My Winthrop Experience

Name: Melissa Gladden
Residence: Rock Hill, South Carolina
Degree: Business administration
Occupation: President, Carolina Recruitment, LLC

From makeshift office headquarters in a spare bedroom to state-wide recognition — Melissa Gladden '99 understands quite well the value of starting at the bottom.

Gladden, founder and president of Carolina Recruitment, LLC, created her organization in 2001 with little more than her desire to help people find jobs, a telephone and a spare bedroom in her parents' home. Eighteen years later, Carolina Recruitment has expanded to serve more than 50 businesses throughout the Rock Hill and greater Charlotte, North Carolina, metro areas.

Gladden's entrepreneurial spirit also has earned her national recognition: The U.S. Small Business Association selected her as the 2015 South Carolina Small Business Person of the Year Award.

The Rock Hill native explained that she sees the accolades as both an unexpected honor and a challenge.

"I was pleasantly surprised by the news, and I realized that there's something to learn from being a runner-up," said Gladden. "You can learn from all of your peers; they don't have to work in the same industry that you do."

That competitive nature is what drives Gladden — and it's what has fostered the growth and success of Carolina Recruitment. The organization specializes in servicing the warehouse and manufacturing industries and provides a full range of human resource services in an ever-changing working world. As founder and president, Gladden has learned that adaptability is key to the success of her business.

"It's a constant evolution for me because I have to redefine my roles and learn how to be an effective doer, manager, and leader," said Gladden. "It is constant change in the sense that you're a creator and you're creating what you think and what you speak — there's no plan outlined for you."

Gladden, who earned her B.S. in business administration at Winthrop and is a member of the Winthrop Women's Coalition, said that she leaned heavily on her alma mater — particularly the Winthrop Region Small Business Development Center — for the tools to help her create Carolina Recruitment.

"My Winthrop experience was a strong foundation of education, resources and experiences that I used to launch my career," said Gladden.