This Local Nonprofit Is Empowering Women And Helping Them Overcome Adversity

Written by: Brady Drake

Photo by Kayleigh Omang

She Overcomes, a local nonprofit was created to address the fact that North Dakota ranks last in the country for female entrepreneurship. Melanie Iverson, the organization’s co-founder as well as the CEO and Lead Designer of Mosaic Design and Build, is looking to change that by empowering businesswomen in our area.

Iverson is currently accepting applications from women-owned or operated organizations, and women who are in leadership in the startup community for the first year of her program. She Overcomes forms small cohorts of women that will receive leadership training, capital, and other resources to accelerate their company. “We want to treat the cohorts somewhat like a dynamic building community where we’ll be able to see who wants to scale and at what rate,” said Iverson. “After the year commitment, we can take a look together at what pitching to a venture capitalist could look like, as one of our classes will be geared toward writing proposals and pitches for scalable growth.”

There’s a significant need for what Iverson plans to offer. We live in a state where there are 1.5% fewer women-owned businesses in North Dakota today than there were in 2014, according to a study commissioned by American Express. All while female-founded businesses tend to deliver twice as much per dollar invested than those founded by men according to an article written by Forbes titled, The Next Decade Will Bring More Venture Capital To Female Founders.

“I was thinking about what I could do in our community to improve the entrepreneurial ecosystems and opportunities,” said Iverson. “There’s no reason we can’t have more female entrepreneurs in a community that is so entrepreneurially inspired.”

In addition to investing in local women, she is committed to helping women who are starting new business after been recovered from human trafficking internationally. “When the tide rises for one, it should rise for all,” said Iverson.

“I want to create a space where women collaborate and don’t compete with one another. I want to create a space where there’s permission to fail forward and permission to try new things,” said Iverson. “I think sometimes women don’t launch their dreams because they’re afraid of failure. It’s okay to suck at something for a while until you learn.”

Iverson knows what it’s like to get back up after failing first hand. Melanie and her husband, James, were married for seven years before getting divorced. “During that time, I really discovered what it was like to fail forward,” said Iverson. The two were divorced for four years before reconciling and remarrying two and a half years ago. After getting back together, the couple picked up the broken pieces of their lives and started a design and general contracting firm named Mosaic Design and Build which was named to represent the rebuilding of their lives.

“Someone said to us, ‘your lives shattered in front of you and it seemed like God picked up all the good pieces and put them back together to create a really beautiful mosaic of your life,” said Iverson.  “Losing everything taught me about resilience, grit and the tenacity of unconditional hope for something better.”

Now, Melanie and James run a thriving business together, Melanie co-founded this nonprofit with Jennifer Schillinger, owner of Strengths Advantages, and she was recently named Mrs. North Dakota International 2020. James and Melanie enjoy their reconciled family life, along with their two children.“Whether you are a housewife from North Dakota, or a victim of human trafficking internationally, every woman has something she needs to overcome. I want to help women discover how innovative, industrious and confident they can be inside and out of the marketplace.”

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.