As the Market Access Officer, Melissa Lunney’s role at the Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI) is fundamental to the success of some of our major projects, specifically the Business Incubator and Accelerator programs. Melissa spends much of her time mentoring clients and providing support for their business needs. Melissa’s approach to her work at JEDI is to lead with intention. Her ability to use her unique lived-experiences as a tool at JEDI is empowering to both her clients and co-workers.
Tell me a little bit about yourself…
I grew up in Minto, NB where I had a wonderful childhood. After graduating high school, I attended St. Thomas University here in Fredericton for a few years but I didn’t really enjoy that experience – I was dealing with the aftermath of some health issues. When I was 17, I was diagnosed with cancer which was followed by months of chemo and radiation. Going through something like that gave me a lot of anxiety – I was scared to do anything. So trying to overcome that while in university became too much.
Thank you for sharing that. What kind of impact do you think this had on you?
It took a long time before I finally decided that I needed to deal with it. Through the years I’ve realized it’s important to address it because there’s not a lot of young survivors talking about it and I wish I had someone to talk to. It’s a big part of who I am and why I am.
In your opinion, what are some things that make you unique?
Something that makes me unique within my position here at JEDI is that prior to working here, I was enrolled in JEDI’s Mobile App Development (MAD) program. I had heard about the program through my sister, actually. She really enjoyed it. I saw her grow both personally and professionally through the program – she became more confident so she encouraged me to take it. While I was in the course I came up with an app idea and from there, I was accepted into the Incubator Program. Now I actually help run that same program. I basically began my career through JEDI.
Another thing that I’m really proud of is that I’m a soon-to-be film maker. I’m making my first film pretty soon – we started shooting in August as a part of the Imaginative Grant. I applied and received funding to do this in partnership with the NB film co-op, which I’m a member of, and we’ve done a few Indigenous film workshops.
What are your goals at JEDI?
My main goal is to help all of the entrepreneurs in our Incubator program to get their businesses started. They all have really unique ideas and I want to help make them a reality. I’d also like to start more Indigenous entrepreneurship centres around the province because many people in the program have to travel here to participate and when they get back to their communities they don’t have anywhere to work so it’d be nice to have little JEDI labs within the communities.
What would you say is your favourite thing about working here at JEDI?
During my time as a student in the program I got to discover my own culture. Up until then, I hadn’t gone to school with other Indigenous people before so it was a really amazing experience because I got to grow both as a person and a professional. My experience is still with me now and I just want to show people “if I can do it, you can do it.”
Anything you’d like to add?
Everyone is always telling me how passionate I am, well I’m passionate because four years ago I never imaged I’d be where I am today. The amount of growing I’ve done in the past few years has given me the biggest boost of confidence and through my work at JEDI I really just want to help others find their confidence too.