After a career of working for others, Melanie Brock gave into her entrepreneurial streak and started her own company.
Last year, after a series of jobs working for Montana politicians and Missoula business organizations, Brock launched her own fund development and public affairs firm, Brock Consulting.
Brock, who grew up in Scranton, Penn., said her experience in politics began when she was young, growing up as the daughter of a politician and salesman.
“Early on, I was knocking on doors and working at the polls,” Brock said.
Melanie met her husband Aaron, now executive director of the Missoula Food Bank and who is also on this year’s “20 Under 40” list, in a magazine writing class while they were in school at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania.
After getting her undergraduate degree, the two moved to Missoula, where she received a master's degree in political science from the University of Montana. Her first experience with the state was a trip with Aaron shortly after he had graduated.
“I can remember my first time passing through Missoula, my jaw dropped,” Brock said. “I knew as soon as I was done with school I wanted to take my skills to Montana.”
After working for Project Vote Smart in Philipsburg, she went to work for then-senator Max Baucus, working her way up from a field representative to his state finance director.
After a brief job with the Montana Meth Project, Brock became the state finance director for Governor Steve Bullock, and is still a senior finance adviser. She also ran two of Missoula Mayor John Engen’s election campaigns.
In 2013, she became the interim director of the Missoula Downtown Association, which she said changed her mindset about what she wanted to work on in the future.
“I decided I didn’t want to just work in politics, I wanted to apply my skills to business and community development,” she said.
She said the people she has met, from state politicians to Missoula business people, have shaped her professional life in profound ways.
“My advice is find the person you want to be and ask them to teach you everything they know,” Brock said.
She went from working with the MDA to the Missoula Economic Partnership, but knew that she was ready to go out on her own.
“I had that entrepreneurial spirit to start my own business,” she said.
Brock recently joined the Missoula Redevelopment Agency board, and is also a member of the board of the Missoula Urban Transportation District.
Instead of an office, Brock said she does most of her work at coffee shops around town, most often at Caffe Dolce.
“I always have my laptop, so I can pop in wherever I can get a seat and a cup of tea,” she said.
Brock’s husband Aaron said his wife is “the genuine article.”
“There’s a perception that she’s driven, thoughtful and results-oriented. That’s just how she looks at life. I’m in awe of it,” he said.