounded in 2003, Sol Collective is a center dedicated to art, culture and activism. I have been to several art shows there and I’ve seen all the work they do inside that building, and I’m always amazed by their passion and determination for their cause. They provide community programs like the Free-Sol Arts Academy – which provides in and out of school art workshops for kids – and the Sacramento Activist School – a gathering of all generations who are focused on social justice issues. You can sign up for a membership here.

Photo from Vox Sacramento

Photo from Vox Sacramento

Vox SacramentoEven though I only lived a few minutes from Vox when I lived in my dear Midtown, I actually found them through Twitter and decided I wanted to volunteer. When I went to meet with Eric (co-founder), he was in the midst of an art class for kids and was so excited to share his goals with me. I later co-hosted a fundraiser called Art Speaks with my good friend Candice and I have worked on and off with them since then. They are still very dear to my heart, and I hope to work with them more. You can find out more about them here and you can donate here.

We all know how tight money is, so even if you can’t donate, nonprofits love them some volunteers. And if you don’t live close to them, ask if you can help with social media and/or sending out newsletters. Trust me, they would love the help! Feel free to share your favorite nonprofits in the comments and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #givingtuesday. Check out more awesome people behind awesome causes on my Pinterest.