In November of 2019, Jovante Ham felt a push from God that he was called to do something more with his life. At the time he was working as a software engineer at Lockheed Martin and his wife was a nurse by trade.
“So then working at a job, I was making pretty good money. However I just wasn’t fulfilled with the life that I was living,” Ham explained.
After obtaining a masters degree in engineering management and working in the corporate space for a little over a year, Ham realized it was not the right path for him.
Although he was fearful Ham said he had faith, “you can just imagine what I left on the table to kind of start something from scratch. Even when I quit, I wasn’t making any money from it. So I walked off the job, with total faith.”
Ham says while stepping out on faith, there was also a new wave of supporting black businesses and products happening right in front of him. “So we made a pact to buy black but we tried to go online and it was limited. I couldn’t find it. And so I wanted to start something myself. And that’s when I started an exchange,” Ham said.
Once Ham couldn’t find the resources he was searching for he realized there was a need for his idea. So, Ham and his wife created ‘Melanoid Exchange’, a platform for small minority businesses that need help adapting to the ever changing world of e-commerce.
The exchange provided hundreds of businesses with an opportunity to showcase their products and make sales. In the beginning during the creation of Melanoid exchange, Ham and his wife received a lot of kickback.
“Why would you do this for only black businesses? Its stupid. It’s never going to work.” These are just a few of the negative comments Ham received while trying to launch his business.
However, the perception of the exchange quickly changed in 2020 after the killing of George Floyd. “And so when that happened, it switched from the idea being stupid to, oh, my God, this is the best thing since sliced bread,” Ham explained.
Afterwards things took off and the platform grew tremendously. Ham described the success as perfect timing but then a problem arose. “We saw that the traction, you know, we would get 50,000 hits in a week, but the traction wasn’t matching the transactions,” Ham said.
In order to eliminate the problem Ham and his team worked to find the source. Through customer discovery they found that the timing of shipments and the branding of the companies on the site were playing a huge factor in customers feeling confident enough to checkout.
“So we started reaching out to our users. And they were like we never learned any proper protocol about business. And so we were like, wow. So a lot of people didn’t know anything about business. And so we took it upon ourselves to start educating on our social media.”
Ham was able to use his skill set and education to understand how people learn and the resources they needed to be more successful.
While teaching the users the educational tools they needed to be successful in business they decided that the market needed it more than the exchange.
“And so what we then saw was that after the tragedy and all of that stuff, Amazon and Etsy, they started having a black owned business tab and even Shopify. So we lost our value proposition. However, what we did see was that we had a unique ability to educate in a way that this generation of learners was able to learn from,” Ham explained.
After losing their value proposition Ham and his team had to make a difficult decision to shut down Melanoid exchange. However, MelX was born, an educational platform that helps businesses reach success.
“Mel is an artificial intelligence business coach, she does everything herself. So it’s a self service platform,” Ham said.
MelX is similar to Alexa for businesses. Currently Ham and his team are “getting the data together and getting the app together. So when we launch people will be able to ask their questions and they will be able to learn what they need to build their businesses successfully,” Ham said.
In the meantime, MelX provides a monthly subscription. Although the growth has not succeeded their expectations they believe if they stay focused it will grow organically.
Ham explained, “I believe everything happens for a reason. You know, we’re not where we want to be, but we’re most definitely at a place to work and say that I’m proud of the way that this is growing and that it will grow.”
Nonetheless looking back Ham says he has zero regrets because he loves what he is doing. “We’re helping other entrepreneurs reach their goals. And I think that’s a part of my purpose here on Earth, you know, is to help other people. And right now, we’re truly enabling people to chase their dreams, and that fulfills me.”