By Stef Tschida
In response to the global health crisis, My Founder Story partnered with BankCherokee to launch Fueled by Purpose micro grants. Every week through June, we awarded a grant to a female-founded small business in need.
When Melanie Granger packed her car and left Michigan at 20 years old, she was chasing what she thought was her dream—to be a costume designer in California. After a Disney role, a stint in Hollywood and a job in retail management, Melanie realized she was deeply unhappy in her work. And it was spilling over to everything else in her life. One day Melanie had an epiphany and reached out to foster care agencies about becoming a foster parent. She was single and 23 years old at the time.
Over the next few years, Melanie’s California apartment became a temporary home for about 30 foster children, who she cared for while also earning her college degree. One of those children was a 4-day-old baby boy who Melanie ended up adopting. During that time, Melanie got a front row seat to the disparities that many children face. Her mission was to love each child 100 percent, “so they got to have the experience of knowing how that felt at least once in their lives.”
After a few years of the exhausting pace of fostering, Melanie was ready for a change. She and her son moved to Seattle. She knew she wanted to continue serving children, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds. A new dream began to take shape: to create a space and community where children and families from all backgrounds could support and learn from each other in a loving, accepting environment.
In early 2019, Melanie opened the doors to We Free Hearts, an indoor family play space and drop-in childcare facility in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood where children and parents feel welcomed and valued just as they are. Melanie personally greets every person who walks through the door and is proud that all types of families from all over Seattle are coming in. Transgender mothers and same-sex couples have thanked her, saying they’ve never felt so accepted in a space. She keeps prices low so We Free Hearts is accessible to everyone.
Melanie has been dramatically affected by the coronavirus pandemic as every aspect of her business was put on pause. We Free Hearts reopened with limited capacity on June 15, and special events will come back slowly as government regulations start to allow larger groups to gather. Melanie will use the Fueled by Purpose Micro Grant to provide a free month of access to We Free Hearts for several families to come play and connect. She’ll also purchase new play equipment for her littlest clients.
To learn more about Melanie’s business, visit We Free Hearts.
To learn more about and apply for a Fueled by Purpose micro grant, visit our grants page.
Photo: Melody Changizi Photography
About the author: Stef Tschida is a former corporate communicator and lifelong storyteller. Stef’s WHY became clear when she worked at her daily campus newspaper. She realized she didn’t want to ask tough questions as a reporter—she wanted to help organizations answer those tough questions. She’s been doing that work ever since.