Interviewed by Dr. Shellie Hipsky
Melanie Mitro and Katy Ursta are the brains behind Chic Influencer. As they grew their own businesses, they realized that others needed help getting through the “messy middle” and becoming a successful brand, so they joined forces as an unstoppable mompreneur duo.
Dr. Shellie: How was Chic Influencer created, and what is your company’s mission?
Mitro: Chic Influencer was created in 2018. Katy and I have been in business together for about seven years now, and we’ve done network marketing together. Over the past seven years, as we’ve gone through the challenges of building a business, raising a family, handling some of the curveballs that life throws at us, and growing a team, people have asked us over and over again, “How did you do it?” We knew we could help women in business and bridge the gap between where they are and the skills/tools they need to make those goals a reality. Katy and I wrote down all the questions we usually get about business, rolled these ideas around for months, and created Chic Influencer. Our mission is to help women in business navigate through the messy middle where they are now to where they want to be and those small mile markers in between.
Ursta: Melanie and I both have two unique gifts that we haven’t seen anyone else do in quite the same way. Melanie’s strengths are in business strategy, planning, and marketing. She’s good at seeing the big picture and creating a step-by-step plan for how to achieve the desired outcome. I am gifted at storytelling: creating the story behind the brand so it aligns with the mission of your business and forms connections with your ideal customers/clients.
Dr. Shellie: How does being a mompreneur affect your business?
Ursta: The most important thing is keeping the “main thing” the “main thing.” As a mom, my priority is being a mom. It is being present with my family. It is reminding myself that the work I do is first and foremost to benefit our family as a whole. My kids are not a burden, and I don’t want that to ever come off in my business.
One of the biggest struggles I see is that moms in business are constantly turning their business on and off because they are trying to balance all the things. For me, it was critical that I have set business hours. I also had a babysitter who could be present with my kids whenever I was focused on the primary activities to build my business.
Mitro: It’s hard to have boundaries when you’re building a business in your home. It’s not like you can go to an office and shut the door and work for 8 hours. So you have to be disciplined with the time that you do have. I had to make sacrifices along the way such as getting up early or staying up late. There were many weekends when Matt was home from work where he would play with the boys while I busted out a few hours of quality work. There is definitely give and take as a momprenuer. I try to make sure that I’m not sacrificing quality time with my kids when we’re hanging out. I am NOT on my phone answering messages. But being a mompreneur affected our businesses in so many ways. Our kids are now at the age where they understand what mom is doing. We are teaching them life lessons as we are doing business at home. They see our work ethic. It’s building their character and affecting who they’ll become.
Ursta: Our kids are a part of our goals, and they understand what Mommy is working toward. My kids understand that when I’m at my computer, I’m working, but I also tell my kids what I’m working for, whether it’s for a hockey tournament, or a hotel and travel expenses for the tournament, or new hockey equipment, or a family vacation. When they can see what I’m working for become tangible, it’s easier for them to understand that even though Mommy is home, Mommy is also working.
Dr. Shellie: Tell us about Katy’s diagnoses and how it affected you as besties and partners.
Ursta: In 2014, when I was diagnosed with cancer, Melanie was one of the first people I called. At the time, she was my upline and mentor, and we were good friends. I could tell she wasn’t sure what to say or how to process it. What stuck with me, though, was that she said, “We’ve got this,” not “You’ve got this.” There’s a big difference when you feel like somebody is truly in it with you.
Brené Brown talks about this idea and the concept of the arena. The people that you know and the community that you keep are the people in the stands and cheering you on or rooting against you. But then, some of those people are in that arena with you. Whether you’re building a business or fighting cancer or just going through life’s ebbs and flows, you need your “we tribe.” You need your people who have your back and are truly in the trenches, not just cheering for you. They are genuinely in it with you and feeling your successes and struggles right alongside you.
Mitro: We definitely grew closer. She knew I had her back. When you go through a hard thing with somebody, it builds a different type of relationship. I walked through some of the darkest times with you, so we know that we can do anything together! When you see somebody in that situation, it solidifies this level of trust and friendship that can make it through anything. Now, today, with Chic Influencer, we know we can do hard things and figure things out. It helped us become the kind of people who know that there is no mountain we can’t climb.
Ursta: This also helped us see our bigger mission. It evolved and grew. That was the year it became more about impact and less about income.
Mitro: We also realized the power of community. A community not only empowers you through those hard times but it does build these lasting relationships. We realized that community was one thing that helped Katy get through that time in her life. As leaders we know the power of bringing people together for a bigger purpose, and in all that we do, we attach it to the legacy that we want to leave behind.
Dr. Shellie: Inspiring Lives Magazine is considered to be THE magazine for empowering women. What do you two do daily to inspire and empower?
Mitro: We share how we’re working on ourselves every day. The best way that we can inspire others is to share on social media what’s going on in our lives right now and how we choose to put a positive spin on it.
We also teach people through our Make Chic Happen podcast and the Chic Influencer Community. We share how we built our businesses and what we have learned over the last seven years. This inspires others because they can see themselves in a part of us. Teaching publicly gives our audience courage to try something new or follow their dreams because they can see that we are real people doing it too. We try to get out there, listen to the questions we are being asked, and be the best mentors that we can be.
Dr. Shellie: What tips do you have for gaining visibility in a crowded online space?
Ursta: Authenticity is key! You have to have your own signature style on the service or the product that you provide. Ask yourself questions like, “What makes me unique?” or “What is the story behind why I share this product or this service?” It’s also about showing up and serving. You aren’t always asking, “How can I sell this?” but instead “How can I serve people well?” A lot of times, that is about removing yourself, your product, and your bottom line from the equation, showing up, and listening to what your audience says they crave.
For example, when I put out content on social media that does well, I don’t just stop there. I connect with the people who are engaged with the post. I connect them not just with me, but with each other. Then I look at why the post did well. Did I give a clear call to action? Or did I give a clear call to think? What is the image? What is the tagline? I analyze why the post did well. I then ask myself: “There was something about this post that connected. How can I recreate the bigger picture or bigger message in my content?”
Mitro: Consistency and my slight edge also helped me gain initial visibility on social media. What makes me stand out? Who is my target market? I was constantly trying to add free value so if someone’s friend would say that when they needed help with meal planning or motivation, they would send them to my page because they know I would always have something. I always tried to make content that would make people want to come back because they knew I wasn’t just selling something.
Dr. Shellie: How do you juggle and balance it all?
Ursta: Balance is a myth. It’s more about asking myself daily, “What is my key priority today?” It’s not so much about checking off boxes, as much as it is asking myself, “What actually matters?” If I don’t get it all done, I don’t beat myself up. I simply say, “How can I reprioritize so my key priorities are getting done today?” And there are times, especially as a mompreneur, that you just have to say “no.” I just learned how to say “yes” to the things that matter the most and “no” to the things that just aren’t a priority.
Dr. Shellie: Who inspires you?
Mitro: I am inspired by people like Rachel Hollis and how she trains to be world class: how she takes care of her body, trains her mindset, rests intentionally, and scales her business. Not that I want to be her, but I’m inspired by her activities and the way she is able to perform at the level she does on a daily basis. I’m inspired by action and how people do what they do. John Maxwell and Brené Brown are also huge inspirations to me because people take action because of them. They don’t just motivate others with their words, people achieve success because of the way that they have taught and led. People who are amazing at leadership inspire me because I strive to be a great leader myself.
Ursta: Absolutely, without a doubt, Stuart Scott. When he gave his ESPY Awards speech, he talked about beating cancer by how you live. I’m inspired by people who want to genuinely make an impact. When I go to bed each night, my question is, “Did I make an impact in somebody’s life?” And if the answer is “yes,” then that’s success to me. And hopefully that’s a way for me to inspire other people to do the same. I like people who don’t back down from the hard questions and don’t pretend that it’s easy. When I first started, I wanted it to look glamorous and fun. Now, I’m more attracted to people who show me grit and the hard part and encourage me to still show up and do the hard things.