I Don't Know How You Do It

Find Your Happy with Sheena Melwani

June 13, 2023 Jessica Fein Season 1 Episode 21
I Don't Know How You Do It
Find Your Happy with Sheena Melwani
Show Notes Transcript

Taking the first step toward pursuing your dreams can be daunting, especially for people re-entering the job market after years at home. But breaking your goal into smaller, more manageable steps can make the whole process less overwhelming and more achievable.  

Meet Sheena Melwani, whose brother told her to "just start. Take one step today because that will mean one less step tomorrow." 

Pursuing her lifelong dream to be a singer, Sheena Melwani found her path unexpectedly altered as she embraced motherhood and put her music career on hold. But with determination and an amazing support system, Sheena found her way back to music and to a brand new way of connecting with people through humorous videos with her husband. The world responded, with billions of people viewing Sheena's videos, embracing her sense of joy, and connecting to her laughter.  

But that's not all. Sheena and her family knew there were other ways to spread joy. After experiencing years in the hospital with her sister's child, Sheena and her family started a nonprofit to bring "joy boxes" to kids with long-term illnesses. 

In this episode, you'll learn:

  • How to work backwards to realize a dream
  • Why taking that first step can feel like a mystery ... and why you should do it anyway
  • How being authentic and relatable is the best way to connect with your people

Learn more about Sheena  and Spread the Joy here.

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Music credit: Limitless by Bells


Jessica Fein: . [00:00:00] 

Welcome. I'm Jessica Fein, and this is the I don’t know how you do it podcast where we talk to people whose lives seem unimaginable from the outside and dive into how they're able to do things that look un undoable.

I'm so glad you're joining me on this journey, and I hope you enjoy the conversation. You might know my guest today, Sheena Melanie, if you're one of the 14 million people who follow her on social media or one of the 2 billion viewers of her videos, but Sheena never set out to become a social media icon.

Sheena is a singer who took what she thought would be a few months off when she had her first baby. That few months became several years, and when Sheena was ready to jump back into her career, the world had changed dramatically. Something so many working moms experienced. Enter Sheena 2.0. She's built a gigantic platform centered around music and laughter.

Her story is about connecting with people, evolving and spreading joy. Make sure you listen to this episode the whole way through, [00:01:00] because at the end I share one of Sheena's songs, the one she considers her own personal anthem, “Find Your Happy.” Now when Sheena and I began our conversation, she was climbing behind a couch moving furniture doing, I don't even know what, which gave me a glimpse of the real world Sheena shows in her videos.

So without further ado, I bring you Sheena Melanie.

Welcome, Sheena. I wish we had been recording for the last like 10 seconds because I had the opportunity almost to be in one of your videos because we started and you were like climbing behind the couch, and I feel like that's kind of just maybe what it's like to be in your world

Sheena Melwani: that is what it's like in our world and it's real life.

So thank you for having me on your show, and this is a little bit of my real life. 

Jessica Fein: I love it. Yeah. Actually, why don't we start off by what you're doing tonight, what you're doing on Saturday. Like you are on the go. 

Sheena Melwani: I’m on the go and you know, sometimes I am and sometimes I'm not. These days, I feel like I'm more on the [00:02:00] go.

I just got a call. I was asked to sing at Celtics, the playoff game five tonight, so I'm really, really excited. But because of the way that the series progressed, we weren't sure if it was going to happen, and I'm so glad that it is happening, but we found out quite late. I'm super excited and super filled with gratitude at the opportunity to be able to do these cool things.

And then I leave for Europe for about 10 days. Right after that. 

Jessica Fein: It's amazing and we're gonna get into all the cool things you get to do, but let's back way up and get into what it is that has allowed you to be in this position to do all the cool things. What I love about your, I don't know how you do it story, is that it seems like in the last three years, you've essentially figured out a way to spread joy professionally.

Sheena Melwani: Yes. Yes. In a nutshell, how cool is that?

Jessica Fein: Right? So cool. I mean, we all wanna feel like we've accomplished something if we spread joy anyway, but then to have that be like, I'm a [00:03:00] professional joy spreader 

Sheena Melwani: Oh, I love that. Thank you for that title. That is so sweet. It feels like such a privilege. It feels like such a gift from someone in the universe.

Jessica Fein: Well, you are taking that gift and passing it on. So tell us, how in the world did this all start? 

Sheena Melwani: So let me back up a little. By profession I'm a singer songwriter. I have studied music. I have been a musician my entire life since I was three or four. I heard this thing on the radio this morning and this man was talking and he was saying, I knew when I was three I heard this song by the Beatles and I knew that that was what I wanted to do.

For me, it was similar. I knew at four years old, I sang in the Sound of Music and I knew that I wanted to be a singer. 

Jessica Fein: What role did you play in the Sound of Music? 

Sheena Melwani: Do you wanna hear my part? The sun has gone to bed and so must I so long, farewell a veedu say goodbye, [00:04:00] and it was like one of those moments that I will have etched in my memory for the rest of my life.

Jessica Fein: I think I might have that moment that you just sang in my memory, that was so gorgeous and I cannot carry a tune. So I'm like, on the opposite end of the spectrum. But I have seen the sound of music and that scene. Yeah. Probably 200 times. 

Sheena Melwani: well, thank you. That's me in a nutshell. I've always known that I wanted to sing.

I've always had this way of expressing myself through music and through songwriting. And when I was early in my career, I used to write, there was a time I was living in Japan and it was, I was very far away from my friends and family, and that was my way to communicate with them. You know, I would share music that I had written and I would share my stories of what I was seeing and all of that.

As things started progressing for me and I joined a band and I was singing around Boston, as I'd come back from Japan, I, I looked over at my husband and I said, I also wanna have a family, and I wanna have a family while we're young enough to be able to keep [00:05:00] up with this family. And I know that it looks different for everybody, but for me, that's what I wanted.

I wanted to be a young mom and I wanted to have children early, and I thought I would take three months off and I would go back to work. And so I sang my last show. I was eight and a half months pregnant. I was enormous. I looked like I had two balloons shoved into my shirt and I was singing at the House of Blues here in Boston and I said, oh, I'll be back in like three months.

No big deal. And they all laughed at me. And three months became, six months, became a year, became two, became four, became eight, and I had another child in between. And you know, my three months sabbatical just became life as a mom. And it became what was important to our family and what we needed. And I know that family life looks different for every family, and every mom makes different choices and they have to do what works for them.

But in that moment, That was what worked for us, and that was what felt right for us. And at some point that felt [00:06:00] like it had changed, you know, at some point along the way. I think when my youngest was about four, I wasn't needed all the time. You know, they had kind of graduated to this next phase of their lives.

And so I said to my husband, I said, I, I feel like. Maybe I, I had missed this boat. Maybe I missed something. And he said, what are you talking about? Our kids are finally at this point where they don't need you 24 7. Let's jump back into it. You do you man. And so I started, I started looking at what social media looked like.

How am I gonna promote music online? What does this landscape look like? So that's what I started to do. I started to kinda dabble again. I looked at Instagram. I built up my Instagram profile. I looked at TikTok and I looked away very quickly because I wasn't dancing and I wasn't 14. And then I looked at whatever else was left, YouTube, Facebook, I was like, okay, let's see.

And I started putting this video together of like, here's where I've been, here's what I've been doing. Enter New Sheena Sheena 2.0, and that was January, 2020. And then the pandemic hit. And then I was like, oh, okay. [00:07:00] I guess someone up there doesn't want me to do this, and my husband looked at me and he said, huh.

It's funny that you say that because I actually thought the complete opposite. Somebody up there likes you so much that you have an entire world home just waiting to be entertained. They're all sitting there, they have nothing to do. They're all scrolling on their phones. And so I was like, you know what?

You might actually be right. And so I turned on a Facebook Live and I invited all of our friends and my husband invited all of his friends and I told my parents and they invited their friends and we had a group of like, I dunno, 18 people. And we joined a Facebook group and I sang for them. I sang in real time and I was like a human jukebox.

They would gimme their requests and I would sing them. They would gimme another request and I would sing. And if I knew it, I would sing. And if I didn't know it, I would kind of fake it and we would laugh about it. And I did that consistently for like four or five weeks. Two, three times a week. And we built.

And we built. And we built and we built. And that group of 17, 18 people grew to, like 40 people, grew to 80 people grew to a hundred people. And one night [00:08:00] after I had finished one of these live shows, I had my camera set up and you know, I had bought the ring light and I had bought the stand and I had bought all the things.

And I was recording this song that was very popular at the time. If the world was ending, you'd come over, right? And my husband was sitting at the counter and he didn't realize that I was recording because I was preparing for content for the next day. And he screamed out, that's false. And I was like, I'm gonna ignore him.

He would come over and you'd stay the night, and he's like, it's a horrible idea. If the world was ending. Who's coming over And I wasn't laughing, I was just continuing to think cuz I was filming and he just kept getting more and more aggressive with his commentary until I ultimately burst out laughing.

And that was sort of like the inaugural video that I ended up with very, very organically. And we didn't feel like it belonged on Instagram. I was like, well this is kind of strange to put up on Instagram. This is not what I, the kind of content that I normally put up. We had heard a lot about TikTok. And how it was just people [00:09:00] being people.

And so I threw it up there and it went viral.

Jessica Fein: Were you shocked? So that first video went viral? 

Sheena Melwani: It went viral. Well, we had this group, like a little group of our family and friends, maybe six or seven of us. My brother had been telling us, guys, we need to get on TikTok. TikTok is our people. He's not a big social media guy, and he's like, TikTok is our people.

Every time he would find something funny, he would share it with us and all of that stuff. And then we had this bet in this group. We're all gonna start making content. And the first one of us to cross like a thousand views wins. What do you win? No one knows. 

Jessica Fein: Oh okay. First of all, you've won now what? Like a hundred million times over?

Sheena Melwani: Until this point, I would put a video together and it would get like four views or like eight views or like a hundred views, and I'd get really excited. I'm like, who are these hundred people watching my video? Totally. Yes. And [00:10:00] so when I put this particular video up, the first of the interrupted series, it went viral and I was like, guys, I won.

What do I win? 

Jessica Fein: I hope gave prize something good, but you know. Well, I guess you son.

Sheena Melwani: I won. Yeah. I won so much more than you know, than I could have ever imagined. The prize was my entire life, like just, it was like this new lease on life. So I'm forever grateful for that little bet that we made for absolutely nothing and no reason.

Jessica Fein: Yeah, that's a good lesson. Sometimes it's that competitive spirit, even if there's not a prize, right? Yes. Okay. So before we then get into how your life changed, I think what's so interesting about the story you just told is that you took what you thought was gonna be a short time out, and so many of us do that when we have kids or for other things along the way.

Yes. And then that three months becomes six, becomes eight, becomes four years. Yeah. And we then decide, okay, it's time to reenter and the world we're reentering. Doesn't look anything like the world we left. Correct. So what [00:11:00] gave you the guts to just jump right back in and to try to figure out what social media looked like and what this new landscape looked like?

Sheena Melwani: I have to say support. My support system is incredible. It's enormous. It extends to my extended family as well. My family has always supported me. That is one thing that I will always give them credit for. And my husband is my number one cheerleader. And so he was like, look, it's amazing that you were able to be home with the kids.

It's amazing that this is what you got to do with them and for them, our family is the way that it is because of that. And there's a part of you that is still slightly unfulfilled. I can see that and you have so much to share and I think that now it's the right time. Like the time feels good. And so I think you should absolutely do that.

And I was writing all the while, and I always used to say, it doesn't matter if I'm singing for a crowd of 35,000 people or. Just one. So long as it brings me joy, I will continue to do it. And for a long [00:12:00] time it brought me so much joy to even just sing to my babies. And then they didn't need me to be singing to them as much.

You know, life changed. They had more people in their lives and just our path. That's, that's the progression of life, right? And so what's true today is not necessarily true tomorrow. So what was my truth when my children were three months and six months and eight months and two years or whatever. It was just not my truth anymore.

It was not the reality anymore when my daughter was four and I work really well with deadlines. And it was scary when he said, no, no, you need to go back to work. I'm like, what am I gonna do? And he said, Let's just work backwards. What is a comfortable point for you? And I said, well, you know, when our daughter turns five and starts kindergarten, then she'll be out of the house for like a half a day or three quarters of the day.

So then I'll have until three o'clock every day to figure something out. I worked backwards from there, I said, okay, I will be home and be present and be with them until that point, and that's my deadline. That was what it was. I dipped a toe in when she [00:13:00] turned five and started kindergarten. Then I dipped another couple toes in, you know, a few weeks after that.

And I found myself just understanding what social media was like, understanding what Instagram was about. So it was scary and it looked really, really different. And I also had an incredible support system. 

Jessica Fein: Yeah, that's great. And I love the idea of picking where you wanna be in them, working backwards.

Yeah. Then it feels a little bit less overwhelming. Yeah. So for the three people listening who haven't seen the videos, can you explain what the videos are about? How you put those videos together?

Sheena Melwani: Well, so now they've kind of taken on a shape of their own and a life of their own. The original concept we had fallen into was I would pick a song that had lyrics that were comical in some way, shape, or form.

I never knew what was gonna come. He never knew what he was gonna say, and it was something ridiculous tied to something musical. It was one of those moments that just something funny came out of it. And so I would put a couple captions and then I would put that up. And then I started playing pranks [00:14:00] on people because they just liked the interactive — pranks on my husband because people liked the interaction between the two of us.

You know, we've been together a long time. We know each other pretty well. We don't take anything seriously. We. In our home, try and keep things light because life is hard, and we were going through a global crisis like we were in the middle of a pandemic. Our children were scared, our families were scared.

We were scared. Not to completely ignore what was happening, but to make light of it or to find joy in the little things. That's how we did it. We made these videos, we made each other laugh, so I started by playing pranks on him and he would react to them, and it was something that snowballed for us in a really fun way.

Jessica Fein: They're so funny and he's so funny, and part of what I love, just again, I knew who you were before we actually met, and I was watching these videos. I don't remember how I originally stumbled on it, but first of all, your laughter is contagious. There is something about your laughter, and there is something so gorgeous about the fact that your husband cracks you up like that.

It just makes me smile just as [00:15:00] like a voyeur. I don't know. But I have two questions about that. Number one, is that how your relationship has always been? Does he crack you up off camera all the time too? 

Sheena Melwani: He does. He's very funny and he's very lighthearted too, and it just, it's one of those things that we've both tried to keep in our lives.

For a long time. And life is stressful and life is hard. And he is a very, very stressful and hard job. And I was home with kids and it was very stressful and it was very hard. And that was our coping mechanism. That has always been our coping mechanism. And I think it's so healthy. 

Jessica Fein: It's so healthy. And I love that you don't take yourself too seriously because he's making fun of the whole situation and he's hysterical.

And I kind of assumed this is what he does too. So when you told me like, no, he's got a more conventional, shall we say, job? Yeah. Yes. And now again for people who don't watch, he doesn't actually appear on camera. Right. And so he's the real Indian dad is his character. And when his face is there, it's covered by an avatar.

Again, he's got like a pretty serious [00:16:00] conventional job. And I would really, very curious if the people at work with him, you know, like going to the meetings and doing the reports or whatever it is, sitting in the office next to him, have any idea about his side gig. 

Sheena Melwani: Initially no, and that's why it was sort of like a necessity as the mother of all inventions, we did not plan this when it was time to have him on camera.

He was like, well, I really don't think that my colleagues or clients want to know that this is what I'm doing in my free time to support my wife in her crazy quest or in our joy at home, but I'll be completely honest with you. He has met with zero, and I really mean zero resistance. His colleagues and his clients, they're like on the receiving end often of these videos and they're like, oh my God, we love your wife.

She's so funny. And he's like, well, I'm the funny one actually. We were both surprised to see and hear just how supportive they all were. But now it's kind of our thing. Like it's a funny little weird [00:17:00] concoction that we've mixed up and it works.

Jessica Fein: And it's a funny little concoction that has received more than 2 billion views.

I mean, people love it.

Sheena Melwani: I know. It's, it's amazing. It's incredible to hear a number like that. And it never gets old. Never. 

Jessica Fein: 2 billion. I mean, your original bet was for what? Like a hundred thousand. So what do you think it is that has made people respond this way? 

Sheena Melwani: I think people found us and we found them during a time that was really difficult and I think that the whole world was kind of mourning together and so were we and we found a way to connect.

And for me, that connection has always been at the core of who I am and what I do as a musician, as a singer, as a songwriter, my joy is getting up on stage and singing for someone and watching them like nod along or watching their eyes and just seeing them get into it. And this was a really cool way to do that with my husband.

And so [00:18:00] I've always said that I wanted the world to hear my voice. That's been my dream forever. You have to be careful what you wish for because the whole world knows my voice, but they don't know my singing voice. They know my laughter. 

Jessica Fein: How has it affected your singing career to have this kind of platform?

Sheena Melwani: It’s amazing. I mean, if we're talking about before we started two, three years ago, I didn't have anybody listening to my music. Now I have an EP out and I have hundreds of thousands of people who have heard music that I've written and have connected with it and in some way, and I'm just so grateful.

And I may not necessarily be known by everybody as a musician or as a singer, but I'm working my way there. The benefit for me is that connection. It opens up these opportunities to do really cool things. I get to sing for the Celtics tonight for game five of the playoffs. And lemme just say that's the NBA, like what is this?

Jessica Fein: And by the way, you sang at Fenway 

Sheena Melwani: I sang at Fenway. I sang at Gillette. The possibilities in this space are so endless because people, [00:19:00] they have felt so much joy with us. They've felt so connected and there's something really. Relatable to what we're doing.

Jessica Fein: I think that's the word. It's so relatable and also kind of aspirational because some people might not have that kind of humor in their house or that kind of relationship, but you see it and it feels so real.

It feels so unscripted, and I'm assuming it obviously is. 

Sheena Melwani: Yeah. I never know what's gonna come out of his mouth. I may have an idea of like, here's this cool scenario that I can lay out, but I never know what he's gonna say. Or if there is a scenario that I'm thinking of in my head. He will never know what that scenario is until I have the cameras rolling.

So his reaction is always just off the cuff and so is mine. My reaction to him is always just off the cuff. 

Jessica Fein: What do your kids think about it? 

Sheena Melwani: They think we're insane. No, they, you know, they're like every other set of kids. They think that their parents are old and annoying and, you know, they, they get these really cool opportunities [00:20:00] because of what we do, and I think they're super grateful and into that.

Their friends think that their parents are really, really cool. So I think there's that factor, right? Um, but our kids are, they're learning to be really lighthearted too. So that's a benefit for all of us. You know, in our home.

Jessica Fein: You've had some musicians whose worked you've covered reach out to you and respond and sing with you.

For you, what has been the coolest thing that has happened because of this? 

Sheena Melwani: Oh, do I have to pick just one?

Jessica Fein: one? Uh, pick one or two. 

Sheena Melwani: Well, I have to say, I actually did get a message from JP Saxe himself, the singer of that original first video. He did a duet to that video that we did, and he sang back the lyrics that Tried was saying initially so that the whole thing came full circle.

And I just thought that was so cool. When I spoke to him on the phone, he said, I feel like I need to say thank you to you, because at that time, that song was getting a lot of traction [00:21:00] on TikTok because of content creators such as yourself who made the song go viral in their own way. So I just feel like I would like to say thank you to you for helping that song take off.

That was so humbling and so beautiful to hear him say to me. Yeah. It just made me realize that it's all about being grateful for the opportunities. I really learned a big lesson from him, but I've had an opportunity to meet Andy Grammar and Dr. Phil and like just these amazing human beings. That I never, ever would have had an opportunity to meet otherwise.

You know, I met Drew Barrymore like a couple months ago. I actually had a conversation with Drew Barrymore. 

Jessica Fein: I'm gonna vote for that one at the coolest.

Sheena Melwani: Seriously, she's just a ray of sunshine. And I was like, why am I here? 

Jessica Fein: Were you on her show?

Sheena Melwani: I wasn't. She was doing an event and I was invited to the event and you know, hopefully one day I'll get to go on her show and have a conversation.

Jessica Fein: I love that cause she's about spreading joy too. [00:22:00] It seems like you're aligned in your souls.

Sheena Melwani: But to be able to go and talk to Drew Barrymore and say thank you for being one of the reasons that I enjoy what I'm doing, cuz I have you as this amazing leader in this. Genre that you've created. How awesome.

Jessica Fein: So awesome. Yeah. So let's talk about your music. So your song, Find Your Happy. Is the song that you've said is your personal anthem. And I loved that. And in it, there's a line that says, don't watch the years go by. Just live your dreams. You'll know when you get it. Right. Okay. So let's hear that the way it's meant to be heard.

Sheena Melwani: don't watch the years go by. Just live your dreams. You'll know when you get it. Right. 

Jessica Fein: I really, really loved that line because I think for so many of us, and maybe even particularly [00:23:00] moms, we're so invested in the small moments. Mm-hmm. And then one day we look up and we realize, The years have gone by and we did forget to live our dreams. It sounds to me from what you're saying, this lyric really came from your experience.

Sheena Melwani: So I was watching Lady Gaga's five two on Netflix. It's a documentary about her life, like six months of her life. I don't know if you've ever seen it. It is. Definitely worth a watch. I was feeling particularly sorry for myself that day. You know, as moms we go through days that are really awesome and days that are really hard.

Sure. And days that are somewhere in between. And I was having a really, really off day and I was laying on my couch and I was feeling sorry for myself and my kids were entertained in the corner playing with their blocks or whatever. They, they were very young. My daughter was probably two and my son was maybe five or maybe even younger.

I was watching this movie and I was watching Lady Gaga sort of live out her dreams, and in that moment I was feeling really sad. And fast forward, about an hour into the movie, there's [00:24:00] a scene where she's laying on a bench and she's in physical pain. She is just sobbing from the pain of all of the stress in her life and the tension on her body, and so, I'm watching this.

I'm so invested in this movie, and at the very same moment, my kids who were playing in that corner started laughing and I looked over at them and they were just doing something amongst themselves, and it was the sweetest sound, the giggle of two kids. Just enjoying each other's company. And the more she laughed, the more he did what he was doing.

And then she laughed more and, and it was just this perpetual laughter. And I paused my movie and I was just in awe. I was sitting there with my hand on my chin and just watching them. And I said to myself like, what is it exactly that I'm feeling so bad about? Why am I sitting here feeling so sorry for myself?

I bet you Lady Gaga would kill for this. And then I sat at my piano that afternoon and I wrote another mark on the [00:25:00] wall, another two inches taller. I watched those years go by and she's living her dream. Look at all she's achieved, but can she even breathe Two beautiful and different lives? How do we know if we got it right?

You just have to find your happy.

Jessica Fein: If she hasn't yet, I'm sure Lady Gaga's gonna be the next one to reach out to you 

Sheena Melwani: From your lips to God's ears or to Gaga's ears. 

Jessica Fein: To Gaga's ears. Exactly. Exactly. I guess my big question then would be, what advice do you have for people who feel like I have been watching the years go by did forget their dreams.

What advice would you give those people? Because I think that's a lot of people. 

Sheena Melwani: Yeah, I, I agree with you and I'll give you the same advice that was given to me by my brother when I was complaining one day that I wanna jump into this, but I don't know how. And he said to start, and I said how? He said by starting, I.

And I said, what does that mean? He said, I don't know, but just start. Just start. Start with the small step. I don't know what it looks like for you. I'm like, what is that step? Start [00:26:00] with what? And he said, I, it looks different for everyone, but just take one step today because one step today means one less step tomorrow.

You can take a next step tomorrow and the next step and the next step and the next step. And I literally don't know how I got here. I don't know how I ended up with a platform of 14 million followers and over 2 billion viewers, I don't know, and four songs of my own original music out on Spotify and Apple Music.

I do not know how I ended up here, but I started. 

Jessica Fein: First of all, I'm just like, I want your brother. I wanna call him up and be like, what do I do? You've got the best circle. So, switching gears for a minute. You've got your music, you've got your videos, but there's a whole other thing that you're doing that I am personally so intrigued by and grateful for, which is your Spread The Joy organization.

Please share with us about that. 

Sheena Melwani: Okay, so you've heard about my brother. You've heard about my family, you've, I told you about my [00:27:00] mom and dad and how supportive they were. My husband and my kids. Oh my God. There's more. There's more. Oh, I have another amazing human. It's my sister Shalini, and she had a child that was born with an autoimmune condition that had Shalini and her daughter and their family kind of tied to the hospital setting for many, many years, uh, she has this condition that has followed her since she was about six months old. That's when she was diagnosed. And so we spent a lot of time as a family in and out of hospitals. My sister, especially with her daughter, she would just be there for months and months at a time, and my sister would shut down.

She wouldn't talk to anybody and I'd get calls from her husband and I'd get calls from my mother-in-law. I'd get calls from everybody saying, she's not eating, she's not doing anything. I'll take care of your kids. Can you go take care of her? And so I would leave my kids with my husband, with my parents, with whoever would take care of my kids, and I would go take care of my sister.

We spent a lot of time in the hospital trying to entertain this little girl who couldn't leave the hospital room. [00:28:00] I would find forks and spoons and we would make art projects out of paper plates and cups, and we'd listen to music from the child life specialists and the music therapists, and we'd pet dogs because they had dog therapy.

And we learned everything about where the good coffee was, you know, what kind of things they had for kids. And she really did all that research. This. My input is a small piece of the puzzle, but just doing all those things and watching her daughter thrive in those small moments, she realized that there was something really, really lacking in the hospital setting for parents that were coming in brand new.

We got to know because we were there so often and continuously, and so when she left the hospital, I think her daughter was about four. It was during Thanksgiving one year, and they went home and her son looked up at her and said, but mom, what about the children that don't get to come home for Thanksgiving or for Christmas?

And she said, I don't know. And he said, well, we have to do something for them. And so they went to Target and Staples and Michael's and they [00:29:00] bought a bunch of stuff that he wanted to give to kids. And it was all chosen by this five or six year old or seven-year-old at most. And they bought it and they put them in these pretty boxes and they donated them to that hospital.

And that was the first ever joy box. And it brought the children so much joy, but it also brought. Them. So much joy. They literally healed through that act. And when we heard about it, we said, well, we wanna do this. So we got together as a family and we all packed more joy boxes. And then we got together over Easter, we packed more joy boxes and we got together over summer holidays and we packed more joy boxes and people started hearing about our company, started hearing about it and they said, well, we wanna donate some of our supplies, we wanna donate some of this, we wanna give you some money, we wanna give you this.

And it just snowballed. And now it is a registered 501c3 Nonprofit, it's called Spread the Joy, and we basically pack activity kits called Joy Boxes, and we deliver them to children across America. They are [00:30:00] completely free of charge. We literally take care of everything. We're completely donor driven and everything.

Every dollar that we collect goes to building those boxes and going to the kids in the hospital. 

Jessica Fein: A lot of our audience are parents of kids who spend a lot of time in the hospital, and I know people are gonna want to get involved with this. So is there room for people to get involved? How do people participate?

Sheena Melwani: Absolutely. Absolutely. So the, the website is spreadthejoy.org, you can donate at any point. We have a gala coming up in October that is in New Jersey, but it's gonna be all about raising funds for the next year. We have done a packing party here in Boston. We did it at Big Night Live downtown where we packed, I think it was a thousand joy boxes, maybe more.

Um, we packed these joy boxes and they went to a number of hospitals around Massachusetts and the outer states. Most of the pickups that we do for people that get involved are in New Jersey, but we're starting to do, uh, [00:31:00] larger parties. We can do corporate parties. We do all kinds of. Collaborations because for us it's about getting the most number of joy boxes into children at the hospitals.

That's our goal. 

Jessica Fein: And you know what, what you said about it's not just the recipients who get a smile and get happy and get joy, and by the way, there is nothing more monotonous than being a kid in the hospital and having a box of joy show up. I mean, that is just such a difference maker in that minute or that hour or that day for the kid.

But I love the impact that you said it has had on you and your family as well. 

Sheena Melwani: We've healed. We've definitely healed through that. And not only that, we've worked with child life specialists, we've worked with doctors, we've worked with therapists, we've worked with a number of people in this hospital setting and parents of children who have been hospitalized.

So we've come up with the best tools. 

Jessica Fein: Yeah, we had a doctor, we spent a long time in the hospital and we had a doctor who came in and she would take bubbles like, you know, the little, the little jar of bubbles. And she would take the [00:32:00] bubble wand, but she would hold that bubble wand up to the ventilator.

And the ventilator, as you might know, has big blasts of air. Mm-hmm. So she'd have this little teeny wand and she'd make these huge bubbles come out into the room. And we all loved it so much, and part of what we loved was like, here's this. Big doc, like the serious doctor. Yeah. She's like, let's have fun.

That's just what these kids want. They just wanna be kids. 

Sheena Melwani: 100%. And the thing that we also like to keep in mind, and the doctors are so good about that, is how do we come down to their level, you know? So if they're scared of a needle, we have this little thing in our kits sometimes that get donated.

They're like these little googly eyes. You put them on your finger, on your knuckles. And when you come towards the child, The child doesn't see what you've got in your hand. They see the googly eyes. It's brilliant, and it's based on experience, real life experience. It's truly a gift to be able to build this with our family.

All of our family members are involved. When I say all I mean, All [00:33:00] parents in-laws, siblings, spouses of siblings, children, we go to these packing parties. Our children are involved. It is just the works and everybody is proud of it because it is just, it's such an amazing thing. It is completely s, it's selfless, but it's also so selfish because we get so much joy from it.

Jessica Fein: You are spreading joy in all of these different ways, whether it's the video making somebody like me who didn't even know you crack up at your laughter, whether it's the guy sitting in the office next to your husband who are loving what he's doing, whether it's the people at the Celtics game tonight, and I'm gonna be really honest with you.

If I were at the Celtics game tonight, I would be way more excited to hear you sing than to watch the game. That's just me. Maybe I shouldn't admit that cuz I am a Bostonian. I probably shouldn't say that. 

Sheena Melwani: We're hoping for a win no matter what. 

Jessica Fein: of course. In closing, tell us what. Is next for you?

Sheena Melwani: The universe is infinitely wiser than I am. It has always guided me the way that things need to go in [00:34:00] their time, and so I am open to any and all of the things that it wants to send my way.

Jessica Fein: Well, I have no doubt that it's gonna send more magic your way and that you are gonna take that magic and continue to disseminate it.

Thank you so much. Thank 

Sheena Melwani: you. Thank you. 

Jessica Fein: My takeaways from this conversation are quick because I know you wanna hear Sheena's music. So I will just give you two quick takeaways. Number one, when you have something you wanna do, figure out what that goal is. Figure out the date you wanna have it achieved by and plan backwards from there.That's something that I've used a lot. I used that when I wrote my book. It's really helpful, and Sheena used it in terms of when she felt like she'd be able to work outside of the home and plan backwards, and that helped her as well. 

Number two, and I loved this one. Just start. Start with a small step.

Take one step today because that means one less step tomorrow 

If you are following my show. Thank you so much, and if you've loved this episode, or even if you've liked it [00:35:00] a lot, share it with a friend and do. If you can take a moment to rate and review the show, because that means so much to me. Talk to you next time.

Have a great day. Here's Sheena.