Name: Meg Wheeler
Twitter or Instagram Handle: @megkwheeler @oneforwomen
Location: Boston, MA
Occupation: Co-Founder + CEO, One For Women
Secretly Obsessed With: Donuts and political movies
On My Nightstand: “Becoming” by Michelle Obama, my dog Fenway’s ashes and a jar with sand and water from the Pacific Ocean that my husband gave me for my birthday
Last Thing You Read: “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson
How did you get started on your career path?
The idea for One For Women started brewing a few years ago, when a friend had a really bad week. To cheer her up, I sent her flowers, but they were expensive and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to afford to send every friend flowers for every bad week. I thought there had to be a better way.
Fast forward to the fall of 2017 and the company I worked for was going through a large reorganization. My job was spared, thankfully, but I soon learned that my role was changing to an area of tax that was not interesting to me and did not align with my career goals, so I left. While in some ways the decision to quit my stable job and start a company was difficult, in so many more ways it was the easiest decision I’ve ever made. It hit me like a brick one day – I thought, “here’s my moment.” In the role I was in at the time, I wasn’t being challenged and I felt like I could and should be doing more to have a bigger impact in this world. So I knew it was time for a change.
I think I’m part of the last generation that was raised with the idea that you would get good grades, go to a good college and then find a stable job that you would stay in until retirement and that was just how it was done. And until now, that’s what I did. My first two careers out of college were both fairly traditional – real estate and finance/tax, so I can’t say that I always envisioned I would create something like One For Women. But since I was young I’ve had this burning desire to have an impact in this world, perhaps borne out of a recognition that I am lucky to have had the family, education and opportunities that I did. I’m reminded of an old quote – “to those whom much has been given, much will be expected” – and I live by that quote every day. While I didn’t necessarily picture myself as an entrepreneur, I’m not even a little surprised that I’m doing the work that I am today.
What key elements played into your success?
My professional experience, problem solving skills and determination have all played a role in my success, but nothing has been more impactful than being surrounded by people who challenge me, believe in me and champion me. I’m lucky to have strong family and friends who support me no matter what twists or turns my life takes. More importantly, they call me out on my BS, challenge my ideas to make sure they’re the best they can be and push me to believe in myself as much as they believe in me. And when I’ve had a tough day or am struggling through, they’re there to pick me back up and give me the nudge I need to get back out into the world.
What struggles did you face getting to this point?
Being in the early stages of building a company is a very lonely existence. Even with a co-founder, there are so many moments where you have to make what feel like (and often are) huge decisions and unlike in the corporate world, you don’t have a team to run things by or a boss to make the final decision. As my co-founder is only part-time, most of my days are spent by myself which is difficult because the early days of a starting a company are when the self-doubt hits you the hardest and you most need reassurance from others.
There is nothing easy about starting a company. I don’t say that to scare people off, but to be a realist. Starting a company is probably one of the most challenging things most people do in their lives, and it truly will challenge you to your core. Every day you will face new decisions, problems and doubts and you will have to find a way to push through them.
The trick is to have a really strong “why,” to spend more time listening to your customers than you ever do talking and to constantly remind yourself that you will get through this and that everything you are feeling and struggling with is a normal part of this process.
Who was the biggest influence in your professional life?
The biggest influence in my professional life is my nearly 2-year old son, Jack. I was never sure I wanted to be a mother – my priorities were focused on building a solid career, standing up and speaking out on behalf of women and fighting to have a bigger impact in this world. When my son was born, I realized that I had the opportunity to have a huge impact. This little boy, eyes filled with wonder, was watching my every move, and I had the chance to show him what a strong, confident woman looks like. I realized that with my every move I was teaching him something about women and how to treat them. I am proud that he gets to see his mother building a business she loves and that has impact on others, and am reminded daily that the choices I make are more powerful than I realize.
When do you feel most successful?
I believe success is about waking up every day proud of what you are putting out into the world and knowing that you are having the biggest impact that you can. Impact doesn't need to be well-known or widespread; it simply means that you have made a difference for someone or something in this world. I also think success hinges on how good we are to ourselves. As women, we are often wrecked with guilt and overwhelm and this leads us to be hard on ourselves, to not take care of our bodies, minds and souls. I see success as feeling good about who I am and what I am doing, and not about the bottom line.
What’s the best piece of advice you received?
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is to only focus on one thing each day. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with your to do list, especially when you’re starting a business. By focusing on one task each day, your mind is clear and your attention is kept on that one project. If you finish up the task for the day, you’ll feel accomplished and can move on to other things on your list, but with a renewed sense of achievement and a burden lifted off your shoulders because you’ve already been “successful” for the day. I find that using this method makes me more productive so that I get more done and I’m much more relaxed about it!
What advice would you give to women looking to enter your industry/space?
When I first took my leap of faith, I was hung up on this idea that it was all or nothing – that I was either going to be a huge success or I was going to fail and we were going to end up living on the street. It was the fear of the latter that held me back for so long before I decided to leap, and it’s that same fear that holds so many others back. It’s rarely going to be that extreme – that black or white – there are a million different options in the middle that are all survivable. The advice I would go is to have a good grasp on your resources and set realistic milestones. Then, have actionable steps you will take if you don’t hit your milestones. That way, if you aren’t able to replace your income as quickly as you had hoped, you will have a good plan in place to cover yourself until you are able to. Or at least you’ll have a good plan in place to ensure you don’t end up living on the street! For example, one of my milestones is to hit a certain revenue goal by a certain date. If I hit that goal, then I should be able to take a salary out of the company which will be necessary for me to continue working full-time for One For Women. But if I don’t hit that sales goal and therefore am not able to take that salary, I have set up actionable next steps that speak both to how I will improve sales for the company, but also what I will do personally to bring in some additional income until the sales improve.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
My proudest accomplishment is the day I put in my notice at my last corporate job. For so many reasons it wasn't the right place for me anymore and I yearned to have a greater impact in the work I was doing. Although I had spent years of my life preaching about feminism and girl power and standing up for yourself, I found myself stuck in a job that often felt soul-sucking and even though I liked the work I was doing, I was meant for more. I knew that I had to reach deep down and find the strength to create my own path and chase my dreams, fighting back fear and self-doubt. I have never been more proud of myself than the day I didn't take the expected route and instead, leaped into the unknown with only my bravery and my belief in myself to sustain me.