Real Estate Development Firm Creates Impact with Communities in Mind

Sandra Nomoto

MW Enterprises LLC’s Vision Includes Nurturing Close-Knit Neighborhoods, Building Innovation, and Preserving Cultural History


Melissa Wyatt is Principal at MW Enterprises LLC, one of the companies in the Level program organized by B Lab U.S. & Canada.

This article is one in a series about business leaders in the Level program, now in its third year. Through the Level program, B Lab U.S. & Canada aims to support and partner with business leaders who identify as women of color to amplify their economic reach and community impact.

When Melissa Wyatt was pregnant with her son at 18, she also took on parenting duties for her niece. As a college student with two kids in tow, she made sure she still had time for them. This desire for flexibility influenced her decision to become an entrepreneur and invest in real estate. Purchasing property, becoming a landlord, and earning a monthly income enabled her to take care of her family and buy more properties. Today, Wyatt is the Principal Developer of MW Enterprises LLC (MWE), a Los Angeles-based real estate development company.

Growing up in the inner city of Los Angeles influenced Wyatt’s decision to build a company focused on social impact. “Even though I grew up in a not-so-good environment, I had an amazing childhood,” Wyatt says. “There were dilapidated buildings and empty lots. I had some challenges, but I wouldn’t change anything. What I’ve gone through has made me who I am.”

Building in other communities helped Wyatt visualize a better future. MWE takes this impact lens to historic communities of color where front porches are in disrepair, homes lack proper lighting, streets are strewn with trash, and sidewalks or bike lanes are nonexistent. In each community, the company sees potential for transformational change.

MWE also leans into new practices and products that enhance sustainability, including alternative building materials, solar energy, and 3D printing.

Mel Wyatt in a red longsleeve shirt and white hard hat, looks at plans at a Los Angeles project site.

Melissa Wyatt looks at plans at a Los Angeles project site.

Wyatt’s focus on positive social and environmental impact drew her to the B Corp community. Before joining the Level program, she spent seven years trying to earn B Corp Certification, working the last two years with a friend who had achieved it for her company. “The process was just so daunting. It was so much paperwork,” Wyatt says. “When Level came, it was amazing to have the guidance, professionals, and consultants who helped us to get through it. And this has been beautiful.”

Encouraging Neighbors to Get to Know One Another Again

Neighborhood revitalization can create new challenges. MWE recognizes that in its industry, as communities get more gentrified and expensive, the people who have lived there longest and built the culture can become displaced.

“At the core of what we do is look at these inner-city communities and understand how we can make transformational changes by providing safe, healthy, and sustainable housing for people,” Wyatt says. “Residents don’t understand the fruits of their labor, because other people come in who are benefiting from great pricing and communities. We need that sometimes, but you can do that without displacing.”

A current project in Little Rock, Arkansas, incorporates thoughtful impact and ties to history. MWE purchased its first two properties in a historic district near Little Rock Central High School, where nine Black kids enrolled after the Brown v. Board integration ruling. MWE demolished a building on a single-family lot but salvaged most of the wood and materials to reuse in new builds. The project will include three new family homes designed so neighbors can get to know each other.

For Wyatt, building connections is part of shaping sustainable neighborhoods. “Even though I grew up in the streets, I knew every single person on my street three blocks away. Because everything is so digitized, everybody’s in their home all the time. Nobody’s socialized,” she says. “We’re creating small communities that almost force people to interact with each other because you’re in a duplex and living right next door to each other, or you’re on top of the garage. More community means knocking on the door and borrowing a cup of sugar.”

MWE is expanding beyond what’s in its California backyard because there are similar communities across the U.S. that Wyatt says just need “a little bit of love.” The company is scouting in East Cleveland and Detroit, which have historic areas but little investment.

Structure view of a home as MW Enterprises LLC purchased.

Phase one landscaping, with the lot prepared for a three-family home.

Building Generational Wealth

Wyatt says entrepreneurs of color often face challenges around time, funding, and creative ideas, but she detests the term imposter syndrome.

“If you feel like you have a skill, a mindset, and the tenacity to do something, you should do that. Own that. There’s no imposterism in that, right? This is what white men and women have been able to do. You should be able to own that home,” she says. “I’m successful and confident in what I’m doing because I know I can get done what needs to get done. I don’t have any excuses for it, and I’m not apologetic.”

Being a Black woman in real estate development and construction isn’t common. While some female-owned companies do development work, they typically build generational wealth for someone else. What MWE builds, it owns. “I want to be known for being a person that cared about the community and was able to make change, not only for the community, but for my family, for my team’s family, and so on,” Wyatt says.

“There’s a connotation that low-income, run-down housing and communities are here forever. We want to be known as the developers that took care of our community and our people, and did that in the most strategic, sustainable, full-circle way we could.”

Neighborhood revitalization should include collaboration and conversations that help build partnerships, Wyatt says. She challenges investors and developers to bring in restaurants, adopt parks and streets, and do community cleanup days. Getting to know the people who call a neighborhood home is crucial.

Mel Wyatt wears an MWE-branded white hard hat and MWE red longsleeve shirt with her arms crossed. Smiling, she observes a project site in Los Angeles.
Melissa Wyatt observes a project site in Los Angeles.

She says, “How do you make changes where you’ve never stepped foot in the place where you want to make change? How do you make change if your board is all white, and there’s no diversity on it? The only way to make change and leave great legacies is if you’re on the ground floor leading by example, not from your pocketbook, per se.”

Completing the Level program reflects the work MWE has been doing for years. “I enjoy being a part of this B Corp community. It challenges us in ways we never thought about, and it’s allowing us to prepare an even better company. I’m very thankful for that.”

B The Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.

Sign Up for our B The Change Newsletter

Read stories on the B Corp Movement and people using business as a force for good. The B The Change Newsletter is sent weekly on Fridays.