Ottawa Changemakers: From social services to social media, Melissa Commandant’s career has been transformed

It would seem that Melissa Commandant has been elbow-deep in creative projects for years, she says she grew up “very studious.” Photo submitted

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good makeover, except perhaps making a successful business out of it

Melissa Commandant’s social media platforms, @MelDidItHerself, are full of expertly renovated furniture that’s been given a new lease on life. 

Given the quality of the work, it would seem that Commandant, who is from the Wahta Mohawk Territory, has been elbow-deep in creative projects for years. In reality, she says she grew up “very studious.”

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I didn’t really have any artistic abilities that I explored,” Commandant admits. 

Commandant studied criminology and victimology and went on to work on the frontlines of social services in Ottawa, before moving to policy and program consultation. 

Then the pandemic hit. Commandant had just moved into her first home with her husband. Her mom had gifted her a sewing table belonging to her late grandmother. 

The table sat in Commandant’s garage for a long time. “It was old and a little bit beat up, so we weren’t really paying much attention to it,” she says. 

When Commandant began re-doing the guest bedroom, she realized that the sewing table was the perfect size for one corner of the room. However, it didn’t quite fit the look. 

“I took to the internet and looked at tutorials and immersed myself in that world to see the different components that went into making it over,” Commandant says. 

Turns out, Commandant had a natural touch. “It turned out great and it was easier than I had put it up to be in my head,” she says. “So I got the itch for more and basically haven’t stopped.” 

Since that time, Commandant has been buying and flipping furniture, sharing her journey across social media, including her podcast, BusyBee Refinishing with MelDidItHerself

Commandant has more than 14,800 followers on TikTok. In November 2022, she took part in the six-week TikTok Accelerator for Indigenous Creators, presented by TikTok Canada and the  National Screen Institute. Commandant joined 40 others to learn about the different tools and features available on TikTok. She discovered ways to “tell my story better and really lean into who I am as a creator,” she says. 

Before long, Commandant began receiving requests online. “I started unofficially taking custom clients on and that began to grow and grow.”

Today, Commandant’s custom clients are a staple of her business. She also offers education, coaching and consulting for people looking to do their own furniture makeovers or to start a business like hers. 

By the summer of 2022, Commandant was able to go full-time with her business and she hasn’t looked back since. 

“The freedom has been truly life-changing,” Commandant says. “It makes such a big difference. I really enjoy the entrepreneurship aspect — at the end of the day, it is important to be making money as well as pursuing these creative ventures.” 

That said, the road hasn’t always been easy. “I wouldn’t say that I went into it full force,” Commandant says. “There were times when I took a step back and I was like, ‘Is this the right thing to be doing?’”

However, she’s got a plan in place and her husband, family and friends have been supportive. “Ultimately, the pandemic and everything that came with that — it’s just kind of a wake-up call that life’s too short,” she says. 

Ottawa Changemakers highlights entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and lived experiences who are making a difference in the city.

Invest Ottawa is Ottawa’s lead economic development agency for knowledge-based industries. Guided by a vision to be a globally recognized, innovative, inclusive and future-ready city, Invest Ottawa delivers programs and services that catalyze the growth and success of entrepreneurs and firms.

RBC Royal Bank is a global financial institution with a purpose-driven, principles-led approach to delivering leading performance and creating value for clients and communities.

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