Female Feature Friday: Melissa Ice of The Net / The Worthy Co

We are back at it, bringing you another Female Feature Friday. We are so excited to be sharing a new amazing Girl Boss every week. The inspiration behind this series was to highlight the brilliant women running small businesses in an effort to inspire other women to bring their talents to the table. We can do it all, ladies!

We are absolutely thrilled to bring you this week’s FFF. Melissa of The Worthy Co is working with survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and exploitation. A social enterprise of non-profit, The Net, The Worthy Co works with these survivors to find gainful employment creating jewelry and candles. We love the message, the branding, and the spirit of this brand. Keep reading to be inspired!

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LET’S GET DOWN TO (SMALL) BUSINESS:

Name and Occupation:

Melissa Ice, Founder & Executive Director of The Net / Co-Founder of Worthy Co.

Briefly describe your business:

Worthy Co is a social enterprise started by The Net, a non-profit in Fort Worth that serves people in poverty. Worthy Co products are hand-crafted by women survivors of trafficking and it seeks to provide them with safe and dignified employment because we believe every woman is worthy of the chance to rebuild her life.

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How did The Worthy Co come about and what were you doing before its creation? 

At The Net we have been serving and alongside survivors of trafficking since 2012. Since we have proximity to them we see how hard their road to recovery truly is. They have to overcome the trauma and pain of their past, their prior criminal history and a background of being exploited and used. We have a program these women can work that provides 3-5 years of rehabilitation and mentorship. However we saw our women struggling to have access to gainful employment that provided them with a living wage. In 2017, we launched a pilot program employing women to make products, and in 2018 we decided to become a full blown company (under the umbrella of The Net) in order to get more women off the streets and into employment. We are set to open our brick and mortar retail store + candle making studio + production space off Magnolia Ave at the end of 2019.

Why is small business so important to you? 

Small business is how my husband and I support our family. It's been the avenue we’ve used to chase our dreams, to innovate, and to provide spaces that didn’t previously exist in our city. 

What was your first real job?

I was a hostess at age 15 at Steak and Ale, and on my lunch break I notoriously ordered the Hawaiian Chicken dish. Ha!

What motivates you to keep going on the less than awesome days?

I feel lucky that I’m mostly in the “business” of helping people, so at the end of the day its about them more than it is about me. People are worth investing in and caring for. The women we employ at Worthy Co have spent most of their lives believing the lie they are only worth what someone is willing pay them for an unfettered sex act. Every day at Worthy Co they get to be reminded of their inherent dignity and the value they have as human beings. So when things go wrong with online orders, or we accidentally make 100 candles with no scent, or our construction schedule gets pushed back another month and I want to throw in the towel, I remember our “why” and it makes it all worth it.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business? 

Don’t do it alone and don’t give up. I am lucky to have a great partner in Sarah, our Director of Operations, who is the ying to my yang and helps execute my vision, but I could not do it without her and the rest of my team. Also you can’t give up. Small business and start up is not for the faint of heart. It sounds cool in theory to “be your own boss.” However what that truly entails is never really feeling “off work,” it means taking responsibility for mistakes you didn’t make and stopping to put out fires, when you’d rather push the needle forward to scale the business. However, for those who don’t give up is the great reward of seeing what perseverance and resilience can produce in terms of a successful business or organization. 

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made and what/how did you learn from it? 

Sarah my co-founder said it best recently. She used the metaphor “we built our parachute on the way down” which is really hard to do. In hindsight, we would have gotten our recipes and products down before we brought in our employees. 

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What has surprised you most about running a small business? 

That so much support actually comes from other small business owners and entrepreneurs. It makes sense because they get the struggle, the hustle, and the grind better than anyone. I love that about Fort Worth. Entrepreneurs support one another and collaborate versus compete. 

Who have you looked to for advice and mentorship?

My good friend Carly Burson, CEO of Tribe Alive another social impact business in Fort Worth, has been a huge source of encouragement. She not only understands the business side, but we have like-minded missions as well. Her heart beats for vulnerable women and so does ours. She has been immensely encouraging and has taught us a lot since she is further along in her business than we are. 

What does it mean to you to be a woman in small business? 

It means I get to show my daughters that they can achieve anything they want in life. They are not limited in any way, but rather are fully capable as women to use their gifts and talents however they choose. They get a front row seat of seeing what it looks like to have women-run organizations, and businesses and I hope it encourages them later in life. 

How can people get involved with The Worthy Co?

  1. The easiest way is to go to our website and purchase a product. 100% of the sales of all Worthy Co products goes directly to help more women get off the streets and to rebuild their lives. 

  2. Post about Worthy Co on social media to help tell the story and mission of what it means to offer opportunity to  survivors of trafficking in our city. (@theworthy.co)

  3. When our store opens they can have a candle making class with girlfriends and know that 100% of those classes also supports survivors.

  4. Learn more about Trafficking at our bi-annual summit, they can find out more here

How has The Worthy Co changed since starting?

Worthy Co expanded from candles into jewelry making once we partnered with a good friend and local artist, Heather Essian, who helped us create designs for our current necklaces and earrings providing us with both hands-on training and inspiration. 

What’s next for The Worthy Co?

The things we are most excited about is opening our brick and mortar store in late 2019. We have been working hard on our storefront for a while now. We are also excited to start offering candle-making classes to the public so they can do something fun and experiential while also giving back.

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LET’S GET THE SKINNY ON FORT WORTH:

WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO FORT WORTH?

My cute husband wrangled me from Dallas to Fort Worth when we got married.

BEST TACO IN FORT WORTH?

Taco Heads.

BEST QUESO IN FORT WORTH?

Torchy’s.

FAVORITE MARG IN FORT WORTH?

Joe T Garcia’s hands down! 

FAVORITE HAPPY HOUR IN FORT WORTH?

Brewed & the ‘Magnolia Mule” - Every Tues-Fri 3-6pm.

FAVORITE WAY TO SPEND A DAY IN FORT WORTH?

Walk with my kids to Craftwork for a cold brew with almond milk, then taking them to a museum, going downtown to the beautiful Sundance Square for some Melt Ice Creams and ending the night on the patio at Joe T Garcia’s. 

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT BEING A BUSINESS OWNER IN FORT WORTH?

Fort Worth is a great place to start a business. It’s not oversaturated, its filled with excitement and energy, entrepreneurs are supportive of one another and its one of the fastest growing cities in America (12th largest) and #1 largest with a female mayor. 

TELL US 3 OF YOUR FAVORITE FORT WORTH SMALL BUSINESSES.

Tribe Alive 

Melt Ice Creams 

Kent & Co Wine