Foreword By: Danae Edmonds
It is safe to say that I have been a tad obsessed with succulents for a while now. Could it be because I have no green thumb and they are the only plants I can keep alive? I will let you be the judge of that. Anywho, I crave greenery for the fresh air and life it brings to any space and I grew up with lots of plants in the house. I first caught eye of The Zen Succulent at a local maker’s festival in Downtown Raleigh and thought the creations were beautiful. After continuing to see pieces in some of my favorite local shops, I had to learn more about the woman behind the scenes. Megan George is a Raleigh, NC native with a passion for plants. Through her Etsy shop and her book “Modern Terrarium Studio,” Megan shares her passion with the world full-time. Here we talk about how she got started, her future plans, work/life balance and how she maintains her go-getter attitude.
Name: Megan George
Job Title/Company: Creative Director & Chief Maker / The Zen Succulent
Education Background: Bachelor of Science Concentration in Marketing from University of North Carolina – Greensboro
1. Tell us a little about who you are.
I have always had a passion for business and entreprenuership. When I graduated from college, I started working for the North Carolina lottery but tried to use that time to learn as much as I could while still maintaining my interest in going into business for myself. I opened my Etsy shop, the Zen Succulent, with no idea of how I was going to pull it off and after 1 year, I was able to quit my job full-time job!
2. What sparked your interest in greenery?
I was always surrounded by so much wildlife and lush and greenery growing up in North Carolina. My grandmother had a terrerium in her living room that was a four feet tall floor model and I remember being in awe even at a young age. I grew up with that terrarium throughout the years. I just grew up around plant life. I had to take care of them so much that growing my own seemed like second nature. It just made sense for me and still does.
3. Who are you most influenced by?
I would say I’m most influenced by a movement of different makers. There is so much great talent here in Raleigh and throughout the south. I am constantly inspired by seeing others creating art and delivering content and working on their crafts. Its an honor that my customers come to me to add something meaningful to their space. Something that is handmade and grown here. Sharing that with other handmade makers is what inspires and influences me.
4. What inspired you to open your etsy shop?
Honestly, the idea of “why can someone else do it and I can’t?” This is basically my mantra. It is a question that I always ask myself when I am wanting to pursue different opportunities. I learned about Etsy one month before opening my shop. It became a great platform for me and I am still with them to. I love they way the present themselves and my items and usability of the platform. They have been great partners throughout my journey.
5. Can you share a career defining moment with us?
Sure thing. I typically receive ten or so messages on Etsy each day asking about my products, care, etc. One day as I was going through my inbox and I saw a message that basically said, “Hello Megan, I am a publisher and I would like to do a book with you.” I receive emails all day, every day. I get a variety of different questions and situations every day but this was something different. At first, I thought it was a joke. I was 24 at the time and all I kept thinking was, is this real? I started to doubt myself but then my mantra creeped in. “Why can someone else do it and I can’t?” From that point I pushed myself to use different materials and supplies and open my mind for creating special pieces for all different occasions. I would say that the book stretched my imagination and challenged me to go to the next level.
6. What were your initial goals with your work? How have they evolved?
Initially my goal was to create modern greenery that is easily maintained. Now that original focus has continued to stay relevant but now I want to create experiences, not just focused on selling products but empowering people with the knowledge behind them.
7. What do you think is the most important life skill you learned from being an entrepreneur?
I would say relying on your self and not being afraid to ask others for help. Collaborating and working with others has been essential in growing my business and moving forward. The evolution of wanting to take things to the next level is what I hope to continue to do.
8. Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
I hope to have a collection of products in large retailers nationally. Pop up shops are great and I am fortunate to do them but I ultimately want my own line of glassware with a modern and clean feel. Also down the line would be a full-time staff to increase to number of clients we can service but to still stay small and have a hand made touch.
9. What is a typical day like for you?
Hmm, well I will tell you want today was like! I visited J and C Greenhouses in Princeton, NC. I woke up at 5 to be there by 7. I talked to owner Jerome Pittman and hand selected new plants for projects. I typically get about 20 new orders a day in addition to preparing for events so next I went to my studio to work on those. Then there is posting on social media and emailing. I basically don’t stop until I rest my head on my pillow.
10. What was the biggest obstacle you’ve faced so far in the process of pursuing your dreams?
Time management is a big deal. Sometimes you wake up thinking of an idea and go to bed thinking of that same idea. You have to work on it constantly. I am balancing a relationship, family, friends, and my business. I rely on the people in my life to tell me to hit the off switch every now and then and take a break. To take my brand to the next level, I have to take a step back every now and then. Luckily I am very fortunate to not run into too many other issues.
11. What is the best piece of advice you have received?
Be yourself. I know it’s cliche. To paint the picture for you, I started with this before it was a trend. I was the only person creating these terrariums and especially in Raleigh. As they became more popular, I would ask myself “How will I distinguish myself and my brand from newly emerging competitors?” My friend reminded me that I do something no one else can do. There will always be someone who will want to do what you are doing and your job is to do it better than them. By the time they catch up to you, you will be on to the next thing!
12. When do you get your best ideas?
When I’m out in nature, for sure. I am inspired by things going on around me. I also like to talk to other plant people to learn about all sorts of things. Another thing I love is going to aquariums and looking at the colors of fish. It helps we open my mind to different combinations to try in my work. I find inspiration in those things.
13. Can you share with us one time that you failed and what you learned from that failure?
I’ve been very fortunate to not have to many set backs. One thing that didn’t go as well as I wanted was introducing new lines and plants on a whim. I did my research and evaluated what I wanted. I did everything right but I didn’t sell anything so I am reworking it now. Sometimes even with all of the preparation and hard work, things still don’t pan out the way we want.
14. How do you unwind?
WINE haha. I love a good glass of wine. I like to relax with my friends. Oh and I love actually going to the movies. Something about comfy seats and large screens. Really just taking time to be with others is a good time for me.
15. What would you tell someone else who wants to start their own business?
I would recommend that you find a problem that people have and your business should be centered around that. For example, there are people who want greenery and do not know how to keep it alive. So I provide that, among other things of course.
16. What do you hope people take away from your story?
If I can do it, why can’t you! …well not the exact same thing I do, but you get it. 😉
All imagery is courtesy of Megan’s book, “Modern Terrarium Studio.”