“A lot of people associate innovation with like disruption and this whole thing. It’s not about disruption. It’s literally about moving this old world to the side and creating an entirely new way. And relationships are at the forefront of that.” – Melina De Guglielmo, SheEO Activator
In this episode
Join Vicki Saunders and Melina De Guglielmo, as they discuss Melina’s journey as a SheEO Activator and some of the Ventures she’s supported. Melina is a 3-time SheEO Activator, a business developer, teacher, and a fashion, tech, and EV enthusiast.
They also touch on:
- How Melina’s experience in the fashion industry has taught her to look for new ways to do business
- Finding your place + what you can offer based on your skills
- Joining a community that uplifts each other and the business opportunities that come from that
- The pandemic’s role in accelerating the shift from the “old world”
- The unique role of small and medium-sized businesses to have a sustainable impact
We invite you to join us as an Activator at SheEO.World.
Take action & engage with Melina De Guglielmo.
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The podcast is being transcribed by Otter.ai. (there may be errors, run-on sentences and misspellings).
Melina De Guglielmo 0:00
A lot of people associate innovation with like disruption and this whole thing. It’s not about disruption. It’s literally about moving this old world to the side and creating an entirely new way. And relationships are at the forefront of that.
Vicki Saunders 0:17
Welcome to SheEO.world, a podcast about redesigning the world. I’m your host, Vicki Saunders.
In each episode, you’ll hear from SheEO Venture founders, women who are working on the World’s To-Do List. These innovative business leaders are solving some of the major challenges of our time. Please sit back and be prepared to be inspired.
Good morning Melina, it’s so good to have you here today.
Melina De Guglielmo 0:45
Oh, good morning, Vicki. So glad to be here today.
Vicki Saunders 0:50
We had an incredible conversation recently about—not on a podcast and decided in the middle of it, we have to do a podcast, of your journey as an Activator, and how you came in and all of the stuff you’re doing to help Ventures. And so I wanted to just share with the community, some of the different journeys that Activators are on. Because we don’t have a set path, right of what it means to be an Activator?
Melina De Guglielmo 1:14
At all. And I think that’s one of the biggest surprises. When I joined SheEO my first year was, so I’m a third time Activator. I’m really excited for for all that’s to come, especially in the coming weeks being based in Canada. And mainly, I discovered right away, that it wasn’t really about being like with other like-minded people. It’s nothing about you know, having similar perspectives at all. It’s actually very different minds coming together. So, so I think off the bat, just in kind of speaking about all the different Ventures. Yeah, I mean, there’s probably every industry every business that I could have ever even imagined or sorry, never could have even imagined working with, but yeah, so so the journey is one of, I guess, curiosity to start with, and wanting to know how women do things or women, people identifying as women do things differently. Having historically worked in a really, in the fashion industry, which is, unfortunately, an industry that’s largely largely, I think, been built on exploitation of natural resources of people, of relationships. And, and so coming from that, really just wanting to see something different. And I couldn’t have been more, more happy to see how different SheEO operates.
Vicki Saunders 2:52
Can I just start? So let me ask you a little question about like, so tell me a little bit about. So your background. So yeah, passion for a long time. So tell us a little bit about that? And then how you, you know, and then what made you walk in the door?
Melina De Guglielmo 3:04
Oh my gosh, okay, I have the weirdest background ever.
Vicki Saunders 3:07
We have a lot of weird backgrounds. All of us.
Melina De Guglielmo 3:10
Yeah, I’m a teacher, trained as a teacher originally, a long time ago. So teacher, wasn’t happy, I felt that, you know, in teaching was really rewarding. But I didn’t feel like I had a lot to contribute. Having sort of started that partner really, I was I was young at the time. And so I had a friend who was a designer, Canadian designer. And he said, You know, I think I think this isn’t for you. Like, you know, you’re you’re really creative person. And, and, you know, we spent a lot of hours speaking with one another about fashion and design and I just wound up hanging out at his studio after work. So I would go there show up, he’d give me some swatches to cut and, and was very kind to just sort of sit and chat and eventually asked me to start working for him. And that’s how I made the switch I left teaching and started working pretty well for free. Just kind of showing up and doing whatever had to be done and, and then slowly, slowly, sort of learning the the guts of the business and and that’s really where I was my It was my first exposure to to an entrepreneurial or entrepreneurial mindset and and then I over the course of four years I wanted to sort of running that business. We were doing extremely well and and then I switched into sort of the big fashion world with a with an international label. So, so I’ve learned a lot and that was about 10 years ago now. Yeah, so and then in terms of SheEO, just having seen so much in the industry. So for example, more so when I was working specifically with this Canadian designer, how much control big retail has over the small brands, and to the point where you know, so you work so hard to develop a seasonal collection and a beautiful offering products and all the creativity in the world goes into it, and you put everything you have, and and then sort of the retailers come in and start picking it apart. And either buying it in a way that is incredibly small, so that, you know, you can barely produce what you need to to pay your people and get by the season. Or they’ll buy an incredibly large and then you’ll you’ll scale massively, and what would happen and what did happen many times too many Canadian designers is that you would scale up so quickly. And then the retail would drop you a season in saying, you know, your sell through is not high enough, or whatever the the reason that they come up with is. So just seeing how bit of the carelessness in that and and certainly the monopolies that control the retail industry is a bit scary. So, having experienced all of this, looking for a, you know, a different way of doing business. And actually, my husband initially found SheEO, and he was like, oh, there’s this really cool group, it’s like this startup group. And you should really consider joining, and I looked into it a little bit further and, and I did and, and yeah, and your one was strictly was was purely observation. What I really noticed off the bat about SheEO was that your meetings are phenomenal. Um, they’re run so efficiently. And I’d never seen something like that before in my life. So I really, really enjoyed. I really enjoyed being part of the meetings, and just seeing all of these people coming together on these working on these amazing, you know, United Nations SDGs is really cool. So, and then what happens is, um, you can participate as much or as little as you want. And so your one was, was probably just, again, observation, but, but then really getting to know the founders and wanting to help in any way that I could, with my skill set and experience, so wound up sort of being I was channeled into into retail, and sort of helping out the Ventures with navigating this, you know, sort of crazy landscape that we’re in. Yeah, yeah. Tell me.
Vicki Saunders 7:55
Yeah. Okay. So you, you basically looked at how could I take my skills?
Melina De Guglielmo 8:00
Vicki Saunders 8:01
And plug them in, like an experience to the Ventures? And so how did you do that? Like, did you just reach out to the Ventures? Or what’s the story behind that?
Melina De Guglielmo 8:08
Okay, well, my gosh, I guess it really started on, I didn’t even I didn’t even really know how passionately I would become about so many of the Ventures and just when you really at a human level, see, these ventures open up their business to you entirely, and sort of the transparency that comes with that, and you’re able to look in and see exactly where you can help. So it’s not just watching, you know, these businesses kind of take shape, it’s actually them opening themselves up to you. And so it becomes this really beautiful relationship. More so I noticed with the with the impact of the pandemic, starting with those Venture calls every week. So really, that’s when it started flowing pretty well for me, and just sort of connecting with anyone, you have a sort of start with a natural interest in the business itself. So it’s not necessarily I’ve actually spoken with a few young sort of tech women who want to become SheEO members, but are a little bit worried about, you know, the expectation of them as as like natural sort of introverts who prefer to kind of sit quietly on meetings and are worried that they won’t say the right thing or aren’t in the right spot. But it’s not like that at all. You can really channel like I did sort of my focus and my skill set to help as much as I could. You can be an observer, you can, you know, focus really on the business development side on the investment side, if you’re also looking for, for wonderful companies to invest in. I think that’s the best one of the best hidden secrets about SheEO is that you have this collection of wonderful companies that are doing, you know, the best work in the world, and you’re just able to watch them grow and follow along and support through through funding. And so yeah, there’s so many different angles that you can be involved in.
Vicki Saunders 10:16
So let’s get specific.
Melina De Guglielmo 10:17
Vicki Saunders 10:18
So, tell me a story, or like, pick your favorite, which comes up for you first and tell us the process.
Melina De Guglielmo 10:23
Oh my gosh, they’re all my favorite. So. So with Nada, that was really you know, again, with the pandemic, wonderful founders going through the worst time imaginable a business that’s not prepared to completely, you know, go online. So, all it is was literally a contact, I know someone who can get you online, a company Interad, who can get you online quickly. Here, please meet with them. And so that was that was the Nada story.
Vicki Saunders 10:57
And that was huge, right?
Melina De Guglielmo 10:58
And that was huge for them.
Vicki Saunders 11:00
Literally, they had closed their doors, and they closed their doors because they’re a bulk Zero Waste grocery store in Vancouver, and they were going to have no revenue. And I know you just say, Oh, it’s just a contact that literally This is the amazing thing that happens at SheEO, you hear a story. Oh my God, I know someone who can help and then Interad. Yeah, right. And created a whole online store and shifted her whole business from retail to econ. In a couple months, and changed her whole trajectory.
Melina De Guglielmo 11:30
Vicki Saunders 11:32
Intro like that’s so powerful, right?
Melina De Guglielmo 11:34
Absolutely. Absolutely. And we’re trying to do the exact same or not the same but in her industry for Satya as well. Patrice, she has a product that really deserves to be at the forefront of beauty. It should be in everyone’s purse. I was speaking with Patrice last night and and just saying how you know every night I use Satya as like a face mask it’s so hydrating, you know, you put it on you kind of bake all night in this really beautiful way and wake up with glowing skin. And so we’re talking about going after, you know Sephora and all of these big beauty companies together so that she can really have the product placement that she needs.
Vicki Saunders 12:17
So amazing because Patrice started by creating a cream for her daughter’s extreme eczema right. Eczema is how other people pronounce it and yeah, and it ended up people started to use it for all kinds of different things and for you right this face mask, Jen from Cheekbone Bauty uses it as like, as she puts it on her skin first before she puts on makeup.
Melina De Guglielmo 12:37
As a base, as like a primer. Yeah,
Vicki Saunders 12:39
Primer. Those are the words I don’t use makeup. Yeah.
Melina De Guglielmo 12:42
Neither do I, really.
Vicki Saunders 12:43
Yeah, but this is what the community can certainly do to your business. When you’re out in deeper relationships with customers, they see business opportunities for you. Right. And that’s, I think what happens with the Activator community is you’re literally walking into a completely different world. Oh, absolutely. And then for all of us to be connected with entrepreneurs, which we haven’t normally been, right? And see how we can co-create things. So those are great examples. Yeah,
Melina De Guglielmo 13:08
Yeah, totally. And and then it what it’s also amazing to see is how all the Ventures work with one another. It’s just think that it’s for me, so totally beautiful how like BE with The Alinker is working with Farm From a Box and it’s working. So as a as a Venture, I encourage I’ve actually reached out to a few companies in the Toronto area, very small fashion companies, I’m like, oh, you need to that are sustainably driven and, and women owned. And I’m like you have to apply until November 2 is the easiest thing to do. You know, such a simple process. But then from the Activator perspective, as crazy as fashion is there’s a ton of young people who want to get involved in it, they’re you know, it’s still so, so, so so trendy to want to get involved in. So every week, I have someone’s sister, someone’s cousin, someone who wants to speak with me who’s super young and wants to get into the industry and wants to know what to do. And the first thing I recommend is better than any sort of, you know, business program or MBA or any crazy thing like that. Activate with SheEO. Because the experience that you gain from that in working, you actually get to work on these businesses, you actually get to develop companies and and works across so many different industries. So so that’s something I found extremely valuable for me.
Vicki Saunders 14:36
That’s really cool because I, a few years ago, I used to talk about this as a backstage pass to being an entrepreneur, right. And I it truly is, I mean, if you step into it, there’s just you can, you can learn so much by observing on these calls by reaching out to the Ventures and they’re all as you say, in this community. We’re all very open to support one another I mean, we don’t obviously want to waste each other’s time. Could you tell me all about your business and your story, because if you had to do that 1000 times you’d lose your mind. As an entrepreneur, but there’s, there’s a respect that comes into it. That’s really special. So you mentioned investing, tell us a little bit about how you decided to get into this.
Melina De Guglielmo 15:15
Oh, well, I right now I’m in deep conversations with Farm From a Box, because what I never knew, based on the industry that I’m in, is that is looking at the front of the the base sort of infrastructure of the world, and how that is food like that, that really is. And if people don’t have access to food, nothing works. So in really looking at that closely, Brandy’s solution with Farm From a Box is just such an incredibly, you know, it’s it’s so ahead of its time, it’s such a wonderful, you’re off grid, you’re fully solar, you, you know, there’s a pump, and you you have water, there’s an app that controls your, your little farm and, and alerts you when you know, there’s levels that are critically low in the soil, so you can make changes changes. And so and it’s at in that world is at an extremely accessible price point. So Farm From a Box, just, you know, it’s such an exciting opportunity for me. So that’s, that’s one of the the investments of both time and capital that that I’ll be moving forward with. And then BE with The Alinker, I mean, superstar. Yeah, it’s just an incredible, incredible bike and super cool and changing so many lives for the better. So, so that’s another one that I’m working closely with. And yeah, there’s just so much. So it is a bit, SheEO is sort of women sort of pushing and pulling each other forward. Like it’s really, that’s that’s totally, totally what it’s about. So, yeah.
Vicki Saunders 17:08
What have you learned?
Melina De Guglielmo 17:10
Oh, my gosh, so much. Yeah, I’ve learned truly in terms of scale, I, how to scale a company, and how, like, I’ve really come to understand the complexities that are involved with that. Having been more of a passenger sort of in in, in my career, than than an active participant in that in that process. So just the the, the incredible importance of moving capital to the right companies at the right time, has been something really, really interesting for me.
Vicki Saunders 17:47
Melina De Guglielmo 17:47
Yeah, absolutely. And then yeah, just just this sort of idea of starting where you are using what you have, opening up your network and seeing what beautiful things come. And that’s been absolutely transformative for me, for sure.
Vicki Saunders 18:08
That’s so great.
Melina De Guglielmo 18:09
Vicki Saunders 18:09
I think I think a lot lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about rites of passage, and stepping from our old experience of how things are in our in whatever work environments we’re in, and kind of walking through the door into SheEO.world. And, and how it can be different when you change those conditions when you create this when you have this agreement, to be radically generous with one another. And, and that kind of spirit just creates completely different relationships.
Melina De Guglielmo 18:41
Oh, completely. Yeah, completely. It’s funny, because a lot of people associate innovation with like disruption and this whole thing, it’s not about disruption. It’s literally about moving this this sort of old world to the side, and creating an entirely new way. And it’s just such relationships are at the forefront of that.
Vicki Saunders 19:05
And imagination, right, like I imagine, like, there’s just the more that things sound, like the opposite of what we’ve done in the past, the more likely I think they’re going to be successful. In many ways, right? Like when someone says something to me, and I’m like, Oh, yeah, that sounds kind of rational. I’m like, yeah, it’s never gonna work. But when someone says, like, so completely different, you’re like, what is this? You know? Yeah, I see that a lot at SheEO. Yeah.
Melina De Guglielmo 19:30
Oh, absolutely. And I think what’s happened even just through the pandemic, is that it’s actually it’s progressed it so much quicker. So I think right now, we were starting to lose those big chunks of the old world a lot faster. Because, you know, the, especially when it comes to women, we’re resourceful, you know, in terms of one another and sort of pivoting and to see that, you know, I was reading, just recently, the fashion companies have come together and they sign this fashion pact. And it’s all about climate action and stuff. And then I saw the timeline. I don’t know if you saw this, Vicki it was on, did you see that? By 2050?
Vicki Saunders 20:13
I know, like 2050 are we still going to be on this planet by then? At the pace we’re going?
Melina De Guglielmo 20:19
We’re giving ourselves a deadline of the apocalypse. And I’m just like, oh, my gosh, just looking at the past few months and how we’ve pivoted all of these companies. And these are serious, you know, significant companies, there’s there’s significant capital being moved around here. And we’re able to do that so quickly. And just sort of looking at the old world taking a year to come up with, you know, a strategy that says we’re going to take until 2050, to become carbon neutral, not even to become neutral.
Vicki Saunders 20:50
Right. Right. So it’s amazing, I was on another one of these crazy Zoom calls with the CEO of a $25 billion global corporation. And he was just very clear saying, we are not the answer. It is not going to happen through large corporations, we can’t move fast enough. We need to figure out how to get capital into those socially and environmentally sustainable run organizations that are small and medium sized, and networked and scale those out globally, not through building big, huge entities, but like replicating these models and other countries it is we need a whole different way of looking at it. So yeah, I think we’re, and thank you very much for helping each of these Ventures and helping yourself right. Like it’s all it’s a co-created experience for us. Yeah, to create the future. So thank you for being an Activator. And thanks for stepping all in.
Melina De Guglielmo 21:40
Oh, I’m in.
Vicki Saunders 21:41
Yeah, really good.
Melina De Guglielmo 21:42
Thank you, Vicki.
Vicki Saunders 21:44
Thank you for listening to the SheEO.world podcast. If this conversation resonated with you, please share it with a friend and subscribe on your favorite podcast player. If you’d like more information about SheEO, please visit our website at SheEO.world. That’s s-h-e-e-o dot world.