Melissa Barker Wants Women to Get Down to Business

By Shelley Hill Young

Melissa Barker spent six years developing brand standards for Coke. Then her son was born and everything changed.

“Atlanta and climbing the corporate ladder were no longer a top priority,” she says.

She wanted to raise her son by the water because she had such fond memories of growing up on the coast in Florida. She decided to move to Charleston. But when she got here, she found “a massive pay discrepancy.”

“I was looking at a $30,000 pay cut,” she says. “I just could not swallow that.”

So, Melissa says, “I was kinda forced into entrepreneurship.”  

“Over a glass of wine, I started my LLC and Mel Bar Mar was born.”

Mel Bar Mar is a digital marketing firm that helps develop branding, social media and email marketing for businesses with a focus on tech companies. Melissa discovered that she had the passion, the motivation and the marketing skills, but she was lacking the tactical business skills she needed to run a successful business. She bought books and took online seminars.

“In April 2017, Women Entrepreneurs of Charleston was born out of this discovery I lacked skills to be a successful business owner,” Melissa says. “I knew if I could get women talking, that something good would come out of it.”

Melissa works to connect women entrepreneurs with experts, all in the name of developing skills and sharpening knowledge. Members of Women Entrepreneurs of Charleston must be the business owner or at least 50 percent owner committed to growing their own business and to helping others grow their businesses. Monthly workshops are open to the public for a fee. In its first year, Women Entrepreneurs of Charleston has supported more than 75 women-owned businesses.

“We’re a little more worksheets than wine,” she says, citing an upcoming workshop on the new business tax law, which she acknowledges might not be fun, but is nevertheless important.

She has learned to develop a competitive analysis, read a profit and loss statement and ask the right questions to her accountant.

“I saw a significant growth in my own business,” she says. “Now, my business is sustainable versus me being a slave to it.”

Melissa notes that women are starting their own businesses at twice the rate as men. They often cite following their personal passions and a desire to help others as reasons for starting their businesses. But, Melissa says, inspiration and motivation isn’t enough to make your business successful. That, she says, comes with a solid business plan, a competitive advantage and the skills and knowledge to execute them. “Those are the things that keep my business moving forward, regardless of how I feel.”

“We’ve got to make an organized effort and focus on learning business fundamentals … not just the fun stuff,” she says. “Building a business has nothing to do with how you feel, but that’s all anybody wants to talk about.”


To apply to join Women Entrepreneurs of Charleston, visit:

Workshops are open to the public. Guest tickets are $25

Virtual Workshop
The New Tax Cuts & Jobs Act – What Small Business Owners Need to Know
9:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. May 18