Melissa Gladden was the Winthrop Class of 2022 Convocation speaker. Her speech centered around overcoming the obstacles given to you and making a hero out of yourself. She is a small business owner who has said that she hopes to continue her efforts of inspiring students by speaking on campus and sharing her story.

Gladden spoke about her endless search for a job after having been laid off three years out of college. She explained how she didn’t even know where to begin and how she had to live off of unemployment checks during her job hunt.

“I would go around searching for job after job after job. Like everyone probably looking for a job it was hopeless. You feel so hopeless and you feel like you’re just submitting applications to this black hole” Gladden said.

Due to her lack of success in the job market she said she was able to find her passion for helping other people find a job they will love and give them the chance to join a successful business. She started Carolina Recruitment out of the spare bedroom at her parent’s house and used a $2000 loan from her husband to begin the business.

“I started it there [bedroom] because of course I didn’t have any money, I had I think what was a $2000 loan from my husband. So, when you only have $2000 to start your own company you start running around, trying to figure out what’s free” Gladden explained.

Gladden shared her thoughts throughout the process of creating Carolina Recruitment and the fact that her doubt could never hold her back. She said that not knowing the outcome of her situation would’ve been the worst part about not attempting this new venture.

“I would be able to live with myself knowing that I at least believed in myself and so what if I failed but having to go through life wondering. I couldn’t live with that unknown, with that wondering” Gladden said.

When Gladden received the honor of SC Small Business Person of the Year in 2015 she said that she couldn’t understand why she would receive an award like that. She explained how she had become so enclosed in her own business that she forgot what all she had been able to accomplish with her success as a business woman.

“It felt almost like a fraud because a lot of times you don’t see the beauty and value in yourself and so when something like that happens to you, you’re like ‘are you sure’” Gladden shared.

Carolina Recruitment and Gladden have both spoke on the issue of diversity in the workplace and creating a diverse, inclusive space for all people. Gladden has said that she believes in creating a space where individuals can express themselves and contribute to the business wholeheartedly.

“One lesson and a hard one that I had to learn was valuing people as an individual” Gladden explained.

Gladden shared her advice to Winthrop students and what she believed she should’ve done to make her time on campus worthwhile. She said that she wishes students will understand that they’re education is important and that they will see the value of their degree with time.

“Education is almost like an acorn in the sense that it’s insulation and its nutrients for that seed. But, until you plant that seed into fertile ground and it gets water it’s not going to grow so what are you going to do with your education, where are you planting your seed” Gladden questioned.