Transition periods are never easy. Whether you’re moving from side hustle to full-time, growing a team, or streamlining your operations, change can be hard – but it can also be incredibly rewarding. Megan Gonzalez is an expert at navigating transitions.
From wedding stationery to branding and photo styling, to consulting work, a full-time corporate role, and back to working with small businesses…she’s now the proud owner of MaeMae & Co., a creative studio that helps entrepreneurial women navigate change in their businesses.
In this interview, Megan shares how she’s embraced major changes in her life, business, and finances, and how you can, too. Press play for the full interview or keep reading below!
Megan began her entrepreneurial journey in her senior year of college when she started a wedding stationary business. “As I was creating wedding stationery, I got really into the branding process,” she says.
She learned how to style photos and use digital marketing. “Over time, the clientele evolved from brides to people in the wedding industry who wanted help with their own brands.”
Megan grew both sides of the business simultaneously until it reached a point where she had too much work and not enough manpower. By her second year in business, she was serving 40+ clients by herself. Overwhelm was beginning to set in.
To keep serving her clients, Megan grew her team and moved into a home studio space. Although it was an exciting time creatively, carrying payroll and rent also brought a lot of financial pressure.
“I found myself in an immense amount of debt. It seemed like everything was going well. I was getting lots of press opportunities, I had so many clients on a waiting list and everyone was always busy. So I was like, what am I doing wrong?”
After getting advice from mentors and other creatives, Megan decided to let go of the stationary side of her business – saying goodbye to both the studio space and her employees.
In 2015, Megan moved to a coworking space and continued doing design work while she applied for jobs to pay off her debt. “It was a waiting moment for me.”
At the time, it didn’t feel possible to keep the business afloat. “I felt incapable of doing it. I was so crushed by the financial burden.” But the coworking space turned out to be just what she needed to get back on track.
“That ended up saving me creatively. I was surrounded by people who were working hard, but also had a lot of joy for what they were doing.” After just six months, Megan was able to pay off her debt. Now she just had to decide what to do next.
While working on branding projects for her clients, Megan found she really enjoyed the niche of photo styling. She was able to finish projects quickly and move on, and it felt much more sustainable than the stationary business.
This time, Megan vowed to do business differently and avoid stretching herself too thin. “I was very aware that I didn’t want my identity to be so wrapped up in it.”
Although Megan loved photo styling, her new business model came with new challenges. In the beginning, she charged by the hour and provided a time estimate for clients in advance.
But the more photoshoots she did, the more she realized the job went beyond just styling – she was also playing the role of creative director, producer, and prop stylist.
For Megan, the wake-up call came when her accountant told her that the fact that everyone agreed to her price without hesitation was not a good thing – it meant she should be changing more. “I was severely underpriced.”
For reference, I recommend my students in The Blueprint Model aim for a 30-50% close rate. It can feel scary at first, but it ensures that you don’t overwork yourself for too little pay!
Although Megan hated turning away clients who couldn’t afford her services, she’s learned that it’s okay to be outside some people’s price range. It doesn’t mean she cares about them any less; it’s simply an opportunity to refer them elsewhere.
Megan grew up in a very money-conscious household. “It was modeled to me to be modest with money, but I went in the opposite direction. I didn’t want to think about money at all. I wanted it to allow me to do things that felt good or were fun.”
Despite working through every summer from high school to college, saving money was never Megan’s strong suit. She always found herself spending more than she made.
The turning point came when she went into debt for her stationery business. After paying off the debt, she did everything she could to avoid falling back into the same situation, going as far as to meticulously track every minute of her time.
“I felt very defensive. I was coming from a hurt place, so I wouldn’t say my mentality was healthy.”
It’s a mindset that she’s worked hard to change over the past few years. “Money is never enough unless you’re content. You can make new goals for what you want to earn, but unless you pair it with contentment it will never be what you want it to be.”
Just when Megan was getting into the swing of things with her photo styling business, Covid-19 hit.
Photoshoots were canceled and she was left with limited clients. Around the same time, she found out she was pregnant with her second child. Most of her styling work had been project-based or as-needed, and she wanted more consistency.
So Megan started researching how to become a consultant and how to transition from hourly rates to value-based pricing. She took on three consulting clients, one of which eventually turned into a full-time job as the COO of a wallpaper company.
“That was an incredible opportunity for me and my family. I felt proud of the position I had secured and the work I was doing.”
For a few years, working with the wallpaper company was the right fit for Megan. “I had a little bit of pride and arrogance against my creative self,” she says. “I felt like my business self was worth more because she was more accomplished.”
After moving across the country twice for her job, she gave away her entire photo prop library. “I didn’t think I’d ever do anything creative again.”
It wasn’t until she was on a coffee date with a friend that she found herself reminiscing about the old days. She found she missed the artistic side of herself, and it was time to give it another shot.
Megan says the transition back to self-employment has been scary but rewarding. She’s clear about what she wants this next season to look like, but also open to the possibilities.
“When I reflect back, I could never anticipate all the changes. My entire business and career have been marked by change.”
Her mission with MaeMae is to help other women navigate those changes – whether they’re pivoting their business, expanding, or streamlining. “I feel excited to see what’s next and to see these women thrive.”
As for what’s next in Megan’s own life, she says she’s let go of the old versions of herself – the stationary business owner, hourly worker, and COO – and is looking forward to discovering a new one.
“I’m not going to pretend I know what I’m going to do next, but I’m really excited and content with what have right now.”
To hear the full story and more about Megan Gonzalez, press play on the player above for the full interview or click here to download the transcript.
Megan Gonzalez is the founder of MaeMae, a branding and marketing agency based in Scottsdale, AZ. MaeMae is a colorful world where play is considered research and daydreaming is the first step in problem solving. Megan’s creative adventures have evolved over the years from designing stationery to developing brands to styling photoshoots to directing marketing teams to accepting a role as chief operating officer. Each chapter of the studio is marked by Megan’s passion for creative storytelling and empathetic leadership.
MaeMae’s client list includes leaders from the fashion and interior worlds, brave entrepreneurs, former residents of the White House, stars from your favorite movies, and highly recognized food brands such as Cheerios and Bush’s Baked Beans.
November 17, 2023