Interview: Melissa from Old Joy Gift Boxes!

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As I hurried alongside Melissa Mills of Old Joy Gift Boxes one evening a couple of weeks ago, giggling together while scurrying in and out of awnings to escape the rain, I knew that I immediately liked her. At a table in Mount Pleasant’s The Whip, we draped our coats at a table, and ordered a couple of bourbon cocktails as my friend Katie arrived shortly after us. It was as if we had all known each other for years. The conversation flowed, the laughter came easily, and I think we all found ourselves gleefully sharing TMI on more than one occasion.

As talk turned towards Melissa’s business, Old Joy Gift Boxes, I was surprised to find out that she’s been doing this for only a young four months! With packaging that will turn any designer’s eye, and a media savviness that assumes years of insider know-how – it is clear that loads of thoughtful planning and careful consideration has gone into the launch of Melissa’s business baby. She has managed to transformed her passion for locally and sustainably made goods into a beautifully curated platform for spreading generosity and kindness. Her gift boxes are pieces of art brought to your front door, that you are – almost – sad to tear into. Here, Melissa shares with us her path to bringing all those late-night thoughts to fruition, so read on and enjoy!

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P&H: What were you doing before establishing Old Joy Gift Boxes?

Melissa: I was housing a human!  The year before I got pregnant my girlfriend and I opened a “Healthy” concession in Langley at an equestrian show ground.  I worked there up until I was 8 months pregnant, running all things front of house.  I have been in the service industry for what seems like lifetimes 🙂

P&H: What was your trigger to follow this career path?

Melissa: After having Daphne I decided that 7 years was far too long to harbour a dream. I figured, hey, if I can give birth, maintain a life lovingly and succeed, I then very well could allow myself the opportunity to do the same for my career.

P&H: Where do you get your inspiration from for product?

Melissa: Basically every product is one I’ve lived with, shared, and integrated into my everyday routines.  I adore well-made, unique, ingredient conscious goods.  I love when a product balances branding, integrity and function.  Necessity is also a factor as gifting items that serve purpose is a key component.

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P&H: What role does social media play in your business?
Melissa: A HUGE role, actually I was pretty much discovered through Instagram.  Before I had even constructed a website I had people emailing me in hopes of obtaining one of my gift boxes.  It’s time-consuming but I feel completely grateful for these outlets.  Spending money on advertising is tough when you’re just starting out, so having a platform like social media is an absolute gift.

P&H: Do you involve your daughter in your work at all (or hope to since she’s such a little one)?

Melissa: So far Daphne hasn’t really left my 9-5 side.  She’s accompanied me to every meeting, delivery and pickup.  I actually really love the company and adore that she’s able to interact with all the wonderful makers we encounter.

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P&H: How important is it that your daughter take on or play a part in the business when she`s older?

Melissa: There’s absolutely no pressure to follow in her mother’s footsteps.  I only wish that she be keen to acknowledge the fundamentals of hard work, creativity, and working with passion.  And considering my husband, her father, is one of the owners of a brewery, I’m banking on that being a desirable environment for her when she’s ready to enter the workforce.

P&H: What has been your biggest challenge running your own business?

Melissa: Balance!!!  I have to constantly remind myself when delivering, curating, ordering or picking up…that I chose to fulfill my dream job because it would allow me more time with my sweet sweet babe.  Some days I feel like I’m running an obstacle course, except I’m running through one with a tot on my hip.  Knowing my limitations and not taking on more than the two of us can handle is an absolute work-in-progress.

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P&H: What is the hardest part in maintaining the work/life balance?

Melissa: I guess it would be knowing when work can wait and when it can’t.  Knowing when to take those moments to yourself and when to share them with your family.  I feel like I have always been the type of person who craves balance. I place it very high on my priority list, thus carry its intentions with me daily.

P&H: What does success look like to you? How will you know when you have achieved it?

Melissa: Personally, I feel like success is a tough one to define.  Honestly, it feels as if I’m living it.  I don’t base success on society’s definition.  I don’t believe it comes in the form of degrees, assets, or the thickness of your wallet.  When you no longer yearn for your present moment to feel any different than it does, that to me comes close to defining success.

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P&H: What advice would you have wanted to know 5 or 10 years ago?
Melissa: Only, that if you go through life without faith in yourself, neglecting your absolute ability to achieve whatever it is that you desire, then there is no way to take back those years you wasted telling yourself you couldn’t.  Trust your instincts, all while living authentically with as much integrity as you can offer.
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