One day, The Insurgent Capitalist was stalking successful entrepreneurs and side-hustlers and begging them for their secrets. And it occurred to him: writing about business is great, but behind every business is a person. And business is way more interesting when you know the story of the people behind them. New strategy: corner the target like a prey animal, shake them down for information, and then tell their story to the world (insert evil laugh here). And now for the Insurgent of the Week:
Melanie Fletcher slays dragons. Big dragons. Ugly dragons. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill dragons, either. These dragons are invisible. They sneak up on you when you least expect them. And they love to attack cops. I’m not talking about criminals, kids. I’m talking about the scariest dragons of all: emotional dragons.
It’s no secret that cops don’t like to talk about emotions. It is a type-A personality dominated field, and those types of people do not talk about feelings. They just don’t. Ever. These are the people who believe that feelings are mushy signs of weakness that deserve to be pounded into submission at the first showing. God bless the bright-eyed psychologist or counselor that walks into a shift meeting and says that he/she is always available if anyone needs to talk. Yeah. Right. Ok. That poor chap will no doubt spend a lot of time staring at their empty office while listening to the clock tick. Read my lips: not… gonna… happen.
The problem is that cops and other first responders need to talk about their feelings. Not ‘should’. Need. They get to watch the dying kid. They get to see the body burnt to a crisp. They get to stand guard and take in the grisly murder scene (and I mean really soak it in because its gonna be hours before that mess is cleaned). You just can’t pile it in day after day and not suffer the effects. That is why people like Melanie and her dragon slaying abilities are so important.
I met with Melanie on a breezy, humid Texas spring day to discuss her business, What the Shell, after we connected on Facebook. I like her products, a conglomerate of shooting-themed decorations and other doohickeys that she sells at trade-shows and festivals. I wanted to know more about her business (The Insurgent Capitalists loves talking to entrepreneurs). As we chatted over deli sandwiches, what impressed me about Melanie was not only her product line and business sense but her dedication to police officers.
On the day we met, Melanie was en route to deliver a wreath that she had made to a local police department for the benefit of an officer who had been severely injured in the line of duty. That’s cool, I thought, she’s backing the blue. But I wasn’t surprised. Melanie supports police officers every day in her full-time job as a supervisor in the warrants section. She’s also a Peer Support counselor that makes herself available to police officers when they have encountered a traumatic event. Then Melanie elaborated, “I hand-deliver a wreath to any department in Texas who loses an officer.”
Whoa, I thought. This woman hops in her car and drives hundreds of miles (Texas is a BIG state, folks) to hand-deliver a hand-made wreath. That is a big show of support. But I wondered, couldn’t you just mail it? According to Melanie, the wreath is indeed a gesture of support, but what she also gets to do is connect with the officers at that department – the ones who just lost a brother or a sister. She gets to spend some time with them. And maybe, just maybe, one of those cops will open up and allow Melanie to do what she does best: slay dragons. Well I don’t know about all of you out there but that tidbit made a dragon crawl up my throat. It choked me up a little. (But don’t worry, folks, I beat that little bastard back into submission.)
Needless to say, Melanie Fletcher impresses me. Here is a woman with a full-time administrative position supporting a police department who also volunteers her time to help cops in need. Did I mention that she is also a PhD student in police psychology? Oh I didn’t mention that? Ok, yeah, she’s been doing that for four years too (she already as a Masters and Bachelors in other fields). And the cherry on top of all that is this great little side-hustle.
Like so many businesses, What the Shell started as a hobby: she made a wreath for a co-worker. Another co-worker saw the wreath and said something to the effect of ‘you should make and sell those awesome wreaths for profit’. So she did. And she started making a few bucks. Then Melanie thinks, I bet I can take these wreaths to some festivals and make a few more bucks. And she did. But she ran into a problem. A big one. Dudes don’t like wreaths. And they don’t like looking at wreaths. And when these dudes’ wives and girlfriends went into Melanie’s stalls at the festivals these same dudes would hover outside and make impatient grunting noises. And then the wives and girlfriends, very annoyed at the dude’s impatient grunting noises, would walk away from the stall to yell at their dudes for interrupting their wreath looking time. Then they would both walk away because they were pissed and needed a walk. It’s hard to sell wreaths that way, kids.
But Melanie is a problem solver. She doesn’t give up. She thinks, I gotta make something that dudes will stare at so that they will stop making annoying grunting sounds. So she thinks. She ponders. And she comes up with the Greatest Idea Ever: make something out of spent brass casings from bullets.
This is genius, people! Everyone knows that shiny objects attract dudes. Everyone knows that dudes love guns. Put the shiny and guns together and it’s practically fly paper. Next thing you know the dudes are right in there with the women shopping it up and everyone is happy.
But the story doesn’t stop there. It turns out that Melanie’s shell related products outsell her wreath products – by a lot. Being a smart, craftsy business emprasaria, she pivots her product strategy and starts pumping out the shell related goods at the rapid rate. One witty company name later and you have What the Shell. Man I love it when a plan comes together. (Right, Hannibal – who can guess that 1980’s TV reference).
Melanie is not sure what the future holds. She’s got a lot of ladles in the pot. Will she one day be Dr. Fletcher, police psychologist? Or will she become the gun-themed gifts queen of Texas? Maybe both? Only time will tell, but one thing is sure: Melanie relies on her faith in God to guide her along the path. Seems to me that, whichever path it is, there are a lot of dragons slain along the way.
So if you are ever at a festival or gun-show in the Central Texas area and see a little booth with a big sign that says, What the Shell, stop in and say hi to Melanie. She’s always up for talking crafts, psychology, and cops. She can show you the 12-gauge coasters and the Man Cave sign. Or maybe, if you really need it, you can bend her ear. She’s a great listener and most generous with her time. The rest is just shiny objects and glue.
Thanks for reading,
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