AUBURN — In 2012, Auburn native Melissa Mansfield Anderson jumped at a job offer in Atlanta, anxious to live down South again.
She and her husband, Kenny, hit the road with her 10-year-old son, a dog and guinea pig.
“Five days after we got there, (Kenny) died,” said Anderson, 44. “It was one of those things where our stuff hadn’t even been delivered yet from the moving company, and I had to make a decision: Do I hightail it back home or do I stay here? I stayed.”
It took years to let herself grieve, an “unraveling.” She threw herself into work.
“People want to do business with people who are successful and happy and positive,” said Anderson. “You can’t just talk about things like depression. You can’t say, ‘I drove home last night from a business after hours and sat in the driveway and cried in my car’ because they’d question your ability to do your job, even though they don’t correlate, people will judge.”
Eventually, listening to other women’s stories at networking events helped. A single mother who started a successful business with $20. A woman told she’d never speak after cancer now a talk show host.
One day, Anderson decided to share. How she’d lost Kenny. How she’d lost a child years before that.
“You’re standing on a stage and talking about your most raw and vulnerable things, and (how you’ve) come through it, and your strength is showing,” she said.
Eighteen months ago, life unexpectedly brought her back to Maine: Anderson wanted to be near family after a surprise pregnancy with her new husband.
When she didn’t find the same sort of network she had in Atlanta, she started The Super Women’s Society. She held its first sold-out event with 85 women at Marco’s Restaurant in March. The next one is planned for September.
“It’s nice to be on this side and show other women you can, too — there’s absolutely nothing you’ve been through that you can’t come back from,” said Anderson. “It doesn’t define you.”
She’s almost doubled the size of the second event, calling it The Girl Power Summit, and included a speaker from the U.K. teaching personal safety and empowerment, a health coach and vision board workshop.
Anderson, an Edward Little grad from the Class of 1993, works in marketing and advertising, and went full-time in business for herself last year with Pando Consulting Group.
She lives in Auburn with her husband, D’Vonteono, their 1-year-old daughter and her 16-year-old son. She wrote and self-published a book over the winter, “Learn to Love Your Bum,” part self-help and guide, part memoir sharing past struggles.
“The things that I have gone through, and I have come out the other side, I’m really inherently a happy person,” Anderson said. “It’s your mentality and how you look at things.”