On Melissa’s first date with her now husband, she told him her long-term plan was to live in Chicago and write for the Chicago Tribune. Four years later, that’s just what happened when she began penning a business column on the city's most influential corporate leaders.

Melissa started her journalism career at age 15 as a stringer for her suburban Ohio hometown newspaper, the Mason Pulse-Journal. As a junior in college, she began working her way up the ranks at the Tribune Co., from Washington bureau intern to the Orlando Sentinel to the Baltimore Sun and, finally, to the Tribune. While covering business leaders, she grew tired of watching other people take risks and build businesses. It was time for her to stop observing and start doing.

In the course of two years, she earned her MBA at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, was wooed away from journalism to oversee marketing at a private equity firm, had a baby and found herself at a turning point. Seeking flexibility and a desire to reap all of the rewards of her creativity and determination, she founded M. Harris, a marketing and communications agency that ignites and accelerates companies.

It is the biggest risk she has ever taken.