At the age of five, Melissa Zomro Davis ʼ03 began riding and it remains a lifelong passion. Always competitive, Davis participated in hunter jumper competitions early on and by high school, she knew about Cazenovia College’s equestrian team. Davis shares, “I attended an Intercollegiate Horse Show Association event at Cazenovia when Naomi Blumenthal was the coach.” She adds, “I was all about horses so Cazenovia was the only school that I applied to.”
Coming to Cazenovia College inspired an intellectual awakening in Davis. “I realized I was more than a horse girl. That I had other interests such as historical literature and I could write a compelling paper for class,” she says. After exploring majors, she selected social science, with Dr. John Robert Greene as her advisor. “How I do my job now goes back to what Dr. Greene taught me during research methods for capstone. It is all about informed objectivity,” reflects Davis.
Also influential was Dr. Grazyna Kozaczka, from whom she took several English classes. Shares Davis, “Dr. Kozaczka was very kind. She gave me tremendous confidence as in ‘you can do this and do it well’.”
Before graduating in 2003, Davis contemplated her next steps. Becoming a lawyer or a teacher were under consideration. “I decided to pursue a career in teaching,” recalls Davis. “In part due to my positive experiences at Caz as a master student, where I taught fellow students.”
Davis earned her master’s in teaching from Le Moyne College, and was a special education teacher at Camden Central School District and then East Syracuse-Minoa. Yet after almost five years in teaching, she knew it was time for a change. “While I loved the students, I knew that I needed to be in a working environment where I had more autonomy,” says Davis.
Davis believed that her background in horses would make an equine-related position a good fit. After talking with many fellow horse owners and riders, she determined that there was need for a tack shop—and this would require Davis to start her own business. “I knew I had the determination and independence to become a business owner,” she shares. “However, I needed to establish a knowledge base before I could move forward.”
The expertise necessary came from Joan Powers, director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) located on the Onondaga Community College campus. Powers helped Davis develop a sound business plan. She also provided information about such topics as business law and the financial filings required at state and federal levels.
The Show Trunk opened in Fayetteville in 2007, and offered tack including bits, bridles and saddles as well as ‘eventing’ clothes like breeches, vests, and show coats. In 2009, Davis moved her business to Cazenovia on Albany Street, where she added a consignment corner. In Cazenovia, Davis was able to easily employ students from the College, including Caitlin Dean ʼ09. Davis also continued her education by obtaining her P&C license to sell equine insurance. She says, “While owning the Show Trunk, I gained a tremendous amount of experience in the day-to-day operations, sales, and marketing of a company.”
After five years of operation, Davis sold her business. Around that time, Powers contacted her from the SBDC, asking if she would consider working as a consultant on behalf of other individuals who wanted to start or improve a business. “I had worked with a consultant and then started, ran, and sold my own business so I knew the value of SBDC,” shares Davis. “I took the position, and it has been a very good fit.”
Davis thrives in her position as a small business advisor—which includes running a satellite office for SBDC at 1 Liberty Street next to the College’s Alumni House. She completed a one-year accreditation program to become a New York State Certified Business Advisor. Over a four-year period in Madison County, Davis’ work reflects a $3.2 million economic impact, with 59 jobs created and 65 jobs saved. She is now on her way toward obtaining an advanced certification.
Davis has a knack for spotting business opportunities and the expertise to move forward with an idea. After getting to know a fellow competitor on the horse circuit, Davis and the woman became business partners. This woman runs a stable in the Memphis, TN, area. Davis buys horses that are leased out to the clients of her partner. Relates Davis, “In that area of the country, it is very common for the parents of children learning how to ride to lease a horse for a year or so until their child is ready for a more challenging animal.”
Horses continue to be a strong focus in Davis’ personal life, and she currently has two horses and a pony. In addition, Davis has qualified for the NAL zone finals in the adult hunter class. She reflects, “Horses go beyond a sport or hobby for me … they are truly a part of who I am.”
Her tremendous energy has been harnessed for several volunteer commitments in the Cazenovia community. Most recently, Davis served on the Friends of Lorenzo board. Currently she is chair of the board of directors for the Cazenovia Community Preschool, where her sons attended school.
The numerous accomplishments of Davis were recognized in 2016 when she was selected for the 40 under Forty class of 2016. The awards program recognizes 40 hard-working, civic-minded professionals in the Central New York Region, who are under the age of 40.
From her innate competitiveness stems a great deal of Davis’ motivation. She emphasizes, “I want to be a productive member of society—I like seeing my clients be successful and helping to create and keep jobs in the Upstate New York area.” There is no question that Davis likes to see good things happen, what is more compelling is that she helps them happen.
Artfully, enthusiastically with intelligence and strength is how Melissa Zomro Davis leads her life … balancing a career with a passion for her horses and dedication to her family.