Hustle Chat with Megan Bowers
Megan Bowers is a wife, dog mom, & the genius behind Pictory Productions. We heard of Megan through our friend Emily Shaffer who you'll catch in our print issue early next year. She is both a creative and entrepreneurial wizard, and she was kind enough to sit and chat with LH for a bit. Read up!
LH: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
MB: Sure! My name is Megan Sutherland and I am the lady behind Pictory Productions. A film company that creates brand videos for creatives and small businesses. I currently reside in Pittsburgh, PA with my husband, Brent, and French Bulldog, Harold.
LH: That sounds amazing. Also, I want a Frenchie so badly. I'm like a kale smoothie shade of green with envy haha.
MG: Haha. Dang - that's a strong shade of green! And you should be. Frenchies are amazing. Great city dogs...good for small spaces and they usually don't bark. They're friendly, great with small kids and are pro-snuggling.
LH: So, when and how did you get into videography and production?
MB: Technically, I've had a video camera in my hand since elementary school. My friends and I started the first school-wide morning news show during recess. I was the non-athletic indoorsy-type anyway, but for the sake of brevity I'll speed this along… I went to college at West Virginia University with a degree in broadcast news. I loved the energy and intensity of working in news rooms. However, after several internships (in West Virginia and Chicago), I realized I loved being behind the camera and hated being in front of it. I think I had a problem with someone telling me how to cut my hair. I also loved the shooting and editing way more than holding a microphone and smiling.
LH: Okay so "News Reporter Hair" isn't just a thing I made up, it's real? I can't wait for my friends to read this and realize I'm not crazy.
MB: Hahaha - it's a real thing. Short, lots of poof and covered in hairspray.
MB: I looked way older at 22 than I do now thanks to my middle-aged haircut and matching blazer suit sets (I still rock a blazer, but I roll up the sleeves Miami-vice style). Bosses hated me because I drastically change my hair about twice a year and I had to keep re-taking head shots.
LH: Oh man, please send one of those photos! Because you look not a day over 22 now, so I can't even imagine that being possible. I change my hair like clockwork! I wouldn't be able to hold down a restricting job like that.
LH: So I guess it's safe to say this is what you've always known you wanted to do? -- How and when did you decide to start your own company?
MB: Ha! Not really, but I'll speed it along. I graduated in 2009 when all the journalism jobs (and basically all the jobs everywhere) went to the toilet. So instead of following whatever crap job I could get in my industry, I decided to move to my dream city (New York) and just figure something out.
MB: I found a part-time job through Craigslist working at a video production start-up, called Shatterbox. The site is still up but the company itself no longer exists....but for me it was my DREAM JOB.
LH: Oh my goodness, you're so cute! *currently stalking shatterbox*
MB: The company created documentary-style vignettes of successful creatives and founders of successful start-ups. The goal was to show recent grads and young people (like myself) that you didn't HAVE to go the corporate route, you could pursue what you were passionate about and learn how these amazing people did it as well.
LH: That's incredible!
MB: We got to interview the founder of Twitter, Warby Parker, Airbnb, Pandora, etc etc. It was AWESOME! -- But I'll keep moving.
LH: Oh wow! That's insanely cool. You must have been surrounded by a ton of inspiration.
MB: Learning from these people made me realize how much I loved the idea of starting a business and all things entrepreneurship.
LH: Oh yeah, the want for success and the drive to hustle for something that is your own like those people must be so contagious.
MB: Fast forward two years, I fell in love with a guy who lived in Pittsburgh and I had to make a choice to stay or go. I wanted to stay in video production, but wanted to be my own boss.
MB: I was connecting with people who happened to be in the wedding industry, and realized I could provide a fresh perspective on wedding videos so I moved to Pittsburgh and dove right in.
MB: The best way to get a business rolling when you know no one or know nothing about the industry is....you take tons of people out to coffee. I learned, connected, and got more referrals with $100 worth of lattes than any class or manual I could have taken or read.
LH: Amen sister! I've become a coffee addict because of that very true piece of advice.
MB: Right?! When people come to me and ask how to break in or how to market themselves....I always tell them to buy 20 people coffee and be a normal person.
LH: That's so, so good!
LH: So you fall in love, move to PA, like six hours away from NYC, and you dive into wedding video production. How was that transition for you?
MB: Haha...good question. It was trial by fire.
MB: I feel like my tombstone should read, "Fake It Till You Make It." I had never actually attended a wedding before I started calling myself a "wedding videographer."
LH: I mean that's like the Lady Hustle Motto, so I'm definitely not mad at you for that!
Autumn + Ryan (Wedding/Elopement) --
LH: What would you say the most challenging part about being a small business owner was?
MB: The most challenging part early on was knowing zilch. I made a ton of mistakes, but tried to be patient with myself. Lack of confidence is also a struggle, but you only get that as time passes and mistakes are made.
LH: That's very true. A lot of the things I have personally struggled with as a small business owner, and I have found that fellow SBO struggle with as well, are all things that you learn over time. So being patient with yourself is so important.
LH: If you could chat with "transitioning Megan," or just a younger version of yourself, what is some advice you would give yourself?
MB: Haha - I'd tell her to be nicer to herself. I was always comparing myself to people years ahead of me and would feel this inner judgment. It's still something I struggle with...a big eye-opening book for me recently was Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic. All that crap and pressure I put on myself wasn't me, it was either fear or my ego, so I'm learning to hone in on those differences.
MB: So when my ego was running the show, I was crossing off goals left and right, but I wasn't happy.
LH: That's so good!
LH: YES! We LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Big Magic. We just reviewed it for last month's Lady Hustle Reading Club. That book changed my life. I know that sounds crazy, but it really did.
MB: Ummm, not crazy. That's awesome! I give that book out like old people give out candy.
LH: Ugh yes! So, so good. I vowed to read that book at least once a year. It's so important to know truths like that. Having your own business is full of pressures, comparisons, both realistic and unrealistic expectations from others and yourself. It's so great to be able to have someone tell you that none of those crazy thoughts are valid and you need to get your life in order haha.
MB: Elizabeth Gilbert is that cool aunt or wise older sister that tells you like it is and then gives you a hug.
LH: Build the perfect pizza... GO!
MB: Extra cheese, mushrooms, roasted red peppers… That order is actually saved in my Domino's homepage.
LH: Haha, that's amazing!
LH: So on the topic of inspiration, like Lady Elizabeth Gilbert, who are some other people who inspire your hustle?
MB: Kathleen Shannon and Emily Thompson's podcast, "Being Boss" is huge for me. I also really enjoy reading and listening to Paul Jarvis, Ashley Ambirge and Brene Brown.
LH: Totally writing all of those down.
MB: I'm a firm believer that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
MB: I hadn't made any friendships with killer lady bosses in Pittsburgh at the time, so I just consumed everything those people had to say. It's hard to build a business when you spend all your time with people who just want to talk about beer or drama or what's on TV currently.
LH: Yes I agree 1,000%. I'm a firm believer of surrounded yourself by people who call you higher.
MB: Reading Essentialism was also HUGE for me.
LH: Are there any people in your personal life who have inspired or played a part in your hustle?
MB: Hell yeah. Brent (the husband) has been incredibly supportive of all and any hair-brained ideas I've had along the way. Emily (my best bud) is my inspirational resource...it's so important to build a team around you.
LH: That's awesome.
LH: Speaking of Brent.. What role has your husband played in your hustle?
MB: Growing up, I asked an elderly gentleman for a piece of life advice and he said, "Marry well." I rolled my eyes at that answer, but now I whole-heartedly agree.
LH: That's such a great piece of advice!
MB: I'm a disorganized, creative, idea-generating left-brain and he's great at keeping me tethered to the ground. Without him I might be broke and living with my parents...or at least a really creepy roommate in a bad neighborhood. He's the one who forced me to take a look at pricing and my finances when I started my business.
MB: My brain thinks, "Money will come! It doesn't matter! I'm doing what I love! La dee da!" and he's like, "No, you need money for food and to live...let's really take a look at your expenses."
LH: That's incredible! It's great to have that balance. As creatives we sometimes need those people to sort of shut us down with love and compassion. I can personally attest to being a disorganized creative, so having that anchor is amazing. Yay Brent!
LH: Top three favorite 90s songs... GO!
MB: Vanilla Ice - "Ice, Ice Baby" (I know all the words.)
MB: I'm just gonna cut it at that answer....because every single song after that just pales in comparison for me.
LH: HAHA that is the best answer we've gotten out of all the times we've ever asked this question. Now I'm going to listen to that song all afternoon.
MB: Word to your mother.
LH: What has been your most exciting victory (tiny or huge) so far?
MB: This sounds silly, but the biggest victory for me was realizing I don't care about goals.... What I really cared about was figuring out how I wanted my everyday to look like.
LH: That's huge!
MB: Right?! I wasn't feeling happy or fulfilled when I reached my goals so I knew something was up. It's been amazing to hone in on the daily tasks that make me happy.
LH: Yeah, that's incredible. It's always so refreshing to hear about people that realize these things early on in life because unfortunately a lot of hustlers go their whole lives without ever finding those gems life gives us.
MB: So I'm actually in the midst of transitioning out of weddings and back into the world of creatives and entrepreneurship.
LH: How's that going? And when did you realize you wanted to get back into that world?
LH: I had a meeting with a bride who (in my opinion) had my perfect dream wedding and when she told me she owned her own pottery studio my eyes lit up and I freaked out. We talked about business ownership the rest of the meeting and never talked about her wedding once...that was a sign.
MB: I also hated that 6 months out of the year, I never saw Brent or my family, I gave up my weekends....nobody wants to brunch on a Tuesday!
LH: That's so great! I'm so excited for you.
MB: Like with my haircuts....I love change and diversity in my work....and I wasn't feeling fulfilled in that industry. I felt like, 'Ok, I did that. I know what that looks like...now let's go learn and grow and do something challenging.'
LH: Yes! I'm all about constantly challenging oneself. Kudos lady! It's very rare to find people that think the way you do.
Glitter and Grit Bridal Shop (Business) --
LH: What's the best piece of advice your mother ever gave you?
MB: The best piece of advice my mother gave me is, "You can't see the train wreck when you're on the train.'
MB: That applies to bad boyfriends as well as business practices....It's always good to put fresh perspectives on everything, especially when you're emotionally connected to it.
LH: I like your mom.
MB: My mom would like you.
LH: Aww yay!
LH: Any advice for your fellow Lady Hustlers?
MB: Just do it (Nike is a wise company.) Do it wrong, do it poorly, but do whatever "it" is over and over and over again. Pivot, make changes, and do it again. Don't wait for perfection because it will never come.
LH: That's so good! I love that!
LH: Can you think of a difficult or even just an important time in your life that really shaped your hustle and who you are today?
MB: When I first moved to New York, I was only part-time (I eventually managed to make it full-time) at Shatterbox, I also worked at a coffee shop and babysat to make extra cash. 8am-8pm everyday and I was always burnt out. At one point I had bed bugs in the apartment and carried around my belongings in plastic grocery bags for a week. One late night I was covered up on the subway surrounded by my bags and a couple walked on and sat beside me. They looked at me and immediately got up and changed cars because they thought I was a homeless bag lady. I was crying under my coat from exhaustion and feeling like I've failed at 'making it,' but I realized that my worst day at pursuing what I loved was (and always has been) leagues better than my best day in a career I hated.
MB: So when I'm having a rough day or feelings burnt out...I remember the bag lady version of myself and laugh....because 1. it's a great story and 2. I realize it's never THAT bad.
LH: That is a FANTASTIC story.
LH: We know that as small business owners, it's super easy to get, like you mentioned, burnt out or overwhelmed, stressed, etc. How do you wind down or cancel out all of the noise around you?
MB: Just kidding...not really though. Ummmm…
LH: As if you couldn't be any more of a dream, it turns out you're secretly Meredith Grey. YES.
MB: Haha! That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said about me! Seriously though, a fresh fruit margarita makes everything better. However, when I'm home I unwind by playing with my dog and also Netflix. I wish I did something cool like paint or meditate. I need to look in to that Headspace app.
LH: Headspace is cool, but in my personal opinion, Netflix is all the headspace I need. Haha.
LH: But seriously though. Now I totally get why Emily (Shaffer) is crazy about you. And that's exciting because we should all have someone in our lives that talks about us the way Emily talks about you.
Megan: Thank you that's incredibly kind. Yeah - I feel like I hit the lottery with our friendship.
LH: It's all true!
MB: We absolutely need to hang out next time I'm in the city.
LH: I would LOVE that!