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Ally Melendez of The On-Air Institute: “Don’t be afraid to outsource and ask for support!”

When we take action outside of our comfort zone in order to grow, we are inspiring others to do the same. Can it be scary? Yes. Is it easy? Not always; but we do it anyway. Part of the reason I started “The On-Air Institute” was because I saw other women founders in the coaching […]

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When we take action outside of our comfort zone in order to grow, we are inspiring others to do the same. Can it be scary? Yes. Is it easy? Not always; but we do it anyway. Part of the reason I started “The On-Air Institute” was because I saw other women founders in the coaching space who were really helping their clients’ lives change while making a difference in the world. Their decision to take action out of their comfort zone in order to create a business that uplifted women, inspired me. I thought to myself if they could do it, so could I. I did research only to discover there wasn’t anyone mentoring aspiring on-air personalities in the way I knew I could. In moments of doubt, I turned to women founders for inspiration and support. I connected with many successful women founders (mostly through social media, a wonderful way to network for free) and learned a ton. I truly believe if women founders keep inspiring other women to do the same and support them throughout their journey, then over time the percentage of funded companies with women founders (which is currently 20%) will keep increasing. There should be more women founders for many reasons but I think the biggest reason is so they can then pave the way for other women to feel inspired to take action outside of their comfort zones and do the same.


As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ally Melendez.

Ally Melendez, Founder and CEO of The On-Air Institute, an online program designed for aspiring on-air hosts and broadcasters. As a Tv host and multimedia broadcaster, Ally knows what it takes to be successful in this industry and is passionate about helping others begin their journey toward a successful on-air career as well.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Growing up I was the theater kid! I loved performing in front of an audience for as long as I can remember. The ability to impact people to feel a certain way with my words and actions on stage was the most thrilling thing I could imagine doing. As I got older, I realized it was less about acting as someone else that inspired me and more about being able to impact others as myself. I felt my purpose on earth was to connect with people and impact them through entertainment, education, or both. From that point on, I started leading more with my purpose which led me deeper and deeper in the space of on-air hosting and broadcasting. Fast forward several years and here I am today, grateful for the many incredible opportunities I’ve had within my career. From being an NBA host with the Nets organization, broadcasting on FM radio, co-hosting on YES Network, and creating my own show called “Ally Answers”, it’s been a versatile and exhilarating journey to say the least. I was so excited to be at a place in my career where I was “doing it all” until Covid-19 caused all sports and programming I was a part of to pause. Like many, I felt lost. I started reflecting a lot on why I fell in love with this career to begin with and revisited my purpose. I began broadcasting as a way to connect with people and make an impact and I felt that there was more I could be doing to help others and add more value to the world. By following this feeling, leading with purpose and hiring a business coach, “The On-Air Institute” was born! Founding it has been the most fulfilling career choice I’ve made to date.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The woman I was when I was first starting out is drastically different from the woman I am now. I think it’s always interesting when you look back at your journey (especially as a founder) and are able to pinpoint the moments where growth happened. When I was creating “The On-Air Institute” I thought back to my early days of being a broadcaster and reflected on the person I was then. In a way, that old version of me helped to create my business. That might sound strange but by realizing what that old version of me needed at that time in order to truly feel set up for success, I was able to structure my program for others who are currently just starting out themselves. Having a mentor/coach is crucial for growth and I am very grateful to be that mentor for people who are taking the leap into their dream career! I absolutely love that I do, and knowing this business is transforming lives is my reason to keep growing, inspiring others to do the same.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Because anything can change in an instant when I am hosting a live event/segment, I am always prepared to think on my feet, ad-lib and go with the flow. This wasn’t when I was first starting, but I worked with ESPN to be the in-theatre host at the 2019 Heisman award presentation in NYC. We had two days of rehearsals and everything went according to plan so I was feeling great! My role was to entertain the audience during commercial breaks and when we were about halfway through the night, I walked out on stage and started talking only to realize that my mic wasn’t working! YIKES. The seconds were passing for the 2-minute break, there were anxious voices talking over each other in my ear piece trying to figure it out, all while the entire audience stared at me with confused faces. In that instant I had a choice to either stay frozen or to go with the flow and do something. Luckily, I chose the latter. I tossed the mic aside, spoke as loudly as I could without screaming, made a joke to the audience about the mic having stage fright, got some laughs, and then proceeded to go right into my segment according to plan. When I think back on this moment, I can’t help but smile. No, that was not what was supposed to happen, but that moment made me realize how far I’ve come in terms of being able to pivot and keep things flowing even when it doesn’t go according to plan. Ultimately, things will happen that are out of our control and we get to choose how we want to react, an important life lesson in general. I love sharing this story with my clients as a reminder that everyone makes mistakes and it’s okay! Just keep going.

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? Can you share a story about that?

Her name is Donna Drake and she’s incredible. Donna has her own TV show called “The Donna Drake Show: Live it Up!”, which is broadcasted in 25 countries on CBS’ WLNY-TV channel 10/55 and other media platforms like Dish, DIRECTV, Apple Tv and Roku. Years ago when I was looking for a college internship in the broadcasting space, Donna was the first one to give me a chance. I remember that summer being one of the coolest times of my life! For the first time ever, I was given an opportunity to work on an international tv show, connecting with other like-minded people in the industry and impacting an audience every time she brought me on to be a guest on the show; a dream come true! I stayed in touch with Donna and we are great friends to this day. I am so grateful to her for giving me a chance that summer and taking me under her wing. Working as her intern made me realize how important proper mentorship is, which was another reason I felt called to start “The On-Air Institute.”.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I love reading so this is a tough question! A book that I recommend to my clients who could use a little confidence boost is “You’re a Badass” by Jen Sincero. Her language is casual, as if you were having a conversation with a friend, making the book an easy read and an engaging audiobook. I love it because the message of the book is that we have everything we need: all the confidence, the power, the MAGIC (if you will) already inside of us. All we have to do is tap into it and start believing in ourselves wholeheartedly. Though this book isn’t directly related to having a on-air career, the mindset and confidence tips within this book WILL help us show up more confidently in our day to day, which ultimately comes off on-air as well and can be felt by our audience.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

I was moderating a women’s empowerment panel and I asked the panelists a similar question. One woman told us her favorite quote was from her mother and it was: “No one knows what you don’t know”. This was such a great reminder to always show up boldly and confidently; after all, no one knows what you don’t know!

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

My success as an on-air host and broadcaster is the reason, I founded my business, which was created to help my clients (mostly women) feel unstoppable in their personal life and/or in their career. I have been fortunate to have had many opportunities throughout the years which allowed my career to keep growing, and I want to use my knowledge, experience and connections from being in the industry to inspire everyone in “The On-Air Institute”. There are plenty of opportunities to be successful in the on-air space and if I can do it, so can anyone! As long as I keep impacting and inspiring people through my business, then I know I am doing a small part to make the world a better place.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

20% does reflect great historical progress; however, that’s still only 20% of funded companies that have women founders. That percentage alone is, in my opinion, disempowering to women. Here’s the thing: It’s our brain’s job to keep us safe and comfortable. Any time we decide to grow and do something that is out of our comfort zone, especially starting our own company/business, it’s scary! Our brain starts telling us all the ways we might fail in order to prevent us from pushing forward. This is something ALL founders are faced with, men and women. Now imagine having to overcome all self-doubt, limiting beliefs, fears and insecurities that your brain is serving up plus the added stress and anxiety women face knowing that only 20% of funded companies have women founders. That can be disempowering enough for some women to stop pushing forward and creating their companies. I felt a lot of self-doubt around the time I was starting my business, some of it stemming directly from this stat alone. There were times I wondered if I had what it took to start and run a successful business. I’ll admit, it was a tough few week when I first started out but I stayed the course. What kept me pushing forward was the support from other female founders. I reached out to women whose stories inspired me, joined social media groups with other female founders and made sure to take it one step at a time in creating my business. If you want to fund a company/business, it’s good to know the stats, but it’s crucial to not let them disempower you. Surround yourself with like-minded successful women who have been where you are and can support you. Whenever you feel moments of self-doubt or fears creeping up, thank your brain for attempting to keep you comfortable and safe, and just keep pushing forward one step at a time.

Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?

My clients are mostly female (90%) and they all have one goal in common: to become a successful on-air personality. Since that’s a pretty broad title, this looks and feels different to everyone. For some, becoming a tv entertainment host or a news anchor is the end goal, which is so awesome. On the flip side, a lot of my clients want to begin their on-air career by CREATING their own opportunities instead of applying to what’s already out there. I think this is so incredibly empowering. I always make sure to get to know each of their specific career goals and if someone wants to create their own company or brand (such as a podcast or digital show) I help them do just that! The sky is truly the limit for what we can accomplish when we listen, uplift and empower each other to think big and take action.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

When we take action outside of our comfort zone in order to grow, we are inspiring others to do the same. Can it be scary? Yes. Is it easy? Not always; but we do it anyway. Part of the reason I started “The On-Air Institute” was because I saw other women founders in the coaching space who were really helping their clients’ lives change while making a difference in the world. Their decision to take action out of their comfort zone in order to create a business that uplifted women, inspired me. I thought to myself if they could do it, so could I. I did research only to discover there wasn’t anyone mentoring aspiring on-air personalities in the way I knew I could. In moments of doubt, I turned to women founders for inspiration and support. I connected with many successful women founders (mostly through social media, a wonderful way to network for free) and learned a ton. I truly believe if women founders keep inspiring other women to do the same and support them throughout their journey, then over time the percentage of funded companies with women founders (which is currently 20%) will keep increasing. There should be more women founders for many reasons but I think the biggest reason is so they can then pave the way for other women to feel inspired to take action outside of their comfort zones and do the same.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.

  1. Surround yourself with women who inspire you!

Someone once told me that we are a combination of the 5 people we spend the most time with. If you’re feeling stuck, afraid or unmotivated to take action outside of your comfort zone, or simply uninspired, it’s most likely because you’re spending time with people whose energy is making you feel that way. Energy is everything and when we surround ourselves with successful people who operate on a higher frequency, we start operating in that space as well.

2. Let go of insecurities and fears as much as possible.

This is not easy as this is an ongoing process but it’s crucial for being able to push forward. The more we let go of our fears of judgement, fears of failure, fears of success and our expectations, the more we can feel confident in the way we show up, take action and grow (both personally and financially).

3. Organize your time and energy and take it one step at a time.

Founding a business means starting from the ground up. It can be stressful and overwhelming at times, even when you have an unwavering belief that it’ll be worth it in the long run. In order to best avoid those icky feelings, be realistic with the time and energy you can dedicate to starting a business and then block time out every week, as if you would block out time for an appointment or a meeting that absolutely cannot be missed. Getting organized and sticking with the schedule I created to bring my business to life helped me immensely.

4. Don’t be afraid to outsource and ask for support!

Just because we are founding something doesn’t mean we have all the answers or know the best way to do it. That’s okay! If you need legal support, help building your website, (or just about anything else), outsource. Get clear on what you need help with then start by asking anyone you know with experience in that specific area. If you don’t know anyone who can help, ask your support group for referrals and/or put out online ads for people with the specific skills you need. Hiring an intern to help with marketing and a coach that provided legal support helped me grow my business better than I could’ve ever done alone.

5. Be true to yourself and be kind to yourself

There may be businesses and companies already out there that are similar to your idea but there is only ONE you! Think about it: why do people always take a workout class with one instructor over the others? It could be the same exact workout, same playlist, same everything and yet people find themselves signing up for one instructor the most. It’s because people like people and everyone connects in their own unique way. The secret is our ability to stand out BY being ourselves. Stay true to yourself, show up for yourself, be your own biggest cheerleader and be kind to yourself because there is NO ONE out there who can be you better than you.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Before I began my broadcasting career, I was a nanny for many years. I love kids and I remember teaching them from a young age the importance of having confidence and believing in themselves. It would be amazing to start a movement that inspires children and teens to be their own biggest cheerleaders and show up confidently in all they do.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I spend a good amount of time connecting with people through social media so feel free to reach out directly via Instagram (@Ally.Melendez) or contact me through my website at www.allymelendez.com. I’m an open book and I love to connect with like-minded people.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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