Complimenting Your Way To Success: An Interview With Teacher Turned Entrepreneur Melissa of Compliment

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Like most teachers, Melissa’s heart is for helping her students. Having worked with some of the most motivated students, it was frustrating to see so many of them work really hard to earn good grades only to run out of options for higher education because of finances.

From this frustration, Compliment was born. Though the jewelry is simply beautiful, it’s usually the compliment inside the box that warms the heart of the receiver. As someone who admits she’s able to refill her bucket by filling someone else’s, it’s no surprise that building scholarships through compliments has proven to be a widely successful business model.

Join Edupreneur Today as we share insights from Compliment’s founder and Creative Director, Melissa Camilleri.

ET: Tell me about your career in education before starting Compliment?

MC: Before starting Compliment, I was a high school English and AVID teacher and coordinator.
Through my involvement in AVID, I also became a regional and then National Staff Developer for the organization.  Today, though not still in the classroom, I continue to train teachers around the country in best practices around Common Core instruction, student engagement, and literacy.

ET: What inspired you to start your company?

MC: I started Compliment, actually, as a fundraiser for my students’ in the form of scholarships.  I had been teaching high school English and AVID for the past 9 years.  I was blessed to work with some of the most kind and motivated students who were working so hard to change their lives by continuing their education in college and beyond.  It broke my heart to see so many of them work so hard, do everything “right” academically, socially, and extra curricular and then STILL run out of options for higher education because of finances.  I had been making jewelry as a hobby and as a way to decompress after long days at school. I figured I’d put up a website and see how many people would want the jewelry I was making.  Since day 1, we have set aside 5% of our proceeds to fund the Compliment Scholarship, which, since Compliment’s founding, has benefited 9 young women.

The first people to buy (at a deep discount!) were my students, believe it or not.  I had been with this particular group of kids all four of their high school years and so when I’d deliver the piece of jewelry to them in class, I’d always have a note accompanying it saying just how proud of them I was and how much I admired their handwork and dedication to success. Weeks later, I noticed that several of the kids still had those notes in their binders.  They said it was the WORDS I’d written with the gift that made it so special.  So it was actually my students who inadvertently gave me the idea in its beginning stages.

ET: What is the most challenging part about running your own business and what steps do you take to overcome that challenge?

MC: The most challenging part about running my own business is learning what to delegate.  I’m getting a lot better at it, and that is thanks to the amazing people I have working for me on my team.

ET: What has been your proudest achievement with owning your own business to date? MC: This is easy.  My proudest achievement was this summer, when we awarded our biggest scholarship to date.  We were able to give $1000 each to three very deserving girls to help them with their college tuition.  In total, we’ve been able to raise over $10,000!

ET: Compliment currently offers a variety of accessories and items for the home. What can we expect next from Compliment?

MC: In 2016, it is my goal to create a non-profit arm to Compliment and create the Compliment Foundation so that we are able to rally more community support for our scholarship program, that I hope one day soon will expand to include mentorship throughout a student’s college career.

ET: What advice would you offer for teachers who are thinking about starting their own business and have not taken the leap?

MC: Surround yourself with people who believe you can do it.  I was encouraged to “be smart” and not leave the classroom. People probably still think I’m crazy.  My teacher friends, whom I love dearly, didn’t always understand the dream I had to do something different.  I was fortunate enough to find several communities online that shared many of my same goals and values and held the space for me to dream big.  These communities are still very important to me as my company grows. Also- be prepared to work on all your “stuff.”  In the way that teaching often does, owning your own business makes you confront all of your issues and baggage.  I find this to be a huge gift, because it allows me to develop into the best version of myself.

ET: You have done a fantastic job using Instagram to showcase the beauty of your products. You even offer a 21-day Instagram E-Course. What social media marketing advice would you offer to teachers who are beginning to sell products online?

MC: Well, thank you!  And I do!

As far as advice, my main suggestion is to be consistent.  Show up every single day on your social media.  If we are talking Instagram, specifically, that means you’re posting at LEAST once a day, and no more than 3 times per day with a span of at least 4 hours between posts.  This keeps you relevant and part of the conversation.  Every social media has it’s own little set of unspoken etiquette rules, of course.

The great news is we live in a time where we can control our press to a degree because of social media.  We have the opportunity to get our messages out to millions of people rather quickly and easily.  This is the thing that excites me the most about business– the opportunity to connect with new people.  For me, I think Compliment gives me the most bang for my buck.  And thus, the course.  I wanted to help my fellow entrepreneur friends have the same level of success and actually make money with their side hustles by strategically using social media.

We are actually getting ready to start our next cohort of the course on January 11.  Readers of Edupreneur Today are invited to take 15% off the course with the code EDU at checkout. 🙂

ET: Where can we find out more about at your business?

MC: To learn more about Compliment you can visit www.shopcompliment.com and follow us on Instagram at @shopcompliment.

To learn more about the Instagram course, visit www.shopcompliment.com/products/instagram-course

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  • I love that Melissa is living in her purpose. In the end, it goes to show if you love what you do and are passionate about it, you can do amazing things. Her advice for surrounding yourself with people who believe in you is smart and great advice. As an edupreneur, I can relate and understand all that she has mentioned. Being an edupreneur is awesome and your belief in yourself needs to be strong. Having others believe is great but you must champion for yourself like no other and then and only then will you feel and experience the success you long for in my opinion.
    Nashima Harvey, Ed.M
    THE LITTLE GREEN HOUSE Educational Services, LLC
    http://www.LearnLiveGreen.com

    • kporterisom@gmail.com

      Hi Nashima,

      I too adore the fact that Melissa is living in her purpose. My goal in sharing these stories is that more teachers will follow their dreams in this way.