Megan Leigh Barnard #empoweredWritten

Monday, July 11th, 2016 was a good day. In fact it was almost eerily good — things fell into place in a way that things rarely do. But then again, I rarely am quite as bold as I was that day.

I woke up early and sat with my journal and a mug of tea while my husband Max slept. I was frustrated by how little progress I had made lately in growing Written Paper Goods, and felt that kind of impatient boldness typically associated with writing New Year’s resolutions. I decreed (in my journal, the site of many forgotten decrees) that at least once a month I would attend a creative event, in order to start meeting the people I admired in Columbus’ creative scene, and hopefully learn how better to get my work seen and sold. Suddenly I remembered that there was a place called Wild Goose Creative that I had been meaning to check out — maybe they had events? I pulled up their website, took a look at their calendar, and with ever-widening eyes read: 

Learning to sell yourself and your work is key to success as an artist and an entrepreneur. Our panel of professionals will give you insight on the best ways to tell the world who you are and what you make. From casual social situations to structured sales environments, you'll leave this Business of Art with a tip or two to have people remember you.

And just in case that wasn’t weirdly perfect enough, the event was free, catered by a favorite local restaurant, they were providing alcohol (again, for free!), AND one of the panelists was Megan Leigh Barnard, co-founder of Creative Babes. I had only just heard about Creative Babes within the last month, but had immediately fallen in love with the concept (bringing together women who enjoy creative pursuits) and credo (fuck competition, build community). Plus, the photos I had seen on Instagram of a recent CB event featured cocktails and blankets prominently, sooo obviously I was kind of obsessed. 

Clearly, I had to attend this Business of Art event. But that didn’t stop a scared little part of my brain from making a list of reasons I simply couldn’t: 

  1. I hadn’t ever been to a networking event before.
  2. I didn’t have anyone to take with me for moral support.
  3. I struggled to believe that I truly was an artist, or an entrepreneur, for that matter.
  4. I didn’t have any business cards.

But another part of my brain (the part in charge of making New Year’s resolutions, perhaps) was ready for battle, with another list:

  1. There’s a first time for everything. 
  2. You can’t put off doing scary, important things until it fits other people’s schedules.
  3. You’re an artist because you’re making things, and an entrepreneur because you sell them. It’s that simple. 
  4. So make some damn business cards!

And so, at 6 o’clock that evening, I found myself walking into Wild Goose Creative, wearing my favorite skirt as armor and bolstered by the knowledge that within my purse were three handmade business cards. Sure, it had taken me three hours to design and create them, but I felt much more legitimate, both as an artist and as an entrepreneur, knowing that I had them in my possession. 

About an hour into the panelists’ discussion, I realized two things simultaneously: the networking portion of the evening would start soon, and I had finished my beer. Recognizing how much I could use an extra dose of liquid courage, I tiptoed to the back of the room, and asked the friendly guy who had handed me the first if there were any more. He must’ve seen a glint of desperation in my eyes, because he waved me back to the fridge and offered me one from his own stash. After chatting for a few minutes, I discovered this was not a volunteer tending bar for the evening, this was the Executive Director of Wild Goose Creative, Justin Johnston. The name rang a bell… and then it clicked: this was the same Justin Johnston that had ordered stationery from me years before, back when I still worked at On Paper. We laughed over the strangeness of meeting again, and I returned to my seat, my confidence buoyed by my first successful conversation of the evening. 

Of course, most of this newfound confidence dissipated the moment people started mingling. I had a beer in hand, business cards in my purse, and my favorite skirt on, but it still felt damn near impossible to casually insert myself into conversation with strangers. (Seriously though, how do you do this? Anyone know where I can audit Mingling 101?) I returned to Justin’s side, slightly disappointed in myself but mostly relieved that there was a semi-familiar face in the crowd. 

And then before I knew what was happening, my wingman Justin had turned to Megan Leigh, asked “Have you met Emily?” and walked away. 

So there I was, talking to the person in the room that fascinated/intimidated me most. And you know what I discovered? That Megan Leigh is absolutely delightful and kind and an excellent listener. We were interrupted multiple times by people congratulating her on a great discussion, but each time she turned back to me and picked up the conversation right where it left off, making me feel truly heard and valued. And when she had to step away, she was thoughtful enough to first introduce me to another woman nearby, and said she thought we’d have a lot in common. (Spoiler alert: that woman was Sarah Harste, and if you come back to this blog tomorrow, you can read all about how she has #empoweredWritten, too.)

When I walked away from Wild Goose that night, I felt like a new woman. I was confident and inspired and filled with excitement for the future. Every Creative Babes event I’ve been to since has left me feeling the same way — even when I’ve gone into them anxious and alone. And though I’ve only spent a grand total of maybe ten minutes talking to Megan Leigh in the seven months since we met, every encounter has been as delightful as the first. It’s clear that her positive, loving energy flows into everything they do at Creative Babes, and the fact that the community has flourished the way it has makes me so proud to call Columbus home. 

I’m so grateful that July 11th, 2016 unfolded as strangely and beautifully as it did, after I took the risk of heeding the advice of my boldest self. Being introduced to Megan Leigh and the work she does through Creative Babes has inspired me to bring that confidence into my social life and my business.