Maven to Know: MEL MCMAHON STONE
Where Hoosiers spend their hard-earned money is important. Just ask Mel McMahon Stone, co-founder of Indiana Originals and radio personality on 93.1 WIBC. If there’s one place Mel recommends investing time and money into, it’s local businesses.
Mel and her husband, Lance, founded Indiana Originals in May 2014 as a guide to all things local in Indiana. Today, Indiana Originals has morphed into a company working to support local business and helping its owners find the resources they need to be successful.
“If every Hoosier household spent just $35 more a week on local businesses, we’d have another $1.8 billion for our state,” Mel says. “They’re the lifeblood of our community.”
Mel knows first-hand just how important local businesses are. Not only is she the daughter of a small business owner, she’s also an alum of a small high school in Ferdinand, Indiana, where there was only one franchise in the whole town, a Subway sandwich shop.
We squeezed some time on Mel’s calendar to talk about why local businesses are so important, how people can support local establishments, and good habits of successful entrepreneurs.
Maven superpower: I’m really good at finding things, like I’m really good at finding missing objects. Don’t know how I do it but I’m really, really good at it.
What is Indiana Originals?
Indiana Originals is a website and an app that helps people identify and support local businesses faster and easier. So, all of our business members are companies that have been certified local. That means they’re headquartered here in Indiana, they’re locally owned and operated, and they’re not part of an out-of-state chain. We provide a network of services to our small business owners. We help them stand out from their national competitors.
How’d you get started in the radio industry, one of your other career fields?
It’s something that I was always interested in. I used to babysit for Debby Knox, who is now on CBS-4. And in high school, everybody told me I had a great voice. I never had a big plan of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I just knew I wanted to be successful. I was working at a restaurant in downtown Indianapolis, getting ready for my senior year of college. I asked one of my tables, it was the sale manager and the sales rep from WTTS, if they had any openings at their Bloomington office and before I was done with that shift, I had an interview scheduled as a receptionist and I got hired on the spot. I’ve been in the industry ever since.
Favorite Indy businesses?
I think that’s kind of like picking your favorite child. Which, the secret of a good mom is to tell every child that that child is their favorite, just don’t tell the other ones. We have so many amazing businesses of all sorts of industries. And they make it so easy for me to support local in my everyday life. I honestly could not pick a favorite one. I use them all. I’m a patron of so many different local businesses.
What are some local businesses that you’ll be shopping at this holiday gift-giving season?
I try to find really unique gifts for whomever I am buying for… Homespun, Boomerang BTQ, and The Yellow House at Sullivan Hardware & Garden never fail me!
How can people support local businesses besides the obvious — buying their product?
Getting social. Liking their social media pages. Subscribing to their newsletter. Sharing their specials and events that they have going on. Simply asking how you can help because you might be surprised by the answer. Everybody knows a small business owner. I would be shocked to know someone who doesn’t know somebody who owns and runs a small business.
What’s the most recent local purchase you made?
Well, I just bought an amazing pocket scarf by Specifically Random on Indiana.Gifts. The hardest part about owning an online retail shop is not buying everything yourself! I do it anyway though!
Why do you like supporting local businesses?
It’s something that’s always been there. I grew up in Irvington and my mom was one of the business owners that helped Irvington become what it is today. And in the spring of 2012, my now-husband and I were walking around Monument Circle and we wanted to go someplace for dinner. We looked at a restaurant name and I looked at him and said, “Is it local?” And he was like, “Well, I don’t know.” And I said, “Well, how do you know if it’s local?” And that’s what started the whole conversation. We did research for about 2 years and we found a lot of people like us that would support local businesses if they could identify them faster and easier. I really kind of created my dream job where I get to promote good businesses.
What are some good habits of entrepreneurs?
The biggest, and I say this tongue in cheek because it’s my challenge too, is entrepreneurs have is to think simply. We’re oftentimes big idea people. And being consistent with things is really important to success. Whether that is a morning routine or blocked scheduling on your calendar. And make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Like you need time to work out and unwind and kind of refresh yourself. I think consistency is really the key to being a successful entrepreneur. I suck at it, but I know that’s what I’m going for.
Who’s a woman you admire?
I’ve been fortunate to always have strong women in my life. Picking just one, that’s tough. It seems like in every aspect of my life, there have been really influential women who inspire me to go to the next step. Growing up, I don’t think that I appreciated the strength that my mom had at the time. Now I see just how many different choices she made so I could have a better life than she did. And then in college, Laura Duncan from WTTS was just a huge influence for me. And really helping me step outside and figure out what I wanted to do with my life, not what other people expected me to do.
If you could have dinner with anymore, living or dead, who would it be?
Oprah. Every day after school I would plop down on the couch to watch her show. I continue to be inspired by the interviews she conducts and several of her projects have helped me grow into a better human being. The empire she has built while helping others be there best is so inspiring.
Samantha Kupiainen is a regular Indy Maven contributor.