What happens when you mix equal parts strategy, creativity and an unmistakable drive? Just ask Meagan Ward. Upon receiving her business marketing degree from Western Michigan University, Meagan found herself being employed in the corporate world while building her branding agency, Creatively Flawless, on the side. However time proved that she would eventually leave the corporate life behind to focus on her business.

Today, not only is the powerhouse the CEO of Creatively Flawless, she is also the founder of the non-profit organization The Powerful Women. As impressive as her role as an entrepreneur is, Meagan's honest and genuine nature shines just as bright as her accomplishments. Not one to shy away from sharing her personal journey with others, it is clear that she is just as passionate about empowering others as she is about fusing her love for strategy and creativity. Wise beyond her years, Meagan enthusiastically shared her journey to entrepreneurship and how she builds genuine connections with her clients. [Please note: this interview took place towards the end of last year].

Jasmine: As the founder of branding agency Creatively Flawless and the non-profit organization The Powerful Women, you are very candid about your journey as an entrepreneur. Did you have an idea about the kind of career you wanted while pursuing your business marketing degree?

 Meagan: I first started thinking about entrepreneurship while I was in college and I knew that afterwards, I wanted to start a business. At the time, I didn't have anyone to look up to in terms of being an entrepreneur full-time so I got my feet wet by working full-time and having my business [Creatively Flawless] on the side. At my full-time job, I had very specific tasks and deadlines while with my business, I learned I could carve out things I wanted to do.

 Sometimes when people think of entrepreneurs who may have had a full-time job, they think it's easy to quit and things will align in terms of where their passion lies. How did you make the transition from working a full-time job to being a full-time entrepreneur?

I think you get hints when it's time to make that transition. I always say when you're transitioning make sure it's a smart time to do it. When I transitioned, I was up for a yearly review at work and didn't get a raise. I felt I over-performed but my boss felt that I under-performed. I was told I could get the raise the following year. At that point I felt that I had the power to decide; did I want to continue working somewhere where I couldn't carve out my own rules or did I want to devote my time to building my business? Another thing I noticed was that my clientele was starting to build and I was at the point where I was making more at my business than my job. Whenever you make the transition, you want to make sure that you're in a place where you're realistically able to do so. Entrepreneurship is not easy. It looks easy but it isn't. It's harder than having a job. Most times, entrepreneurs go through a "struggling artist" phase but I didn't want that.

On your personal Instagram page, you shared that you began teaching yourself graphic design and web development four years ago. What influenced you to take the extra step to learn about those skills?

I'm a creative at heart. I ran across this book called, I believe, "Branding Essentials" and I learned that marketing and branding have a lot to do with strategy and visuals. I had the strategy part down but I wanted to learn more about creating visuals to go along with it. When you're in school, they're very specific about the courses you take. Since I was almost done with my degree, I thought why not teach myself other things I want to know. It also came about after I put up a post on my college's website and a woman reached out, looking for graphic design work. She signed a contract for $200 and it went from there. Another thing I learned is that there's so much power in teaching yourself. Even though I have a degree, which has helped me with my business, I'm always taking a class, watching an online webinar or looking at something on YouTube. I want to constantly evolve. I always tell people to be a life learner.

Creatively Flawless offers a variety of services for clients that center around brand coaching and design services. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced and overcame during your first year in business? 

The first year of business was really difficult, especially being new to the entire business scene and knowing and learning how to run a business. The thing that was particularly difficult was learning to create the balance between being direct and graceful. With me it was all about being extremely nice at first. I had the mindset of, "I'm going to give them what they want" and "I'll take on any client." As a result I had people trying to penny pinch me and take advantage of me. Now I know what I want from the type of clients I want to work with to the prices I want to charge. I think that's a global stereotype; that women aren't direct or we don't know how to say no.

That's interesting you mentioned the stereotypes about women. We're often viewed as being one way but I've seen too many examples where we as women are more than capable of being firm and direct about what we want. Knowing that you are aware of the type of client you want to work with at this point, what is your approach to building a relationship with clients and how do you feel this helps build a genuine connection?

I'm really focused on attracting my dream client. I think it's important. When I first started out, again, I took on any client. Creatively Flawless' vision is to help women entrepreneurs who are serious about [branding] their business and making it a part of their life. In all honesty, all of the clients I have are near to my heart. They end up becoming close friends. Some people feel that you can't mix business with friendships but I do business with 80% of my friends. If one of us wants to sponsor something, we handle it in a very business-like manner but the friendship is still there.

It's also important for me to be true to who I am in terms of how I do business and the standards I set for myself and for my clients. It's also about being genuine and understanding these women are just like me. I'm all about understanding the market. In order to do so, I have to understand myself. The reason my clients become friends is because the connections become so genuine. Every client I've had felt valued and like they weren't just another number. For me, it's about creating an experience. Another thing to note is that a lot of my clients are repeat clients or they're coming to attend The Powerful Women Weekend. I'm either supporting their business or attending their events as well. 

I'm glad that you brought up The Powerful Women! When you first created it, what did you hope women would take away? 

The Powerful Women's creation actually comes from a personal narrative. It comes from not having genuine friendships throughout middle school, high school and college. However, the vision started to come into fruition in college. I was busy taking classes, working and building a business and so were other women I knew. I didn't have a lot of free time for social events but I really wanted to. I started thinking about how great it would be for us women to get together to bond and talk about dreams. 

In July 2013, I held the first luncheon for The Powerful Women and invited 30 women I knew, either those I met while out shopping or those I knew from middle or high school and hadn't seen in a long time. It was a way for us to catch up with each other and the energy was absolutely amazing. We shared out dreams, goals and even the challenges we'd gone through. Everyone wanted me to have another luncheon and by August 2013, I held another one. This time, over 100 women came to the luncheon and although I wasn't entirely sure how the word got out, I feel like the energy from the first luncheon drifted into the universe. Once again, everyone had an amazing time. I had help from a few interns in terms of operations and execution but I mostly did things myself. I was approached by a woman in PR (Public Relations) who expressed her interest in being a part of The Powerful Women. She didn't want to just attend, she wanted to actually help out. Once Brittni Brown came on board, we started to flush out what the luncheon stands for. 

Our third luncheon was held in February 2014 and things started to positively change. We started to understand who our target market was. The third luncheon was sold out as well and we later received emails about how much of a great time the attendees had but they wished the luncheon was longer. Mind you, our luncheons were four hours long! This is when The Powerful Women Weekend, a 2 day experience, was birthed. We held this event in April 2015 and it attracted over 100 women from 8 different states. The Powerful Women's motto is "we're all about the experience." We strategically craft these experiences for women so they can achieve the true meaning of sisterhood and building powerful connections. 

I'm grateful for my wonderful team that helps me make The Powerful Women what it is today. We have Brittni who oversees operations, Kimberly who is in charge of logistics and event management, Jasmine who handles communications and myself who makes sure the branding and vision for The Powerful Women are executed. These women are talented and work extremely hard to provide other women with an unforgettable experience. 
 
 I can imagine that your schedule can become hectic at times between your brands and your personal life. How do you aim to maintain a balance?

I got married this year and brought a house on top of managing my business, putting on a conference and quitting my full-time job in January. I feel it's extremely important to take breaks. Some people have this idea that if you take breaks, you're going to miss a beat. Deep down, if you know in your heart it's time to take a break then you should do it. We as women try to juggle everything at once because we feel it's the right thing to do. Somehow breaks aren't prioritized in that balance. Look at Adele for instance. She took off four years to focus on herself, her craft and her family. Today she's back and bigger than ever! That's symbolic for the woman who's contributed to her self care and development. Not getting rest just isn't realistic. I'm blessed to have a husband who has been supportive of me supporting as well as empowering women but getting married has helped me understand that it's okay to take time out for your family and not feel guilty about it.

With 2016 being right around the corner, what are some of the goals you have for yourself and your brands?

 The Powerful Women has been strategically planting seeds these past few months. We started to understand the bigger picture. We have a lot of things forthcoming to better serve women through business, their professional lives and womanhood. This year essentially marked year one of full-time entrepreneurship with Creatively Flawless. I'm excited about building and helping more women build their businesses. I want to double how many women I help next year. I also understand it can no longer be myself and that I can trust others in terms of bringing on more designers, creative directors, etc. I'm excited about building a team for Creatively Flawless in 2016.

The biggest piece of advice that you could give anyone, irregardless of the industry they're interested in, would be:

The best advice is to really do you based on how you feel and where you want to go. A lot of people are not going to see your vision. A lot of people will try to steer you from your vision or won't understand it as it's budding. It's important for us as millennials to stay our course, emphasis on our course because we're changing the game. We think outside of the box, we do things our way and we're innovative. Don't get me wrong. It's helped me when I get comments or advice about business or personal things. I take it and learn from it. However, if it doesn't align with what I want to do, I tuck it in my back pocket. If I'd listened to everyone, I probably wouldn't be where I am today. Sometimes you have to go against the grain. 

Follow Meagan on Instagram and be sure to keep up with Creatively Flawless and The Powerful Women as well!