Positive Distinctions: An Interview with Meg DelagrangePosted on
With over 22 moves between New York and Tokyo, Meg Delagrange currently finds her home in the always-beautiful Denver, Colorado. She is the CMO at Urban Southern where she is strategically building a strong brand presence both online and offline. Born into an Amish family, she has embraced her heritage with a unique approach to life and business. After hours, you may find her painting in her studio or sharing heart to heart thoughts on Instagram.
"What is your Current Gig/Passion Hustle?"
I'm in the business of building relationships, not selling bags. Sometimes people get it twisted so I gently set them straight. Seriously though, making an impact for good by empowering others is my passion and I'm so grateful that I get to do this every single day through my full time gig. I believe that no matter what any of us "do", there can be a higher purpose behind it.
I write nonstop. Whether I'm on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, I basically turn every platform into a blog. It gets pretty long so when people stop and read it all I'm like, whoa. I write a weekly #WinWednesday email for Urban Southern around the concept of winning in life through counting our small wins each day. This is one of the best highlights of my job.
On the side I pick up the occasional freelance design project, often giving back to community projects and helping with my church's media. I also paint in my studio whenever I can.
"What is the biggest inspiration for your art?"
I began painting as a way to heal during a difficult time of grief. 10 years ago, I lost gestational twins when I was almost 20 weeks along in my pregnancy. This was my third pregnancy loss. The summer following the loss of my twins, I began painting. I became obsessed with it, often not eating for more than 24 hours as I worked on a new piece.
Over the years, I've painted poppies a lot. Maybe it's because most poppies are red and red was a forbidden color to wear when I was growing up. However, I believe my reasons to paint so many poppies goes deeper than that.
Poppies are a fascinating flower for me. They are used to represent both life and death. It’s the most resilient yet most fragile flower in the world. In olden days, farmers looked for poppies to find the most fertile soil. In the seed pod of one poppy flower, you will find an average of 10,000-60,000 poppy seeds. That’s enough seed to repopulate an entire field of poppies. There’s so much potential in one poppy.
I find these facts about poppies to be so significant for us as human beings. I believe that we are capable of far more than we realize.
Creating art has also created a special bond between my daughter and I. I find it incredibly special that she now loves to paint with me. She's been crawling around on my drop cloths since she was a baby. She says that she wants to grow up to be an artist like mommy. Of course I tell her that I want her to be whatever she wants to be!
"Does your art influence what you do for Urban Southern?"
Definitely. Art influences everything I do. Art washes the dust off my soul. Without regular time to get creative, I start to lose interest in my work. Creating art also gets me into a different frame of mind where I often get fresh inspiration for my work or writing.
"What are some of your favorite quotes that you live by?"
I can't pick just one quote that I live by because I've got quite a few that I love. I've actually started writing a lot of my own quotes down that I'd love to publish someday. If you haven't been able to tell yet, I dig words.
ON EMBRACING PAIN
“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?” —Kahlil Gibran
ON PERSONAL GROWTH
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” ―Jim Rohn
"Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not." ―Pablo Picasso
"What small thing will you do today to make your world/community a better place?"
Be fully present and listen to someone.
"Walk does a typical day in the life look like for you?"
- I get up by 5:00 a.m. every weekday morning.
- I typically spend about an hour getting ready for my day with tea, journaling, and a healthy shake after I take a shower.
- I work remotely which allows me to conveniently be in charge of my own schedule. I get about an hour of work done before stopping and getting my daughter ready for school.
- My work day consists of the usual marketing and design tasks as I work on creating content, interacting with folks on social media and designing new ad campaigns. Before I start on my task list, it helps to choose three as my priority for the day. Blocking off 90 minutes of time to really focus on tasks helps me get more done. Throughout the day I like to take a walk outside when the weather is nice, otherwise I try to remember to do some stretching. This always helps me with my productivity. I typically end my work day around 4:00 p.m.
- I have started some fun traditions with my daughter on certain days of the week. We're a pair of foodies so our outings usually revolve around food. We love getting street tacos on Tuesdays. On Thursdays or Fridays, I like to treat her to frozen yogurt. We also try culturally different cuisines on a regular basis. So far our favorite has been an authentic Ethiopian restaurant that a friend introduced us to.
- On some evenings, if I'm not too tired, I love spending some time in my studio. On other evenings you may find us attending or volunteering at our church.
"What has been your journey to get to where you are now?"
I was born Amish, so that put me on an interesting life path right from the beginning. Over the past ten years, I've held a variety of jobs. As a young Mennonite girl, I started as a cook in a jam kitchen for a company called Jake and Amos.
I was excommunicated from my conservative circles when I was 21 years old. Being thrust into mainstream American culture was a complete culture shock for me. When people hear that I was excommunicated, they just assume that it must have been a really fun time to go from having rules to not having any rules. What they don't see is how difficult it was to be shut out from everything and everyone I had ever know. I entered a confusing, lonely time of trying to figure out who I was and what I believed.
Since I only had an 8th grade education, I decided to go back to school to get my GED. Once I finished, I started going to college for Business Communications. I also started painting and selling my artwork.
When my daughter was a year old, we moved to Japan for three years where I started teaching English and getting into more art shows. Instead of experiencing another intense culture shock, Japan's traditional culture immediately made me feel at home. During the years that I lived there, I found my wings. I traveled constantly with my daughter, experiencing as much of the culture as I possibly could.
4 years ago, I started my life over in Denver, Colorado. At that time I found myself going through a divorce. I immediately started painting and applying to galleries, thinking that I could sell my artwork to keep us alive. I was willing to do anything to pay our bills, so I took several other jobs, including house cleaning jobs with a family friend.
I took another part-time job in sales, making cold calls for an agency's client. After three months, the agency was impressed that I had more than tripled the results they were hoping to get for that client so they kept me on the pay roll. They began to realize that I had a natural eye for design, so they put me through technical design classes. I had never used an Adobe program before in my life, but I applied myself and learned quickly. I learned so quickly, in fact, that within six months they quit contracting their other designer who had ten years of experience and hired me on to be their full-time graphic designer. Within a year, I was promoted to Creative Director when their agency merged with a software company.
In the fall of 2016, I left my position as Creative Director and joined my cousin, Regina Bauman, to build her lifestyle brand of leather bags, Urban Southern. Since then we've been to New York Fashion Week, collaborated with Vintage Vogue, and were featured in Southern Lady Magazine and on Fox Business.
Working with Urban Southern hasn't limited the opportunities to do more with my artwork.
In 2017, I painted live during a gala with the city of Denver's Mayor, Mr. Hancock and Colorado's governor, Mr. Hickenlooper, in attendance. Hearing Mr. Hickenlooper tell me that my story and my artwork was very meaningful to him was a highlight I'll always treasure. In June and July, I traveled to London and Uganda. While I was in Uganda, I painted a 27' mural in a school there with the opportunity to talk to the kids about the unlimited potential each of us carry inside of us. I had more live painting opportunities in the last half of the year. Each time it's a vulnerable experience that teaches me a lot.
I used to hold on to a lot of shame because of my past and where I eventually came to find myself as a single mother. In recent years I have gained the confidence to be authentic and share my story.
In December, I shared my story as a TED-style talk at the international 2017 Wordpress conference. For hours after I spoke, people came to speak to me and share their stories with me. It was so incredible.
"You're story is so powerful. In everything, what was the biggest struggle you had to overcome?"
My biggest struggles to overcome have been internal. Self-doubt and the fear of what others will think of me has sabotaged me many times. Slowly I've been learning to embrace my differences as positive distinctions.
"What was the driver for you to pursue a creative career and now as the Chief Marketing Officer for Urban Sourthern?"
To experience new things, to be creative and to interact with other people — these things give me life. Being creative continues to open doors of opportunity for me that I then walk through, which has lead me all the way to where I am today.
"Do you have any recommendations for someone wanting to become a marketer or designer?"
Position yourself around those you admire so you can learn from them. Look for ways to serve them, if possible. Practice and mistakes make us better, so continue to apply yourself to learn and create — create, create, create, create, create.
The first homework I was assigned to when I started learning about design, was to watch a documentary called "Helvetica". One of my teachers believed that learning the rules of good typography would make someone a good designer. I believe she was right. I learned the best things about typography from Ina Saltz on Lynda.com.
Other creatives that I've learned a lot from are Hannah Brencher, Amira Rahim, Jeanne Bessette, the work of Erik Spiekermann, Aaron Draplin, and Tobias van Schneider.
"What prepared you the most for what you’re doing now?"
Moving so frequently throughout my life has made me adaptable to change with the ability to learn new things. Experiencing different cultures has given me a love for people and a desire to create positive change in the world. Pain has worked as a pair of windshield wipers to give me clarity on what really matters in life and what I want to do with the time I have.
"How do you balance being a mom and an entrepreneur?"
I never quite find the perfect balance for long, but I've gotten better at it. Practicing disciplines and having a good routine are what help to keep me on track. I've found out that keeping self care and my daughter as my top priorities keep all the other moving pieces of my life in their proper places.
What is something you hope our readers will do after they read this interview?
I hope they will believe in themselves more after reading about my journey and be less fearful of pursuing their passion.
What does it mean to be an everyday hero to you?
Being an everyday hero means doing the next right thing in your everyday moments. When you have purposed in your heart each day to do the next right thing, you'll notice small ways to change things for the better. Ultimately, this creates a domino effect for a positive impact in more ways than you can ever see.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
None of us have an "easy life", no matter what it looks like in our highlight reels.
Behind almost every social media post you see, someone is going thought a season of fighting a battle and often it's a quiet one. Many struggle with the feelings of being trapped, of feeling unseen and overlooked, of feeling dull, or of feeling disillusioned with life, God, and people. If that's you, know that this is a season that you WILL get through.
Sometimes we hurt each other without even being aware of it, and we don't get to decide that we didn't hurt someone just because we can't see the reason why. We're all bumping along through life, trying to find our way.
No one else is responsible for your happiness. You are. But sometimes we need to get some help to find it again.
It's good that things aren't the same today as they were a year ago. Change means that we're still alive.
Keep choosing to show up, every single day. You won't be sorry that you did.
Refuse to buy into lies that you're not enough, that it's too late for you, or that people are against you. Don't let those thoughts take root in your mind. If they already have, start replacing them with empowering thoughts. Choose to forgive and let go.
It's okay to ask for help.
You're doing better than you think you are.
You are here on purpose, with purpose.
You empower others.
The professional photos in the flower field were taken by Sarah Pagano Photography.
The photos in the Fit For Her Event collage was taken by Jessie Nichole Photography.