It costs nothing to encourage. Lighting someone else’s candle doesn’t make mine shine any less bright. This goes for liking, commenting, sharing posts of other small businesses. I never stopped being a cheerleader. And I SO appreciate my customers and friends being mine. I wouldn’t be here today without my two best friends Laura and Andrea telling me that I should sell my note cards online because they would totally buy them! You can spread joy, positivity, encouragement, even business advice. When I first started teaching lettering classes people close to me panicked thinking I was “giving away all my secrets” but there is plenty to go around. It’s not a competition and we can ALL succeed. As my friend Caroline once told me “when you are true to yourself, you have no competition in the world.” I totally feel like I got to where I am today because I was willing to SHARE. Plus, some really great mentors ahead of me helped and encouraged me early on.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maghon Taylor. Maghon knows there is power in putting pen to paper — that the words we want to share and remember can become beautiful works of art in and of themselves. So Maghon founded All She Wrote Notes, a welcoming space for classes, inspiration, gifts, community, and all things hand lettering. Through penmanship parties and digital courses, Maghon has taught thousands how to make their handwriting happier, equipping an enthusiastic and growing tribe to create and spread joy. Married with a young son, Maghon resides in Elon, North Carolina, where she lives by the motto, “Work hard, stay sweet, trust God, and love deep.” Her first book, Happy Hand Lettering, a fun-fueled collection of hand lettering lessons and projects, was released in August 2019.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Maghon! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I have been the girl who carried around a bag of markers ever since I could choose my own school supplies and not much has changed. I have always loved doodling and drawing and passing notes with friends. I was the go-to friend that people had when they were running for Student Council and needed a handmade sign and I was also the girl that got to make the banners that the football team ran through. We didn’t have a very good football team but we had an AWESOME looking banner! I have looked for ways in every season of my life that I could use my hand lettering to make ordinary things a little more happy.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
I had been running my business, All She Wrote Notes along with my full time job in event planning for about two years and I was turning down opportunities to teach classes AND take on larger orders because I didn’t have the time to keep doing things “on the side.” I attended a conference for small business owners where we really dug deep into the finances and what it looked like to budget and set financial goals in business. I was able to see on paper that the numbers added up in favor of taking my business full time, but it took a little bit longer for my heart to catch up. I LOVED my job and I loved my coworkers. Everyone was encouraging me to take the leap and it felt like for those first few weeks that they had more confidence in me than I had in myself. I am SO grateful that I took my passion full time and I’ve never looked back.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
I think that people overthink it sometimes. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you just need a more unique wheel than what the other wheels on the market. I didn’t invent hand lettering, but I started teaching it to students in a way that was totally different than anything else I’d ever seen. A side business can bring you 50 dollars of extra income or 50,000 dollars of extra income depending on how hard you are willing to work on it. I think it’s important to be willing and open minded to learn, to grow and to educate yourself about the parts of business that you don’t already know. It’s okay to ask for help when you’re growing and eventually you can even hire out tasks that aren’t the best use of your time.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
It’s okay to grow slow! Start with your current Facebook friends and family that you already know. Nobody is going to give you a certificate that formally states that you are a professional photographer, Start sharing photos of your work and tell people that you have a photography business. People can’t order it if it’s not on the menu, so don’t be afraid to tell people what you’re selling. Share your work, charge your worth and test the waters with people you already know to see if you like it and want to scale it to your own full time business, website or even a storefront.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
I think it’s okay to have a hobby that you don’t turn into a business, even though I did. Hand lettering hardly ever feels like work to me because I love the lettering piece of my work. It feels creative and it’s still fun. Even after doing it every day for six years, it’s not something I dread, but I think it’s important to understand the difference between the creative part of your business and the logistical part. Shipping orders, answering customer service emails, operating a website and various social media accounts — that is the part of my career that DOES feel like work. That’s the part of my business that takes up the most time but that’s the part that ultimately brings in income. My biggest advice on how to keep it fresh and enjoyable is to remember that you don’t HAVE to, you GET to. I GET to come upstairs and work for myself everyday! I get to wear whichever clothes I would like to wear and work whatever hours suit my schedule. I don’t HAVE to do these things, because I could always work for someone else instead. This is a privilege and even though it’s hard work, I am thankful for every minute of it.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I thought when I left my 9–5 that I would have SO much more free time. That notion is hilarious to me now. I work a lot MORE hours than I did back then, but I am spending them doing what I love. I also took for granted how many different employees had different jobs that helped me do MY job better. For example, we had a mail room, IT, front desk, office manager, cleaning crew, etc at my 9–5 office. The first time I had to be on hold with my internet company when it went down at home, I thought, Dang! That’s me! I am the IT person here. I still really miss those guys.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
This hasn’t happened to me yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I am an artist for a living so I am constantly spelling words wrong, making mistakes or writing an ugly letter on a project. Very early on in my business I was too cheap to throw my scrap paper away so I started running it through my office shredder. Out came the most beautiful confetti that you’ve ever seen! Once it was confetti, you couldn’t even see the mistakes anymore. It was beautiful and colorful and FUN. Confetti is just trash that’s living a happier life! This has been a great lesson to me for life as well as in lettering. We don’t have to get caught up in our mistakes, our past, the hard parts of our story that we aren’t proud of. Sometimes it’s the hardest seasons that we go through that enable us to turn around and inspire somebody else. If you’re willing to hold your head high and not be ashamed, you can turn your mess into your message and your mistakes into confetti.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
Joy Cho of Oh Joy is a huge inspiration to me. She is an incredible business owner who is unapologetically herself. She is a mom to two little girls and she runs an amazing company with a small but mighty team of six! She loves her team and celebrates them all the time. She even started something called 3/300 dollars where she gives each team member 3 days off and 300 dollar to go and do something FUN and educational for them! If I ever had a team working for me, I would want it to be inspired by the delightful workplace she’s created.
Joy is inspiring, positive and encouraging to others and is willing to share and educate younger business owners like me who hope to be at her level someday. She knows what she wants, what she doesn’t, and she is great at choosing business opportunities that are the best fit for her and her family during any given season.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
My mission is spreading happiness through my handwriting. Any time I create a product, speak from a stage, write a book or even an Instagram post, I am doing it in a way that I hope makes people happy. My hope is to be a light to people in what can sometimes be a dark world. My products aren’t saving lives, but they are most certainly spreading smiles.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It costs nothing to encourage. Lighting someone else’s candle doesn’t make mine shine any less bright. This goes for liking, commenting, sharing posts of other small businesses. I never stopped being a cheerleader. And I SO appreciate my customers and friends being mine. I wouldn’t be here today without my two best friends Laura and Andrea telling me that I should sell my note cards online because they would totally buy them! You can spread joy, positivity, encouragement, even business advice. When I first started teaching lettering classes people close to me panicked thinking I was “giving away all my secrets” but there is plenty to go around. It’s not a competition and we can ALL succeed. As my friend Caroline once told me “when you are true to yourself, you have no competition in the world.” I totally feel like I got to where I am today because I was willing to SHARE. Plus, some really great mentors ahead of me helped and encouraged me early on.
- Start Right Where You Are, With Exactly What You Have. If you wait until you have everything perfect, you will never get started. It’s okay to grow slow. I didn’t even have INTERNET when I started six years ago. At that time, financially I couldn’t afford it. I didn’t have a computer, a printer, a website, logo, business cards. NONE of it. Everything for the first 1.5 years was manually written by hand (even 300 cards for Southern Weddings!) But I still started. I didn’t have any expectations for All She Wrote Notes, I just wanted to craft something that I loved, and make other people happy in the process. It’s okay to grow slow. Take your time and let your business FUND big purchases instead of going into debt to get started. Your first customers will likely be Facebook friends you already know, so test the waters there and SHARE share share your work. If you aren’t excited, nobody else will be excited.
- Be Here to Make Friends. It’s no secret that attending conferences has been a highlight every year I’ve been in business. In the last six years, I’ve even been invited back to speak at some of my favorite conferences, which was a dream come true! I have made the BEST relationships and friendships because I invested in the ticket (with biz profits) and made it happen. But the thing is, when I went to these conferences — I was there to make friends. I put myself out there, I stayed up late, I asked a second question and I opened up. You belong there. Don’t ever be too shy (or worse, too important) to introduce yourself by name. There is ALWAYS somebody out there who has never heard of you.
On social media, my goal is always to treat my followers as my friends. I post more on @allshewrotenotes than I ever think to post on my personal channels. I share about our life, I ask for advice and I do my best to respond to my messages and comments just as I would if I had 10 followers I knew personally. My mission for my business is to spread happiness through my handwriting. I want to give more than I take and I appreciate their relationships. My goal is to treat everybody with the same kindness, whether it’s the keynote speaker or the wait staff clearing food. Whether they have one follower or one million fans, invest in those who invest in you.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help. There are going to be hard seasons and many late nights of hustle, but that craziness will not last forever. I like to think I busted my “you know what” in the beginning so I only have “sprints” of hustle now — Not a full out marathon all year, just busy weeks or busy months here and there. Having my son Vance changed my work habits in the best way! At first, I left a 9–5 job to work a 24–7, but now I have very specific working hours from 9–4 while he is away at school.
I could never do all of this alone or during nap-time. I do this with a ton of childcare help. While I don’t have another employee on staff, I’ve hired everything from a graphic designer, business coach, accountant, house cleaner, photographer, videographer, hourly child care, dog sitter, meal delivery service — you name it. I don’t need this kind of help all the time, but I can’t clone myself and I LOVE watching other people shine when they get to do what they are REALLY good at. That frees me up to do my best work in the areas that it most benefits me and my business, too.
- God Has a Plan For Your Life. And he already knows what’s coming next. I could tell you SO much more, but nothing is more important than this. In the past six years my faith has strengthened into a real relationship with God. Watching how He works through my business and how I feel like He’s given me this platform to encourage others and spread happiness astounds me daily. Opportunities come along every single day that blow my mind! That I never could have even dreamed of. I’ve gotten to speak on TV, teach at conferences, run a company and I just wrote a book. A real book! With a bar code and everything and it’s carried in stores. All I ever wanted to do was write people’s names pretty. It’s all coming full circle for me and it’s so clear that God already knew the plan. It just looks differently than I imagined. It looks better.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Paying it forward is my favorite thing. Every Friday we load up the car and head to our local Starbucks drive through. I treat the car behind me in line to whatever they ordered. I play happy music and sing along all the way there and back. Even though I’ve been doing this every week for years, happy tears still fill my eyes as I pull away. This is SUCH a tiny blessing in the world, but my hope is that spreading coffee like confetti sparks joy for the car behind me every week. That they head into work or wherever they are going with more pep in their step and a smile on their face. That God will put a person in line behind me and my confetti car that may just NEED an extra dose of Happy in their life. I pray that I am able to help them start their weekend off with something GOOD happening to them and have a positive story to share at work. When we are happy, we tend to make other people happy too because our joy overflows to everyone else in our path.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” — Conan O’Brien
I remember crying like a baby when I saw this live on TV and since then I’ve written it everywhere. My own life motto “Work Hard, Stay Sweet, Trust God, Love Deep” is even inspired from his famous words. I think he sums up the truth about what it means to succeed in business or in life and I love and live by those words to this day.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Sarah Blakely from Spanx! I LOVE her story and her company that she’s built. She uses her platform to add more goodness to the world and I especially love how well she loves on and celebrates her family. I watched her surprise her Dad with a yacht party for his birthday recently and it inspired me to surprise my own Dad and take him to Disney World a few months ago to celebrate his retirement and my new book! She had very humble beginnings, a lot like where I am now, but she never let that stop her from doing great things.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. Thank you! My pleasure!