I am so excited to be kicking off a female empowerment blog series that will run for the next 4 Fridays leading up to International Women’s Day on March 8th. The series is called “Inspired” and each week I will be featuring an exclusive interview and branding session with a different boss babe who I admire from Atlanta and the surrounding areas. This series is so close to my heart as a woman who just started her own business over the past couple of years and has experienced first hand the joys and challenges of being a female business owner. It was difficult to narrow down my list to just 4 women because I am blessed to know so many powerful women who are actively pursuing their dreams, but I know you’ll be blessed and inspired by the girls who I’ve chosen to feature over the next few weeks.
Today’s featured guest is Meagan Henry. Meagan owns a creative agency called M7 through which she “takes brands from concept to commerce” and is also the head of two non-profits based in the Atlanta area, Journees Unlimited and ATL for Haiti. She has been a great source of motivation and inspiration to me over the years and can even be credited as one of the main people who convinced me to take the leap from my teaching job to going full time with Rachel Parsons Photography. Meagan is a force of nature, and you can’t have an exchange with her without walking away feeling more sure of yourself and the direction you’re headed. I’m so grateful for her friendship for the past 13 years and willingness to make time for our interview and photo shoot in the midst of her busy schedule!
The following is a transcript of our interview together. My questions and comments are in bold.
Why don’t you introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about what you do and how you got started.
Thank you for having me! I’m so excited to be on your blog. My name is Meagan Henry and I’m the founder and CEO of M7 and I got started with my company because I was working with one of the nation’s top non-profits, working with executives and fundraising for inner-city youth. Right out of college they were like, we want you to work on this 10 million dollar project. We’ve invested in this center and we want you to come, be creative and bring it to life. So I did that for 4 years, felt I did an exceptional job and then got a phone call that I was getting let go without notice, without severance, and without unemployment. Of course- I disputed that and got my unemployment, but it was from there I was like I’m never gonna give another human being the ability to tell me that they’re coming in between me and my livelihood. I just felt violated because it was without cause, it wasn’t like an incident happened. It was just like yup, you’re let go and I was like WHAT!? You’re crazy. So from there I was like (shakes head) not with it, nobody’s ever gonna be able to tell me “you’re fired” again. So I worked on my business for nine months before I launched it, and I started my company. I started with just photography in the beginning, but once I started working with more entrepreneurs they started requesting creative services like websites, graphic design and then I had the idea that we would be a full-service, one stop shop for all things creative. And so that’s how M7 came to be. My second week of starting my company, I got booked by Yo Gotti to do a music video. I was like “What the heck is going on?!” I had no idea, but there was just so much favor from God with my business, I’m like, okay. This is meant to be because I just got fired and now I’m doing a Yo Gotti video in like, 2 weeks, so. And then after that Mercedes Benz booked me. Home Depot booked me and I was like okay, I’m doing something right because I already had the corporate background previously. So that was the start of how everything got going on. It’s almost been 3 years since I’ve been a full-time entrepreneur and then I was also able to follow my philanthropic dreams of starting my non-profit and doing outreach in Haiti, so that’s pretty much my life. M7, Atlanta for Haiti, and my community organization Journees Unlimited.
Is there a special meaning behind M7?
Yeah so M because it has 2 owners, me and Maurice. And then 7 represents a number of completion, and it also represents the 7 mountains of influence in society that I want to put my stamp on: entertainment, religion, education, government, the arts, and so forth. And if you look at my logo, the way the M is it’s kinda like a mountain, and that’s what it represents.
So I know that in addition to M7 you have Journees Unlimited and Atl for Haiti. So why don’t you tell us a little about both of those, too!
Okay. So Journees Unlimited strives to serve the Metro Atlanta community by providing opportunities for youth and teens to engage in open, honest, judgement-free, lighthearted, positive and impactful environments where they can freely discover and challenge themselves. And basically we’re a community organization. We offer programs for youth and teens ages 5 to 13. We have our 2 signature programs: our Girls for Greatness Leadership Academy and the STORM Competitive Cheerleading. In addition to those signature programs we do things in the community like bookbag drives, grant a wish projects for the holiday time, homeless outreach, and really anywhere we feel led to serve, we do.
And then what about ATL for Haiti?
ATL for Haiti was an accident. I wasn’t planning to do it. (laughs) I was just going to Haiti on my own, but then people started asking me to take them. I’ve been to Haiti 14 times over the last few years. Basically we mobilize volunteers from the states to Haiti and we serve with a local organization called Mission of Grace. We serve at an orphanage, they have a school, a clinic, a church. And yeah, when we’re there our teams do organized outreach in the villages.
So I know you’ve got a LOT on your plate, running 3 different organizations. What makes your work meaningful and inspires you to keep going, even when it does get exhausting?
Well, what keeps me going is knowing that 1) this is what God wants me to do. So my perspective on all of it is really that if God wants you to do something, if it’s his will and you’re walking in your purpose, you don’t really have to stress about how it’s all gonna come together because he’s gonna do it for you. Especially with Atlanta for Haiti. There’s no way I could have planned that or created a whole global movement on my own. I’m just not that smart (laughs) I think you’re that smart! (more laughter) so me knowing that it’s God I’m like, “Okay God, if this is what you want to happen, I’ll show up.” And a lot of- I don’t know if I would use the word “successes” but a lot of the stuff that I do is really me just showing up to God doing his part, and I’m just the person who’s facilitating it. But I would just say, what helps me keep going is just knowing that at the end of the day, I’m really just walking in my purpose and there’s really- you can’t lose when you do that! You just do what you were created to do and just keep going. I mean, I keep going because I know it’s bigger than me.
Alright, so we’re coming up on our last big question. Can you tell us a little about what it means to you to be a female business owner and maybe you could even speak specifically to being an African American female business owner?
Yes, so being a business owner means a lot to me because I did not grow up with many entrepreneurs around me. I wish I had because if I had grown up with entrepreneurs or been exposed to entrepreneurship, I probably would have made decisions differently in my life. I love my degree from Georgia State University, but at the same time, I could have saved so much money if I had done things differently. But I mean, I’m glad I got the chance to create this lifestyle for myself that is driven by 100 percent entrepreneurship. And it means a lot because I deal with so many different types of people. I’m serving so many different types of people, from people who have been in prison, just gone through so many different traumatic things, and it means a lot that I’m able to tell them, “Well, even though that has happened to you, you can still create a better way for yourself, and entrepreneurship provides you with a perfect opportunity to do that.” And so, I have to practice what I preach when I literally tell people that they can create the lifestyle that they want. So, entrepreneurship holds me accountable, it builds my character, it helps me with relationship building and it really means a lot for me and my family, because I really am the go-to person when things pop off especially if it’s financial (laughs), and that’s not always fun but that just is what it is. Being a black business owner is also unique. I was reading in Forbes lately and it was talking about the number of black businesses and just businesses in general that do not make it outside of the first 2 years. It’s like an 80 percent fail rate, and I’m going into my third year of business YES! And I’m beating the statistics around entrepreneurship and specifically minority entrepreneurship. And yeah, it means a lot. I know that I have to lead with excellence, whether I want to be a leader or not. I know that I have to use my business and entrepreneurship influence for good and, yeah. I want to represent well for my community and for my culture so I just try to do everything in order and in excellence so that I can teach others. Essentially, the black community will be stronger once our economics get stronger so I’m in the perfect space to be a part of the rise of my culture and I feel good to do it and the future is female, so I’m all about that. (laughs, high five)
Give a shout-out to a woman or two who inspire you!
My mom inspires me because she’s strong and doesn’t take any crap. And she instilled that in me and it’s how I’m able to juggle what, at times, what could be a lot. Another woman who inspires me is Dee Dee Cunningham, and she is a mogul, in my eyes, and in real life. She is fifty years old, and I didn’t even know she was fifty because she looks like she’s like, thirty-five. She and her husband actually own Malcolm-Cunningham Hyundai, Malcolm-Cunningham Chevrolet, and they have 2 other dealerships across the state of Georgia. And she is actually the CEO of Journees Unlimited and I’m the president. And she has just been so refreshing, she welcomes my ideas. We tag team together and she’s great. She has integrity, the spirit of excellence, she’s so freaking generous and giving and I’m glad she’s my business partner, but I also really look up to her because I’m like- she’s black. She looks like me. She’s a millionaire. If she can do it, I can do it. And she thought I was decent enough to do business together so to me, that just says a lot about her.
Meagan has an awesome workshop coming up on March 10th called Branding with a Purpose, where she will walk attendees through dissecting the key components of building a successful brand strategy and its application including: Brand Identity, Types of branding (Consumer, Corporate, Place, Personal), and Understanding your audience to inform brand design and communication strategies. Attendees will walk away with a toolkit of approaches and methodologies to build their own brand strategies, and yours truly will actually be a featured speaker! I’ll be leading a talk on building a personal brand that’s authentic to who you are. Meagan says that this workshop is ideal for beginners starting out to launch a new brand or idea, business-owners or those starting-up new businesses, designers and communications professionals from all levels and areas. You can learn more and register by clicking here. And as an exclusive offer, Meagan will be offering registered students 50% off a new website for your business.
If you want to keep in touch with Meagan, here’s where you can find her on social and get connected with all the amazing things she’s doing around our community and the world! And business owner friends- don’t forget to register for Branding with a Purpose on March 10th so we can hang out and learn from Meagan together.
Meagan’s personal Instagram @iammeaganhenry
To sign up to serve internationally with Atlanta For Haiti visit: www.atl4haiti.com
To serve locally with Journee’s Unlimited visit: www.journees.org
I get to share 3 more amazing boss babes’ stories over the next few weeks so keep an eye out for Inspired Week 2 next Friday! Thanks for reading Meagan’s story today. -Rachel