Starting out in corporate, marketing cars in Asia Pacific, Melissa Pye is now working with women to help them navigate the fast-paced startup world. She is host of the podcast Mums with Bright Ideas and Founder of The LightBulb Lounge – an organisation helping women turn their ideas into a successful business.
After having twins 15 years ago, Melissa decided not to return corporate, as she wanted the flexibility to embrace her role as a mother. Not being content with motherhood as her full time role, she started her first business, an online car website for women called HerCar.com.au (although the industry was more comfortable with life-stage than gender at that stage so they very quickly changed to FamilyCar.com.au).
Melissa recounts the journey being a steep learning curve as she used to the support and infrastructure of a company. “When I worked for a company, when something went wrong with my computer, I just called the IT department. Now I have to fix it myself!!” laughs Melissa.
When asked about the most important lessons from going out on her own she said, “Definitely the importance of contacts and a public profile. If I didn’t have a profile of disrupting the automotive space, I wouldn’t have caught the attention of my investor. And if I didn’t have this investor, the doors wouldn’t have opened to create a successful business”, says Melissa.
While Melissa went on to create a communications and sales training agency focussing on gender differences, and being a keynote speaker throughout Australia and New Zealand, in 2013, she launched her first consumer product business – Smudgi, where she designed and manufactured funky microfibre cleaning cloths for touch screen devices.
Albeit her appearance on the entrepreneurs dream show, Season 1 of Shark Tank, her favourite TV experience was on Millionaire Hot Seat where she recalls “Eddie asked me what I did and I told him about Smudgi. He asked if I had one to show him and I did. He said (on national TV) “I think they’re great”. This was the best free publicity ever!”
Melissa has been running business now for close to 15 years and she’s written a book to share her journey, which she believes is aptly called “How To Waste Time and Money – An Entrepreneur’s Journey”.
The book is a raw, authentic account of the highs and lows in her journey as an entrepreneur. When asked why she is brutally honest about her experiences she replied, “So many people only share the good stuff, and even manipulate the truth to make it look good. Life and business is not a paddock of fairy-floss-eating unicorns for anyone, so I think we should stop pretending that it is. If people really want to help others, I believe being real is the best way.”
Melissa believes women need to stay connected and support each other, no matter what their journey.
“Staying connected is so much easier with the internet and collaborating with like-minded people is essential to survive in life and business. I’ve worked in co-working spaces such as Fishburners and WeWork and have learned so much from the community. It also keeps my energy up, which makes me more productive”.
Melissa is the true essence of what it means to be one of Australia’s leading female entrepreneurs – she exudes warmth, authenticity, modesty and never gives up on her mission “to empower people to use their unique voice”.
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