Photos by Kayleigh Omang
As a reader of this magazine, you might know Melanie Iverson for her work as the Lead Designer and Co-Founder at Mosaic Design + Build. If that wasn’t enough, in 2020 she added two more titles to her resume: Mrs. North Dakota International 2020 and the Co-Founder of She Overcomes.
There’s no doubting, Melanie Iverson knows how to rebuild. In the platform statement she gave during the North Dakota International 2020 pageant, Iverson opened with, “In 2013, a wrecking ball crashed through my life, shattering my self-worth, marriage and family.”
Now, donned in the Mrs. North Dakota International 2020 crown and sash and with an impressive number of home remodel projects under her belt, Iverson has come a drastically long way since what inspired that statement. Following a divorce, alcohol abuse and the loss of two children in the adoption process in around 2013, her life as she knew it was over. But the perfect storm of misfortune that swung her pendulum the opposite direction led her to bounce back stronger.
Four years later, she reconciled her marriage with her husband, James, and the two got remarried two and a half years ago. Much to their two children, Carter and Grayce’s, delight, the family is happily living under one roof again. In this time, the couple started their business, Mosaic Design + Build. Together they run this design and general contracting firm, creating vibrant and playful spaces and places all over town.
“I want to empower, equip and encourage other women because strong and intelligent women have done that
Wanting to turn her troubled past into something good, Iverson felt a calling to help other women who have faced adversity. She believes that most women have something they need to overcome, whether that be poverty, abuse, mental anguish or simply feeling stuck in a rut. Iverson wanted to help others like herself not only survive but to thrive.
When Iverson saw a news report stating that North Dakota ranks last in the whole country for female entrepreneurship, she found a need in our community that she and her co-founder’s expertise could help fill. Hearing this report sprung them into action, knowing they needed to help change this statistic for fellow women business owners. To do this, she founded She Overcomes alongside Jennifer Schillinger, owner of Strengths Advantages. She Overcomes is a nonprofit addressing the female entrepreneurship problem by investing capital, training and providing business mentorship to accelerate the work of female founders and entrepreneurs.
According to an article written by Forbes titled, The Next Decade Will Bring More Venture Capital To Female Founders, female-founded businesses tend to deliver twice as much per dollar invested than those founded by men. If this is the case, then why are women-founded businesses invested in at such a lower rate? She Overcomes’ hopes to change that, for the good of women, but also the community as a whole.
“I was thinking about what I could add in our community to improve the entrepreneurial ecosystems and opportunities,” said Iverson to Fargo INC (March 2020). “There’s no reason we can’t have more female entrepreneurs in a community that is so entrepreneurially inspired.”
While working hard on changing the blueprint for women in business, Iverson is also writing her memoir. Slated to be published later this year, the book outlines her experiences with faith, reconciliation and healing. She hopes that in writing this book and sharing her story—no matter how painful it is to tell at times—she can, once again, help other women.
With running a design and build business, being a mother and wife, launching a nonprofit and writing a book, one would think that Iverson’s plate would be full. But in 2019, she added one more thing.
When Iverson was approached with the suggestion to run for Mrs. North Dakota International, she brushed it off. And if you asked her a year ago if she would run in a pageant, nonetheless win it, she would have laughed. She never grew up doing pageants and never saw herself as the type to fit into that scene, in fact, she had a negative stigma related to pageants altogether. But when she took the time to speak with Janelle Steinberg, the Executive Director of Mrs. ND International, she saw her negative prejudices dissolve. Steinberg opened Iverson’s eyes to the purpose of the International Pageant System: platforms. This sect of pageants operates off of promoting individual contestants’ platforms and them being role models, rather than based on more superficial matters.
Soon, this platform-based program began to feel right to Iverson. The more she thought about it, the more she realized that it would be the perfect opportunity to spread her story and advance her non-profit and book. Not only that, but it would also be a way for her to reclaim her femininity and not shy away from the spotlight. Literally taking center stage, she saw this as a way to publically embrace the power of her story. In all her time working so hard to empower other women, this was a time where she could walk the walk and work on empowering herself. She shared on her blog, “I believe that when we can speak authentically about our past, our failures and how we overcame, that it shines a light into the darkness for other people who follow.”
In January 2020, Iverson competed in the North Dakota International pageant, coming home crowned Mrs. North Dakota International. In July, she will head to Tennessee for nation-wide Mrs. International Pageant, competing for the Mrs. International 2020 crown. With this, she hopes to continue to spread her message of restoring hope for women, redeeming marriages and reforming women leaders.
Needless to say, Iverson is a powerful force. We in the home-community have long admired her for her fresh take on local interior design and execution of some incredible remodels. But as with many talented women, there’s so much more underneath. Reading this, she’ll probably laugh and roll her eyes, adding in some humble commentary. After all, for Iverson, being a business owner, nonprofit co-founder, mother, wife and Queen are all in a day’s work.