Announcement: I’m launching an online Apothecary Box!

There’s something I’ve been working really hard on for a while now…and this is the first time I am “putting it out there” making this probably the hardest blog post I’ve ever written…

For the past few years I’ve been spending more and more time learning about holistic health – specifically the healing properties of essential oils and herbs.

It started off with a book by Rosemary Gladstar, where I learned to make healing tinctures and teas…and evolved into my love of bath/body products and trying to figure out how to replace what I was currently using with high quality natural alternatives (without breaking the bank).

I quickly realized that my new hobby was not only satisfying in that I was able to create and customize products for myself and friends, but that taking a couple of hours each day to step away from the computer and retreat to my “lab” to mix essential oils, learn to make perfumes, etc. was actually causing a notable decline in my overall stress levels.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 11.20.47 AMI began researching how to make everything – from bath bombs to foot soaks to hair oils. But my favorite things to make were what I call “problem solvers.” I’m allergic to most bug sprays but mosquitoes are terrible in New Orleans during the summer. So I created a chemical-free, citronella-free bug spray that works better than the regular stuff (and actually smells good).

I also work around a lot of people who spend too much time on the computer and get stress headaches, so I created a tension roller stick made with essential oils that relieve tension.

And when Lauren suffered a back injury last winter, I researched which herbs and oils could be used to relieve muscle pain, and created a formula that works better than Biofreeze and some of the other alternatives…

As a marketer, my initial instinct was to create a brand, and so Nola Essentials was born. (The idea being that the products were made in New Orleans, and that I’d focus on multi-use “essential” products in sustainable packaging).

Under that umbrella, I was mostly making beeswax and coconut oil based lip moisturizers with essential oils to add therapeutic benefits. (To date, I’ve sold exactly zero of those, but have given away over 1,000 as I refused to create any kind of store front until I felt that the brand was absolutely perfect…)

Fast forward two years: I ALMOST opened an actual physical store here in New Orleans, but decided that physical retail management wasn’t going to fit with my already crazy schedule. I created an etsy store for Nola Essentials and have sold a few things (the natural bug spray has been the biggest hit so far). I had labels designed, redesigned, designed again and so on….

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 11.22.34 AM

And then I took a long hard look at the overall look/feel/branding and decided to scratch the whole thing and reassess my goals.

I’m obsessed with subscription boxes and the plan was always that this would evolve into one.

But “Nola Essentials” didn’t feel right.

So I did what I always do whenever I hit a branding / naming crossroads…

I popped over to Bluehost to see what domains might be available…and to my surprise, was able to buy ApothecaryBox.com

So! The plan is to launch a kickstarter soon-ish for a badass quarterly Apothecary Box that will include my products and others.

Challenge: WAIT; if my ‘brand’ is apothecary box, but apothecary box is a subscription that also sends out products from other brands, WON’T THAT BE CONFUSING!?

Solution: I’m creating a product brand called “Megan’s Apothecary” (domain was also available!) to brand my own products with, and am in the process of reachout out to other makers who want to include products in the subscription box launch.

And I couldn’t be more excited about the new brand. I’ve always been hesitant on putting my name into things (one, because it’s generic and two, because it doesn’t seem very ‘brand-like’) but I love how personal “Megan’s Apothecary” feels.

So what’s next?

Photo Nov 17, 12 38 06 PM

1. I’m building out Apothecarybox.com behind the scenes (and collecting email addresses so that I can notify people when it launches)

2. I’m liquidating my Nola Essentials / ApothecaryBox brand products via Etsy so that we can restructure as Megan’s Apothecary photo (7)

3. Lauren is working on some really beautiful new labels for the new brand (here’s a sneak peek!)

4. I’m looking for makers to participate in the box! So: if you know someone who creates a natural / holistic product or product line – tell them to get in touch! Structural Note: Apothecary Box will be set up more like ipsy than Birchbox (meaning we won’t sell products through the site, just subscriptions, and then when people want to buy a full-sized product, we link them out directly to your store so that makers receive 100% of the proceeds from their products).

So that’s the whole shabang..

Please comment/email/call/text with any questions, feedback, ideas, constructive criticisms – all are welcome!

 

How I mastered Crepe-making (and how you can too)

A few weeks ago, Lauren and I joined a cooking competition (A super sweet gift from her badass big bro & sister-in-law)  at Langlois Culinary School in New Orleans.

We separated into teams and did about as much rowdy shit talking as one can do over a nice glass of rose, and each group was partnered with a Chef.

langlois cooking class

Team Awesome

I had no idea how to make crepes before this event because “cooking” to me usually means assembling a salad or putting a bunch of random things into a slow cooker for the day and hoping it turns out okay.

Here’s the thing: CREPES ARE EASY, Y’ALL!

langlois new orleans crepe making

Chef Mel going over the basics of creating a savory crepe filling

So here’s my slightly adapted crepe recipe from the Langlois class…

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup of whole milk (I’m sure any kind of milk would do the trick)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or just whatever kind of salt)
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of all purpose flour – sifted (I’m actually still not sure what “sifted” means but if it’s an extra step, I didn’t do it and mine turned out fine)
  • unsalted butter (for crepe flipping)

Instructions: 

  • Blend milk, egg, salt, oil and flour until smooth and then stick that in a jar in your refrigerator overnight
  • Get a pan, put your stove on medium heat, melt about a teaspoon of butter and then drop 1/4 cup of batter onto the pan (lift and swirl so that the batter makes a thin layer in bottom of pan)
  • Shake the pan a bit: once the crepe is loose (not sticking onto the pan), you’re ready to flip.
  • Watch this video for flipping technique:

So there’s your crepe  - and you can fill it with LITERALLY FUCKING ANYTHING.

Here’s the result of our competition crepe after lots of wine and laughs and failed flips:

PicFrame

(We got last place but it tasted AMAZING, I swear).

 

How to rebuild your wardrobe (without breaking the bank)

This week is about politics.

Kidding.

It’s about building a badass/non-boring/versatile wardrobe.

So what do I know about fashion?

Not a whole lot. In general, I have a love/hate relationship with shopping/fashion/clothes.

BUT — I did recently interview designer Amanda DeLeon for the best copywriter in New Orleans‘ #FashionFriday blog:)

So here’s what I DO know about fashion (aside from my newfound knowledge on how to rock a cape):

1. Getting dressed shouldn’t be stressful.

2. Shopping shouldn’t leave you feeling guilty.

3. When you live with someone else, not all of the closets in the house are for just YOUR clothes.

4. Holding onto things you “might fit in again one day” or that you’re keeping for sentimental value (but would never wear) might just be a waste of closet space.

So I decided that it’s time to get rid of everything that’s too small, from LF/Forever 21/other places where someone who is almost 30 shouldn’t be shopping, and things that are just too hard to work into everyday wear.

*Note — some of these links are actually “affiliate links,” meaning that if you sign up, we both get free credits (dollarz) to that site. Thank you and you’re welcome ;)

The Purge: I made 3 piles: Give Away, Throw Away, Sell.

For the stuff I decided was in great condition and still had value, I ordered a free shipping bag from Like Twice, sent it all back to them, and they emailed me a week later saying that I had a $90 credit to their site for all of those clothes I was never going to wear anyway.

And then it was time to rebuild (a.k.a. “buy new shit,” a.k.a. THE FUN PART!)

1. Affordable Basics:everlane vneck tee

I want the foundation of my wardrobe to be high-quality basics that are cut well, fit well, and go with whatever.

So I started with 3 v-neck T-shirts and 2 sleeveless tops from Everlane.

They use this cool fabric that doesn’t pill (which is awesome, because I wash and dry EVERYTHING, which is why I don’t usually buy nice things).

But considering the quality, these T’s are a steal @ $15.


2. Fun “Pop” Pieces:

I used my Like Twice credit to buy a few “fun” pieces that I knew would be great additions to my wardrobe this summer, but which wouldn’t necessarily be on trend after that.

No guilt here because I had free money, and got lots of stuff for it.

like twice consignment

So Like Twice is BASICALLY like an online Buffalo Exchange without that awkward line and some girl chewing gum, telling you that they aren’t currently buying whatever you’re selling.

 3. Investment Pieces:

THIS IS THE PART THAT MAKES ME NERVOUS.

I don’t like spending more than $30 on something unless I KNOW I’m going to wear it, like, all the time.

And I’m still not sure that buying a “big girl blazer” from Saks (It was Joie, more dollars than I want to admit, and I was in a pinch for a speaking engagement, so I totally splurged) was a great idea.

In general, shopping in stores makes me nervous because I always feel really pressured by salespeople to buy things I don’t necessarily want.

So I found the most badass, next-best thing: A personal styling service called Stitchfix.

Picture 13

How it works:

Based on a style profile I filled out when I signed up, they send me five things to try on every month.

What I like, I keep.Picture 10

What I don’t, I send back.

Stitchfix charges my card for whatever I keep. Everyone feels happy and like they made good decisions, and even though I consider these “investment pieces,” they’re all in the $60 price range, which means out of the three months I’ve been stitchfix’in, I’ve spent way less than that one Joie blazer from Saks.

Not to hate on the blazer. The blazer is fine. But mostly it’s a lesson.

 

So, I’m STILL working on building my big girl wardrobe…one piece at a time.

Luckily, things like Stitchfix and Like Twice are making the process a lot easier and more fun.

Know of any great online personal shopping or wardrobe trade sites?

Please share in the comments!

*Related: My lovely new friend Abigail who works over at LaunchPad has AMAZING style and has agreed to take me on a shopping trip to style me IRL. So I’m super excited about that and will post an update after:)

 

 

28 Years // Week 1 Goal: Double last year’s business income

Last week, I blogged about my top 5 goals for my 28th year of life…and they are far and above the most ambitious so far.

(But I think you know me well enough to know that I’m up to the challenge)!

My #1 goal is to double last year’s income for my Social Media and SEO Company (Conversations, LLC), from 2013 to 2014 – SO I’m already halfway done with the timeline on this, meaning I better get planning!

Picture 26

I bet you’re wondering how I’m going to make that happen?

New business – yes

Raising rates – no – BUT: I WILL be creating more FREE resources for start-ups, using affiliate links (links I get from companies like Bluehost or WIX so that they know I’m referring new customers, and in turn, they pay me a kickback). I’m super excited about this especially because I get to create a lot of value for people who need it right now, but don’t have a budget to outsource things like building their website or keeping up with social media.

Outsourcing more – yes (this seems counter-intuitive at first because it means paying someone else to do work that I could actually do myself; but the important thing about this is that I am freeing up time to do business development – which ideally is going to produce more business, and we will grow from there).

Networking and blogging more – yes. I’m going to be setting aside time each morning to write a blog post, guest post or work on an upcoming presentation. I’ll also be attending more networking events to talk to small businesses directly about the kind of work we do at Conversations. All of these things will increase visibility, brand awareness, email list signups – and thus – result in more business, according to how similar efforts have worked for me in the past.

I’m also going to get more PERSONAL with what I write.

Because people hire people, and in order to build trust, you’ve got to be open and honest.

That’s one of the reasons I’m laying out my big goals in this blog series (the other is that I’m hoping to get feedback from you on how I can do things better/faster/smarter – but also maybe share something with you that you didn’t know before)!

A side goal of bringing on more work + making more money is that I want to give Stephanie more hours and continue to have her grow within the company; but also, at some point, bring on a second employee in more of a virtual assistant/organizational role so that Stephanie can focus more on what she’s passionate about: content and visual creation.

So far: My January 1 – June 1 Business income is almost exactly double what it was from that date range last year; so we are on target!

 

Turning 28

Last month I turned 28.megan hargroder birthday dinner at raoul's

I see birthdays as my own “new year” and usually make a few resolutions and goals for the upcoming year…

28 will be my most ambitious year so far.

GOALS:

1. Double last year’s income for my Social Media and SEO Company (Conversations, LLC), based here in New Orleans

2. Successfully launch my 2 new companies: Nola Essentials and Our Social Tribune (technically they are “launched” but so far not promoted or built out as much as I’d like them to be)

3. Become a Certified Aromatherapist

4. Dress more profesh (not like BORING profesh, but like – “hey, that broad has her shit together” profesh)

5. Focus on what MATTERS (i.e. not get bogged down with the small stuff, i.e. keep my eye on the ball, i.e. spend time doing what I care about most)

And I’m also committing to doing A LOT more blogging.

So, over the next 5 weeks, I’ll be outlining each goal in greater detail as well as talking about progress and how I’m going to make it happen.

I’d love any feedback or tips on ways that you’ve found effective to hold yourself accountable to your own goals! You can leave those in the comments below:

be really fucking nice…because, why not?

In my industry, people give a lot of advice.

And a lot of that advice is business-related – geared towards protecting your time, making the most of your time and building your business around your own rules so that you can do what you want, when you want, the way you want it.

And it’s mostly really good advice.

But here’s the thing about “protecting your time” and going on a “low information diet” and having too many friends on Facebook and following too many people on Twitter:

You miss A LOT.

Like a friend crowdsourcing for a ride because they didn’t want to text directly and put you out. But you could have given them that ride, caught up with a friend and everyone would have had a better day because of it.

 

No one ever really tells you to be nice and take an extra minute to help someone out – or just look around and realize that it’s a BEAUTIFUL fucking day….

So I’m doing that now. BECAUSE IT’S A REALLY BEAUTIFUL FUCKING DAY.

And sometimes it’s more important to watch what people are doing rather than listen to what they are saying.

EXAMPLE:

Chris Schultz is a really busy dude. He does lots of important work, knows lots of important people, and even though he’s a master at time management, sometimes struggles with balance just like the rest of us.

But you know what?

Every time some hopeful entrepreneur walks into Launch Pad (usually with no appointment or warning, like a TORNADO in most cases) to get feedback on their “big idea,” Schultz stops what he’s doing – as if he knows this person – and gives them his full attention, advice, resources, whatever he can.

Is it rude to just walk into someone’s office in the middle of their work day and interrupt them?

Of course. And most people would get super annoyed.

But Schultz doesn’t.

And the way that he talks to these tornados that he’s never met before?

It’s the same way he talks to people like Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.

Because he treats everyone the same: with kindness and respect.

So why am I writing about this now?

Two really awesome things happened yesterday.

Firstly, I shattered my iphone screen – and I mean shattttttered- on Thanksgiving (clearly that’s not the awesome thing) and have been crowdsourcing options on Facebook and Twitter since then.

So yesterday afternoon, my iPhone screen was replaced. FOR FREE. By an ANGEL.

More specifically, an angel who had no cause or reason to do such a huge favor for me, but did it anyway.

Just to be nice. Just because she could.

THEN.

 

On my way home from, I stopped to get groceries at the Canseco’s and ran into a man called Parker who I know from and only run into at the Canseco’s, pretty regularly.

Parker calls me “Budapest” because he was stationed there when he was in the military and said I look like someone he knew there.

I’m in a hurry to get home and Parker is chatty so I start my normal, polite conversation expedition but he’s not having it.

Know why?

Because he had a VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGE for me.

I didn’t know it right then – I don’t think he did either.

But when Parker proceeded to tell me that he saw me walking downtown one day, and that I looked like I was in a bad mood with the weight on my shoulders, I honestly couldn’t correspond that to a particular time or mood because I probably ALWAYS LOOK LIKE THAT.

Which isn’t fun for anyone.

So I said something like “ahhhh you know – I work downtown – lots of stress – I was probably just thinking or mad about something someone said….”

and THEN he told me this:

“Budapest, don’t let anyone take your joy away.
Leave work at work and home at home.
Your happiness is your own – but it only gets stronger when you share it with others.”

We talked for another 15 minutes or so before going our separate ways in the grocery aisle….and I felt lighter. Happier.

And to round off the theme of this post/lesson/story with too many profanities, there was an email from Sloane Davidson in my inbox this morning about “Giving Tuesday.”

She wrote this manifesto about giving and is aiming to get 10k downloads with proceeds going to a non-profit that she’s passionate about.

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 6.13.32 AM

 

And I’ll end on this challenge:

Pay attention to what’s going on around you.
Do something nice for someone else today.
Just because.

xo

Megan

 

on being gay, what it means to “choose,” and why you should never ask if I want a split check

There are a couple of things you need to understand about non-straight people and their relationships. Well, A LOT of things but here are some that have been on my mind lately:

First and foremost: If you’re a restaurant server and I am CLEARLY on a date and ask for THE check – DO NOT ask if I want that split. I do not want it split. Because I asked for one check.

If you do this, I’m going to glare at you with mean eyes until you comprehend what you have just said OR until Lauren gets so uncomfortable that she shoos you away with a quick “yes, one check, thanks.”

And when you get back to the table, don’t give the check to Lauren just because I’m wearing a dress. I asked for the check. Bring it to me. </rant>

The second thing is a little more complicated. Because I know you mean well, straight person. But when your “defense” of same sex relationships is that “it’s not their fault they’re gay, they didn’t choose it,” it makes us sound, well, like there’s something WRONG with us.

It’s like saying “Poor Johnny. He doesn’t WANT to have Lupus.”

GAYNESS IS NOT LUPUS PEOPLE.

No, I do not CHOOSE who I’m attracted to, but I CHOOSE to be with that person. Because this is America and we don’t have to marry the person our daddy tells us to.

I CHOOSE to be with the most amazing, brilliant, beautiful person that I’ve ever met – and I’m CHOOSING to build a life with her.

There’s no affliction here. We don’t sit around talking about how hard it is to be gay and how we wish we weren’t.

It’s not even something we think about regularly. (We actually just think of ourselves as normal humans living our lives.)

I love and appreciate everything about Lauren and my relationship with her and who I am when I’m with her.

Yeah, it sucks that we can’t get married, adopt kids, enjoy a lot of the rights that other couple have…but all of that is changing.

And one day none of this will be a thing because you will realize that people are people and love is love.

Lots of people have figured that out already…

I choose to be happy. Right now. Regardless.

 

How weekends get planned in my world

Megan Hargroder:

alright here’s what’s going on:

New Orleans Loving Festival Art exhibits, film screenings, literary events, a comedy show, gospel concert and “Loving Day” celebration.

OR

A New Fangled Festival of Opera Seven performances of one-act operas that range from comedic to dark, quirky to satiric, offering something for everyone.

Lauren:

Well then

Megan Hargroder:

or we could go to St. Francisville for The Day the War Stopped – it’s the 150th anniversary of the surrender of Port Hudson,  featuring graveside histories, historic presentations, performances and re-enactments, a concert, candlelight tours and more.

Lauren :

I love St. Francisville

Megan Hargroder:

WAIT. OMG. LAUREN.

DO YOU WANT TO TAKE A WEEKEND CEMETERY TOUR TRIP!?

IN OUR RV?

Lauren :

YES

Wait. We don’t have an rv.

Megan Hargroder:

okay we have a few more options:

French Market’s Annual Creole Tomato Festival Tomato eating contests, live music, children’s activities, misting stations, festival food booths and Creole tomatoes for sale.

Lauren :

I LOVE the creole tomato festival!

Megan Hargroder:

and it’s held in conjunction w this: Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival Two stages of Cajun and zydeco music, dancing, a large arts market and seafood vendors. No outside food or beverages. Chairs OK.

Lauren :

And we can say tomAto tomAHto all day

Megan Hargroder:

I think the creole tomoato/cajun-zydeco is a win. 2 birds, 1 stone. 3 birds really bc we get to work on our fitness by walking around the quarter.

4 birds bc it’s free

Lauren :

OMG that’s so many birds!

Megan Hargroder:

lets bring our own beverages inside in a chair bag

Lauren :

Ill just carry my back pack. No one checks.

Megan Hargroder:

they might check. chair bags are inconspicuous. like duh there is a chair in there or else you woulnt carry around something so dumb shaped.

 

How to make things pay for themselves

I don’t usually talk about my business on this blog, that’s what this one is for. But I’m going to get a little businessy just for one minute because I think this is important and useful.

I’m all about saving money, but there are some things that you just need to pay for – because they’re worth it. Still, if you factor in benefits, perks and affiliate options, you can often find ways to make things pay for themselves.

Here’s how I do that with my office rent, virtual assistant and online billing system.

OFFICE RENT

My “office” is an informal “whatever is open” desk space at LaunchPad in the CBD. Ticket price: $275. So why don’t I just work from home or a coffee shop? Because my LaunchPad membership is worth it’s weight in gold. Here’s a breakdown of why…

- free coffee. every. day.
Savings: at least $60/month

- free lunch once or twice per week
Savings: $40-$80/month

- free printing. and I print a lot. (JK KATY I DONT PRINT THAT MUCH)
Savings: approx. $25-$50/month

That’s already a hard cost value of $125-$190 PLUS I have amazing perks like free internet, access to conference and meeting rooms, discounted (and often comped) tickets to tech-related events where I can learn new skills and network AND I get to sit in a room all day with some of the most creative, entrepreneurial people in this city. That is INSANELY priceless.

VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

I have a virtual assistant through a company called Zirtual which totally rocks and you can read more about that here. I opt in for the 20 hour/month plan which runs $400. BUT, Zirtual offers a $100 referral fee.

For the month of April, I referred two new people so I’m down to paying $200 for the month of May. Because I’m so happy with the service and naturally want to tell everyone about it like ALL the time, there’s an opportunity for me to completely cover the monthly fee.

ONLINE BILLING

I use a program called Freshbooks to invoice my clients, track time and projects and record expenses. Freshbooks unlimited is $30/month. I know a lot of people who create manual invoices each time they send one out (which is a waste of time) and track their expenses in a spreadsheet (leaving room for error AND wasting time).

In 2012, I sent out 110 invoices that were auto-generated from Freshbooks. When I receive payments, I check a single box that generates a receipt and emails it to my client automatically. And the newest feature that really makes all of this worth it is that I can now upload expenses from my business credit card. Which means no manual expense entry which means I’m saving a shit ton of money on a bookkeeper or time doing it myself. (I would never be able to do it myself).

I could keep going but I really like doing things in 3′s and it’s time to start the work day; hope yours is awesome and efficient!

The LaunchPad Analog Diaries (digitized)