We had the good fortune of connecting with Melissa Ice and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melissa, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Like any business or entrepreneur getting its start, The Worthy Co. was birthed out of a pain-point, or a hole or gap you are trying to fill and a problem that you are trying to solve. For us, that problem was survivors of human trafficking having access to gainful and dignified employment––and rather than waiting on that to happen for them, in our city of Fort Worth––we decided to embark on our own journey to help them. The avenue we chose to use was to have them become artisans. Now, they can make jewelry, handcraft products, as well as hand-pour candles. All of these are sold online and in our brick and mortar store, that we opened in 2020.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
The Worthy Co is a non-profit social enterprise, which means we invest 100% of every purchase into fulfilling our mission to employ and empower survivors of trafficking. Our main purpose is that our workforce is our mission. At the same time, every time someone buys a product from us, they are actually helping to provide employment and wages and putting an income into the pockets and bank accounts of survivors of human trafficking, here in Dallas-Fort Worth.
What I am proud of is that as a ‘small business’, the women that work here have lots of opportunities to gain some upward mobility and transferable work skills.
Not only do they come in as artisans and work in a therapeutic environment creating products from scratch, but they also move on to other areas of the business such as retail management, shipping and fulfillment and wholesale and sales. That being said, what I think is unique is that we want to offer women the diverse skillset that can help carry them to their next job or their career.
Getting to where we are today has definitely been easier with social media and learning through an online space, and I am also super proud of The Worthy Co.’s Instagram page and what it has helped us with on this journey. I think, through our Instagram, we really get the chance to show who we are as people first, then advertise our business. We legitimately figured out how to start a business, how to make jewelry, how to hand pour candles by exploring Facebook, Instagram and watching YouTube. Then we listened to podcasts about Shopify and plug-ins and went the route of what I like to call, “Google University” (essentially, Google searching all of the skills we needed to know). That is really how we got to where we are today. It took a lot of grit and when the fuel is the vulnerable women in our city that we are serving and what’s at stake is opportunity for them––then it is worth all of the online research that it took to start this whole thing. Was it easy? Absolutely not. I think that the statistic is that 90% of small businesses fail within the first three years, so still being a business, now in year four, I feel like we have overcome that hump a little bit. And I think the way that we have overcome the challenge of not-having failed, is just by having an amazing community specifically here in Fort Worth. People here believe in the women that work here at The Worthy Co. and to see them succeed. There’s no way that we could be successful if it wasn’t for the people going online and purchasing candles as gifts for their moms or their friends, and people in our community shopping at our store rather than buying from a big store. I also think having an online presence through our platforms on Facebook and Instagram allows us to have that creative space to grow our business from something static to a dynamic brand that connects the people of The Worthy Co. to our amazing support base in the DFW. So really, our success and how we overcame all of the challenges was by having amazing and supportive community and customers.
The biggest lesson I have learned is that anything good is hard. Nothing comes easy that is inherently good, and so in order to accomplish something good in this world, you have to be willing to be okay with failure in that you cannot have a fear of failure. You also have to be okay with the, “try, trying and trying again” way of life, until everything works out. The fact that good things do not come easy is the reason why they are the most beautiful in the end. If your expectation is that, “this is going to be hard, but in the end, it will produce good in the world,” then I think that’s the biggest lesson you could learn.
And finally, two things come to mind when I think about what I want the world to know about The Worthy Co. and our brand and our story. The first thing is that I’ve learned that you cannot care about someone’s freedom from a life of exploitation and not think about how they are going to pay their bills––those things are mutually exclusive and they have to go in tandem. If you care about someone being free from violence and sex trafficking and abuse, you also have to care about the practical way in which they can actually become free. That concept is really important to me and also the reason why it took us six years to start a business, because perhaps we learned that ourselves, later. Secondly, I have learned that no one is too far gone, no one’s story is done being written and everyone deserves a chance and an opportunity to have a life that flourishes and is whole. If we start to think that someone’s story is over, then we will be less inclined to reach out and help. So, being reminded that everyone is worthy of the chance to fulfill their lives––is a mission I really believe in with my whole heart.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is a definite shoutout to the city of Fort Worth: First, we would go to Trinity River and walk or bike, to get outside. Next, we could easily have brunch or lunch at HG Sply Co.’s patio right on the river. After that, I would take my best friend and pop into The Worthy Co. and do some shopping for our other friends and get some gifts (all while providing jobs for our workforce). Later on, we would have to go to the Fort Worth Stockyards, and I would want to show off the new Hotel Drover and the grounds there. Maybe, we will grab a drink and sit out on their beautiful property. And lastly, dinner at Joe T. Garcia’s and a stay overnight at Hotel Drover.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First, I would say, that nothing great can happen alone. I truly have an amazing team––but I would like to shoutout my co-founder Sarah Bowden. She is the true brain behind all of my visions and actually makes dreams become reality. I would also mention the survivors of trafficking and I would want to give a shoutout to them. They are really the most brave, strong and resilient women I have ever met and although my goal in life is to empower them, I actually feel really empowered myself and in my role, because of their strength and resilience––as well as their courage to rebuild.
Other: Melissa Ice Personal Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/melissaice/ and our parent non-profit is called The Net, a program that all survivors come through and is another non-profit I founded 10 years ago. That is the direct service and social services side of what we do and our Instagram handle is: @thenetfw.
All credit to The Worthy Co.