Ask Melanie Saunders, the owner of Saunders Safe Driving School, what her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is and you’ll get words to live by wrapped into a driving analogy. Melanie says “the bumps in the road will lead to smoothness. Things are constantly changing, and you have to be ready to adapt.” Just, she adds, “don’t be so quick to give up – you have to be resilient.”
About Melanie Saunders
Melanie is a Halifax County native and in addition to opening her own business, she has been a teacher for 27 years. One of the things teaches at Halifax County High School is a leadership class – she says her students were the motivation she needed to start Saunders Safe Driving School. It was important for her to model the behavior she teaches – that you constantly need to push yourself and get out of your comfort zone or risk becoming stagnant in your life or career. Halifax County High School students will tell you that Melanie applied this teaching in her 20-year tenure as varsity softball coach for Halifax County High School. Her former softball players will tell you that this is what motivated them to play hard to clench multiple district championship titles and be contenders in a number of regional and state tournament runs during her time as coach.
Starting a Business from Scratch
Today marks her third year running Saunders Safe Driving School, and she has grown to include one other instructor part-time. Together they teach lessons before and after school, as well as on Saturdays.
It wasn’t a blind leap of faith to start a business, but rather a well-planned leap of faith. Melanie explained that with any business, it’s important to “go in prepared – especially with the driving business because there is a lot of money involved with insurance”. The planning paid off and Melanie says the car she uses paid for itself in the first year. She credits her success on a couple of things: first, she is passionate about education and has experience teaching driver education within the school system. Second, there was a need for driver education outside of school and she was already fielding requests from parents and teachers for additional instruction hours.
Another Venture for Melanie
For many, teaching and running a business would be enough. Melanie is also a newly minted realtor. She explained that a local broker, Scotty Felton, had reached out to ask her if she was interest in becoming a real estate agent. When COVID hit, Melanie had time to take a few classes and passed the licensing exam. She hadn’t planned to become active for another few years but was encouraged to work part time with Long and Foster. Real estate is a challenging field to break in to, and Melanie describes the current market as especially challenging – more people need homes locally than there is inventory, which means homes sell extremely quickly. As a part-time realtor she has to juggle those the fast-paced market with her other responsibilities, but Melanie says she enjoys it and plans to continue with it through retirement. It has helped her to have a role model and trusted friend as a support system.
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
Melanie encourages every aspiring entrepreneur to find that person you can bounce ideas off of, a mentor you can trust and talk to, to help guide you on your journey. Being able to learn from someone in the same industry is “invaluable”. Melanie will be a speaker at the Youth Entrepreneurship Kickoff Event on May 5. This event is tailored for 8th through 12th grade students who want to learn about entrepreneurship as a possible career pathway in a variety of industries. Melanie will be speaking about “Finding Your Path to Entrepreneurship” at the beginning of the event. For more information, or to register, visit: sovainnovationhub.com/ye.
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