This week, we are excited to introduce Creative Lady Directory member Melissa Alam!
Melissa is the Founder & CEO of Femme & Fortune, a digital platform and creative marketing agency for the modern, ambitious woman. A self-proclaimed #ideaholic, Melissa is best known for creating the first all-female coworking space in Philadelphia called The Hive, as well as her yearly conference for women called The Fearless Conference.
Tell me about your path to becoming Founder & CEO of Femme & Fortune.
Femme & Fortune came about because I wanted to create a platform and digital magazine for women. I had just quit my full-time job two years after college and I was freelancing for clients making websites, shooting branded photography or events, and designing logos. I had my own personal blog, but I wanted something bigger than just RingTheAlam.com. So I sat down one day and started creating the idea for a site full of articles and resources for women to learn from. It took me three months to figure out a name, and once I did, I brought on a co-founder and we launched a few months later!
Femme & Fortune was born in 2013, followed by me opening an all-female coworking space in Philadelphia called The Hive in 2014 (now closed), and then finally launching a conference series for women in 2015 called FearlessCon (aka The Fearless Conference). The beauty of my career is that I’ve been able to design it in my own way and on my own time. There have been a few hiccups here and there, but I’m so happy with the brands and platforms I’ve created, especially for women. I wake up every day feeling blessed. Stressed, yes, but very blessed and satisfied.
In the beginning, how did you attract your A) readership and B) clients for the creative marketing side of your enterprise?
It’s been a slow growth for Femme & Fortune because it’s been more of a passion project for me while I supported myself financially through freelance work. It wasn’t until about a year ago when I realized how to connect my passion for supporting women with my talents as a marketing strategist and designer - hence the agency side of F&F was born! We receive a lot of client inquiries from female business owners needing a new website or strategy thanks to referrals or good ole Google honestly. I do plan on making 2018 a significant year for F&F on a whole, as I’m looking to increase my digital marketing efforts for the site, reach at least 10K on social, launch more intiatives and projects, and host more events around the country under the F&F brand name.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the FearlessCon and motivation behind this conference?
FearlessCon is the biggest event I host each year (we’re now in our third year), and it’s a celebration of and for female movers and shakers. I wanted to bring together women to learn from one another, feel inspired, and take a break from the everyday hustle and bustle. I’m so excited for this year as we’re taking it up a level - from the workshops we’re hosting on the first day, to the panels and speakers on the second day, to a fab cocktail party to end the weekend - it’ll be one #bossladyweekend not to miss. We’re also hosting a marketplace full of female makers, a goody bag with amazing boss lady products and so much more! Tickets are on sale now, and I’d love to have Freelance Wisdom readers and friends attend!
You are a wearer of many, many hats, do you have any tips for being your most productive?
Know your strengths, plan out your day like a boss, and learn to say no. Oh, and dirty iced chai lattes with an extra shot of espresso.
What has been your greatest struggle as an entrepreneur so far?
My greatest struggle so far has been growing a team and becoming financially stable. Freelancing ain’t a joke. Neither is adulting. Put those two together, and it’s a long, hard road to success! It takes a strong personal brand, hard work, and tons of dedication to survive in the freelancing world. I’m in my fifth year so far, and even when I want to quit, I just remind myself to keep going. Nothing will ever beat the freedom I feel running my own business and building my brands.
What is your favorite thing about the work that you do?
I love being able to problem solve through design with my clients, and I also love seeing how much clients enjoy my final product for them or when attendees at my events appreciate the production I put on for them. I’m not here to make millions, but I’m here to give women a voice and outlet to connect and collaborate.
Another specific highlight for me this year was collaborating with a nail polish client of mine and creating a female empowerment-themed collection called “We Run This World.” We got to name one of the shades Femme & Fortune, and it’s amazing to see how far the brand has come to have our name on a beauty product!
How do you stay creatively inspired?
I scour the web for inspiration - starting from the black holes of Pinterest and Instagram until my Chrome crashes from too many tabs being open (#realtalk). I also reach out to people who inspire me and chat with them - building a strong online network is a great way to keep you on your toes and stay creative alongside other great minds.
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
Freelancing or starting your own business isn’t for the fainthearted. You need to be diligent with your time, because every minute counts towards creating your dream company and making money. My best advice is to find a routine and stick with it to get work done, but also realize when you need to step away from your computer and give your brain a rest. I’m all about self-care because I thrive off of creativity (and the more creative I am, the better results I can give my clients). Airplane mode is a lifesaver at times, and I don’t have any notifications set up for Instagram or Facebook because otherwise I’d be looking at my phone every other second. I’ve also started to work out here and there because there’s nothing better than a little sweat session to clear your mind and keep you in shape - especially since we sit in front of our computers most days!
As a self-proclaimed #ideaholic, are there any projects on which you're ruminating that you'd like to make time for someday?
I’d love to dive into brand packaging and design for a beauty and lifestyle client one day! I’d love to do work on more social accounts, curating and creating content for fun clients. I’m all about manifestation, so maybe me typing this up will make it happen hehe.
Any music, podcast, or book recommendations that you'd like to share?
I’ve been digging Jenna Kutcher’s The Goal Digger podcast for strategy and tips (I’ve been listening to it and running on the treadmill so that’s been a fun way to kill two birds with one stone). As for music, my daily playlists include everything from Drake, Kendric Lamar, Rihanna, Maggie Rogers, J. Balvin, Maluma and Kehlani!
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a female creative are:
Persistence, adaptability and fearlessness (shameless plug?)!