It’s Women’s History Month! This is the month that we declare, highlight and celebrate the successes and contributions of women to society. That means, taking the time to truly learn the groundbreaking endeavors of our foremothers and celebrating their achievements in HERstory. Each year gives us another set of legends to discover and another year of pioneers to uncover. If our goal is to continue to watch this list flourish, then we have to continue to recognize women who aim to change the world. Today, we celebrate NASCAR’s first black woman to own solely own a competitive team. New York native, Melissa Harville Lebron.
Melissa is the owner of E2 Northeast Motorsports, a multicultural NASCAR team that was founded as a dedication to her two sons, Eric and Enico, who are also drivers. Melissa prides herself on creating the first multicultural team and aspires to one day become the most powerful woman in motorsports.
With over twenty years in the music industry as an intern working for labels such as Epic and Sony, Melissa quickly learned the ins and outs of how to effectively develop an artist. She soon used her knowledge of management and business development to create her own music label Courtra Music Group. “I’ve always enjoyed the behind the scenes side of things because that’s where the real power is,” Melissa explained as she reflected on her past experience. This entrepreneurial spirit eventually evolved into the powerhouse business woman that we see today.
The late great Maya Angelou once said, “I come as one, but I stand as 10,000.” Meaning that everything she’s accomplished in her life is a result of the sacrifices and choices that her ancestor’s made. When reading stories about women who’ve dedicated their lives to making sure that the generations who follow will be better off than before, it’s important to highlight the keys to their success. During my hour-long conversation with Melissa, I learned five very effective lessons that can be used as the blueprint for future women of power.
You must be diligent in your purpose
Creating your own lane and not following the path of normalcy is what breeds legends. Those who are able to boldly be themselves in every aspect of their lives are the ones who grow to become legendary. At the age of 17 years old, Melissa worked as a production assistant for Dwayne Haywood Productions, and eventually landed a recording deal with Jay Ellis. Unfulfilled with both, Melissa learned that her purpose was far bigger than working for someone else her entire life. The goal has always been ownership of her company and she refused to settle for anything less. “You just have to stick to your passion when it’s something that you really want to do, you’re going to ride the wave. I guarantee when you finally get there it’s going to feel like OMG. I got more work to do. When you raise the bar high for yourself, you have to make sacrifices.” Melissa explains. You must be diligent in your purpose and steadfast with your passion.
Preparation is a major KEY!
When you’re passionate about something, nothing can keep you away from pursuing the goal. After attending a family and friends event for NASCAR, Melissa realized there was a large underrepresentation of people of color within the industry–ultimately, it was non-existent. When her two sons were invited to race on a test track, they shocked the league by racing at a staggering 149 and 150 mph and were invited to a private testing for further consideration. It was this moment that Melissa took her sons’ passion for racing and wanted to help them learn how to establish their business. NASCAR more seriously and began researching the necessary steps to becoming a team owner in addition to finding adequate training for the boys and getting them prepared for a competitive sport. Melissa had to get approved for ownership. Each step of the process requiring more paperwork to legitimize the business and establish E2 as a corporation. However, each time a new challenge was faced, she was prepared. Melissa soon came to realize that the development of a true multicultural team would have a significant impact on NASCAR. “Preparation comes through practice,” Melissa explained. You always want to be able to give them less of an opportunity to say no to you.”
You have to be twice as good to get half the respect
It’s not a secret that until now the world of NASCAR had been deemed a southern male sport. Even the thought of having a black team owner would’ve seemed like a ridiculous idea just ten years ago, but Melissa didn’t let any of that stop her. Although NASCAR has been supportive and helpful throughout her process, Melissa has found it difficult to receive quality equipment and non-funded sponsorships from third party vendors. And, she has unfortunately run up against price-gouging and misrepresentation. Ironically enough, Melissa doesn’t let that interfere or affect the legacy she is building. “In any type of business, you should know to always separate business and personal at all costs. Her focus is on her team and being competitive. “When we make it to the Monsters Energy Series, then I will feel as though we have earned our placement in history, but I know that’ll take time and I’m fine with that.” Practice makes perfect, and regardless of what obstacles you may face, the idea of pushing through and never losing sight of the vision is what will make you better.
There is power in words!
In February of 2018 Melissa’s team, E2 Northeast Motorsports finished in the top 15 in the New Era Energy 250. “Everybody knew I was competitive but nobody knew that I wanted to come in top 15, and for my first race, we placed 15th” Melissa excitedly shares as she reflects on the power of words and having faith. You have to speak it into existence and share your plans with the universe and simply watch them manifest. She goes on to explain that during those days when she would become doubtful and lack confidence there would always be a sign that showed her a glimmer of hope was just on the other side of the hurdle. “I know I will get to where I want to be because God made a promise to me, and who am I to question God.” Melissa states.
Creating generational wealth keeps the legacy going
Like any good mother, Melissa knew all too well the passion her sons had for driving. From learning the stats to their immense need for speed, she calls them “extreme sports enthusiasts”. Melissa knew that starting this team would create a legacy she could leave for her kids. E2 Northeast Motorsports is a family business. that she hopes will create generational wealth for her grandkids and their children. “I’m in it for the long haul,” she proclaims, expressing her commitment and dedication to making sure this team lives up to the expectations of her dreams for years to come.
The goal of Women’s History Month is to increase the number of women that are celebrated each year and to spread the story of their impact. For Melissa Harville Lebron, that story is still being written, and we are all here to witness HERstory unfold. With the right attitude, the right intentions and an undeniable passion for change, anything is possible.
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