This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.Article Published June 3, 2020
For 14 years, Melissa Kieslich has been involved in running her family’s two small businesses in North Haven. A couple of years ago, she attended a business networking meeting with one of her friends and was inspired to find other ways to bring local business owners together.
Melissa began a Facebook group called North Haven Small Business with the goal of bringing together those who owned businesses in town in order to network, share ideas, and promote each other.
“North Haven is a wonderful town full of small businesses,” says Melissa. “I thought it would be a great point for everyone to come together and communicate and give advice across all different industries. My vision was to be able to have this wonderful, close-knit business owner network, but it didn’t blow up like I wanted it to.”
While there are more than 100 small business owners on the page, Melissa still has a goal to grow the numbers and increase the activity on the page. Since founding it, she has tried to spark conversations and discussions with different questions and introductions.
Melissa also implemented Marketing Mondays, where businesses could post different sales, events, and specials for the week. While the group is only open to small business owners as members, the posts are available for the public to see.
With the onset of the coronavirus, Melissa saw a slight uptick in the page’s activity as businesses looked for different ways to cope with the closures and restrictions. She has seen her family’s businesses change the way they run their companies.
“COVID has definitely had an impact on us. We’ve had to limit staff and separate the staff that came in to allow distance, but we’re lucky enough that we didn’t have to lay anyone off and were able to make it work,” says Melissa. “We want to keep everyone working. They have families to feed and bills to pay. We did what we could to make sure we stayed open.”
Melissa grew up in West Haven and lived in Hamden for several years before she and her husband Russell III moved to his hometown of North Haven seven years ago. When the couple met, Melissa got involved with the family business, Now Security Systems, which was founded by Russell Jr. 35 years ago.
“My husband has been involved since he was a child and I got involved after we met,” says Melissa.
That business soon led to another.
“When we parted ways with our former answering company, we needed someone to answer calls for the alarms 24-7, so we thought, ‘Why not answer for others as well?’”
That decision led to Ansir Communications on Washington Avenue, which has now been in business for 10 years. The 24-hour call center not only answers alarm calls for Now Security Systems, but also for doctors’ offices, funeral homes, oil companies, and more.
Melissa and her husband have two sons, 13-year-old Russell IV and almost seven-year-old Derek. Both are involved in North Haven Youth Football and are hoping to be able to get back on the field soon.
While helping run the family businesses and raising her family keeps her busy, Melissa has a passion for giving back to the community. She notes that she tries to give back in any way she can whether it’s helping a group with a fundraiser, making chocolate pops to sell for cancer awareness, or volunteering her time.
“I didn’t grow up wealthy. We were a typical paycheck to paycheck family and I was grateful for food in my belly, a roof over my head, and clothes on my back,” says Melissa. “I always said if I had the time and means to give back, I would.”
Through her business, Melissa participated in Toys for Tots. They have also bought and filled 100 backpacks with school supplies for those in need. As time went by, she decided to get her older son, Russell IV, involved with giving back as well.
She gave him the reins in deciding where they would concentrate their efforts and Russell IV’s first choice was a fundraiser for Homes for the Brave, a charity based out of Bridgeport that supports veterans. The next year he wanted to work with a charity closer to home and chose Yale New Haven Hospital’s Toy Closet.
“We had some friends who had visited the toy closet and it hit home for him,” says Melissa. “He has really taken it on as his own. It’s a lot of work for him, but I’m here supporting him with anything he needs.”
Melissa drives Russell IV to the businesses in North Haven where he asks the business owners if they will be a collection site for donations. At the end of the collection, they pick up all of the toys and sort them, which Derek also helps with. This year will mark the fifth year Russell IV has headed up the project.
“I have really stepped back and let him take over and watch him do what he wants to do with it,” says Melissa. “It’s beyond amazing. It’s something he takes pride in and I am so proud of him.”
With school having gone virtual, sports on pause, and business staffing scaled back, Melissa has been enjoying more time at home with her family. While she has always enjoyed baking, Russell IV has taken over baking duties during quarantine.
Melissa is also hoping that business owners can come together through her Facebook group to support each other during this time while small businesses may be struggling.
“My husband and I have always been supportive of local and small businesses and we’d love for other business owner to join us and tell us what you’re about, support each other, and give advice,” says Melissa. “We may all by handling different storms, but we’re all in the same boat. It doesn’t matter if you are a new business in town or a business that has been here for decade—all North Haven business owners are welcome and so are any suggestions to better the page.”