Living Brave: "The Art of Starting a New Journey"

This past Christmas my mom put the Entrepreneur magazine in my stocking stuffer and I thought “Oh yea I guess one would consider me an Entrepreneur”

By definition I am…"‘a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.”

But if I’m being honest, I’m never going to introduce myself as one. Technically yes but I’m perfectly comfortable with Founder. And not introducing myself as Entrepreneur isn’t a insecurity thing or anything it’s just weird to me. I say it like a broken record but never in a million years did I think I’d start my own business. I’ve always been a dreamer to where some dreams never were able to breathe. But then I had this one. And finally the two dimensional dream became three dimensional.  And through that I’ve meet unbelievable people including two women named Mary Berth Stern and Hilda Villaverde who write inspirational books for women. I was asked to contribute (through the connection by my amazing mentor Kathleen Duffy who is also featured), part of my story. Here are some of the answers to my questions in the book. My part is titled “The Art of Starting a New Journey”

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Question: TELL US THE STORY OF YOUR PASSION AND PURPOSE THAT KEPT YOU INSPIRED AND MOVING FORWARD.

There are many factors about this journey of stARTem that keep me inspired, but when I really break it down and am being honest with myself, the story of stARTem is almost a reflection of my stubbornness.  My stubbornness of not accepting the fact the arts and creative opportunities weren’t being given to lower income areas. My stubbornness of not accepting the fact that the education system is very difficult to manage due to teachers fighting for performance pay based off of test scores leaving the authenticity of learning out of the equation. My stubbornness is what got me thinking. I began to problem solve on how can we fix this problem of leaving authenticity and creativity out of learning. With my passions for art, students’ interests and teacher support, I started to formulate the equation. The result was to bring art back into the classroom, inspiring creativity while also being an academic tool. I developed a curriculum that merges art and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) together in order to support that equation.

Our mission is to inspire the art of learning again through creative solutions and opportunities. We deliver that through our programming and professional development. We provide our program to low-income schools fusing the art of learning and creation through paint, film and photography. We provide professional development to content teachers where we inspire creative solutions by integrating STEAM within their classrooms. Our vision has always been about the student. Our vision is for our students to be seen and known for their innovation, creativity, brilliance and compassion.  This journey can be a roller coaster but at the end of the day; I still can’t believe that my stubbornness is making an impact.



Question: HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO KEEP A BALANCED LIFE IF JUGGLING FAMLY AND BUSINESS AND WHAT DOES BALANCE FEEL LKIE TO YOU?  Managing work/life balance might be one of the biggest struggles for me. I’ve learned that it’s really important to invest and pursue self-care. But I always manage to find guilt when I take time for myself.  I easily compare myself and think, “I’m not working now, I’m going to fall behind and fail!” But I’ve learned that when I don’t take care of myself, I’m failing more. There’s pressure of being the “boss” and making sure everything is in order but if I’m not mentally and physical equipped then I think that’s what will sink the ship. I recently went through some health concerns that occurred due to stress. I was forced to take care of myself with doctor appointments and weekly treatment sessions that didn’t fit into my schedule. But I had to make time and realized I must take time for me and find ways to not be so stressed.  And in the process I’ve been so blessed and fortunate to gain more team members coming alongside to help grow stARTem. Being forced to take care of myself shows how important attending to oneself is. So I’m learning and constantly putting things in perspective to remind me I’m okay to take time for me. A balanced life to me is when I feel prepared and organized with stARTem and being able to enjoy time with friends, family or enjoy the outdoors without feeling any guilt.


Question: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE STARTING A BUSINESS THAT YOU WISH SOMEONE HAD GIVEN YOU?

I think ultimately what I would tell someone starting her own business; “You’re not alone and you can do it.” I always say that if you’re passionate enough then you’re courageous enough to make it happen. Finding the strength to start a business is hard, so you must believe in yourself, but also, it’s hard because it’s a constant roller coaster and mostly psychological. So if you ever doubt or feel overwhelmed know that you’re not alone. We’ve all been there and the beautiful thing is that many will surround you if you’re real about it. It’s okay to be vulnerable during this process it’s almost a requirement so be sure to reach out to your people. Those people will keep you grounded and probably tell you the same thing that you can keep doing it, because honestly, if you’re brave and bold enough to dream it then by all means you can do it.


I recently was a community partner adjudicator for Arizona Department of Education’s 2019 “We Are Arizona” 4th Grade Collaborative Student Artwork Competition. Was a wonderful and inspiring event!

I recently was a community partner adjudicator for Arizona Department of Education’s 2019
“We Are Arizona” 4th Grade Collaborative Student Artwork Competition. Was a wonderful and inspiring event!

Question: WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS AND HAVE YOU ARRIVED AT FEELING SUCCESSFUL?

Defining success has always been a challenge for me. Mostly, because it’s that one answer that will be most impressionable on the person that asked it.  Defining success might be the most valuable question to ask especially in the entrepreneurial space. In the past I’ve been concerned on what the person asking the question would like to hear. If she’s an investor then scalability, if it’s a philanthropist then success is our social impact and data. (That goes back to me thinking I needed to be a robot) All of those are important and I want stARTem to be successful in those categories but I’ve learned and gained the confidence in not saying the “the right answer” on what was wanted to be heard. Success to me is now confidence and stability.  I found that when your foundation is solid then all avenues of your life, business, and family are solid as well. And stability often increases happiness and drive to keep your passion alive. To keep you alive essentially. I’m not sure if I’m fully successful for I’m still getting my pieces together but I can confidently say I’m on the ground of success. I feel good where we are and where we’re going even if pivots come along the way. Because even if a pivot, trial comes your way, you’re going to continue to be successful if you have that foundation of knowing yourself, your business and the strengths of your team to keep going. For taking the leap might be the most successful thing I’ve done for I finally believed in myself.


Question: WHAT WOULD YOU WANT PEOPLE TO REMEMBER ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS…YOUR LEGACY TO THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN TOUCHED BY YOU?  Earlier I explained my passion and purpose, which is very much the truth, but there’s one element to my drive that I didn’t mention. When I was eight years old I lost my four-year-old cousin to cancer. Casey was pretty much equivalent to my younger brother. I’ll never forget the day he was born because I can still remember the pure happiness I experienced when I heard he came into this world. Casey suffered for two years battling cancer but he proved joy was always possible. Out of those two years I heard his laughs echo through the halls more than I heard his cries. Casey leaving us was the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through but his strength is what propelled and propels me to this day. I remember sitting in my room the week after his passing and thinking, “When I’m older, I’m going to create a foundation that will help kids stay safe and stay happy.” I never would have thought that thought would come into fruition 20 years later.  So when asked how I would like stARTem to be remembered? I hope that stARTem would be remembered as an incubator that gave kids creative tools to seek happiness and safety. I hope stARTem will be known for helping students feel known through their creativity and brilliance. For it’s there, even our bravery, we just need to be shown it. stARTem reveals it through the arts and STEM. I hope stARTem can keep revealing the fact that every student is valuable now and has immense capabilities to achieve their dreams. They have the potential to be happy and stable…we all do. For if I can make a 20 year old dream come alive than any one can.


If you’re interested in knowing more about my story and other inspiring women, join the book signing event at Changing Hands (300 W Camelback Rd Phoenix, AZ 85013) on February 6th at 7pm.


Megan EpleyComment