She.is.beautiful 5K and 10K: Q&A with founder Melissa McConville
Welcome to another Q&A! In today's post, I chat with Melissa McConville, founder of this weekend's She.is.beautiful 5K and 10K here in Santa Barbara. Melissa is an inspiration for moms, runners, and entrepreneurs alike. In this interview, we cover all three topics and throw in a little tech and Isla Vista knowledge to mix it up. Let's go!
Devin Wong: Tell us about yourself!
Melissa McConville: Hi There! My name is Melissa. I grew up in Santa Cruz, CA and attended both Santa Barbara City College and UCSB. I'm a mom of 2, a wife, a run-lover, and business owner. Out of college I was grateful to get a job as a marketing manager for a start-up sports energy drink company before working in the marketing department at Whole Foods Market. When I was 24 years old, while still at Whole Foods Market, I decided to put my passion of running, health, gratitude, and marketing into creating an all-women's and girls 5k and 10k event. Over the next 4 years I grew the race from 500 women and girls to 6,000 participants and added a second location in Santa Barbara where we would host 2,000 women and girls. I continued my full time job at Whole Foods Market until it all got to be too much, around 4 years into the event. We are about to host our 6th annual race in Santa Barbara, CA this Saturday, September 23rd and our 8th annual event in Santa Cruz, CA in March 2018.
One year into the event, my sister Sara Tanza (18 months older than me) jumped on board to help as she shares a similar passion for running and the power of her body. Our strength and weaknesses balance each other well and we make a great team.
DW: What inspired you to start SIB? Who is SIB catered to?
MM: I was initially inspired to start She.is.beautiful as a mid 20 year old searching for my purpose and wanting a career that was both something I was really passionate about and could also provide a useful service to the community at large. In creating She.is.beautiful, there were very few women's-only events/races at the time. I wanted to share my own personal love and journey with running with other women and girls-- both those who already know what running can do for your mental and physical health, as well as those who were too intimated to enter an average running event. SIB was based on the foundation of showing women and girls through community, sweat, and a positive environment how strong and capable they really are. We hope to inspire women to get/stay active as we believe fitness, and running in particular, can teach you many lessons that you can also apply to life (perseverance, self love, determination, goal setting, confidence, independence, etc.).
Our main demographic is women ages 30-55, but we also get participants both below and above this spectrum. We get serious runners, new moms looking to get back into shape (and searching for balance and sanity), weekend warriors, and women new to an active lifestyle. Our goal is to create a space where all levels feel welcomed and encouraged.
DW: Why are SIB and Santa Barbara a good fit for each other?
MM: We were excited to bring SIB to Santa Barbara because of the beautiful environment. Santa Barbara features such an incredible climate nearly all year and is supportive of a healthy lifestyle. The mountains, the beaches, and everything in between. We loved living in Santa Barbara through college. The active culture there is the best! We wanted to share our event with both the locals in the community as well as invite others to travel to enjoy our event and Santa Barbara! Monica and Joe, the owners of Santa Barbara Running have been supporters of this event since year one. We enjoy the relationships we've created in this town.
DW: You built SIB from the ground up. How do you go about business development?
MM: First off, we believe so strongly in the mission of She.is.beautiful. It's basically our dream lifestyle, physically and mentally, so sharing this message and creating this community never gets old. We also believe really strongly in the idea of community. Since day one we have hosted complimentary meet-ups and have truly connected with our participants. We really love these more intimate experiences because it reminds us of the power of the human connection.
When we first started, we put up flyers around town (hustling!) and were very active on social media. The first few years, Facebook was still pretty new and it wasn't as challenging as a business owner to get more followers and likes. It's much harder now. We do sponsored posts on social media and email blasts when we have events or deadlines coming up, but truly word of mouth has been our most powerful tool. Knowing this, it inspires us to focus on the participant experience as our #1 priority.
DW: You do a ton of philanthropic work (and you don't brag about it!)...how does philanthropy complement and enhance SIB?
MM: I knew we wanted to have a "give-back" component when I started SIB, it just felt like the right thing to do. We work with Walnut Avenue Family Center in Santa Cruz and Girls Incorporated of the Greater Santa Barbara Area. Both of these organization's missions align with what She.is.beautiful is all about: empowering women and girls to feel strong and confident in their bodies...and in their life. These partnerships inspire us to look beyond the self focus of running and reminds us of the bigger picture of how creating this community can be impactful beyond our participant's own personal growth and experience. These relationships really bring us back to the goal of showing women and girls how to use tools they learn through running in their lives...through all the ups and downs.
DW: What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
MM: Chase after the dreams don't chase after the money. When you're doing something you love, people feel that. When you are doing something to make an extra dollar, people can feel that too. Each decision you make for your company, reflect upon why you are doing what you do, the answers become much clearer this way.
One of the best pieces of advice I've been given is to make your decision out of love, not fear. Watch your competitors so you know what's happening in your market, but don't make moves because of them. Make moves because it feels right, makes you excited, and is on brand.
Lastly, work your booty off. Owning your own business, especially in the beginning, you do it all. It's a lot of work.... it's also a lot of fun. It may not pay off for a few years, but it's all about the journey, right?!
DW: What's one thing about motherhood and one thing about entrepreneurship that are different than you expected?
MM: Motherhood, it's no joke. There's a lot of things I didn't expect so I'm choosing two. 1.) I didn't expect the challenge (and exhaustion) of balancing "it all." The time when I'm with my kids is the time I use to do a lot of my creative time and dreaming. I never realized how important that empty space was until I didn't have it. I'm working to make more space for that! 2.) I know it's cliche, but I never knew how much I could love something...like I'll pull out my phone during my work day to look at their pictures. I know, it's too much, but I didn't expect to love them this much.
Entrepreneurship is also no joke. I'm choosing two here as well (I don't always follow rules). 1.) When you see your dreams and goals coming to life, it's an incredible moment. The power of those moments I could never imagine when I was just in the dreaming phase. 2.) I never expected the challenge and the importance of delegation. I'm still learning this as we bring more people onto our team. It's important to find the right people to share your message, but together you can do more and reach more people as a team.
DW: What are your tricks for staying sane with such a busy schedule?
MM: Running! Running brings me sanity, joy, inspiration, and so much more. I always tell my husband as long as I can make time to run, the rest of the day I can tackle anything.
I also get up early (5am!) more often then I'd like. But if getting up at 5am means I get to run, see my kids, and work, then I'm in!
DW: Having graduated from UCSB yourself, what is something about Santa Barbara life that only a UCSB grad could understand?
MM: The smell of the tar from the Isla Vista bluffs. Every time I drive into town, the smell brings me back to the freedom and ....FreeBirds.
DW: For readers who are interested in learning more about SIB, where should they go?
Thanks for stopping by, Melissa!
I found her responses to be immensely valuable...did you? Comment below with your takeaways, questions, or props for Melissa!
Cheers - Devin