Minority Spotlight

Odyssey IP: On a Journey to Help People and Communities

On Friday, November 22nd, 2019, the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of NJ President & CEO Carlos Medina, HETP Program Director, Valeria Aloe, and Corporate Member, Karina Jimenez-Belen were recognized by Odyssey IP for their excellent contribution in the community.

Persia Oliver founded Odyssey IP on the desire to compassionately help disadvantaged people and communities. She relies on and honors the unsung heroes who join the journey with her via sponsorships and time.
— By Debra Jenkins

The world is full of unsung heroes who assist the disadvantaged in so many ways. When Melissa Persia Oliver founded Odyssey International Productions, she had three goals. One was to fulfill a desire to give back to communities, neighborhoods, and economies with compassion and practical resources. The second was to leverage the contributions of the unsung community members and businesses to achieve the greatest impact. The third goal was to put a spotlight on the contributors and sponsors of the nonprofit's efforts to improve the lives of disadvantaged people and communities.

Now in its 20th year, Founder Persia (as she likes to be called) remains the driving force of Odyssey IP's success as its president, with her passion for helping others succeed as strong as the day she began the nonprofit.

We Should All Give Back
Persia describes Odyssey IP as a community outreach nonprofit, and the reach embraces anyone and any business that wants to join the effort to increase the quality of life for families and communities.

"I entered the nonprofit world because I believe we all should give back to the community," says Persia. She began by doing some small community service projects, but today there are a number of events held throughout the year. All the events are designed to raise awareness of community needs, but Persia truly uses her imagination to ensure the annual events are inspirational, entertaining, and successful.

Consider the "Tie A Tie Drive" which reaches out to young men in the community. The event arose out of Persia's discovery in 2013 that "how to tie a tie" was one of Google's top 10 most searched phrases. This event is not just about tying ties. It is a fun way to reach out to aspirational young men and build relationships between the attendees and community sponsors. It is these grassroots kind of events that can make a targeted and measurable impact on communities.

Another major event is the "Season of Giving Holiday Party."

"I started Odyssey IP because I realized that sometimes people need help and don't know where to turn," she said. Christmas can be a difficult and emotional time of year for disadvantaged families, and Persia wanted to help. The party's sponsors host a home-cooked meal for families and gifts for their children. Children receive books, bikes, toys, and clothing and get their picture taken with Santa.

Sometimes the big splashy corporate events get most of the media attention, but events like the Odyssey IP Holiday Party are the occasions that make a real difference in the lives of people who are often struggling in silence.

Helping the Children
Odyssey IP does a lot for children. There is a major toy drive before Christmas with the toys distributed to various nonprofits.

The "Back to School Backpack Giveaway" is always appreciated. As the out-of-pocket costs of attending school continue to rise, some families need a helping hand assembling the required school supplies. The giveaway program fills backpacks with required school supplies and distributes the backpacks to families.

Giving away school supplies at the beginning of the school year and toys at Christmas are just two of many efforts to help underprivileged children. The organization works all 12 months to assist families with things like coats in harsh winters, bicycles to encourage physical activity, and books to improve literacy rates. It is all made possible by the relationships built with various community partnerships and generous donors.

"We would not be here today if not for the generosity of others," says Persia.

Both Odyssey IP and Star Bright Services reflect a woman who has a passion for helping others improve their lives.
Recognizing the Unsung Heroes
Recognizing the donors and sponsors that are so important to Odyssey's success is important to Persia.

Each year, a "Business Networking Award Ceremony" is held to recognize the individuals, corporations, and other organizations who have made significant business and community services contributions of money, donations, resources, and people's time. The same event is also a business networking event that gives small local businesses opportunities to network with corporate representatives and gain exposure.

The annual "Business Networking Award Ceremony" is attended by influential business and government leaders, and entrepreneurs. In 2018, the Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Terrence Clark, President and CEO, New York and New Jersey Minority Supplier Development council, and the Outstanding Achievement Award went to Linda Wellbrock, CEO and Founder, Leading Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners. Other awards given each year include the Business Award of Excellence, Community Service Award and Entrepreneur of the Year Award of Excellence.

From the Heart
"We don't do this work for selfish reasons or money," says Persia.

"We do it from our heart." Persia's relentless effort to build community relationships is really at the heart of her success. There are challenges of course, and according to her, each year comes with a different challenge.

"It might be the challenge of getting sponsorships, accumulating enough donations of toys and clothing as community needs arise, and successfully planning large events," she said.

Anyone who has planned community events understands the great effort it takes to bring so many people together who pursue the same goals. Her key to the success of each event is starting early by sending out emails, notifying the media, personally contacting big sponsors, and so on. "Many people know what we do and what we stand for, but we want even more people to become familiar with our efforts," explains Persia.

Persia is a remarkable woman who has not only built a successful nonprofit from the ground up; she also started Star Bright Services that serves the New York tristate area. Star Bright Services is a commercial cleaning service that incorporates green products and the newest technologies.

In true Persia fashion, Star Bright Services was started as a proactive effort to make positive contributions to the environment and the safety of its customers. To fulfill its mission, Star Bright Services offers a full range of professional services from building maintenance to food service to housekeeping to landscaping and much more. Highly trained staff use natural, safe, biodegradable, non-toxic cleaners and green seal certified products.

Dream Big
Both Odyssey IP and Star Bright Services reflect a woman who has a passion for helping others improve their lives. She wants people to dream big and then help them turn those dreams into reality. She leads a nonprofit and a business, and is an inspiration and motivational speaker.

However, ask her what she feels most proud about, and the answer is not about her. What she is most proud of is: "The incredible people we work with and that support us."

In other words, it is all about the people the organization helps and the unsung heroes who make it possible to fulfill a heartfelt mission.