Melissa Gilbo is Co-Founder of the Women’s Business League, heart-centered leader whose universe revolves around her two amazing sons and incredibly supportive husband. Together, they’re raising our family on the Northshore of Boston where their roots run deep. From the baseball field to a business meeting, Melissa cares deeply about relationships. For 20 years, Melissa worked in the insurance industry helping clients protect what matters most to them. She’s a firm believer that developing partnerships, establishing connections, and strengthening community ties are all crucial to success. Melissa is most passionate about helping women reach their next level, with a knack for creating opportunities and a flair for marketing campaigns.
Melissa’s Co-Founder, Amy Pocsik, similarly spends her time and energy on three things: Family, Friendships, and Community. Engaging conversation sets her soul on fire, and was her impetus for launching the Women’s Business League. A CPA for nearly a decade, Amy understands what it takes to grow a successful organization, and believes wholeheartedly that every business is an opportunity to pump positivity into the world. Her passion is helping female founders recognize what’s possible — a highly profitable business that aligns with their purpose. She believes that a well-built business is the foundation for entrepreneurial creativity and growth.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Amy: The idea for Women’s Business League (WBL) traces back to the very first time that Melissa and I met. Over pizza and iced tea, we swapped stories about promoting our services, winning and losing, sales, and being working moms.
Eventually, the conversation shifted to networking. Melissa said, “I enjoy meeting new people at networking events. But to be honest, I usually leave feeling…disappointed. I collect tons of business cards but make no real connections. Then the cards sit on my desk in a big pile while I stress about what to do next. I tried structured networking groups, but they were too restrictive, with too many rules and a schedule that didn’t work for me as a working mom.”
I felt like she’d just told me my own story. I responded saying, “I know exactly what you mean! It’s ironic, but networking can actually be kind of…lonely.”
But here’s the thing: As Melissa and I continued to chat, we realized that even though most of our networking experiences had been lackluster, we did get something truly wonderful from them: We’d met some incredible women. Women with passion and energy. Insight and empathy. Women who wanted to share their resources with others. To encourage and be encouraged. To inspire and be inspired.
Melissa and I asked each other: What would happen if we put these incredible women together in the same room? We each made a list of 20 women we already knew from our personal networks. We booked a room at a local restaurant and invited everyone. All 40 women showed up! We decided to meet every two weeks. Each woman would share a bit about her business, celebrate successes, and ask for help spreading the word about her product or service.
Over time, something magical began to happen. Those original attendees started inviting their friends. Soon we had a real thing going. Our little group was generating lots of client referrals and revenue, but also connections and friendships.
Word spread fast. Women started reaching out to us. They said, “That thing you’re doing in Georgetown (Massachusetts) that’s generating so much business for women. We want one in our community. I want to start a chapter of my own!”
So Melissa and I spent the better part of a year establishing WBL as a bonafide business. Women’s Business League was born.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Melissa: WBL is designed to foster connections, create opportunities and generate revenue within local chapters. We anticipated that there would be exciting collaborations and creations among fellow chapter members.
However, what’s been incredibly interesting is to see the collaborations among members from various chapters and very different industries. To watch doors open when women from all different locations, backgrounds and experiences ask, “how can I help?” Collaborations that did not seem obvious at first, but that have flourished. When women come together to collaborate, not compete, incredible things happen.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Amy: Thinking back to the very early days when we were just starting, it’s laughable to think how much we undervalued ourselves. It seems funny now, but we were so petrified to charge appropriately for the value we were delivering. Fears bubbled up about losing potential members and not wanting to leave anyone out.
Now, we understand that if you undervalue yourself, so will the world. Owning your worth helps others do the same. It conveys the message that they, too, can play at a higher level.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Melissa: The truth is, there are endless demands on women’s time. Generally speaking, we as women tend to put others’ needs way above our own. If you think about how you spent your time today, chances are you took care of your clients, your kids, your significant other, even your furry friends. But did you take care of yourself today? If you did, where did it fall on your list of priorities? Where did “moving your business forward” fall on that list? My guess is…toward the bottom.
At WBL, we want members to feel welcomed, inspired, and a little pampered. WBL gives women an opportunity to take care of their business and themselves. The chapter leaders work hard to make WBL events feel special. I call it our white-glove service. We go the extra mile for our members because in the WBL community… members are the first priority.
WBL has been successful because we’re fundamentally different from other networking groups. We see this most often in what I call the Rolodex Effect. Here’s how it works: Let’s say you’re at the hair salon. There’s a woman sitting in the chair next to yours. The two of you start chatting. At one point the woman says, “Overall, things are great. But my house is a mess; my son is failing math, and except for bathroom breaks, my dog hasn’t been outside in a week.”
Immediately, your Rolodex starts spinning in your head. You tell her, “I’m in a women’s business networking group. I know a house cleaner, a math tutor, and a dog walker. They’re all excellent. Would you like their contact info?”
That’s the Rolodex Effect. These conversations and connections happen all the time.
At the supermarket. On the soccer field. At work. At parties. On social media. With neighbors and friends. What’s most amazing is that it happens organically. We do it all the time without thinking about it. But here’s the kicker: when we’re intentional and purposeful about it, we begin to see business opportunities for others — and ourselves — everywhere.
WBL is a catalyst for this process. Our structure and women’s inclination to help others results in synergies, opportunities, and success. More referrals, more revenue, more friends, more fun. Ours is a unique approach, far different from the other business referral groups. Membership in WBL is not an obligation; it’s a place to be supported and uplifted.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Amy: We’re most excited to bring the Women’s Business League to several new states! SC, NJ and NY here we come! The WBL mission is for every woman in business to have a strong group of supportive women who are committed to her success. With a clear vision, consistency and a community of women hell bent on your success, there is nothing you can’t achieve. In addition, we have a few exciting new projects up our sleeves! Stay tuned!
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Melissa: Be highly selective when growing your team. Only add a member to your team who believes wholeheartedly in your mission. You’ve worked tirelessly to build your business. Anyone you bring onto your team is a reflection of you, your brand and your business. Always remember that skills can be taught. Passion, character and heart cannot.
Give them work that fuels their soul, propels their passion and enables professional growth. The more you invest in their personal success, the more they will invest in the success of your company. Care for your team members with the same passion you care for your clients.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Amy: Communication is everything. Courageous candor with a dash of humility is the recipe for team success. Listen, listen and then listen some more.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Amy: There are so many beautiful souls who have helped us along this journey. Women who saw what was possible for us before we even recognized it ourselves. Women who sent notes of encouragement, shared words of inspiration, offered a hand when we were down, and a listening ear through challenges.
One woman, Sharna Favuzza of DeMoura Smith LLP, our legal counsel has been among the most influential. Just a couple of years ago, two newly minted entrepreneurs strolled into her beautifully appointed office with a vision and a dream, and not much else. Two hours later, we walked out with a much bigger vision, a plan and a whole lot of work to do. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work, making her faith in us come true.
Sharna quickly became an extension of our team. Her wisdom, high level thinking and passion for what we were trying to create propelled us to new heights. There is just something about knowing that she is in our corner that makes the impossible feel attainable. To say we’re grateful to her is an understatement. Without her, none of this would have been possible.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Melissa: The heart of WBL is making our local communities stronger. To show up for the small business owners, community organizations and individuals in our own neighborhoods. Every WBL Chapter has a complimentary charity seat.
Members decide which organization they would like to support for the year, invite them to participate in the biweekly networking meetings, and rally around their greatest needs. WBL Members have packed snack packs for needy children, gathered personal hygiene products for local schools, served at soup kitchens, fundraised and more. Countless dollars, hours, and resources dedicated to the needs of the local communities we serve.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Automate: Anytime you’re doing something repetitively is an opportunity for automation. Not only will you save time, you’ll save precious energy and focus.
- Delegate: Sure, there’s value in being involved in the fine details of your business — for a time. Once you’ve mastered it, delegate it. If someone else can do it, let them. This frees you up for high touch, high level work.
- Get as much help as you can afford: In the beginning, it’s tempting to do it all yourself. The truth is, we all have strengths and weaknesses. Know your own. Bring in experts you trust to do the work that doesn’t suit you.
- Know your numbers: Margin is queen
- Stay true to your vision: With opportunities and decisions coming at lightning speed, it can be tempting to veer off in many directions. Anchor in your big bold beautiful vision for your life and business and let it be your north star.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Melissa: We have incredible power with how we spend our money. Choose to put your dollars into your local economy and watch it thrive. You really can change the world with your checkbook. It’s said that when you make a purchase from a small business, an actual person does a happy dance. We wholeheartedly agree! Let’s get the world dancing.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Melissa: “When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen.”
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Both: We would love to have lunch with Marie Forleo. We admire her commitment to empowerment through education. We’re inspired by the way she delivers tactical information into the hands of those who need it most. We appreciate and share her passion to help small business owners on their entrepreneurial journey with practical advice and real world application.