Growing up, Melanie always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Her childhood consisted of selling Kool Aid on the sidewalk and mowing lawns door-to-door.
“I’ve always been an entrepreneur. As a kid I didn’t play Barbies—I played business,” she said. “I love that you can start with something and just keep growing and building it. I especially like businesses where you can help people. They’re a win-win.”
As a young adult, Melanie joined the Army Reserve. Following in her father and grandfather’s footsteps, she served in the military for a number of years before transitioning into civilian life.
“I left the military and got into commercial real estate. I had one child, but when I went to have a second child, I was told that I needed to find an egg donor. That was a really difficult process.”
After being left to navigate the process on her own, Melanie found herself registered at countless egg donor agencies. The process proved to be inefficient and disheartening.
“It’s not a very transparent industry. There’s not a lot of direction. There are many, many egg donor agencies. You have to register with multiple in order to look at each available donor.”
Melanie realized she needed to do something to help families avoid her tiresome journey. She founded YouMeMine, a straightforward resource for families looking to grow.
“I’ve been able to create a system that is much simpler. We have a database, and right now we have over 6,000 surrogate and donor profiles. People can access them from anywhere in the world.”
“We’re growing really quickly. We have a lot of advisors, and we’re also talking to several people about joining our team. We also have many partnerships that we’ve been building over the last couple years.”
As her business began to grow, Melanie learned about Bunker Labs, a professional development organization that assists veterans in starting and growing their own businesses. Initially, she felt she wouldn’t be a good candidate because she was “just in the Reserve.” Nevertheless, she decided to inquire.
“I didn’t know if I would fit; I just didn’t feel like I was a veteran. When I applied they said, ‘Absolutely you’re a veteran. You raised your hand, and you went through the same training that we did.’ I felt so welcome and encouraged from the start.”
After being accepted, Melanie immediately felt the familiar team atmosphere she’d experienced in the Army. The encouraging environment has helped her hone her business strategy and refine her skills.
“I feel like it’s less competitive; you see that same [military] camaraderie there, where everyone’s helping each other. You could really feel that everyone wanted everyone else to succeed just as much as themselves.
At Bunker Labs, Melanie found a community of like-minded entrepreneurs. Her cohort of veterans, though in different stages of their business journey, offer support and fresh perspectives to one another.
“[Everyone] has different skill levels and business types, and they’re in different stages of their career. It’s really interesting to see everyone come together at different points, but we’re all pushing each other to that finish line, whatever it might be.”
In the coming days, Melanie will pitch her business to a panel of judges at The Muster competition in San Diego, vying for a cash prize. Taking the skills provided to her at Bunker Labs, she’s feeling equipped and supported.
“I’m actually excited about The Muster. I’m a little nervous about my pitch, but I’m really excited because I have so many friends and cohorts there to support me.”
If Melanie doesn’t head home with a prize, she’ll feel that she’s won in other ways.
“If I don’t win, I’ll still feel fortunate to have the platform. There might be someone at The Muster that is struggling [with infertility], or knows someone who is. I’m hoping that I can make a difference for them.”
The more Melanie engages in the conversation surrounding infertility, the more she becomes hopeful for the future.
“It was more of a taboo topic in the past, and now you’re seeing celebrities coming out and talking about egg donation and surrogacy. It’s helping to normalize infertility.”
Amid her plans for growth, Melanie remains unwaveringly dedicated to YouMeMine’s mission.
“I want to make sure that others don’t have to go through the same thing I went through. My hope is that YouMeMine can make the path to parenthood just a little bit easier for everyone.”