Michelle Welch is our June Woman of the Month. In Part I of our interview, she shared stories about growing up in East Texas, then moving to Dallas to become a lawyer, and eventually opening her own, unique shop.
In Part II, we delve deeper into SoulTopia and the courage it took to forge her own path as a business owner and as a woman.
MB: You grew up in Longview. Did you go to college right after you graduated high school?
MW: Yes, I went to Baylor for one semester, and although I have many friends that are Baylor graduates, it was not a good fit for me. My brother was at A&M, so I transferred there after one semester.
In high school, I never visited colleges or anything like that. I just decided, “Oh, a friend of mine is going to Baylor, so I’ll go to Baylor.” I didn’t really want to dress up for classes in the morning. If it was an eight o’clock class, I wanted to roll up in my sweats. Everybody’s dressy at Baylor, so I decided, “I’m going to A&M.”
I went to A&M and graduated early, in three years. Then, I decided to go back to Baylor for law school. I graduated with a law degree by the age of twenty-four.
MW: At twenty-four I was a lawyer, and I got married a week after I graduated.
I was fortunate to receive a job of interning, known as “clerking,” with the Court of Appeals in Tyler, Texas, and they let me wait to take the bar exam since I was getting married. I started in August, and in August a year later, I had my first son.
MB: Oh my gosh.
MS: During that time, my husband had been living in Dallas. I moved here, and I sat for the bar exam in Dallas when I was three months pregnant. I always say that my first son has already sat for the bar.
MB: That’s hilarious!
MS: He has, because I have, and we passed with flying colors. So that’s pretty much my college experience. Right now, I’m in pursuit of a doctorate, but it’s online. I’m pursuing it, but it’s not a heavy pursuit right now. There’s no doubt that I like school and always want to learn.
MB: I have a question about your college experience. It seems like you kind of put your head down and barreled through it. You had a single focus. I was wondering how you were thinking about it at the time and where the drive came from.
MW: My parents didn’t say, “You need to be a lawyer.” No one said that. I just decided. Originally, I wanted to be a judge, so that was the draw. I majored in business, which I didn’t care for because I didn’t like finance classes. I don’t love math. I think that was another conditioned belief…that I wasn’t good enough.
The drive was just internal. I set my mind to something, I map it out, and I go for it. For instance, in college I studied the course catalog. That way I didn’t lose any hour. Why waste money? I studied the catalog, literally, for the degree I needed, and knew, “This is what I need, so this is what I’ll do.”
MB: So it’s part of your personality?
MW: It’s ingrained in me.
MB: It doesn’t come naturally to some people to stay focused and work toward what they want, but other people it’s just like, “Okay. I’ve made my decision, and so that’s what I’m doing.” You know?
MW: Right. It would probably tie back to empathy. There’s a little bit of somehow feeling the need to prove myself—maybe to myself, maybe to others, because even though I’d like to think I don’t care, that whole “I don’t care what other people think,” everybody does to a certain extent on some level.
MB: Okay, so you became a lawyer at twenty-four and you were a lawyer for a while before you decided to leave it and do SoulTopia, correct?
MW: I’m actually still active as a lawyer, but I don’t practice all that much. I worked for the DA’s office, the Court of Appeals, as I told you, and I went to the DA’s office in Dallas County at the beginning of my career. Then, I did court-appointed criminal appellate work. I was really successful in that area of law, and it gave me time with my kids.
I also wrote some legal treatises, or helped edit them. They didn’t call me the ghost writer, so I can only technically say I edited them for the then president of the Texas State Bar.
My ex-husband started a civil law firm, and I worked on and off for that law firm until about four years ago. I also really enjoyed teaching Trial Advocacy at the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University.
MB: Were there any moments while you were a lawyer where you maybe had some intuition that said, “I don’t know if this is where I should be,” or did you always feel pretty comfortable there?
MW: I felt it when I was doing the criminal work at the very beginning, especially when I did criminal defense work and was going into the jails.. Empathically, that was very difficult for me. I zealously represented my clients on whatever side of the law they were on, as any lawyer should, but it was very difficult for me. I would take on the energy of the client, the client’s mother, and the victim. It was hard to separate their emotions from my own.
MB: Once you got to that place we talked about in Part I—when your son came out as gay and it inspired you to take a deeper look at your own life—what finally pushed you to pursue SoulTopia?
MW: I started getting a lot more messages coming to me, flooding me really. I would be out and about, and things just started coming at me a lot more.
I started going to a Reiki circle, and a lot of times in traditional Reiki, you just do Reiki energy clearing and you don’t say a word. You don’t give messages. I didn’t know that, so I just blurted out the messages I was intuitively receiving. I finally thought I had an outlet after all these years. I just spit out whatever I was picking up on.
Well, they weren’t real happy about that, but it made me realize, “Okay. This is more in line with what I’m supposed to be doing.”
But SoulTopia really started with the bracelets. Making them soothed me during difficult and stressful times. For instance, going through my divorce. As I held the crystal beads, I channeled the energy of the crystals and assembled the bracelet according to the message I received. Not only did they carry powerful healing energy, they were also pretty. I realized then that these bracelets would appeal to a wide audience of people from the metaphysical community as well as the mainstream community.
I thought, “Okay. I’m going to sell these at Christmas or at boutiques and I called them SoulStones.” I wanted people to realize that you can be conventional, professional, and educated while still being intuitive. I felt that I was called to share this. So now we sell SoulStones as our custom jewelry line at SoulTopia.
MB: Absolutely, you came from a highly professional setting, and you thrived in that environment, so it makes sense that you would want to bring that into your personal business.
MW: It truly felt like a calling. Going back to the pivotal moment, there was a combination of feeling like I was ramping up more and more and asking, “What do I do with this?” But also, I was inspired to pursue it because I felt there was a different type of environment needed where more mainstream people could feel welcome.
MB: I get what you’re saying. Sometimes you see places on the side of the highway that say, “Psychic Reading” with flashing lights, and you’re like, “I want to go in there, but I’m hearing a voice in the back of my head telling me to walk away.”
MW: We even tell people when they come in here, “If something in here makes you uncomfortable, we will be more than happy to explain it to you, but we will never push our beliefs or opinions on you.” We do have oracle cards and Tarot cards, and that can frighten some people. Once you really know the history of them, they are not frightening at all.
I tell anyone who works here, “Don’t try to change what somebody believes because we honor and respect everyone’s belief system.” They’re walking in the door, and that’s a beautiful thing. They may be walking in the door to get a pretty bracelet and we’re not trying to get them in the door to change them.
MB: That’s part of why people feel welcome, because they don’t feel pressure to be like, “Oh, I have to believe in a certain thing in order to even be here.”
MW: My beliefs change. My beliefs evolve. That’s growth to me. That’s being open. I want people to be welcome and comfortable here, and if they want to tell me that what I believe is completely wrong and they don’t agree with it, then I’m okay with that because I understand that. I do. I’ve been there, and I get it.
MB: One thing that was really cool when I first walked in was that your husband, Roger, was there at the store helping you and running things. I loved seeing that. Can you tell me a little bit about you and Roger? What’s your adorable story?
MW: I think the most adorable thing about our story is that we are virtually inseparable. From the moment Roger told me he liked my shoes until today when he sits patiently waiting for me to finish an interview, we have supported one another and have been there for one another. I made many drastic changes in my life and Roger has been there to support me through the times when I wondered if I had made a mistake. He doesn’t let me go into diva mode too often, and he helps ground and center me. He is the creative force of SoulTopia, and although he has another full-time job, he works very hard to make sure our dreams become reality with the store.
MB: You’ve mentioned your children. Would you tell us a little bit about them and your journey to motherhood?
MW: When I was in law school I thought I would never have children. I was so driven to succeed that I just couldn’t imagine it. Well, my definition of success changed. I now see success as the people in your life and your interactions with them. I naively thought life would end with children, but that is when life began for me.
I have a blended family of five children. Tyler is the son that I spoke of earlier that went through a lot of bullying for being gay. He is in San Francisco now and opened Core Power Yoga there. Trevor works here in Dallas at Inwood Bank after graduating from SMU, and Tanner just graduated from high school and will be attending the University of Texas in Austin. My step-children are Lizzie and Wil. Lizzie will be in junior high and Wil in high school. Tanner, Lizzie, and Wil have helped a lot at SoulTopia.
MB: It sounds like you have a beautiful, unique family. And from what we’ve talked about, you wouldn’t have gained this family without taking some pretty big risks. With that thought in mind, I love to finish with the same question for all our ladies. What advice do you have for someone who’s facing a difficult decision in her life?
MW: Difficult decisions are ultimately about choices. We have free will in making those choices, but we also have karmic responsibility. Each person is different in what they hold dear, but each person does value something or someone in life.
What is it they value? Is this choice a short-term-ramification choice or a long-term-ramification choice? We have various paths in life we might take. They are not necessarily right or wrong, but they are choices. I recommend looking at the different paths and seeing where they might lead. Will this path ultimately be for the highest good? Let your gut be your guide. I implore you not to ignore it.
To you it might be a still, small voice or a nagging feeling or a quiet knowing. Listen to it. Listen to it more than seeking opinions of others, especially those who really have no stake in the outcome of your decision or even those who do. This is your decision and your karmic responsibility. Operate from your heart center and drive away fear when making choices.
While the counsel of a few trusted advisors is wise, consider having them walk you through scenarios instead of telling you what to do. Having someone experienced open your Akashic Records is another way to gain guidance and insight. And, of course, I always suggest crystals to assist you in making decisions. I suggest Apophyllite, Amethyst, Azurite, Fluorite, and Clear Quartz. Meditate with one or more of theses crystals while asking your higher power, “What is my best path for the highest good of all?”
A big thank-you goes out to Michelle Welch for sharing such enlightening stories about her journey to becoming a mother and an entrepreneur. Be sure to read Part I of her interview, and come back soon to see a day in her life.