Along the Way with Meg K. Wheeler, Co-Founder of One For Women
This week, as part of my Along the Way Interview Series, I’m talking to Meg K. Wheeler. As the co-founder of One for Women, a chic e-commerce gift shop for women, Meg is able to support small business owners and nonprofits all while celebrating or commiserate those “small” moments in life.
Today, she shares with us why she quit her job, how she got her business off the ground, and how she balances the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.
The Along the Way Interview Series features kick-ass women who are putting their heart and soul into achieving their dreams. Rather than talking to those who have already “made it,” this series focuses on learning from those who are right next to us in the daily hustle.
If you want to follow Meg, you can find her here:
Facebook || Instagram || Twitter
Without further ado, let’s chat with Meg about how she pursues her vision.
Where did you come up with the idea for One for Women?
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 a focus 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 started One For Women with my mom, Heidi, who is an elementary school teacher by day. She has always been a strong and determined woman but had to put her dreams on hold to raise me as a single mother.
Starting this company with her is the ultimate way for me to give back to her for what she has done for me. Her creativity, humor, and enthusiasm, play a big role in how we shape this company and the gift sets that we offer.
When we first started One For Women, the goal really was to just offer affordable gifts for those “everyday moments” such as bad weeks. But given my desire to have a bigger impact, we soon realized there was an opportunity there, and that’s when the idea of “one small gesture, one big impact” was born.
Our mission at One For Women is to connect loved ones and to empower and support women-owned businesses. 100% of the products in our gift sets come from women makers and by highlighting their stories, we are helping women-owned businesses grow.
We also give a portion of our proceeds back to non-profit organizations that support girls and women—and we’re honored that we can be even just a small part of making a difference.
Figuring out where to start can be one of the biggest challenges. What was the very first step to getting One for Women off the ground?
As a planner by nature and a project manager by trade, I start every new project with a rock-solid plan.
I literally opened up Excel and started listing every task I could think of that I would need to do to start my business. At first, it was scattered, but once I had a page of tasks, I organized them into categories: legal, financial, product development, marketing, etc.
Then, I was able to see what was missing. Using free resources and blogs I found online, I filled in the blanks from everything like getting a business license to designing logos for different media platforms.
Once I had my comprehensive list of everything I needed to do, I further divided it out by priority and deadline, cost, time to complete and who should be responsible for the task. This whole process took me one week but it meant I had a really strong checklist for everything I had to do, including a timeline for when to do those things, so that I didn’t get overwhelmed.
What did you do before starting this business? How did it prepare you for what you do now?
I earned my Bachelor of Arts from Connecticut College and my Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Accounting from Northeastern University and previously worked at one of the top real estate firms in Austin as a marketing consultant and real estate broker, a big 6 accounting firm as a CPA and at Harvard University’s endowment in finance and international tax.
I now use my project management, problem solving, strategy and finance/tax experience to run One For Women. Having this strong background in business planning/strategy and finance has helped me to be a more confident entrepreneur because I have seen successful businesses grow and understand the “money” behind my business.
How do you find vendors to feature on One for Women?
This is one of the most fun parts of my job!
We find our vendors a few different ways: through local markets and events, recommendations from our friends and customers (there’s a form on our website!), and by doing a lot of Instagram stalking.
We are always looking for awesome products by cool women makers, and we look for a few things from our partners.
First, our product partner companies must be woman-owned or woman-run. We also like our product partners to be in the early-to-mid start-up phase, meaning that if they’re in major retailers, they’re probably not the right fit for us. We want to help our product partners get their name out there and help small women-owned businesses grow. Lastly, we look for compelling stories; we care just as much about our product partners’ stories as we do about their products.
What is the last mistake you made and what did you learn?
As an entrepreneur, I make mistakes on a daily basis.
One of the most recent mistakes I made was not ordering the products for our next round of gift sets early. We were wavering on the last few products and struggling to commit to our final selections, so we kept pushing the order date.
Unfortunately, this means everything gets pushed: when we receive the products when we can get them photographed, and ultimately when we can launch the gift sets.
I’m a pretty decisive person, but every so often I’ll struggle with indecision and in those moments, I tend to procrastinate, which I definitely don’t recommend! I constantly have to remind myself to face the tough decisions and just make them instead of pushing them off, because if I don’t, I’m holding up our entire team.
In addition to running a business, you have a son too! Do you have any tips for working mothers?
My tip to working mothers is to not feel guilty. I’m a huge believer that children, especially boys, benefit from seeing their mothers in working roles.
It’s important to show our children that we have balanced lives and that we are doing our part to have an impact in this world. As the child of a single, working mother, I never felt deprived because my mom had a job—in fact, I loved that she was a strong, independent woman and I am the woman I am today because of her.
So figure out a way to manage your time so that you can give your children the attention and affection they need, but don’t sacrifice the other parts of your life: your work, your marriage, your friends and your self-care, just because you feel guilty.
What is one challenge to being an entrepreneur that you didn’t anticipate?
One of the biggest (and unexpected) challenges that I have faced as an entrepreneur is loneliness. I actually did prepare for most of the other challenges I faced, but loneliness is one I never saw coming.
Going from a corporate environment where you have a team and co-workers and constant interaction, to an environment where you may be the only person in your office or working on a remote team, hits you like a brick in the face.
There is no one to laugh with, no one to cry with, no one to run decisions by. You have to learn (and learn quickly) how to build up a support system to lean on—and not just of your friends and family, but of people who actually know what you are going through because they've been there too.
It is very easy to lose yourself in self-doubt and depression as an entrepreneur, so learning to recognize the warning signs, being in touch with where you're at emotionally and building in opportunities to ensure you are not always feeling alone is critical.
What has been your proudest month with One for Women so far?
There have been a lot of proud moments at One For Women but the ones that stick out for me are when we receive emails from the recipients of our gift sets saying how much receiving our gifts meant to them.
In many cases, these people are going through tough stuff—job losses, cancer, the death of a loved one—yet they take the time to reach out and tell us how affected they were by our gift set but also by our mission. Nothing can top the feeling that you are truly making a difference in someone else’s life.
Anything else you would like to add?
We are launching nine new gift sets in the next four months, as well as rolling out some fun new features —the ability to customize the items in your gift set, an interactive quiz to help you choose the perfect gift set, plus more!