Meghan Zahari; Winnipeg; @willowpress
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I own a doughnut and coffee shop with my husband and brother-in-law. I’m the one tucked in a corner on my laptop, handling the mountain of work that needs to get done outside of the kitchen. I also run our Instagram account and do all of our marketing. On the side, I write fiction.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I’ve taken many creative writing courses through the University of Toronto, but I never finished a degree. I plan to start school in the fall—I’m studying psychology at the University of Winnipeg—and I’d like my kid to be able to say one day “My mom put herself through school and wrote a fiction series all while raising me.”
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
Working at a Starbucks in Chapters book store, consuming Frappucinos and fiction novels on my breaks.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
This is going to sound SO contradictory, but having my kid was my big break. She awakened something in me that I was too scared to tap into before. Of course, she limits me so much in terms of time and energy, but that makes my time and energy all the more valuable.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
I haven’t had that yet, necessarily. I think as an entrepreneur, you have that sure feeling that this is going to work out when you initially get the idea. That’s what drives you to work so hard to create it, even when others think you’re crazy. But, I don’t think the assurance of success comes for a very long time. We’re just a couple years in, so at this point, it’s a pretty wild ride still.
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
Putting off my own dreams. I am a writer by trade. I love writing fantasy. I’ve always reduced it to a hobby. Having my daughter was a catalyst to taking myself seriously for the first time. I still work hard at running the donut shop, but I’m starting to really push forward with my writing career at the same time.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Follow the thing that comes naturally to you. The thing you’ve always been good at. Since you were two. The thing that makes you weird. It will still require a lot of really hard work, but it’s a lot harder to pretend to be someone else. No one wins when you give up on yourself.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Do what’s best for others and your dreams will work out on their own.” Too often, women are made to feel like their greatest dream should be to see their family’s dreams come true. I think it’s time every human’s dreams were equal.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
For the most part, I am very privileged to have been able to pursue my career goals the way I have. But, there are still moments where being a man would make my job a lot easier. At the doughnut shop, people ask to talk to my husband or brother-in-law instead of me. We’ve had people leave terrible reviews on public forums because they saw me breastfeeding my daughter in the café area. While I’m behind the counter, I get questions about who’s watching my kid, whereas, my husband is behind the counter every day and is never asked that. Some things are subtle and others are aggressive, but all of it reminds me that we still have a lot of work to do.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
No, but that is very typical for a new business. The first few years, money earned goes right back into the business and towards paying off loans. I do freelance work as a social media consultant to make money to pay the bills.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
That the reason they follow their dreams is because they want to work a little and make a lot of money. And they have some kind of obsession with basketball nets and beanbag chairs in their offices. Entrepreneurship requires you to give up your whole life for very little money for a long time. Maybe years and years down the line, we get the luxurious beanbag chair life, but there’s a huge upfront cost.