Melanie Whaley, the owner of Essential Elements in Chicago, shopeechicago.com, was our guest speaker in Alembika’s bi-weekly Zoom Cafe this past friday. Melanie has a unique story as the owner of a successful, high-end boutique in Chicago’s inner city. As a woman and an African American, it was inspiring to hear about Melanie’s timeline and see how she built her little empire.
Melanie is honest, direct and embraces open conversations about being a black woman in business. What struck me most was her graceful approach to life and the challenges she faces as an African American business woman. She has no anger in her voice when speaking of earlier days, when she did not feel welcome in vendor’s booths unless she showed legitimate proof of owning a business… And, how she had to buy leftovers from jobbers when showrooms would not work with her.
When I asked her why she is not angry, she said she always hopes for a conversation; that we all need to ask each other questions and keep talking to keep the conversation going. This is how we learn from one another and understand each other better.
Thank you Melanie for your guidance. As a white person, I sometimes don’t know if it is ok to ask questions. Now I know it’s good to try.