All three of us Small Biz Start Up Guide authors agree that small businesses are the future. We think that our blog is a great place to showcase successful small business owners, and ask them some questions about how they got to where they are today!
Without further ado, meet Meg Wheeler of One For Women. We got to ask Meg some questions about how, when, and why she started her small biz! Here are her answers!
MEET MEG WHEELER, ONE FOR WOMEN
One For Women
One For Women empowers and connects women through easier and more impactful gift giving and a focus on promoting women-owned companies to serve as the catalyst for their growth. Our unique, curated gift sets, designed for the “small” moments in life, feature products from women-owned companies and a portion of our proceeds go back to women’s non-profit organizations. Our philosophy is simple: one small gesture can have one big impact.
Last September, when I returned from maternity leave to find that my job was changing due to larger organizational changes. The focus of the new role was not at all aligned with my career path, so I made the decision to put in my notice with no plan as to what I was going to do next. Between putting in my notice and my last day, the idea for One For Women was formed. Two days after my last day in my job, I incorporated One For Women.
Although we have been around since November of 2017, we didn't officially launch until April of 2018.
Have you always wanted to be a Small Biz Owner?
I never saw myself as an entrepreneur; instead, I thought the stable, straight and narrow path was perfect for me – I’m not a big risk taker and I didn’t think I was that girl who colors outside the lines. It wasn’t until I was in my last position that I started to question who I really was. While I was doing work I liked, I constantly found myself frustrated with corporate culture – I sought mentorship, advancement and challenging work and often bumped up against rules and protocol and bias. When I returned from my maternity leave to find that my job was changing because of larger corporate reorganization, I knew my time had come. With not much in savings and no plan, I put in my notice and prepared for uncertainty. Looking back, while it may seem to others that this was a difficult decision, it was the easiest one I’ve ever made. The new role I was being asked to take on did not align with my career goals, and I knew that this was perhaps my one and only chance to do something bold and follow my dreams. Even though I didn’t know what my dreams were at that moment, I knew that I was more valuable than the work I was doing and that I needed to have a bigger impact in this world.
I now find myself as the entrepreneur that I never thought I would be. As it turns out, I am a risk taker and I do like to color outside the lines. I was a rebel in disguise and I didn’t know it. But more importantly, I am a passionate, compassionate and strong woman who found the bravery inside herself to stand up when her value wasn’t being respected and found a way to build something that makes a difference.
What is your background in? Past jobs?
What experiences did you have that encouraged you to go out on your own?
I earned my Bachelor of Arts from Connecticut College and my Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Accounting from Northeastern University and has previously worked at one of the top real estate firms in Austin as a marketing consultant and real estate broker, a big 6 accounting firm as a CPA and at Harvard University’s endowment in finance and international tax. I now use my project management, problem solving, strategy and finance/tax experience to run One For Women. Having this strong background in business planning/strategy and finance has helped me to be a more confident entrepreneur because I have seen successful businesses grow and understand the “money” behind my business.
What are some of the biggest small biz lessons you've learned along the way?
One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that you have to have a really strong marketing plan. While I didn’t expect the traffic to come rolling in, I did not prepare us well enough for our launch and did, to some extent, assume that the traffic would at least trickle in. Getting traffic has been and continues to be a struggle for us. I wish I had a stronger marketing plan when I first launched the business, geared at building up our community of loyal followers and engaging our customers to spread the word more easily. There are things we are doing now (like SEO, starting our blog, building a pool of influencers to work with) that we could have (and should have) done well before we launched. If only I had known!
What's something you wish all small biz owners knew?
Honestly? That you’re not alone. Girl, the loneliness is real. I am, by nature, a planner, so I prepared for most of the challenges I knew to expect when I started my business, but I did not prepare for the loneliness. Coming from a corporate environment to working mostly by myself or with a very small remote team has been a huge challenge. I went through a really dark period several months after I left my job and started One For Women, where I spent most of my time in my pajamas, wandering through my house in a near catatonic state, unsure of what to do next. It's embarrassing to admit, but that's where I was. Thankfully, I quickly realized that I needed to do something or I was going to fade away. I started forcing myself to get out of the house every day and engaged in more conversations, whether with a friend, business connection or even the guy at Starbucks. I also now build in work days outside of my home office, usually at a local coffee shop, and I make an effort to go to networking events, entrepreneurs meetups and connect with our product partners or other business contacts by phone nearly every day. I still miss shooting the breeze with my co-workers, but connecting to other entrepreneurs (especially women, who uniquely know the challenges we female business owners face such as getting fundraising), has made a huge difference. I’d want all small biz owners to know that there are more of us out there than you might realize and it’s been my experience that most small biz owners are very willing to connect and help you out. I believe in that phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats” and I think that is very much the mantra of small biz owners.
Is there an aspect of your small biz that you think you do particularly well?
Because we are small, we can really focus on customer service. Nearly every email gets an actual response from me (the CEO), and those responses are usually very personal. We also work to connect with both our customer and the recipient of the gift. Because our customer is not the one receiving the gift, we want to make sure they’re not forgotten. Our customers get thank you notes from us after each purchase, and we also send random videos to customers to check in and say hi. It’s this personal touch that really makes a difference.
Is there an aspect of your small biz that you wish you were better at?
How much time do you have? So many things! The two biggest ones are marketing and web development, because those are the areas I have personally struggled the most at. That said, in my journey to entrepreneurship I have learned so many new skillsets that I am such a well-rounded business person now, I know that I have created a portfolio of experience that will take me far in whatever I do.
What makes your small biz unique?
What values do you bring to your client/customer that your competitors might not?
We are unique because of our mission and our commitment to personal customer service. We care just as much about the products in our gift sets and the stories of the women makers as we do about the sets themselves. Other gift companies offer beautiful gift boxes with high-quality products, but they fail to share the stories and the messages of the products and the makers behind them.
We also have a devotion to personal customer service. I described this a bit above, but our mission and our company is all about connection, and this isn’t limited to connecting our customers and their friends.
Where do you see your industry going in the next 3 to 5 years?:
From the rise of Amazon and other e-commerce giants, shopping online is only going to continue to grow. We offer our customers the ability to send a personal, thoughtful gesture in just a matter of minutes through a few clicks on their computer or phone. We expect the e-commerce industry to continue to grow exponentially; given the state of our society and the increasing desire of many to find greater connection with their loved ones, we also expect the gift industry to continue on an upward trend.
Ready to get your small biz idea off the ground like Meg?
Start with the Small Biz Start Up Guide to get your small business planning, legal and branding on point.