Meggan Wood - Lily Jade
Michelle Brandriss: Hello, I'm Michelle Brandriss and thank you for listening to today's episode of From the Basement Up. Today's guest is Megan Wood. She is a mother of two and the founder of the fabulous diaper bag company, Lily Jade. I learned so much in this episode and as we all know, solving a problem can lead to a new business. And that's exactly what Megan did with her husband Landon. They create chic and stylish diaper bags, but they don't look like diaper bags and they stay with you beyond the baby years. I'm looking forward to sharing how Megan created the business from the ground up and she is keeping moms a little less stressed and a lot more organized. So Megan, thank you so much for joining us today on From the Basement Up. I really appreciate it.
Megan Wood: Thank you so much. So glad to be here.
Michelle Brandriss: Yes, absolutely. So Megan, typically I want to hear about you first. You're a mom of two and so this is something I want everybody to know because it blew my mind when I found this out. You homeschooled your two girls for the first 10 years of the business.
Megan Wood: Yeah, my girls now are 13 and 16 and we started homeschooling them before Lily Jade. So, my oldest was in kindergarten and I had this idea from the time really my oldest was born. So about 16 years ago I had this idea for Lily Jade, or not the name yet, hadn't come to fruition just yet. The idea of a diaper bag, that didn't look like a diaper bag that had an organizational system in it and components that were needed for the average mom and just for women in general. My oldest daughter, I was just homeschooling her at the time when I had this idea, approached Landon, my husband and said, " Hey, I think we could really do something with this bag." And so yeah, it went from there.
Michelle Brandriss: So your background, and I love this, I love when women just kind of take an idea and they jump in and they make it happen. So what was your background? Did you have a background in design or clothing or textiles?
Megan Wood: No, zero background there. So my degree in college was communications and broadcast journalism and I really did desire to be the next Kelly Ripa. I always joke about that because at the time I just wanted to interview people, kind of like what you're doing now and meet people and loved that whole idea of a deeper dive into a person and loved journalism and really thought... I did an internship kind of in my senior year of college in Waco, Texas and thought I'm going to be a news anchor and then I'll just kind of go from there and realized after that internship for various reasons, this is just not my calling. So then I was in outside sales for different brands and in hindsight I look and I can see really how this prepared me. My journey prepared me for what I'm doing now. However, I mean I can't cut straight and I don't say that lightly. I can't sketch, I can't draw, I can't cut, I can't sew. I am the most unlikely person to be doing what I'm doing. I have said oftentimes one of the biggest hurdles for me to overcome was this poser mentality. I don't belong here. And I remember a decade ago, literally tears in my eyes the great conflict of I have this vision, I have this idea. I feel like it can really change the landscape and the diaper bag space. It's a need for women and moms, but why me? How do I even walk this out? And so, one of the biggest hurdles was me getting over that mentality of I don't belong here instead of, man, I'm really called to this and so I guess I'll figure it out.
Michelle Brandriss: You're putting yourself in a new space and you're learning everything. It's difficult, it's tough. So I love that you shared that. Thank you for sharing it because I think that's one of the reasons why women maybe don't start their calling or inaudible into their space. So how did you start? Because obviously your bags are very cool and I do have to say, my college girlfriends, I was late when I had my son. I was quite a bit older and they sent me this beautiful diaper bag. I loved it. It was silk, it was lovely A, it did get stained a lot. I had to get a dry cleaned but also the heartbreak over it was when my son was out of that age, I didn't know what to do with it. And I was so emotionally attached to it, I couldn't give it away. And the reason why I love your bags, they're going to go with you forever. How did you come up with that concept?
Megan Wood: Really, because I had the same experience that you did. So I had a great diaper bag that I loved. And at the time though too, I'll back up, I landed on a great diaper bag I loved. But 16 years ago there was just, I mean I had options of Winnie the Pooh or paisley patterns or the silk, that I know we probably have the same bag or brand at the time, and just was like, this isn't practical. And then it wasn't comfortable. And then you're nursing mom and so your chest is a different size and I always felt like the shoulder straps were right underneath my armpit and I was like-
Michelle Brandriss: Where it hurt a little.
Megan Wood: Yes. I was like I can't do this. And so I went to a TJ Maxx or Marshalls and would purchase a large leather tote and then I created a Ziploc bag system and that's really how I survived those years was trading out just a large leather tote and then my own little internal system. And my friends would say, " Will you teach me? Can you help me label all my things and all my items? And that's so organized and great." I remember thinking I just need it in one spot that I could leave at the church nursery or leave at daycare or leave with my mom or Landon. It just all felt like there's got to be a better way and it's something that I mentally locked onto. Really probably from the day that I found out I was expecting Caroline, I was like, I'm excited, I'm going to be a mom. What kind of handbag can I carry? And then I was like, eh, these are my options.
Michelle Brandriss: Okay. So how did you come up with the name Lily Jade?
Megan Wood: Yeah, Lily Jade. So my niece is named Lily and then Jade comes from my mom. Both of my sisters were adopted and my middle sister was adopted from the Philippines. And my mom grew up, she taught at the same school that I attended in high school and middle school. And my mom wore very eccentric jade at the time, very eccentric jade Asian carved Asian style jewelry. I think was about 12 or 13. And I remember asking my mom, because my friends would not make fun, but they'd be like, "Your mom, that's eccentric. That's kind of wild." And I was like, "Mom, why do you wear so much jade?" And my mom was like, "These are the diamonds basically of my heart. These are what I have from adopting your sister in the Philippines. This is who we are. And do you know Megan, jade is one of the strongest stones in the world. And so it's a place of strength that I wear this and represent our family and who we are." And so we as women, we are the lily and the jade. We are soft and we are strong. So it's that. We're Lily Jade.
Michelle Brandriss: I love that story. Thank you for sharing that. That's beautiful. I love it. I looked on your website and I couldn't find it. I'm like, I've got to know why she calls it Lily Jade. That is such a wonderful story. Thank you.
Megan Wood: You're welcome.
Michelle Brandriss: So now as far as the designs go, I'm just curious, you had to figure out how to manufacture these, how to design them. How does one go about starting something like that?
Megan Wood: Well for me I started... So I can't sketch and I can't sew. So I had this idea in my head of what our first Caroline and Madeline bags would look like. Caroline is my oldest daughter, Madeline is my second daughter. And so I named my first two bags after my girls. I had the idea of what they would look like, but trying to translate that was really challenging. I found an Etsy sewer and I met with her, she was from Louisiana, precious gal, great sower, told her my vision, tried to draw it out with measurements on a piece of cardboard. Sent her pictures and she constructed what would be a potential pattern that we could then send to a factory. The bag came in, it looked nothing like what was in my head. And I mean I cried because I was like, Oh we're going nowhere. It's okay. And my parents were always so gracious, they were like, " You and the girls can live upstairs in our guest room," as they saw us pour our money and time into this venture. And they were so supportive. But also it was just funny of we may be in your guest room, I don't know. But then from there, once that failed, we actually found a consultant on LinkedIn just kind of by chance and began to talk to her. And I just thought, I remember feeling so intimidated by her. She is a phenomenal designer and draws patterns on the computer and has great contacts with factories and is a wealth of knowledge. And the companies that she designed for are huge. And so I was like okay.
Megan Wood: And I remember starting that conversation, do I try to pretend I know a little bit or do I just get as low as I can because I have two options right now talking to this very well educated New York designer. And I just got as low as I possibly could and just was like, " Hey, I'm from Texas. I'm a mom of two, I know nothing. I have this idea. Would you help me? I'll pay you to help me. Will you teach me everything I need to know about bags and hardware and materials? I want to learn. I'm so eager to learn. I think there's a better way for women and for moms and I want to know about quality. Will you teach me the difference?" And so she began to really teach me.
Michelle Brandriss: I love the approach of honesty, vulnerability. And then this person took you under her wing and she just taught you all of those things. I mean that's amazing. How was she to work with? Was it easy? Was she appreciative?
Megan Wood: No, she's great. Amazing. Still to this day we're friends and she has her own line and collection, not in the diaper bag space. We paid her to consult with us and say, I remember her talking to me about the gusset of a bag and I was like a gusset? What is the gusset? inaudible out there, a gusset is the side of a bag and hardware, we wear bags all the time and see them as great accessories to our daily life, but we don't think about the hardware. And so every last component that is on a bag, stitching and edge paint and I mean components that I really had no clue.
Michelle Brandriss: Okay, that's amazing. I love it. That is so very cool. Your bags, they really are chic. Do your customers tell you what colors they want? How do you know as far as the trends and what's going? Is it continually, are you consistent?
Megan Wood: I've always gone, and I say this with all the humility because I've gotten it wrong as well, but when we started Lily Jade, there was nothing like it. And so I took a major chance and well meaning people in the industry were like, " You actually won't be able to sell these bags for this price. There is not." Because at first we started manufacturing in the US so our bags were very, very expensive and it wasn't sustainable. Not for the customer, the mom, not for the reach that we wanted, the impact that we wanted to make, the community we wanted to build. It wasn't sustainable. And so finding a factory, our leather still comes from New York, so we send our leather to our factory overseas and our leather is just like, there is no better leather. So there were certain things that I was committed to early, early on that I was not going to short change or skimp on. And that was quality of material. So we started there. And then as far as style and when you kind of forge your own way in a space, not having anything like it, now there's competition that's risen over the last 10, 12, 13 years. But at the beginning there really wasn't. You kind of continue with that mindset. And so we are knocked off all the time. It has been a pain point over the years. And so as far as trends, I always look to what is sophisticated, what is timeless, what will stand the test of time for a mom when the baby years are done, they'll look at that old English leather, that's patinaed and gotten darker in certain places and say, " I'll still grab that bag. Oh I'll still use that. That's a great backpack for travel, that's great for whatever the life event." So yeah.
Michelle Brandriss: Megan, I didn't even think of that because your bags look great. How do you handle that when someone comes along and takes your design? Is there anything you can do about that?
Megan Wood: Yeah, there are certain things you can do. There's some filing different options, some cease and desist letters, things like that. Approach Amazon and say, " This is a direct knockoff of our style." I used to kind of shrink back, I feel like from that and now I'm taking a different approach of we're going to do a blog post that is all about Lily Jade knockoffs just because it's the nature of what we do. These designs are created by me, created by our brand, our company. And we are still a small mom- and- pop shop basically. And so we take it very seriously and we're definitely going to begin to highlight who's knocking us off and why. But I mean from our jade lining that's very signature to Lily Jade. You'll see brands pop up and just take that lining and you're like the lining color and you're like, okay, why? There's a million different colors. I don't understand.
Michelle Brandriss: Okay, so your girls coming into your business. So my son is 16. He has no interest in being in the label business at all.
Megan Wood: Not now anyway.
Michelle Brandriss: No he really doesn't. He was like, Oh, I'm doing economics mom, I'm not... But your girls, what a cool thing to be able to work with them and plan ahead. And the succession plan, are they thinking about going into design school and things like that? Are they thinking about going into fashion?
Megan Wood: Yes. So one of the side benefits of homeschooling them and at the time, I started homeschooling them, then we launched Lily Jade, then we got to where we could afford someone to come in. There was a retired school teacher who came in and did the curriculum every day with my girls from 8: 30 to 2: 30. So they had a very standard day. But what homeschooling allowed us to do, allowed me to do, allowed Landon and I to do was not leave our girls. So Landon and I do the business together, we launched the brand together. But that was a big thing for me was I knew it would require travel. I knew it would require a significant amount of travel, especially early on. And I didn't want to consistently have to leave my girls. So they came with us. Now one of the side benefits is that my oldest daughter especially became an expert really quickly. She sat in so many meetings and I kind of tease her now, you know more than your mom. She is a better designer than her mom and she and Madeline just launched the brand Ruby Jade.
Michelle Brandriss: Oh my gosh, I have to see this. I did not.
Megan Wood: Oh yes. Cool.
Michelle Brandriss: What is that?
Megan Wood: It's on Instagram, it's rubyjade. co I think that is the Instagram handle. But it is smaller still Lily Jade quality, Lily Jade hardware, Lily Jade leather. So our commitment to quality just changed from the large bags to motherhood to smaller cross body totes, much more trendy, and it's been really, really exciting. So my oldest daughter really has kind of taken on that project as far as designing. My youngest daughter, Madeline designed one bag and she's 13 and in seventh grade. So she's not as interested as my junior in high school jumping into her senior year next year. So all the bags for Ruby Jade are in the warehouse, ready to ship, everything is done and all the photography. And it has been a neat thing to see.
Michelle Brandriss: Wow. Well please tell them congratulations. It's no small feat by any means. That's massive to be in high school launching your own business.
Megan Wood: And she's worked so hard. So I'm very proud of her.
Michelle Brandriss: Doing this podcast, I really wanted to have other people hear what it's like to get a business up and going and just the different things you have to go through. And there's a lot of balance there. And I'm just kind of wondering, in the day of a life for you and your family and maybe even starting way back when, were you traveling to the manufacturer to check things out? Was the whole family going? As the business has evolved, what is it like now?
Megan Wood: Yeah, so early on and when we were creating Lily Jade, before we had even launched the brand, I very much worked in the night. So worked in the night time, worked in the middle of the night. So when we moved our factory overseas into China, we would talk to them starting at 7: 00 PM in the evening. And again, we didn't know what we were doing. And you're writing really big checks overseas to someone that you really hope and pray delivers on the deliverables and the goods arrive and just so many ups and downs in that season. So I worked a lot in the night and a lot in the evening and I was with my girls in the morning and then during nap time I would go and work and then I worked from seven to midnight and got very little sleep those first three years, it's probably one of the things I look back on. I'm like, I don't know how he did it all. I don't know. It was the grace of God truly. And as we walked out what we felt called to do, the girls traveling with us, they've been to the leather factory, they've been to blogger conferences, they've been to Pinterest conferences, they've been to social media conferences. Literally they've learned, they've been to meet and greets with us. Our overseas factory, we were scheduled to take them with us to China. We've been there, they haven't. And then COVID hit and so it's kind of the one we're waiting for them to be like 10 and 13 or 11 and 14 to where it's just easier to manage such a long journey. But they've been to Europe with us for different textile events and met factories with us. We've flown to New York and met our factory there and our factory has come here to San Antonio, Texas and met with us and our girls have sat in countless meetings. So a day in the life though, on an average day now with a 13 and 16 year old, I'm up with them. I still have a goal to be done when they're done at school. That's just been a personal goal of mine. I'd rather work through lunch and work in the morning and then to have that afternoon and evening time set aside for them. Landon and my roles look very different in a lot of ways. And so it affords me that opportunity to be able to do that. His is more traditional, eight to five, eight to six as he's managing factory and warehouse and I'm more marketing design.
Michelle Brandriss: To me, this is so inspiring. You were all in, you were a hundred percent.
Megan Wood: Oh yeah.
Michelle Brandriss: It's so inspiring. So congratulations. Your website looks beautiful. I love your website. The bags look fantastic. I love how you've also done accessories and different, I guess packing elements that go into the bag just so well thought through. I love all of that. Where do you see things evolving into or you're like, okay, this is our niche cause there's riches in the niches, but are you staying in the niche? Do you see things evolving or is that already being done by your daughters?
Megan Wood: Yeah, I didn't start out Lily Jade with a legacy in mind, if you will. I really was like, there's a need. I want to reach women. That was always a heartbeat of mine as well. We also wanted to reach the nations and get to know people all over the world from every facet of life. And so those were really kind of our goals and you want it to be a success. You want to be able to pay your staff grow and get better at your craft or your design. But in the last two years, watching this kind of legacy, this idea of hey, this could go beyond Landon and myself, this could really reach generations has definitely marked us in a new way. There are some other patentable projects that one day soon I would love to be able to be back here and talk about in the motherhood baby space that I have been working on. But it's definitely an industry disruptor not to tease it too much. Other ideas that have just really come to me like a download. And so we've pursued it pretty significantly and are ready to make a big move. So that's fun to build out that new kind of fresh space again, and then as far as Lily Jade, just that we would continue to be a healthy community of women that affirm one another, affirm the role of motherhood and womanhood, that we never lose sight of that. There's a vision and a calling to be a mama if you're in that space of your life, that season of your life as well. And so, yeah.
Michelle Brandriss: It's so inspiring to hear all of this. So I'm wondering too, it sounds like there's been evolution obviously through the years, but I'm just curious, when you started out compared to now, what was your vision of success?
Megan Wood: Okay, when we first started out, I was like, this will be a great... Worst case scenario, this is a great part- time gig. And I used to tell myself that. So this could just be my part- time kind of side hustle, sell a few bags every week. I really didn't have... I was so I think in the trenches too of motherhood homeschooling work, I wasn't like we're going to be a national international brand. It was really just like, I want to provide an option for moms and women and I want to sell product. But compared to now, I mean would've never dreamt that it would be what it is today. I would never have dreamed that when we first had our celebrity endorsement, for example years ago, a decade ago. I mean I was like, what is happening? This is not... What is this? And it still feels that way. There's every new design that is a success. We've had plenty of designs that are not a success by the way too. But when there's a best seller and she gets to be a best seller and an anchor in the brand for a while. When we started off Lily Jade, I wasn't thinking like that. Now obviously I think that I'm listening to the voice of my customer. I'm listening to our community, what do you want? What do you like? And so they very much help shape us and move us in the direction that we're supposed to go.
Michelle Brandriss: It's so inspirational. I love everything that you've actually provided and given us all today listening to this. So I'm just curious as far as mantras, and you really are a bright light. I can tell. You're thinking about everybody, you're thinking about your employees, what can I do? What type of good can I do in the world? But I'm just curious too, your daily mantra that you say to yourself because sometimes you're not getting maybe the sleep that you need, what keeps you going? What's your motivator?
Megan Wood: I have several. One of them though that I have said often, I heard this years ago, I can't take credit for it. I heard it probably a decade ago. There was another woman who, she was actually a very successful realtor and I heard her speak and she was saying, " Moms," and it was specifically to moms, but I think this translates really to anybody. She was like, " You can have it all but you can't have it all in the same season." And I was like, whoa. It just hit me. And I've carried that. So when I'm like, wait, I've got to go here and I've got to do this. And it will literally slow me in my tracks and I'll say to myself, " Megan, you can have that. Not right now. It's not going to happen right now." And I think about after I had Caroline and even though I had this idea, I was nursing her, I was struggling with some postpartum depression. I had a C- section, had someone come that first year of life and said, " Up and now you're going to start inaudible" I'd have been like, " There's no way." But I still had the vision for it, I had the idea for it, but it wasn't the season for me then. And so walking that out and then the other one is, it's not meant to be perfect, I think for me, I lean on the Lord for so much strength and so much next step. That's who I lean on. I lean on my family and my husband and realizing that it's not meant to be perfect, that it doesn't always have to be perfect, was something that was hard for my type A personality to kind of begin to digest and process. But there is so much strength in operating in the weak places and the vulnerable, humble, just get low. There are meetings even within our team or whatever and maybe I've made a mistake or I haven't done it right or there's an issue with the factory or whatever. I'm just like, I just got to get low. I want to listen. I want to take it in. I want to hear what they're saying to me. So in the past, I think young Megan, younger Megan would have much more felt the need to be like, Okay, I've got to be on A game. I'm going to come into this meeting, we're going to direct it this way, it's going to go A to B, B to C. And it doesn't always work that way.
Michelle Brandriss: I was explaining to my sister the other day that I actually feel like... I'm in my fifties now. I feel like my life is starting again. I feel like this rebirth. And it's really nice because you don't have the stress of wanting things to be perfect. You want to enjoy and you want to see things differently. And it is so nice that you are there and you are showing your daughters that and it makes everything so much better. Everything. You just enjoy life so much more.
Megan Wood: Me too. And I used to feel like, I mean it's interesting that you say that, even in the working world, I would feel like, okay, well I can't punch out at three or 3: 30, I can't like, well I've, I've got to do this, this and this. And then it was like, no, actually you can, you've worked hard to this point. And there have been, I mean years where I would put them to bed and then we would work again from eight to 12 or whatever. But that kind of sacred time of no, mom's present, we're going to talk dinner and homework and life and meal. And I realize that may be a unique opportunity for me. And so it just feels sacred. It's a space that I'm like, Oh no, not... I may not always have this opportunity so I'll do it then. But that took me a while to be okay with that and even admit it. It took me a while.
Michelle Brandriss: Well I thank you for sharing that, being present for your kids. And it was my son who he was, gosh, probably first grade and I was bringing work home and I was on my phone and I'd be on my phone and he's like, " Mom, you're always on your phone." And I thought about it, I'm like, I struggled to have him, so what am I doing? I'm not present for him. And I started making a rule. At first, I don't have my email on my phone. I took that off. I think I'm the only business owner who doesn't have her email on her phone. I took that off and then I put my phone away for those hours when I was home with him before bedtime and then after bedtime again, you get online and you do what you do. But thank you for saying that because it goes so fast. It just does.
Megan Wood: So fast. I'm like, oh, how are we in our junior year of high school? How did this happen? I don't understand. Yeah, yeah.
Michelle Brandriss: True. It is true. But Megan, I really appreciate you being here today on From the Basement Up. This is just so wonderful and I love what your daughters are doing. It's wonderful. And I love what you've created. It's beautiful. So just for the viewer or the listeners so they know, it's lilyjade.com and you can find these beautiful, beautiful diaper bags there. I absolutely love them. And I love that you also have the laptop holder in some of those as well. So you're thinking about working moms, you're thinking about stay at home moms, baby through, I mean these bags will be until the kids go away to college. They're just multi- functional, amazing bags. And then also, I'm so excited to see what your daughters have created on rubyjade.co and right now it's on Instagram.
Megan Wood: We're super excited and it's going to be really, really great. But yeah, you can find Ruby Jade on Instagram and that's my daughter Caroline. She's kind of all over it. And you'll see Madeline there and it's just been a very fun project.
Michelle Brandriss: Tell your family congratulations. This is fantastic. So I really appreciate your time today.
Megan Wood: Yeah, thank you so much. Thank you for having me. Thanks.
Michelle Brandriss: Thank you to our listeners for joining us for today's episode. And thank you to my amazing producer, Emily Flanigan. She deals with all my shenanigans. Julia Augustino, thank you for the amazing composition that you have made for the podcast. And listeners, feel free to check us out on our social media channels. Don't forget to give us a five star review and you can also visit us on fromthebasementup. com. Thank you so much.
Meggan Wood is the CEO & Founder of Lily Jade, a leather diaper bag and handbag company. Inspired by wanting style and efficiency, Meggan started her company in 2013, and it has grown into the successful company it is today.
In this episode, Meggan joins Michelle to discuss everything Lily Jade. This discussion includes Meggans's background in communications and broadcast journalism, how that translates to her role now, and the evolution of Lily Jade and "keeping the niche."
All that and more on this episode of From the Basement Up.