Open mindedness and looking beyond the resume. Sometimes, you’ll attract incredible talent, but they come from a diverse set of skills and/or background. For example: We have a lot of actors on our team. Their background is that they think outside the box and are very creative, which is a real asset in digital marketing.
As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Rodriguez.
Melissa Rodríguez is the founder of Mel Rodriguez & Co, where she works alongside her digital marketing agency, Social Media Relations to help brands digitally connect with the Female, Hispanic, and Millennials audience. Melissa specializes in consumer insights and funnel strategies that help organizations utilize emerging digital trends to stay relevant and at the forefront of their potential consumers. Most recently, Melissa started an organization called EmpowHer to support and encourage the development of young women professionals in Corporate, and aspiring Entrepreneurs navigate their journey with the tools they need for success. Melissa has transitioned her skill sets towards helping brands with an interest in the Hispanic market, utilize emerging digital trends to stay relevant and at the forefront of these consumers. A visionary at heart, it is Melissa’s mission to educate and integrate established brands through omnichannel marketing that connects, engages, and creates an impact.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?
I grew up in the state of witches in Salem, Massachusetts. My parents immigrated there from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. After growing up in Salem, I went to college in Boston and eventually majored in accounting and finance. This gave me a lot of opportunities to go into public accounting, one of the best experiences of my life! I learned how to work with very different large organizations, how to run a large company, how to talk to executives and be deeply entrenched in that world, and then from there, I got the opportunity to work for Disney, which brought me to LA. I worked at Disney for 1.5 years, and their internal audit department gave me the opportunity to learn more about the media and advertising industry. During that time, I started a blog, which opened me up to digital marketing and I fell in love — I saw a huge opportunity in the market. I thought: “This is the next big thing.” I decided to commit to it and ultimately quit my corporate job and started my own agency.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
The first project I did for my agency SMR (Social Media Relations) was to set up a festival in Boston and market it. What’s funny and interesting about it, is that we were just a bunch of young kids who really thought they could pull off a giant festival. We were booking artists, renters, and creating all the marketing materials. I think we really underestimated the intensity, and the level of preparation that goes into building a festival. Honestly, it was a hot mess. The day of the festival, it started raining so much, everything was washed out. It’s funny because when we look back now, we actually made our mini ‘Fyre Festival’ disaster, and it made me appreciate the importance of doing things right, the importance of figuring out what matters most and focusing on that. Don’t rush anything. Good things do take time.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?
It’s a wonderful quote from Paolo Coelho in The Alchemist: “When you really want something, the whole universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” This quote has always resonated with me, because when I started my business, I had no idea how I was going to make it happen. I had no resources and no entrepreneur friends. Because I came from a corporate world, it always seemed like this impossible thing. It’s been very interesting to see how things unfolded, how people started to show up, resources started to show up, and I felt I was being helped. It felt like magic. You have to make a decision, and then it’s crucial to commit to it.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I’ve met all kinds of different mentors in my life. Growing up, my parents were my true mentors because they taught me the value of hard work, sacrifice and commitment. Later on, I met Aina Resnikoff. When I was very young, she took me under her wings and showed me a whole new world through writing, education, and world history. She really exposed me to different things in the world. Her mentorship made me feel as if a lot of things were possible. My three cousins, especially my cousin Marcos, have always trusted me unconditionally. Marcos showed me that I could do whatever I wanted to do, which made me feel invincible.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our passion for people, and the culture of it. I think that — coming from corporate culture and working with different teams — I learned the importance of taking care of people and caring about your people. When you care about your people, it will transcends into the work that they do. It’s not perfect but we create a special touch and work towards creating a great culture. It’s all in the little things, the details, the special birthday celebrations that we organize, anniversary celebrations when someone accomplishes a new year at our company, and celebrating several important accomplishments. It’s about listening to your team and the projects they want to do. Listen to and care about the people you work with, and truly work with your team for your team!
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
EmpowHER is our baby in terms of helping women who want to leave the corporate world to dive into entrepreneurship and empowering them to do so. That allows us to support the community and give back. I’m also exploring technology projects. I’m fascinated by how we can utilize technology to make marketing easier and better. Currently, I’m looking into AI and how we can get into that space and develop our own in-house technology system that will allow us to be more informed about our customers and their needs, and how to efficiently connect with them.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Creating EmpowHER was definitely a great opportunity to give back. Creating a platform for women, creating workshops, and sharing knowledge with women so that they can have an easier time as they are building their company.
Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Open mindedness and looking beyond the resume. Sometimes, you’ll attract incredible talent, but they come from a diverse set of skills and/or background. For example: We have a lot of actors on our team. Their background is that they think outside the box and are very creative, which is a real asset in digital marketing.
- Encourage all walks of life. For example, We have a lot of moms on our team and that’s a unique thing. Virtual work allows moms to work from home. It turns out that we have successfully found that they are very dedicated and efficient. Moms get things done!
- Encourage diversified thinking, creating a team culture that is open to different research, languages and cultures. For example: One of our team members is doing a masters in Afro studies, and that is amazing! He understands African culture so well and is fascinated by it. He understands marketing for that specific demographic, which is valuable to our company and team.
- Encourage diversity in personalities. We tend to attract who we are. What do I need to fill in the gap? I am more of a visionary, big thinker and don’t like to get locked down by details, so I know that I need to attract a lot of people who are focused on the details to make sure we don’t miss anything.
- Focus on diverse markets. Focusing on the Hispanic market allows us to attract a large population to join our company and allows us to attract customers who want to connect with that audience. Choosing such a niche target market has helped us attract incredible talent from a Hispanic background and who are also great at marketing.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?
Be very clear about your values, and immediately choose and establish these values with your team. Determine what makes incredible team members, what values they have, and adopt them across the board. When you have your values, hold your team accountable to those values. When they are broken, make sure that you address it and tackle it. Never sacrifice your values for anything or anybody in your team.
What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?
Pick your leadership team wisely. Your managers will set the tone and you want that to be a strong foundation. Put your attention, resources, and time into the leadership team.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
I’m fascinated by Warren Buffett. He is so humble and has incredible knowledge. To be able to have an hour of his time, and learn more about his success, that would be truly fascinating.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Visit our Instagram channels: @melissarinc, @smrelationsdotcom and @empowhersisterhood
Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.