I’m excited to start a new series on my blog focused on getting to know inspiring professionals in Asheville, NC and beyond. When brainstorming who I wanted to interview for this series, I immediately thought of Meg Ragland, who, along with her cousin Carolyn Lanzetta, started a growing company that successfully raised a million dollars from venture capitalists and angel investors in January of this year!
Meg Ragland and Carolyn Lanzetta are co-founders of Plum Print, with headquarters and production studios based at the Small Business Incubator at A-B Tech in Asheville. Plum Print digitizes art, including photos and schoolwork, and organizes the images into a coffee table book that can be placed on the shelf, instead of disappearing into a box in the attic. As parents, Meg and Carolyn saw a need for a solution to the never-ending piles of artwork their children were accumulating. About 2 years ago, Meg moved production down to Asheville after some encouragement from Venture Asheville, the Asheville Chamber and the Economic Development Coalition.
Starting a business is a very exciting and terrifying endeavor. I love Meg’s perspective on woman-owned businesses that she shares in the following interview:
SK: What was your first job after Cornell University and how did you land it?
Editorial Assistant at Family Circle Magazine. I had been an intern with the American Society of Magazine Editors the summer before and that’s how my resume was in front of the right person. I wore a purple Chanel suit to my interview… I borrowed it from my boyfriends mother!
SK: Share a little about life before Plum Print. What were you doing prior to launching?
I was an editor and writer at various women’s magazines: Family Circle, Woman’s Day, primarily covering health, nutrition and fitness.
SK: What has been the scariest part of starting your business or one of the biggest challenges?
Of course, I would think the most common answer from any entrepreneur would be time. We could all use another 8 hours in a day, another 80 hours in the week. We, at Plum Print, have so much we want to get done, but just not the bandwidth to do it all.
SK: What advice would you offer other entrepreneurs who are striving to meet the growing demands of a young business?
If you’re a female entrepreneur, consider raising capital. I address this to the female entrepreneur because although women-owned businesses are more profitable and do more hiring than businesses owned by men, we are not going big, like the big guys. Less than 3% of women-owned businesses cross over the million dollar threshold in revenue. Why is this? Pretty simply: our lack of access to growth capital. Raising capital is a critical factor in growing a successful, sustainable business. According to the Kauffman Firm Survey, men start firms with nearly twice the capital that women do. On top of that, only 4% of all small-business loans go to women. Did you know that Kevin O’Leary of ‘Shark Tank’ invests in 27 different companies and he recently revealed that the only ones making money have female CEOs. He said, “I don’t have a single company run by a man right now that’s outperformed the ones run by women.” And so my advice for male entrepreneurs: go out and hire a female CEO.
SK: Many potential business owners get stuck when they have to move past the concept to execution. What resources guided you while starting your business?
ASK FOR HELP! There are so many resources and individuals out there helping entrepreneurs now adays.
[A-B Tech Small Business Incubator] encouraged us to apply for the Innovation Fund North Carolina grant, which we were awarded May 2014. In turn, advisors at the Innovation Fund played a role in our decision to raise outside capital.
The team at Venture Asheville has been an amazing cheerleader and advisor for Plum Print. Connections with other entrepreneurs here in Asheville has also helped immensely in our growth. We are also big fans of 1 Million Cups events, held at RISC Networks on Wednesday mornings.
SK: What has been the most rewarding thing about owning your own business?
Learning something new every day. Acting as a CEO, COO, CFO, CTO, Head of Marketing, Head of Shipping, Head of Social Media, Head of HR, Head of Customer Service, Head of Trash pick-up, Head of Admin, as well as assistant in all of these areas, all in the same day.
SK: How do you balance life as a parent with your business? What does your typical day look like?
CRAZY!! Constantly running from one place to another.
SK: How do you see your business evolving further in the next few years?
Scale Up Scale Up Scale Up. More and more happy customers and more and more wonderful products!
OUTSIDE THE OFFICE
SK: Describe your perfect day off in Asheville?
A hike in the mountains or a swim in a watering hole and then a picnic with my husband and kids. Then showers and dinner out downtown.
SK: Happy hour drink of choice?
Dark & Stormy
SK: Life Motto?
Color outside of the lines.
SK: What is your morning routine?
Alarm 6:45am, get kids breakfast, make their lunch, get daughter on bus at 7:25, then exercise (run or shockwave at the Y), then office. Weekends: Sleep as late as possible.
SK: What is your dream vacation?
Resort, with a beautiful view, beautiful swimming pool, amazing meals, all expenses paid, where my kids are always happy and smiling and never complain or whine.