Stepping Up

September 19, 2018

As a Board member of Ventures since 2013, I am honored and excited to step into the role of President of the Board.

Last month, outgoing Board President Juan Lopez shared his Ventures story.  Reading his story inspired me to share my own.  I am proud to be part of an organization that builds businesses and changes lives, but being a part of Ventures’ Board has also helped me build my business and change my life.

I moved to Seattle in 2012 after years of working with major international sport organizations.  My career took me to Italy, Colorado Springs, Canada, and New Zealand.  When I came to Seattle, I was impressed by the creativity of this city and wanted to make a life here.  Unfortunately, of the many interviews I had, my international experience was not valued.  Everyone wanted to know my experience with Seafair, the Boeing Classic, and other Seattle institutions.

At a time when it was clear that I had to reinvent myself, I worked hard to build my Seattle network.  I made a connection with Ventures, which at the time was Washington CASH.  I had no plan to start a business, but the mission intrigued me.

In 2012, I began to volunteer and became a believer.  Within a few months, I joined the Board.

As a new Board member, I was in awe.  I listened carefully in meetings and tried to think about what I could contribute.  It occurred to me that there was something unique I could offer.  If I attended all eight weeks of the Business Basics Course, I would understand the curriculum and meet the entrepreneurs we served so I could add that knowledge to our Board meetings.  With that, I began attending classes.

Something miraculous happened at the same time.  I continued to have informational interviews to build my reputation in Seattle.  In one interview, a managing director of a local arts museum and I talked about the many interesting project ideas he had.  I suppose I had been incepted by the entrepreneurial mindset of Ventures, and I accidentally said the magic words, “If you ever want to try to get those projects off the ground, I’m taking clients.”

Oops.

It was a mistake.  I wasn’t taking clients.  I didn’t have a business.  But that conversation yielded a client.  Melissa Forziat Events and Marketing was formed.  It was the beginning of what is now a business that provides marketing education and management to thousands of small business owners each year.

Of course, the next week in the business class, I took extra notes.  Starting my business was an accident, but because of my proximity to Ventures I had access to all the information I needed.

2018 marked the five-year anniversary of my business and of my Board membership with Ventures.  In that time, I have tried to have the same impact on Ventures that Ventures has had on me.

I understand what it is like to be a business owner.  In fact, I understand what it is like to be a woman business owner, something I share in common with 73% of Ventures entrepreneurs.  That is why I am so excited about Ventures’ upcoming “Real Conversations with Women Business Owners” on October 16th. As I begin my journey in my new role, I want to do everything I can to strengthen and empower our wonderful community of entrepreneurs and leaders.

I know what it is like to deal with the struggles of business as well as to train people in how to deal with these struggles.  I also know exactly how critical a role Ventures plays for its entrepreneurs and the community at large. I can’t wait to support Ventures even more as Board President, because Ventures enables people to change their lives, including me.