Cherish the Journey


Celebrating over 20 years in business, founder and CEO of Harthill Marketing Services, Michelle Payne-Harthill has broken through the proverbial glass ceiling, proving that women can be successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. Most importantly, she has demonstrated that anything is possible when you are motivated and determined to succeed.

Michelle started her agency at the young age of 26. Like most young people starting out, she had no practical experience, specifically with running a full service marketing agency. What she did have was a strength that still works in her favor today; developing strong relationships. Determined to take the leap of faith as a business owner, Michelle’s incredible journey had begun. Within its first five years in business, Harthill Marketing Services was already establishing itself as a highly successful agency that provided a full suite of amenities for some of the most well-known brands in the world. Michelle explains, “I knew that standing out from the rest of the market was paramount to our sustainability. Existing in such a competitive industry meant that our focus had to be on marketing programs that would align with our clients! objectives and goal-specific strategies.” Michelle!s business model proved highly successful and catapulted her agency into the upper echelon of marketing firms. Under her continued guidance, Harthill Marketing Services now enjoys a well-deserved reputation for outstanding service and laser-focused execution of both proprietary and client-centric initiatives. In 2016, Harthill Marketing Services was named the Best Full Service Shopper Marketing Agency and in 2019, Michelle was named one of the Top 50 Women in Business.

In June of 2020, Michelle launched her second business, – making Meeschell the first marketplace to host specifically natural, organic and eco-friendly products by women inspired brands. Her passion for these better for you products came about eight years earlier while implementing brand building strategies for clients with new to market products. She quickly noticed that even though consumer demand was on the rise for such products, finding them was still very challenging. After lots of research and conversations, she also then realized that most of these products were developed by women. Since Michelle has a passion for working with both – was developed . “I wanted to bring these amazing products to one marketplace for consumers while allowing me to partner with women in business who shared my same passions”.

“Better for you products will continue to have substantial growth…it!s exciting to be a part of the future”, Michelle commented. In just over one year, Meeschell has partnered with over 20 amazing brands, bringing a robust selection of products under beauty, wellness, kids, pet, home, food and beverages. Her goal is to be the only consumer consideration when shopping for products that benefit one’s holistic lifestyle.

Michelle’s core competencies, specifically her communication proficiencies, skillful negotiation, and resourcefulness, can be credited in part, to her experience in consumer packaged goods (CPG). Michelle still develops shopper marketing programs for niche retailer, Military Commissaries, where she has worked with globally known brands such as ConAgra Foods, Gatorade, Quaker Oats, Frito Lay, Bumble Bee, Tyson Foods, Mondelez, Kellogg’s, Kraft/Heinz, and many more. This success, coupled with her more recent accomplishments, makes it even more apparent that Michelle has exercised the perseverance, commitment, and hard work that it takes to excel, even amidst the most challenging of circumstances. In complement of her enviable career, Michelle enjoys any opportunity to share her wide-ranging experience with young professionals. She is both a mentor to Marketing majors and oftentimes, a guest speaker, at California State University. Michelle and her team also facilitated the event that raised over $300,000 for the St. Louis Fisher House, which supports military families.

The Result of Dysfunctional

Thank you for taking the time to get to know me. I was born in 1972 in Saint Louis, to a beautiful mother who had the heart and soul of a giant but lacked self confidence…and to a smart, talented father who battled mental demons his entire life, resulting in alcohol addiction.

From a very young age – I can remember my mother always trying to win my fathers heart. My father was not only an alcoholic but also mentally and physically abusive. My job became the caretaker. Why? Because when we’re in the same room, I had to learn controlling mechanisms that kept them both in check. As a young girl, I also had to learn to manage a lot of responsibilities. Because my dad would disappear for months, I took on the task of sourcing food banks, families who
would adopt us at Christmas, pleading with the utility companies to leave the lights on and where to find the best hand me downs. I still donate to the Salvation Army as I am forever grateful for the money, food, and holiday gifts they provided as needed. To spend time with my dad meant hanging out at the neighborhood bar (which started when I was 2). By the time I was ten, I learned to master playing pool, darts, and card games. I picked up street smarts, relationship building, what behaviors not to exhibit around drunks and those I could get away with. It also allowed me to take in hundreds of personalities and absorb their stories. Because when you grow up on the south side of St. Louis, we all have a story!

At twelve – my father purchased his own bar. You may be asking – what relevance does this have to your story. A lot since I was the one helping him to manage it. At the time, I didn’t think much of it…I knew the environment and wanted to protect my dad. What I didn’t realize at the time but certainly do today is – that experience enhanced my leadership skills. I learned how to manage people, vendors, money, and inventory. It wasn’t until my dad was sick that he expressed his gratitude. As he apologized, I proudly let him know that I didn’t regret one day of the experience. It’s made me who I am today.

So, you may be asking yourself why I’ve shared my personal journey. My answer is simple. I allowed my childhood, people, personalities and experiences to create who I am today – a good person with a big heart who embraces others, who I consider a success story in more ways than one.

So, what defines a good leader? Until ten years ago, I didn’t consider myself an entrepreneur. I considered myself blessed to have strong relationships with people who have taught me so much both personally and professionally. With that, I’ve also mastered these skills that I think all leaders should possess. Listening. We all have the ability to have thoughts, often expressing them without thinking about who will hear them. Ask yourself, how often do I just listen to what others have to say? I think it’s the best and most effective asset you can have as a leader. The people you are leading are relying upon you to make decisions that will impact them positively. That includes employees, vendors, clients, family and friends. I believe that when we truly have compassion for others and value what they have to say, we hear their
perspectives, personalities, skills, characteristics, strengths and weaknesses, and souls. And with that, you understand that person at a deeper level. Because the bottom line is – we all want to be heard…but not many of us are truly listening.

Stay humble and show gratitude.

The most difficult thing about being humble is not being able to brag about yourself
-George S. Patton, Jr.

To be humble is to consider others before yourself. To show gratitude is to remind yourself that nothing should ever be taken for granted. I truly believe that when you exhibit both, it automatically sets you up for success. My words to live by – people will pick a positive, humble person who shows acts of selflessness all the time over those who don’t. That is the core of a great leader. Having a positive mental mind will fuel your determination, motivation and confidence. Your confidence should be your guide. Staying on the side of good choices will always win as long as we keep our minds focused on the positives. Those positives will fuel your determination and motivation. Do whatever it takes to keep your mind, body, and soul happy and always trust faith. With that, I leave you with this – always love yourself. Always cherish the journey and always embrace it with a humble and grateful heart. Because that, my friends, is the true secret to success.