Leading Ladies: Pursuing Their Passions

Leading Ladies: Pursuing Their Passions

Melanie Smith

Old Job: Social worker

Today: Yoga instructor and owner of Miss Melanie Yoga

Most Rewarding Part of Her Job: “Watching the body language of a student change as they challenge their personal belief system that has kept them feeling small and showing a person what’s possible.”

Most Difficult Part of Her Job: “Time management. I have so many things that I want to accomplish and take on in a day—my business is my baby.”

Reality Check: On clocking hours: “I turn myself off from work somewhere around 11:30 each night, but I’m back up around 7 a.m. and ready to do it again.” On being a yoga teacher: “People get unhappy teaching yoga very quickly because almost immediately, they realize that it’s not what they thought it was going to be. When no one shows up to your class, it pings at your self-confidence.”

Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs: “Try to be okay with where you are right now and know that you’re not stuck there. When you feel stuck, you create the mindset that you’re never going to get out of there. Just work towards what you want to do, but don’t discredit what you’re doing now, because there is a reason why you are there.”

A Passion for Helping Others

Melanie Smith’s career began with sights that are difficult to remember, but not because she has forgotten them.

As a social worker for the Department of Child Protection and Permanency of New Jersey where she investigated child welfare and abuse cases, she often carried scenes from her day home with her at night. “It was emotionally taxing,” she says. “In that role, you see situations that are horrific and hard to experience, even from an adult bystander perspective.”

Two years later, she realized two things: that she didn’t want to remain in the field of social work forever, and that she had been ending up in more and more yoga classes after work, an interest she’d had since high school. “I was having a hard time and getting a lot of difficult cases,” Melanie recalls. “The more challenging they were, the more difficult things seemed to become, and the more I found myself going to yoga. It was a safe space for me to feel like myself, to feel better.”

Melanie knew that she was meant to help people—it was why she had gotten into social work, after all—but she was no longer sure that social work was the best avenue for her to do that. “I realized that I could help people through yoga, and that it was a way to empower people,” she says.

In 2008, a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands left her with another love: the water—and, specifically, yoga on the water. Known as stand-up paddle board yoga, or SUP yoga, this form of yoga is “basically being on a very large surfboard that you can stand and balance on, so you’re able to do yoga poses on bodies of water,” she says. While Melanie teaches traditional yoga on a mat year-round, when the weather is nice, you’ll usually find her leading a wonderfully wobbly class on the lake.

After earning her yoga teacher certification, she started teaching while maintaining her full-time position as a social worker. Even though her passion for social work was waning—and teaching yoga was where she was truly able to shine—she knew that she had to be responsible about her future. “It’s very challenging to make a living, financially, as a yoga teacher,”
she explains.

Although she began teaching yoga full-time in 2014, she remained in her role a social worker until May 18, 2015. She stayed for a total of 10 years in order to become vested in her pension. “I wanted to leave my job knowing that there was a place for me to be able to teach full-time, and that it wasn’t forced,” she says.

Today, she’s been teaching yoga as her sole profession for two years, and it has been a wave that she’s all too thrilled to ride. “I am full of gratitude, and I trust in the unknown a lot more now,” she says.

Miss Melanie Yoga

Melanie Lino

Old Job: Dental assistant

Today: Baker and co-owner of Lit Coffee Roastery and Bakeshop

Most Rewarding Part of Her Job: “Being able to be myself and create the things I want to create without feeling restricted. I’m able to do what I want to do and be who I want to be—and no one is telling me that I’m wrong for it.”

Most Difficult Part of Her Job: “All of my items are perishable and business is unpredictable, so it’s difficult figuring out how much to produce and what to prepare in advance.”

Reality Check: If you think you want to open your own bakery, know what you’re getting yourself into: Melanie often works nearly 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. “That’s the reality of owning your own anything,” she says. “It’s 24/7. It doesn’t stop.”

Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs: “Make sure you’re passionate about what you’re doing, because if you find a sense of purpose in what makes you happy, you can’t fail—no matter what the outcome is.”

From Cleaning Teeth to Sweet Tooth

Melanie Lino spent eight unsatisfying years of her life as a dental assistant.

“There were no opportunities for growth,” she says. She briefly considered returning to school to become a dental hygienist, but decided against it: “I don’t even like science!” she admits. “I’m much more of a creative person.”

She found an outlet for her creativity in baking, eventually toiling away in the kitchen on the weekends while continuing to work full-time as a dental assistant. It was during these weekends that she built a small business, Made by Lino, where she made goods for events and pop-up stands. Her portfolio of perfectly puffy macarons and picturesque cakes belies her experience: she has only been baking for six years, and this queen of treats is self-taught.

In fact, her baking resume even has a short gap. A few years ago, Melanie momentarily hung up her apron after a bout of self-doubt and fear, turning her back on her passion. Now on the other side, she says, “Despite how difficult it can get, you should never give up.”

After a few heart-to-hearts about their unfulfilling day jobs with her friend Matt Hengeveld, they realized that their passions were complementary. Matt and his partner, Dan Taylor, were already roasting coffee under the moniker Monocacy Coffee Company. What if they combined forces with Made by Lino? A few discussions and signatures later, Lit Coffee Roastery and Bakeshop, a collaborative endeavor between  the trio, was born.

Melanie had the courage to do what many people consider to be one of the scariest things out there: she quit her comfortable day job without knowing what was going to come next. “My old boss told me it wasn’t a good idea and that most bakeries fail,” she says, “but that was her life experience and how she felt—that was her own thing.”

Sometimes, though, you just have to believe in yourself. Now Melanie starts her morning at 6 a.m. by baking biscuits and frosting cakes, and her days have never been sweeter. “I’m very big on understanding that the human experience only happens one time, so you have to make sure you’re happy while you’re here,” she says.

Lit Coffee Roastery and Bakeshop
26 E 3rd St, Bethlehem

Nanci Hummer

Old Job: Bartender

Today: Owner of The Loving Piece

Most Rewarding Part of Her Job: “I can finally say that I love myself. My self-confidence has really grown through this whole thing.”

Most Difficult Part of Her Job: “The fear of failure. I’m mostly past that now, but that was my initial fear. Now, it’s just trying to juggle everything.”

Reality Check: New businesses don’t come cheap—emotionally, physically, and, especially, financially. “When I first signed the lease, I was like, ‘What did I just do?’ I realized that I could lose everything—everything—because of this.”

Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs: “Don’t wait. If you have the passion and you have the dream, you need to honor that. I would rather sit in my rocking chair when I’m 90 and think about how I’m glad that I tried that instead of wondering, what if I had?”

Finding a New Age Stride

“I’m a single mother of four and I’ve been divorced for 12 years—that doesn’t define who I am, but it’s how I got to this place,” Nanci Hummer says.

Let’s back up. In the first chapter of her life, Nanci earned a two-year degree in legal secretarial science, but three months of working in a law office was more than enough for her—she used her office experience to obtain a job as an administrative assistant at an insurance company instead. What she really wanted to do, though, was be a mother, and the second chapter of her life began: “I was a stay-at-home mom busy having babies for a while,” she explains.

After her divorce, Nanci picked up bartending because it gave her the flexibility to adapt to her new custody schedule and be home when her children were—and at work when they weren’t. As she embarked on this third and uncertain journey of her life, she also began a spiritual journey.

“I was always intrigued by New Age philosophies, and I found a local group with a book club,” she says. “It was there that I discovered how we’re all capable of amazing things if we set our minds to it.”

This belief in the capacity for amazing achievements hung in her mind like a painting that she kept glancing back at as she muddled through life.

“I felt like garbage going into work and leaving work,” Nanci says. “Bartending was strictly a job, a way for me to take my kids on vacation or to buy extra gifts for Christmas.”

The other thing that hung in her mind was that she already knew exactly what work she’d rather be doing: she wanted to own a boutique.

“For years, I fantasized about having my own shop,” she says. “Every time I would come across something that I loved, I saved the tag because I knew that when I opened my own business, those things were going to be part of it.”

Nanci was seeing a counselor who told her, “You keep saying, ‘When I open up my own business.’ Why don’t you start saying, ‘I have my own business’?”

Nanci took her advice in November of 2014. She signed her lease on April 15, 2015. She was, finally, in business.

Her store, The Loving Piece, has “all things for the mind, body, and soul,” she explains. Within its walls, shoppers will find everything from apparel to candles and incense to jewelry. Her days of shaking and straining are behind her, and she now focuses all of her efforts on the boutique.

“Whether you come in and purchase something or you just come inside because it’s a safe space, you’re giving yourself a piece of love for a moment,” she says of the boutique’s name. “The people who enter my shop are amazing, and you can’t put a price on that.”

The Loving Piece
7 N 3rd St, Easton

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