Founder + CEO RevRoad City Provo
Meet 2023’s International Businesswoman of the Year, Melissa Sevy. The World Trade Association of Utah rightfully honored her with this title due to her outstanding impact through Ethik. Nearly 15 years ago, Melissa was working in a small community in Uganda and her eyes were opened when she realized that many of the people she was teaching about disease prevention could not even afford hand soap. “People didn’t need our classes — they needed jobs,” Melissa says. Ethik started as a nonprofit to solve that problem and employ Ugandan women in jewelry-making. Since then, it has evolved into a business working with 3,000+ artisans in 20 countries to bring their beautiful handcrafted pieces to the global market through corporate gifting and other packages. With each product, Melissa and her artisans are flooding the world with #EthikalSwag.
FIRST SNOWFALL MAGIC
I was visiting our artisan partners in Uganda and we were giving the women artisans a ride home. Over the years I had spent time in many of their homes, which often consisted of dirt floors and little or no access to running water and electricity. When we pulled up to Cathy’s home, it was not the one I remembered her living in. I asked if she had moved. The women all began cheering and laughing, and when I asked why, they said “She now has a flushing toilet!” — a fact she was very proud of. Seeing our artisan partners have the dignity of providing better lives for their children has been one of the greatest joys of my career.
We track how many hours go into the making of all of our handcrafted items so we can ensure that our artisans receive a fair and livable wage. We have just closed some deals that will put us on track to have provided 1 million fair-pay work hours by the end of this year to our 3,000 artisan partners around the world since our inception!
CRASH + BURN
Our first year in business (2020), we generated $1 million in revenue. We were running so fast that, probably typical to a startup, our accounting was lagging. We were stoked about our growth until we did our end-of-year accounting and realized we were actually in the hole due to Covid-related factors that sky-rocketed our projected expenses in global shipping logistics and increased labor costs with lock downs. We were still so grateful to have survived the wild factors on every side that year!
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Skills I’ve gained along the way:
First, the ability to rely on team members to run with things without my involvement in every detail. Second, learning to trust my own intuition, which at times may be different from what advisors or conventional wisdom may be saying.
Our U.S. team is 100 percent women, half of whom are working moms. This correlates with the artisans we work with around the world: The majority of these hand-crafters are women working to break generational cycles of poverty for their families.
I am mom to the coolest almost-2-year-old daughter and am looking forward to meeting my little dude due on Leap Day 2024.Birthing and growing babies and a business at the same time is no joke, but I feel so lucky to have such a team-player of a husband who makes it all possible.
Starting earlier this year I began getting up around 5 a.m. to get a solid two to three hours before my kid wakes up. I sip my herbal tea, do some religious reading and then tackle some of the more complex business problems on my list. This has proven to be the most focused, productive time of my day. I now really relish those dark, quiet hours.
GIVES ME CHILLS
I’m a sucker for the podcast “How I Built This” with Guy Raz. Favorite business book is “The Hard Things About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz.
Ice climbing is my favorite winter activity! It is one of the most magical sensations to climb into ice cracks that are only accessed this way, and typically alone (with someone belaying below) which makes it feel a little sacred. We’ve got world-class natural ice right in our own backyard at Bridal Veil Falls.
Just remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and even if you miss out on a short term opportunity, focusing on building systems and people will lead to stable long-term growth.