Hi, I’m Melissa and welcome to my new home online! I’m a believer, Will’s wife, a daughter, sister, a mommy, faith warrior and fitness athlete who is inspired by beauty and exquisite style.
I’m the CEO of Velvet Suite, Inc., an influential brand consultancy firm and the creator of the She Suite community. I believe that all things are possible with God and I’m living proof. I started my business and launched my dream life right from my living room nearly 10 years ago with no contracts and very limited exposure. As a global brand builder, Fortune 100 consultant, international speaker, author and media personality, I’m passionate about using the power of technology to drive deep connections through content.
On my site you will experience the other sides of me and my personal brand. I believe in balance beyond a great career. I believe you can brand a beautiful life that includes a great career but doesn’t neglect faith, family, wellness and style.
For nearly two decades, Melissa Dawn Simkins has blended human insight with brand-building innovation, to be coined, “The First Lady of Personal Branding.” She is more than a trusted advisor to Fortune 100’s, C-Suite executives and influencers, but she is the personal brand leadership pioneer, redefining and reinventing the leadership development category to harvest the potential of people to lead the future.
Determined to unleash leadership at all levels, Simkins founded Velvet Suite® (www.velvetsuite.com). Since its inception in 2006, Velvet Suite has delivered breakthrough business results for an array of leading companies, celebrities, industries and brands by rethinking leadership from the inside out. The results are innovative strategies and proven solutions that deeply connect with people and create competitive advantage.
Today, her understanding of human potential and personal branding make her a highly-sought after keynote speaker on leadership innovation, a contributor to Inc.com and a frequent guest on news and business media, including CNN, HLN, MSNBC, Essence, Black Enterprise and more. Melissa is the best-selling author of Brand Me. Make Your Mark: The Ultimate Playbook for Personal Branding.
As founder of The Brand Leadership Institute ® (BLI), a successful online platform merging coaching, content and community, she has focused on advancing women in work and well-being. In the process, she has disrupted the leadership development industry without apology. BLI offers clients a proven platform and pipeline to advance and develop the next generation of leading diverse women by proving again how self-confidence and enhanced performance are borne out of self-discovery with extraordinary results.
She also has created The She-Suite Summit, an annual leadership experience designed to spotlight executive women and empower next- generation leaders. The She-Suite community exists to support the advancement of a new prototype of leading women living equally successful and significant lives.
Melissa’s career is replete with notable firsts. The first African American female advisory board member for the World Brand Congress in Mumbai. In partnership with the NFL, Velvet Suite created the NFL Player Brand University, the first personal brand development academy in professional sports. Velvet Suite clients include Boston Scientific, Lincoln Financial, Home Depot, Southern Company, the National Basketball Association, celebrities, pro-athletes and more. She gets it!
The National Association of Market Developers designated Melissa as Entrepreneur of the Year and she was named Atlantan’s Women of Power & Influence. Velvet Suite was a finalist for the Greater Washington Innovation Award. She has served on the Board of Trustees at Otterbein University and the Board of Directors for the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and currently serves on the Board of Directors for The SHRM Foundation (Society for Human Resource Management), proving that giving back has always been her DNA.
With a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and Business from Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio and a MS in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, Melissa is the mother of four sons and resides in Northern Virginia with her husband and purpose-partner, Will Simkins.
I’m a Southern girl who loves dancing and talking…a lot! As a little girl, I wasn’t confident. My parents were intentional in helping me build my self-worth, even when I felt invisible. They told me God made me special and that I could do anything through Christ.
My sister has always been the one I can count on to make me laugh and to keep it real.
My parents decided public speaking would be a great way to help me become more self-assured. I started competitively public speaking at 12 years old.
Over the years, I learned to turn insecurity into a passion to do something great…although I didn’t know what it would be at the time.
Passion To Find My Purpose
I read a book that forever changed my life by Dr. Myles Munroe called Understanding Your Potential. At 14, I learned I had a purpose but it was my job to find it.
So the journey began. I noticed certain areas in my life brought me great joy and came easy for me: talking and writing, dreaming up big ideas, working out and helping others. I started a non-profit initiative in high school that led me to getting a community service scholarship to go to college and run a mentoring program for middle school kids. It continues to be my passion to mentor others.
I went on to major in Public Relations at Otterbein University. It was there that I had my first career job working in marketing for the VP of Public Relations for Victoria’s Secret Stores. I learned the power of branding and how to sell a million-dollar bra! It was settled, the brand bug bit me.
After college, I worked at Nationwide Insurance in communications and sports marketing. However, I decided to pursue my passion for branding at Northwestern University where I received my Masters in Integrated Marketing and Communications from the Medill School of Journalism.
Global Brand Building
Over the years, I worked for various corporations from Victoria’s Secret to Nationwide Insurance and my last corporate job was with Procter & Gamble. I was part of the team that launched Swiffer, reintroduced Mr. Clean and Crest.
My role evolved to entertainment marketing expert. I was a pioneer launching some of the first branded entertainment partnerships in reality television, film, music and celebrity endorsements. I helped broker innovative brand partnerships with influential celebrities such as Jessica Simpson, Shania Twain, Mary J. Blige, ABC, Warner Brothers Music and more.
I took notice. The world was changing and people needed to know how to build their own brand empire just like products and companies. I was a classically trained marketer with insight around branding that many needed to turn their own passion into profit. Was this an opportunity to launch out on my own?
Hard Lessons Through Loss
Life in Corporate America was great. The thought of entrepreneurship came but didn’t stick. Suddenly, tragedy hit. I went through 18 months of tragic loss and depression. My boyfriend at the time died suddenly while playing basketball. My father was diagnosed with cancer and I was fighting for my will to live.
Although I had a great career, it didn’t matter. In my deepest pain, I was reunited with a higher purpose. Beauty comes from struggle and standing face to face with your fears. Suffering gave me a beautiful gift.
Loss taught me to live again. It became clear, my purpose was to take my passions, knowledge, experience and expertise to serve the world. Life is not promised and it was time for me to turn my true passion for people into profit.
Years later, I would finally step out on faith and become an entrepreneur. I launched my company from my living room with no contacts, contracts or clients after leaving a global company with a great title and cushy benefits.
Suddenly, I have to run a business and prove my formula of branding was more than corporate experience. The proof was in the results and I would become my first client.
Brand Me The Movement
I dedicated myself to designing my own system to brand me and I documented it in my first self-published book called Brand Me: The Ultimate Playbook For Personal Branding. The book shares my system for building a powerful personal brand. It was originally released in 2007 and re-released due to high demand in 2015.
Now, nearly ten years later, my system of personal branding has been adopted by millions. I’ve invested more than 50,000 hours consulting start-ups to Fortune 100s. I’ve shared my story and formula of success on national media and I’ve spoken on stages around the world.
In spite of the success, I’ve been through hard knocks and hard lessons. I’ve leaned on my faith, family/friends and fitness to sustain me.
I’ve accomplished some of my wildest dreams and I’ve done it on my terms. I’ve created my dream career and most importantly my dream life!
Finally…The Love Of My Life
Well, it only took 11 years, some really bad dates and kissing a few frogs for me to meet my King. We met and within six weeks of our first hello, we were engaged and 12 months to the day we met, we got married.
I knew part of my purpose was to be a wife and he makes it so easy to be Mrs. Simkins!
Creating The Life You Dream
I don’t have a job, I discovered my life’s work. I’m a living example, despite the difficulties and set backs, you can brand a beautiful life.
Thanks for stopping by and sharing in my journey. We are just getting started!
With all my love and gratitude,
Other Amazing Milestones
For with God nothing shall be impossible. – Luke 1:37