Majoring in psychology led Melaney Houle ’10 on the path to becoming a small business owner. At Lotus & Compass, she and her husband spread a message of women’s empowerment and self-love.
For Chicopee native Melaney Houle ’10, starting an online clothing business was a way to set her own work schedule while prioritizing time with her husband, Brandon, and two children, Hunter and Haven. But it was also an opportunity to create something new in the women’s fashion retail space — a business model that prioritizes positive body image over conventional beauty standards.
“There’s so much negative press out there for women today,” said Melaney. “Everything from body image and mental health to motherhood, whether or not you’re a good mom for working or staying home. I think that a message that’s getting lost in today’s culture is that women are beautiful just the way they are.”
Lotus & Compass debuted in 2018, carrying an inclusive array of styles that appeal to all body types. The lotus reflects Melaney’s burgeoning creativity and sense of adventure, while the compass represents her husband’s logical thinking.
After graduating from Elms with a degree in psychology, Melaney pursued social work for a few years. Something was missing from the 9-5 work week, though: family time. Melaney decided to take her career into her own hands, and start a business. She credits the liberal arts education that she received at Elms with giving her the confidence and ability to change careers.
“I’m still using the toolbox that I developed from my education,” she said. “I still do social work every single day.”
Melaney’s story contains an important message for current students, she said.
“There’s always so much pressure to go in a certain direction with your degree,” she said. “I think it’s important to think about the broader spectrum of work that you’re able to do with a four year degree.”
In other words, the liberal arts empower students to see the forest for the trees, Melaney said. Interdisciplinary conversation, research, and experiences add up to an adaptable point of view that sees opportunities everywhere.
“I think the skill set and the well-rounded ability to be a logical thinker, and to be able to think about things from a more critical standpoint, is very important,” Melaney said. “It’s a skill set that a lot of people do not have. I think going out in the world with a four year degree enabled me to look at the world differently.”