Featured Founder: Melissa Panszi Riebe

Melissa Panszi Riebe Creates Jewelry That Starts Conversations and Inspires Community Action

By Jenny Taylor

Melissa Panszi Riebe is the recipient of a micro grant from My Founder Story, a program dedicated to providing resources to female-identifying founders. Since 2018, more than $220,000 in grants and services have been donated to women business owners. To learn more and apply, visit our grants page.

Melissa Panszi Riebe closed her laptop and sighed. It was almost time to meet her friend Edie for dinner. Leaning back in her chair, she reflected on what had been another long week. Her job as a social worker was always busy. She knew the work was meaningful and impactful to her clients. But at the end of the day, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was meant for something different, something more.

Growing up, Melissa was inspired by her parents, who had both immigrated to the United States—her mother from Germany, and her father from Mexico. After growing up in poverty in Mexico, her father went on to become a successful neurologist in the Midwest. He often reminded Melissa of the importance of dreaming and told her that reaching for dreams is what pushes people to achieve more. He and Melissa’s mother instilled in their children the strong belief that through education and hard work they could achieve anything.

So Melissa dreamed of the career and life she wanted and focused on her education. After college, her first job was working with inmates on death row. She quickly identified flaws in the justice system. This work inspired her to earn a master’s degree in social work. She moved into a position as a social worker in a cancer center hospice unit and went on to receive a graduate degree in nonprofit management. Melissa had taken the path she thought was the right one and had built a solid career helping others. Still, there was that part of her that felt disconnected and unfulfilled.

When she left her office to meet Edie that evening, she had no idea the conversation they were about to have would pivot her entire career. During dinner, the women began discussing side projects. Melissa told her friend how she was making jewelry as a hobby to relieve stress. She felt such passion for the craft that she’d begun dreaming of someday turning it into a business. Edie was immediately supportive of the idea and encouraged Melissa to take the leap. Her wise friend suggested she may never feel completely ready, but she could learn along the way. Something clicked for Melissa that night. She returned home and immediately began planning her jewelry business and closing the chapter on her social work career.

In 2015, Melissa launched her jewelry business, A D’Zine, which she named in honor of her sons by combining their first initials. She offers one-of-a-kind handmade jewelry crafted from new and vintage materials, as well as global treasures like beads and stones. She enjoys creating unique statement pieces that make her customers feel beautiful and powerful and allow them to express themselves. For Melissa, the creative expression she’s been able to share with others through making jewelry is exactly what was missing in her life. She’s discovered that she is an artist at heart, and even though she did well in her former career, she now knows she shines brightest when she’s creating. Using these talents every day makes her feel more connected to her authentic self. And since turning her hobby into a business, she feels more fulfilled, more inspired and more engaged in her work. She has even incorporated this idea of more, or “mas” in Spanish, into A D’Zine’s mission to “create bolder fashion statements and a kinder world through mas.”

As was the case for Melissa in her former career, she remains committed to making a difference in the lives of others and the world in her business. She recognizes that jewelry is often a conversation starter and hopes to convert those conversations into action to improve communities. She features a different nonprofit each month and donates a portion of her sales to the organization.

Melissa has also created the Mas Community for A D’Zine customers, which is centered on helping others build on their strengths to make a better world. Mas Community members are connected through social media and receive a newsletter with information about the featured nonprofit each month, plus other local business news and sale updates. Through her career change, Melissa experienced firsthand how leveraging personal strengths can improve overall happiness, and she is committed to helping others do the same.

To learn more about Melissa’s business, visit ADZineNY.com and follow @adzineny on Instagram.

Photo: A D’Zine

About the author: Jenny Taylor is a marketing strategist and freelance writer who enjoys bringing inspirational stories to life through the written word. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and three kids.

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