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!

Yo Momma Monday: Ashley Weeks Cart

yo momma monday

Meet Ashley Weeks Cart, 30, from Southwestern Vermont. She runs Cartwheel Farm with her husband James, and she is mama to two beautiful girls (Addison (Sunny) who will be turning five next month, and Courtland (Kaki) who is two and a half), a super mutt they call Hanna Banana, a puppy named Gladden, a potbelly pig named Penelope (“Penny” for short), a flock of five hens – Bunty, Edwina, Dora, Nemo and Ginger and an angel dog – their beloved three legged dog, Ursa Bear, who lost her life to cancer.

Before Ashley and James were introduced to the world of parenting and farming, they lived in Los Angeles and Ashley attended USC, where she received her MA in Curatorial Practices in the Public Sphere. She also ran a reusable bag business with her sister at the time.

Photo taken by Ashley Weeks Cart

Photo taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

After Sunny was born, Ashley and James returned to the East Coast to be closer to their families. Both attended College in the Berkshires, so they moved back to Williamstown, MA for the first two years, and that is when they decided that they wanted the rural life. So they bought a farm across the border in the Green Mountain State.

“James’ family had a farm growing up, and we really loved the idea of our daughters learning about where their food comes from and the responsibility and care that comes from owning farm animals and tending a vegetable garden. That was all possible with this little property.”

Photo by Theron Humphrey. Click on the picture for the link.

Taken by Theron Humphrey. Click the photo for the link.

Both Ashley and James are photographers and Ashley does freelance work on the side. Her introduction to photography began when she was just a kid, and would spend hours tooling away with her dad’s Nikon SLR. All of that playing and shooting paid off, because now she connects with her readers through her photography on her blog.

” I have albums of black and white photos of our pets and house growing up that I shot with that camera from back in 70s. It was totally a hobby, but it brought a lot of joy. It wasn’t until after college that I got back in to photography. I was working at another small liberal arts college that allowed me to take one course a semester.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the picture for the link.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

I took a film photography class, and loved hiding out in the dark room and relearning how to really use a camera. When we moved to California we invested in our first digital SLR, and after our oldest daughter was born, James and I really began to want to better master our camera as we were amassing a slew of baby photos.

When we moved back east, I developed a great relationship with a local professional photographer and she really helped me take my work to the next level. I try to pick up my camera and shoot every single day. I learn something every time I do. Practice practice practice is the best advice I can give. That, and shoot in manual mode. Just do it. Your photos will be world’s better once you get a hang of it.”

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the picture for the link

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link

Ashley started her blog Blog a la Cart when she was still living in LA and was the first of her group to have any children. With James working all day, she felt alone and overwhelmed, and she needed a creative outlet that would get her thinking about more than changing diapers and feedings.

“Honestly, I write about whatever inspires me at the moment – there is no real rhyme or reason to my blog content – that space is ultimately an outlet for me, so I write about and share what is most impacting me at the time. Sometimes is as simple as a room makeover, other times it’s more serious feminist issues that I’m struggling with as a parent/mom.

Taken by James Cart. Click the photo for the link.

Taken by James Cart. Click the photo for the link.

I try not to be influenced or alter my point of view to please anyone but myself since that space was born very much out of a need to better support myself. I love that people share in that space, but it’s ultimately about being true to my voice and story.”

Since Ashley has a full-time job, her photography and blog are both done on the side. They are  creative outlets for her, and while she admits it can be tough balancing family, work, the farm and her creative business, she loves what she creates and is grateful to have both there to supplement their lives.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

“I have a truly amazing partner. I would not be able to do all I do without him in the mix, providing the balance and support that I need. He is the girls’ primary caregiver, and does the lion’s share of the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping etc. This enables me to work a day job full time, and then come home and spend time with my girls and have meaningful family time, before spending my evenings editing photos for clients or writing content for the blog.

There is no way I would be able to keep everything in balance without James helping carry the weight. I think people don’t consider enough how their choice of life partner will be one of the biggest, most impactful decisions of their entire lives. People want the pretty wedding and storybook romance, but don’t often consider the long term weight of that decision. I feel very lucky to have been able to grow into adulthood with James by my side (we met at his 20th birthday party in college) – we’ve been able to make some huge decisions and changes together and we really compliment and balance each others strengths and weaknesses.”

Penelope. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link

Penelope. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link

Of all the things her girls have already learned on the farm, she hopes that they will always have a respect for their food and the cycle of life. Both have already experienced the loss of a family pet they cherished and loved and they know where the food on their table comes from.

“We don’t shelter them from this, and they have a very thoughtful and honest perspective on death and life (for their age). I love that they understand that our Thanksgiving turkey comes from a turkey farm and must be killed before we can eat it for dinner. It’s not just some plastic wrapped lump from the grocery aisle.

Taken by Theron Humphrey. Click the image for the link.

Taken by Theron Humphrey. Click the photo for the link.

They know the sweetness and joy of picking blueberries right off the bush. They understand that maple syrup comes from the veins of a maple tree as they themselves have collected the sap and watched it boil down into that sugary delicacy. They’ve hand turned apples to cider. They’ve weeded and sweat and and pulled fresh carrots from the ground. There is something so simple and yet so very important from these lessons that we get to make a part of their everyday.”

Ashley’s best advice for working parents (whether it’s in or outside of the home) is to carve out time for yourself. She likes going to the gym or for a run or a walk once a day. It’s not only good for her physical health, but it’s good for her mental and emotional health as well. She also loves crafting, and shares many tutorials on her blog.

Turning apples into cider. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link.

Turning apples into cider. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

“I have trouble sitting still, so I build in crafts and projects to any free time I may have on a weekend or evening. I love working with my hands, and it’s fun to be able to involve my children in the projects when possible.

Mostly, I would be happy to spend my days knitting and listening to audiobooks – but it’s good to mix it up. I learned to quilt last year, and that is a dangerously wonderful, time-consuming hobby. I hope to be able to do more of it when my children are older – as it also demands a lot of stuff and space (iron, cutting table, sewing machine, etc.) whereas knitting I can keep in my handbag for a down moment waiting at the doctor’s office or pharmacy, etc.”

Photo by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

Photo by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

In the future, Ashley hopes to expand her photography portfolio and hopes to capture more maternity and childbirth moments. She wants to master tomato growing, to include alpacas or other fiber animals in their farm family so she can spin her own wool and she wants to bake a truly authentic loaf of French bread. Her favorite thing about everything she does is the impact it makes on other people.

“My favorite moments happen when a reader emails me to say that something I’ve written or shared has touched them in some way, either by making them feel not so alone, or validating their feelings, or even getting them to think about something in an entirely new way. Those emails send me over the moon.They bring me so much happiness.

Sugar. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link

Sugar. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link

And with the photography, I love getting feedback that I’ve captured a client or their family in a way that really represents them. Getting positive feedback on my work keeps me motivated and makes me feel like I am making a difference (however small) in my community.”

And as for the impact she has felt from her children, and life on the farm:

Picking strawberries. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the image for the link.

Picking strawberries. Taken by Ashley Weeks Cart. Click the photo for the link.

“There are SO many ways that motherhood has changed me, mostly it has given me deep respect for my own mother and the  mothers around me as I am so acutely, personally aware of the challenges, joys, heartbreak, and perspective that motherhood brings. It’s humbling and inspiring and I am so very grateful everyday that I get to call myself a mother to my little girls. It’s the hardest thing I’ll ever do, yet I am eternally grateful that I get to have this kind of experience and perspective and love in my life.

And the farm has connected me to life beyond my family in really meaningful ways. From the flowers to our vegetable gardens to our chickens, I am tuned in to the life cycles and seasons of life on the farm. I recently read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver (everyone should read it!) and it has really inspired me and further enforced in me why James and I made the choice to buy this home and raise our girls this way, connected to their food and this place.”

Painting by Rebekka Seale. Click the image for the link.

Painting by Rebekka Seale. Click the image for the link.

You can read Ashley’s blog Blog A La Cart to find out more about raising a family on a farm, and you can also view her portfolio there. And check out her video about life on the farm! If you want to hire Ashley to take your photos, you can e-mail her and you can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

If you are an awesome mama or you know one and would like to be featured in this series, don’t be shy! Leave me a comment, e-mail me and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest.