What I’ve learned… Megan Morton, Styling Queen
You might not know it but you would have seen Megan Morton’s creative eye in probably almost every home, fashion and interiors magazine you’ve picked up in Oz and internationally. Best known for her editorial work and penning interiors books, Megan, who’s worked as a stylist for almost 20 years, is also the owner of creative workshop venue for adults and children, The School which she runs with her husband, Giles, an ex-retail pro.
Against the advice of her mentors who thought a rundown canning factory site wasn’t the right space for a business whose goal to ignite inner creative, but Megan saw its promise, gutting it out and transforming it into an inviting educational studio. We chat to Megan about getting her marketing know-how from a teen magazine, cold calling craftspeople from the Martha Stewart network and the importance of Instagram for her business.
I set up The School two years ago because I had a burning desire to pass on the information that I’ve learned through my career to others for the betterment of people’s private homes and space. I try to bring the best teachers and the juiciest in their field to The School in the hope that they can creatively encourage others. We also take our classes on roadshows to wonderful interstate to places that even locals may not have seen or been to.
The School initially was a self-funded business, every cent I billed as a stylist I would put back into the business fund, so when we came across the right location and the right conditions, I wasn’t under stress from the get go. We didn’t have a financial goal, we just signed the lease and kept working and supporting our three children while we tried our hardest. It was a heads down, bums up situation.
Each class has its own capacity to make sure everyone gets attention. It’s a trial and error situation where it pays off to invest in teachers and classes that we can share with as many people as we can. Some classes take up to 30 people, whereas things like crocheting cashmere pug egg cozies sometimes have a maximum of four attendees. We treat every class like a photo shoot production to make sure everyone’s time here is special and tailored to the class.
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Teaming up with international creatives has put us on the global radar. Our work with Martha Stewart’s calligrapher, Maybelle, sold out on the first day, and had people even flying in from New Zealand to attend! I took a risk when I cold called her and seven hugely successful classes were born.
My marketing strategy for The School comes from my experience in direct marketing for Dolly magazine. I invented the ‘The Dolly Club’ where readers would $5 to be part of the all-inclusive community and that’s what we do and rely on today at The School - talking intimately with our club members. I find myself laughing realising although I am in a different place essentially what I do has been the same for many years now. We realise not everyone can afford our classes all the time, so every year we host a free class and activities other than paid per seat classes, as we run mostly on word of mouth.
I’ve learned working hard is sometimes not enough. We place classes purposely on the weekends, because as a working mother of three I know all too well the importance of a leave pass on the weekend. This has been difficult with my own family and a constant battle I have.
I surround myself with people smarter than me and that’s why my business works. We worked with an ex-Arthur Anderson brain, Sam Mosse, to set up systems and reporting. The School is only a result of its people – not me, or its teachers, but the camaraderie and skills that the students derive and go on to share with the people in their lives. I am always the dumbest in the room.
The internet and social media is our lifeline to our clients, and it’s a position we never take for granted. We post daily on Instagram and our styling work over at @mmbehindthescene. I put up posts when the inspiration hits me - my posts aren’t dependent when most people will be watching or the time of day. Our Facebook is our second priority to Instagram. I would like to grow this, but the visual aspect of Instagram just suits our aesthetic more.
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We’ve been offered lots of money to do Skype classes, but I don’t believe it suits online. Offering classes online would be so much more profitable and easier on our limited staff resources. For me, The School needs to be a living, breathing, human, person to person experience only. You have to have taken the day away, parked your car in Rosebery and sit in a white open studio and really get the information. We have the equipment including left-handed scalpels, purpose built screenprinting and Shiboru high pressure sinks to give our students the best results.
Hear more of Megan Morton's words of wisdom at an artisan and designer showcase trade show, Life Instyle.
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