Mel Charbonneau is an entrepreneur, marathoner, life coach and president of Fellow Flowers and creator of Tell Her Project. She is the visionary and leader behind Fellow Flowers, a virtual community for active women that is now 30,000 strong. As a fierce community advocate residing in Southern Wisconsin, her latest apparel line Stronger Together is intended to honor the current heroes of the COVID-19 crisis—the healthcare staff and essential workers putting their lives on the line daily in service to the public at large. Learn more about Mel Charbonneau…
Hometown: Born and raised in Negaunee, Michigan; living in McFarland for the past 10 years.
First job: Ice cream scooper extraordinaire. My first summer job in high school was at the local ice cream shop, and looking back, I learned some pretty valuable skills. First, when you work somewhere that serves ice cream in the summer, you get to see all your friends! Beyond that, I learned a ton about consumer math. I spent the summer adding in my head, learning about sales tax, understanding credit card processing and also learning wholesale costs compared to retail pricing. The biggest thing I learned, though? How to build relationships with customers. I had to build courage quickly and learn the art of starting and holding conversations with complete strangers.
Favorite WI restaurant: McFarland House Cafe — this cute and vibrant spot is in McFarland, and I’m there at least three to four times a week! Whether I’m there for a morning coffee or lunching with my daughter before taking her to pre-kindergarten or having a working lunch with my team, it’s my favorite go-to spot. The menu is sourced as local as possible, there are a ton of healthy options and it’s family-friendly. Over the holidays my business hosted a pop-up shop at the cafe, and it was amazing! The owners have been so supportive of my business, and I love supporting them any chance I can.
Person who has impacted your life the most: At a very young age, my mother recognized a fiery independent streak in me. Growing up, she did everything she could to protect it because she knew the world would try to tell me I was too loud or too bold or too extra. She knew I’d run into jobs where I was told my ideas were too risky. She knew I’d run into people who would tell me I was crazy for trying or I that my dreams would never come true. My mom tells me now how much she actively tried fueling and protecting my creative spirit for as long as possible, only hoping she’d done enough to lay an unshakeable foundation for my future. She fueled it with books, and paper and pencil, and endless stories. Had I not had such a warrior mother who allowed her child to dream as big as her imagination would allow, I can say with absolute certainty two things: I would not be where I am today as an entrepreneur and writer, and second, I would have listened to all the people who told me I was crazy in the path to getting here. She gave me the confidence to believe in my gifts, and for that I am so grateful.
Your biggest accomplishment in your eyes: The bond that my girls, husband Jason and I share is my biggest and most meaningful accomplishment. My girls have seen both Jason and I start small businesses, and we’ve never shied them away from seeing the celebrations and the struggles of it. For as much success as I’ll ever have as an entrepreneur, I’m most proud that I’ve never veered from knowing that my family comes first. They are what matters most, and the life I’m building with them is my truest legacy.
The biggest obstacle you have overcome: Rebuilding my business from the ground up. It was in shambles a few years ago, far worse than anyone knew. For as much as the process challenged and humbled me, I’m so much stronger for it all. And for as close as I was to almost walking away, I’m so glad I didn’t. I crawled and fought my way back from both financial and emotional hardship, and today, our business is thriving. I’ve surrounded myself with an incredible team of strong, smart and talented women, and I’m so excited about building this company with them.
Someone who inspires you: Glennon Doyle because she reminds me daily what it a difference telling our true story can make in this world.
Favorite quote: And when she realized she was brave enough, everything changed. — by me!
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Pay attention to what doesn’t feel right in the beginning, and don’t ignore necessary action and conversation. There is a quote from Mantra Magazine that upon reading it for the first time nearly brought me to tears: “The same red flags you see in the beginning will be the reason it all ends.” Never stop trusting your gut. Always have the tough conversation sooner than later. Also, you have to believe in your idea more than anyone else. This is the most important thing I tell every new entrepreneur — you are going to be called crazy and told no and told to quit more times than you can count. The single greatest thing you can do is to keep believing in your work and your worth.
What you think makes someone fabulous: I love being around people with big-hearted laughter, good stories and an authentic presence. Also, the gift of telling a good story — that is a person whom I never tire of being around.