JCU Welcomes Alumna Melisa Manrique, Co-Founder of My Migrant Mama
Professor Riccardo Maiolini invited alumna Melisa Manrique to join his Social Decisions for Entrepreneurship course on 24 February 2022. In 2018, Melisa co-founded My Migrant Mama, a social platform dedicated to celebrating the strength in female migration across Europe and the power of changing perspectives. Originally from Peru, Melisa graduated in 2011 with her B.A. in Political Science and Communications from John Cabot University. She went on to obtain an M.A. in Global Political Economy from the University of Kassel in Mumbai.
Melisa asked students to reflect on the meaning of the word “migrant.” She explained that the word is typically associated with “problem, crisis, and invasion.” The common answers to her original question counter this narrative with: courage, creativity, strength, love, resilience, and agility. She then projected an image of mothers and daughters from different races, backgrounds, and generations to illustrate her definition of a migrant.
Melisa showed a photo of her own family on their first day in Rome in the 1990s after migrating from Peru. She explained that this photo “is the beginning of her migration journey,” and that she was at first ashamed to be a migrant in Italy. Growing up in Italy, Melisa wished to “not be a migrant” and to have an Italian mom that would cook “pasta alla carbonara,” and not “ceviche o arroz con pollo.”
After wishing to “belong and not be different,” Melissa changed her perspective at age 18 to focus on the beauty of migration. She noticed that her family was able to speak two languages and was able to cook not only Peruvian food, but also Italian food. Melisa realized the power of having two cultures and she also realized that she was not alone.
While completing her Master’s degree in India, Melisa met Manik Chander with whom she decided to create the social platform. Their first product launched was the book Mama Superstar (Mentor Verlag, 2019) which portrays eleven women who migrated to Germany. The perspective of the daughters in the stories is what brings the generations together and makes the book applicable to different audiences. The book sold out only 4 weeks after the launch. Though this book caters to migrants to Germany, Melisa explained her plans for producing one book per European country with Italy coming up next because “my mom is waiting for her book,” she said. The second product launched was the Migrant Festival, a yearly conference featuring female experts with migration backgrounds.
The Migrant Mama community consists of mostly German-speaking females and 10% males between the ages of 25 and 45. According to Melisa, their current challenge is building a financially sustainable B2C business with social impact. She explained that while they are finding themselves being pushed into the non-profit “bubble,” different perspectives are helping them to establish themselves in the market. Melisa and Manik are looking for a startup fund that entails pitching to investors to gain leverage.
The market for My Migrant Mama was segmented into the German population. Melisa originally envisioned the company expanding over Europe, however, the pandemic was a big pause. By choosing to scale deep, Melisa could focus on one country, or one beneficiary at a time to strengthen the impact upon the consumer and thus grow the company. Scaling deep is a method for businesses to identify a single beneficiary as opposed to scaling up, which would multiply the number of beneficiaries.
Professor Riccardo Maiolini is an expert on entrepreneurship and social innovation. His research interests focus on social and corporate entrepreneurship, and social innovation. He will teach Strategic Decisions in Entrepreneurship, Social Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Consulting this upcoming Fall 2022 Semester.