27 July 2017
Megan Osborne
Now back in her hometown of Whitefish, Montana, Megan is a graphic designer cherishing her time close to family and doing meaningful work for local companies.

Grovemade customer since 2015.
“I live above a barn” she said, and we were sold. I had to go check it out.

We first met Megan when we were video interviewing our customers to learn more about them and why they are fans of our brand. We got the feeling she was a very happy person doing great work, and we wanted to learn more. How and why does a person get to be like that?

Whitefish, Montana is a gateway town to Glacier National Park and is well known for its ski area, Big Mountain. It’s a charming small town, the kind of place where people do what they want to do, away from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

As our Google Maps guided us to Megan’s home, we passed through the quaint downtown into the forested outskirts. With Whitefish Lake to our left the road climbed higher and higher. We passed a lone logging truck as we navigated our way up a few more miles of gravel road, switchbacking up the mountain side.

“Whatever I had imagined, the real place was even better.”

Megan lives above a huge barn in a small studio and office. She lives there with her dog Barrett, two cats, and a bunch of chickens. Straight out of a storybook, with natural beauty to match. I’m a hobbyist photographer and I’d brought along my camera for the trip, just in case—my eyes lit up when I started walking through the space.

We sat down to chat about who she is, how she got here, and why she does what she does. I left inspired by her life and her gratitude for the help she got along the way.

Afterwards, we got the chance to go fly fishing in a nearby creek, and went out for dinner to her favorite local spot the next night. She even sent us off with a jar of honey from her own beehives. Later, we connected back in Portland as she came through on a road trip of her own. I went in to do a quick interview and left with a new friend.

Thank you so much for sharing with us Megan!

- Ken Tomita CEO & Co-founder
Megan: I worked at a surf shop when I was in high school and I remember a Billabong rep coming in and redoing some of the merchandising and the clothes, how they were styled and laid out, and I asked, "What is that?" And she kind of took me under her wing and told me why she does what she does, and it was pretty intriguing.

In college, I did an internship/sales with Anthropologie for visual display and I really liked it. I really liked the people I worked with ... I had planned on moving to Hawaii my senior year of college because I lived there a summer before. So I moved to Oahu after I graduated college, pursued visual merchandising in Hawaii.

In Hawaii what's funny is that I really saw a lifestyle ... as a visual merchandiser, where you work nights and holidays and weekends ... it was just so glamorized that I thought, "You know, this isn't for me."
So that's kind of how that started: "I don't have to stay with retail." And I didn't know anything about graphic designing before I suddenly got offered a marketing position in Rancho Santa Fe, California. [I] moved 24 hours later. I was out of here.

And I got there, and [my manager] handed me a bunch of magazines and brochures and told me, "I need you to learn how to make these things. I don't have time to train you. Here's a credit card. Find a professor or someone who can train you how to use the Adobe programs, and get to making this stuff. I need stuff in three weeks." And I had never touched an Adobe program before...

And it was kind of like liquid magic with this stuff because I innately started understanding and grasping the programs. I would learn in an instant ... I spent a year with this company doing real estate marketing and visual strategies, etc., and a lot of people in the company said I should ... start my own business.

My friends started telling me, "I think you should really take the risk and move to Montana and start your own business. You'll be a big fish in a small pond." And for me personally, I kind of felt like that was a test of my faith to go up to Montana.
"I felt like that was a test of faith, to go up to Montana."
Megan: [I needed] those people to tell me that... a little bit of oomph behind me. My parents completely backed me up, because my parents are... my parents are huge dreamers. Then I took the leap and moved back home with no job lined up.

Ken: So how did you get your current gig working remotely for Cisco?

Megan: My boss at Cisco found me through fly fishing because I fly fish, too, and he saw my portfolio link on my Instagram, and he DM’d [Direct Messaged] me and asked, "Hey, can we meet online? I'd like to talk to you about a job offer." At first, I'm like, "Who's this guy? I don't want to talk to you." It took him three times to get a hold of me. But anyways, I finally went on a telepresence meeting, and a whole crew of creative directors and art directors were on there, and they were like, "So this is our world, and we're wondering if you'd be interested in contracting with us." And I said, "Yes, of course." And then three months later, they offered me a senior creative designer position, which I gladly accepted ... because I was really looking for a team.
I needed a team environment to push me to do better and to bounce ideas off of because [otherwise] it's solely on you to creatively come up with something. And having this team, first of all, has made me a much better designer, and secondly, my verbal communication is way better because ... you not only have to communicate with Americans appropriately, but also [people in India and Great Britain]. So I had to learn to be a nice communicator.

I'm the senior creative designer for the America's Team.

Ken: So does that mean you have junior designers working under you?

Megan: Yes. I do a lot of quality assurance to make sure everything is brand-compliant, and working with our designers and project managers to be the best they can be. It's important to maintain a $40 billion brand. And secondly, I do a lot of high-level concepting for major complex projects, and what the look and feel should be. So I establish that, and I'll work alongside some of my creatives and art directors on coming up with a solution to something that's complex.
"I really appreciated that I could even hang curtains on the wall, let alone have good food in the fridge and gas in the car."
Ken: Could you tell us about your meticulously curated home office? Why did you do it?

Megan: Because I'm a visual freak and love organization, and cleanliness, and stuff looking good. So I redid that whole upstairs. My parents said, "Have at it, paint it, do whatever you want." Which was really generous of them. And also, honestly, coming from Hawaii and living on practically nothing and being broke, when I came here and was able to have some [money] leftover to be able to make a nice space for myself, I really appreciated the fact that I could even hang curtains on the wall, let alone have good food in the fridge and gas in the car.
Ken: All right, so let's hear some advice. So there's going to be a lot of people that are really inspired by your lifestyle, the choices you made, and the kind of life you live now. How can somebody else do that?

Megan: Well, it depends on your work life. If you work at a computer all day and can talk to your coworkers online or whatever, it never hurts to ask your boss, "Hey, what would you think if I did a trial and worked from home, and see how that works. My lifestyle is kind of requiring that." And see what they say. You have nothing to lose, because I've heard a lot of people actually do that, and their bosses are totally fine with it as long as you get your work done. That's what my dad did.
“My parents are big dreamers.”
Ken: Okay. So I think it would be hard for some people to get their work done. What kind of skills do you need to be able to be successful working remotely?

Megan: Integrity. And for me personally, I set an eight-to-five schedule. I'm online with my work from eight to five, and there's no ifs, ands, or buts about it. If I need to work late, yeah, that's fine, but that's when I'm on.

Ken: Let's talk about doing creative work, your creative process, and how your physical location impacts that. What is it like being a designer here, versus sitting in an office in San Diego?

Megan: I honestly think I can be better creatively here because ... there's not a lot of stressors. I'm not like some hippy creative, but the fact of the matter is that there's really minimal stress here, [it] allows me to not be thinking about my personal life at work. My work freely flows from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. most days.
Ken: I would love to hear why you do freelance work on top of working for Cisco. I’m sure it can pay your bills.

Megan: It's a nice creative outlet, and also, I really like seeing people's businesses come to life with my hand, especially when they have a dream that they just don't know to start yet. I really like consulting and collaborating with them, and starting that idea with them, and getting it on paper, and helping them make some steps forward.
Ken: so what is your ideal life? What's next?

Megan: Starting a family. Yeah, and continuing this, probably. Maybe starting a business with my husband or whoever I end up spending my time with because I like my parents' model. I'd like to live here, but if I have to move, I'm willing.

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