We had the good fortune of connecting with Megan Epley and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Megan, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
My work life balance has completely changed throughout the years. When I first started stARTem I had no concept of work life balance. I was constantly working or stressing about what I needed to do to grow my business to the point where I felt guilty if I rested or spent any time being social. But the biggest lesson I’ve learned throughout the years (because surprise, I was pushed to a burnout) is that it’s essential to prioritize yourself. Develop your dreams into being sustainable but make sure you balance with what brings you joy. Once I recognized this and started investing in myself as a human and not just as a founder of a company, I felt more grounded personally which transferred into my business. Don’t feel guilty of being selfish once in awhile when putting yourself above your business when navigating through your joy & self care. Make balancing work & life a priority. It’s needed in order to grow in work and life.

Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
stARTem is an educational organization that puts the art in STEM. stARTem offers creative opportunities for students to discover their purpose through our STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, art, math) curriculum and subscription boxes. By integrating art into STEM, we believe that stARTem will strengthen students’ ability to: connect to the real world, Improve their academic performance and set them up for future success stARTem provides an accessible program and box model allowing students to develop into creative problem solvers and leaders. stARTem is an interactive experience setting us apart from traditional learning. With that said, that is one thing that I’m most proud of. We offer a space for students to be themselves and discover their creativity and strengths. When students walk into the creative exploration it’s a wonderful thing to watch and have hope in since we’re witnessing the up in coming dreamers and leaders.

What really helped launch stARTem was being apart of SEED SPOT ( a social entrepreneur accelerator) Prior to stARTem I worked in education along with marketing and development at a local art non-profit. So I had the tools to formulate my own program but SEED SPOT equipped me with all the necessary tools to step into entrepreneurship and with confidence, something I lacked. Which is where the stumbles occur, the self doubt. Self doubt of if I’m actually the one to operate this vehicle or if any one even cares. I had to go back to my mission and impact to remember that stARTem is valuable and needed in education. I also needed to acknowledge that I may be the quiet one but my passion is mighty. So I need to keep going and know that I’m fully capable of doing it.
Consent lessons are being learned throughout this journey. First on a business side, if possible contract out or hire someone who has the strengths where you’re weak in. Any one can learn & develop new tasks but it’s taking time away from your strengths as well as taking away the opportunity for someone to shine in their strengths like say accounting. I have an accountant for that reason. I can spend time educating myself on numbers etc but it takes time away from developing my true craft of youth development and it takes away from my accountant to do her magic. One of the best lessons I’ve learned is to always humble yourself & find someone to do what you suck at. We want to be the best but we can’t be the best at everything
Second lesson I’ve learned is that you’re not just failing, you’re growing. We all fail and are going to fail but as my Granddad always said, in order to succeed you have to fail. It won’t be fun but it’s almost a requirement in order to glide into your true authentic purpose.

Simply put I want stARTem to bring students joy and to find a way to keep their joy. There are many adult self help books that remind us to keep finding our joy or to find it again. Key word: again. What if by providing creative opportunities and experiences, kids could find their spark now knowing they’re on the road to discovering their purpose. We want students to have certain scores but what if we begin to acknowledge the roots of our students & equip them with the right tools like creativity . This tool can always be used beyond the classroom and more. As Ken Robinson said, “Creativity now is as important in education as literacy.” Creativity sparks joy & a purpose. Helping students keep their spark is when the transformational impact begins.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
There are so many great things to do in Phoenix. The key themes would be eat, drink & hike. Hiking: I love the trail off of 32nd street and Lincoln. Up & down in like an hour, it’s great. For a challenge, I’d go with Piestwa. It’s a booty blaster for sure but I personally enjoy it more than Camelback. And if still into the nature scene, day or overnight trip to Sedona. I think it’s a must for obvious reasons. If visiting during the summer also need to check out the pool scene. The Valley Ho is a great place to hang poolside at for the day or The Scott, which has great drinks at the Canal Club.

Now eating and drinking. Some of my favorite places to take friends for drinks would be Little Rituals,Upstairs at Flint, The Whining Pig and wine at Postinos is a must.
Eating I’d say for breakfast Matts Big Breakfast or Snooze. I love Pane Bianco & La Grande de Orange for lunch and for dinner I’d go with a Taco Crawl. Some stops would include Taco Guild, Taco Chelo, Joyride and Taco Boys.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are many people in my life that deserve a shout out. I think the first belongs to Tristan Gandolfi, Senior Director of Programs at SEED SPOT. I was a member of SEED SPOTs 2016 co-hort which helped me develop stARTem on the business side but it was Tristan who guided me to the doors of SEED SPOT and most importantly my dreams. She’s an incredible human who is wildly knowledgeable and cheerleader for entrepreneurs and people in general. You’re a lucky one if you know Tristan Gandolfi. And I can’t forget my amazing mentor Kathleen Duffy, CEO of The Duffy Group. She continues to bring out my confidence and motivates me to never stop believing in all the opportunities I can and will achieve.

Website: startem.org

Instagram: startem_ @megamelia

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