Your email list is your most powerful tool. You’ve probably heard this a lot but your email list is something you own which is why it’s so powerful. If Facebook and Instagram shut down tomorrow, how would you be able to communicate with your followers and fans? I wish I would’ve been really focused and serious on growing my email list when I first started because I think it makes for big growth in your business.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing…Megan Moran, owner and wardrobe stylist at The Style Foundry (www.thestylefoundrycle.com). She has spent the last 10 years helping busy business women take the stress out of getting dressed. From her one-on-one styling services to her virtual courses to her speaking engagements and TV appearances- if you’re looking for fashion help she’s your girl. Her goal is to help you streamline your closet, create unique outfit choices, and shop stress-free, so you can save you time, ease frustration, and feel confident in your clothes.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Megan! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
Thanks so much for having me! I’d love to share! I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs- literally almost everyone owns their own businesses. My mom started hers to be able to be around for me. My dad and uncle own and run the business my grandpa started. My grandma, great uncle, cousin, great grandpa… the list goes on and on but they all pursued their passions to create their own businesses.
Because of this mentality I was always encouraged to find my passion and turn it into something I love to do. So as crazy as it sounds, I figured out I wanted to work in fashion and become a stylist in the 4th grade and then went on to create my current company in high school.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
For me it was all about timing. Like I said, I created my business in high school so it was definitely more of a hobby then. As I graduated high school and went to college, I continued to work on and try to grow my knowledge base for the business. So I worked for bigger fashion companies like Nordstrom, American Eagle Outfitters, and Poshmark. Once I gained all of the information I thought I’d need, graduated from college, and saved enough money to do this on my own, I then made the leap.
The other factor that allowed me to switch from a hobby to full-time was the proof in the marketplace. I worked on my business as a part time opportunity for years to see if it had legs to become my career. Once my sales and interest supported my idea then I really felt that freedom to make the switch.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
Great question and so true! Because I’ve been focused on what I’m passionate about and what I do best from a young age I feel like my path has always been very clear. Don’t get me wrong, part of being an entrepreneur is being creative and constantly coming up with new ideas, and I’ve definitely gotten distracted before. But all of my distractions are still in the same arena of what I do- helping women clean out their closets, create outfits, and shop for what they need.
When I do get distracted I have to reel myself back in and look at my wall. There I have huge post it notes with my goals, ideas for the year, what my customers struggle with and what they need. Referencing back helps keep me focused and stops me from shiny object syndrome.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
I think to turn your hobby into your career, you need to seriously think through doing it every day and having to do it for money. Some people LOVE a hobby as a creative outlet but when you think about the pressures of having to do it for approval and money, the passion goes away or gets diluted. Running your own business requires so many more hours which means you really have to love what you do and feel confident in sharing your talents with others because you become completely reliant on yourself and making this work. If you hesitate or don’t want to put in that much work and risk then you’ll never be fully committed and it should stay as your hobby.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
Exactly what I was talking about before! I think if there are enough complexities in what you love to do paired with the market and customer’s needs always changing- it is hard to get bored and therefore dread what you do.
For example, like I had mentioned, the core of my business has always been about helping women clean out their closets, mix and match what they own, and shop for what they need. It’s innately a more complex business because there are a handful of moving parts here. But as the years have gone by, not only have I changed (I’m a new mom so my timing and the way I want to work has drastically changed) but so have my customer’s needs. They now want more inspiration and quick digital products whereas when I started it was all about the physical service. The point being I’m constantly changing and they are too so as long as you’ve made your business a little complex (in a good way) then it’s like a puzzle that you’re constantly working on.
On the other hand, if your business is not complex and therefore very repetitive you lose the creativity side of it. I can see how it’d quickly go from a passion you had on the side to something you’re so bored doing day in and day that it’s no longer fun.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
I love being able to follow my passion and see real results from the work I love to do. But most importantly, I love being able to create my own schedule and live my life how I want to. I actually work early in the mornings, at night, and on weekends so I can take care of my son during the day. It’s amazing to be able to do that!
The drawbacks to running your own business though are it’s all on you to make it successful. You have to bring in the sales and when something goes wrong, you have to own it and make it right. It’s a lot of pressure and creates this roller-coaster ride where one second you feel like you’re killing it and then the next you’re like “is this even going to work?” But that’s the nature of the beast- you have to be ok with some uncertainty, flexibility, and a lot of hard work.
I had to learn this lesson the hard way when I had some health issues last year. First I broke my ankle so badly that I was stuck on the couch for 3 months. Then towards the end of the year, once I had just finally started to heal and feel normal again, we were lucky enough to get pregnant which sent me back to the couch with morning sickness like crazy. What I learned was that “I am my business.” Which means I have to really take care of myself and structure my business in a smart way to accommodate that. So I then invested in support and changed the structure of my offerings a bit so I wasn’t so reliant on my physical services- in case I just can’t do the manual or in-person tasks again.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
Interesting question- that’s one I’ve never been asked before! I think the biggest shock is how much time you have to spend doing other things outside of your zone of genius, to support it. I’ve never really thought of myself as a sales and marketing person but that’s probably what I do most in my business- maybe even more than the actual wardrobe styling itself. I think that surprises me daily. It also reminds me of a post I saw in one of my entrepreneurship Facebook groups- it said “If you were hiring someone to do your job what would the ad look like.” It makes you really see the difference between running your own business and working for a bigger company, where your focus is on one specific task at hand.
But at the end of the day, I do think that the goal as you grow and can afford it, should always be to hire out all the additional tasks you do that aren’t what you’re meant to do. It just takes time.
Also to that point- I think the other big shock is that “it takes time.” You think if you create it and put it out there it’ll just start making you sales but it’s a lot more effort. It’s more like gardening where you plant the seeds, nurture it, and then eventually over time you’ll see the fruits of your labor.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
Yes for sure! I think when you’re starting out especially, you’re looking at your sales and the effort you put in and are like “when is it all going to come together?” And with social media now, you follow people and see their “highlight reel” and think “Why can’t I be successful like that?” It can all pile up and make you feel less than so to combat it I remind myself of the wins I’ve recently had, honestly- I go get a hug from my husband because that always calms me down, and then I use that fire to energize me and move me forward. I just get right back to work on my to do list and in doing so, the roller-coaster continues, and I typically have a win that calms my nerves.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Haha, so many to choose from! I think the funniest is my whole broken ankle story. The reason I broke my ankle was because I tried one of those ninja warrior courses (and I am NOT a ninja warrior by any means!) It was this fun date night I was so excited about and in an instant it changed the trajectory of my business (that part isn’t funny but the way it all happened is pretty crazy and comical.) That’s how I really learned that I am my business so I have to take care of myself. And it also opened my eyes to how reliant the business was on me and my manual labor.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
Most definitely my mom. She somehow finds a way to continue to innovate and make big moves with her business while finding the time to do all the other things she loves to do. She’s like super woman- being there for her employees and also our family. I don’t believe that true balance can happen when you own your own business but I do think she gets pretty close to it and that is so inspiring to me!
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Seeing my client’s stress melt away after I’ve shared my work with them and the time and money they’ve saved by working together feels like a real success to me. It’s hard when you’re so busy but want to look and feel good. So that fact that I am helping women feel confident in themselves so they can go crush their day (something we need more of!) is the biggest win for me.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It takes time. Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day neither will your business. It takes focus, determination, patience and a love for what you do day in and day out.
- Consistency is key. While I’ve been consistently working on my business from a young age, I wish I would’ve realized that once you start doing a new activity for the business, do it constantly to really take you to the next level. For example, I first started my business as a blog. Imagine if I would’ve consistently posted every week for the past 10 years. It would most likely make a huge difference in my following and SEO! And think about my email list! (I think this is the biggest one for me!)
- Your email list is your most powerful tool. You’ve probably heard this a lot but your email list is something you own which is why it’s so powerful. If Facebook and Instagram shut down tomorrow, how would you be able to communicate with your followers and fans? I wish I would’ve been really focused and serious on growing my email list when I first started because I think it makes for big growth in your business.
- Content is king (or queen!) The more you put out there the more you’re able to help others and therefore grow your brand and mission. If you could first focus on your business as your passion project, grow your email list through your free content and practice your selling skills that way, you’d be off to a better start than most. It takes some of the pressure off, although, there’s always going to be pressure when you run your own business.
- You make your own schedule. When I first started out I didn’t have anyone to answer to. I could work for hours and that was fine and make my schedule fit what my clients needed. It worked but also felt a little overwhelming and stressful (like I didn’t control my schedule as much as I thought I could.) Now that I’m a wife and mom I have other people to factor into my day. So when I realized I can choose the hours I work and that I don’t have to be available all day every day for my customers- it was freeing. I realized, they’ll adapt to their options. So if your schedule shows you only take calls Tuesday and Thursday- that’s not a problem! They’ll find a time that works for them and therefore works for you too!
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Clothing confidence. So many women feel like they don’t know what to wear or how to wear it so they walk into a room feeling self conscious about their look. When they instead, walk into a room with their head held high and get a compliment that they look fabulous and put-together, it allows them to feel amazing, impressive, and do even better at the important work they do.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Our family motto is “Do what you love and the money will come.” It is something that has driven me my entire life and still continues to. While it has some nuances, obviously there’s a lot more work that goes into it than just doing what you love, at the core it’s allowed me to find my passion and pursue it relentlessly. Ultimately, giving me the freedom to live my life to the fullest.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would LOVE to meet with Joanna Gaines. Like me, she has created an amazing life for herself and her family out of what she started as a hobby. Now she not only gets to do what she loves everyday but she can do it while still keeping her family at the forefront. It’s my husband and my goal to run my business together some day so we can have even more flexibility with our schedules and the ability to be around for our family. The way she lives her life is how I try to and hope to live mine and would love to hear how she does it!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Phil La Duke is a popular speaker & writer with more than 400 works in print. He has contributed to Entrepreneur, Monster, Thrive Global and is published on all inhabited continents. His most recent book is Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention listed as #16 on Pretty Progressive magazine’s list of 49 books that powerful women study in detail. Follow Phil on Twitter @philladuke or read his weekly blog www.philladuke.wordpress.com