It seems only right to kick off the “Inspiring Others Award” the week of Thanksgiving. The whole idea behind these awards is to show our gratitude for all you are doing.
We see you!!!
You are inspiring us. You are inspiring your community, your friends and family! You are doing so many good things, random acts of kindness, working harder than ever, and pushing through something none of us every planned. We want to applaud you and share your story with others.
The good thing about inspiration?
It’s contagious. It spreads. Hopefully you catch it. Hopefully you spread it.
Here’s one Inspiring Woman you want to meet!!
“Inspiring Others Award” Winner: Melissa Ackerman
Why was Melissa nominated for the “Inspiring Others Award”?
Melissa is a local Glencoe mom, inspiring us with her ways of giving back to the community and connecting other moms, by creating a virtual community. As the President of Produce Alliance, Melissa has led her company in supplying more than $4 billion of produce to major restaurant chains, airlines, hotels and other institutions. She’s also been part of the USDA Farmers to Family Good Box Program, distributing more than 1.75 million boxes of produce to families in need as well as frontline workers.
But wait – there’s more.
On top of all that, Melissa is dedicated to inspiring & connecting fellow working moms virtually. She and her BFF Brittany, founded the “The Chaotic Commute,” which is a working mom’s guide to careers, kids, & everyday life in between. Her mission is simple: Connect one working mom to another. Through The Chaotic Commute, Melissa gets real and vulnerable in many “confessional” posts, encouraging moms. You have to check them out on Instagram, the “confessional” stories are the BEST! @thechaoticcommute
We sat down for an interview with Melissa. Here’s her inspiring story for YOU!!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am the mom of the 3 energetic boys- Spencer (8), Logan (5), and Theo (2). I am the President of Produce Alliance, LLC- a Produce Management and Procurement Company that traditional works with customers in the foodservice space to provide fresh produce on a national scale. About two years ago, I co-founded the Chaotic Commute with one of my best friends, Brittany Dobslaf, as a platform for working moms to discuss tips and tricks to make life a little less chaotic. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, went to University Wisconsin-Madison undergrad, and University of Miami Law School (where I met my husband Jeff- while he was in Med School there as well).
What challenges have you overcome to get where you are now? How have you grown as a person?
There are many challenges I have overcome to get where I am today, but one that sticks out is the disappointment of being rejected from almost every team/position I tried out for in Junior High and High School. Growing up, it seemed like I could never make any of the sports teams I tried out for (at least the way I remember it).
I wasn’t voted ice skating captain on the Icettes (a skating troop at the Northbrook Park District). I never made it to Varsity Poms (the highest level at my High School). I could not make it onto any of the competitive dance teams at my school.
At that time in my life, I was devastated. I was so disappointed. I tried so very hard, and gave it all I could, but it just wasn’t not enough.
I truly believe that putting myself out there in a public setting and not making those teams made me a stronger person and leader today. It made me not afraid to apply for different boards or apply for different appointments. I knew what it felt like to be rejected and I also knew what it felt like to be accepted.
Those early lessons in life truly helped shape me, and will make me a better mother to help my children deal with rejection and disappointment.
What are you most proud of in your journey?
I am most proud in my journey of taking chances and not always taking the easiest path. One good story is how I learned Spanish. Languages were never easy for me. I am a complete “Type A” personality, but yet I couldn’t get an “A” in my Spanish class for the life of me.
Due to the fact that I could not get a good grade or learn the language, I decided I would do whatever it took to learn the language. I made a plan and made it a reality. I forced myself to submerge in the culture and language. I traveled to Spain to live with several Spanish families on three different occasions.
I majored in Spanish (without any of my friends coming with me and made friends for life), and ultimately decided to go to the University of Miami Law School since I could take classes in Spanish. This allowed me to practice law for a few years in Spanish were I, ultimately, became fluent.
Learning Spanish is just one example of how I am proud of myself for taking a chance. I also took a chance going into my family business. My whole life, I knew I wanted to follow a career I loved and where I could do good. When I went to law school, I began my practice in family law. I then turned to Insurance Defense. When my son was born, I decided to give my family business a try and see if I could follow in my Dad’s footsteps of selling produce. This chance has not only allowed me to work with my family and grow our business, but during this unprecedented year of 2020 it has allowed me the opportunity to help feed vulnerable people across the country.
Through the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program, Produce Alliance, in six short weeks, was able to distribute 55 million pounds of food to food banks, communities and faith-based organizations in 16 states.
In addition, outside of the USDA’s Program through the generosity of private donors, grants, family, and friends the Produce Alliance Foundation was able we were able to put together a grassroots effort and raised over half a million dollars, providing relief to over 25,500 frontline workers and food insecure families during the pandemic. I could not be prouder of the work my company is doing with this program or a traditional business.
I am so happy that this is where my path lead me.
What worries or struggles do you face today?
I worry today, I am sure like every other mother, how will this pandemic/2020 effect my sons in the future. I am trying the best I can to react to the situation thrown at me, but we can only do the best we can do, and this year has been hard.
I really do try to give myself , my husband and my kids grace and try to find the goodness that this year has brought. Because there are many good things that the world slowing down has meant for me and my family (e.g. more time together), but with that being said we do not know how we will look back on some of the social and emotional impact of this year in the future.
What is some advice you’d like to give your younger self, or others on their journey?
TRUST YOUR GUT- you know yourself better than anyone else!!! I truly believe we are our own guiding light and we need to listen to our inner voice to know what to do and where to go.