Do you ever wonder what your life or career would be like if you'd made a different decision at a fork in the road?
Once in a while, someone will ask me, “If you could go back in time, would you still have gone into architecture?” On one hand, I definitely don't use my architecture degree anymore. I spent a lot of time in studio building models and learning about the industry, and I don't apply any of that today. But at the same time, I think about the skills I learned and the things that happened early in my career that helped get me to where I'm at today. If I'd taken a different path, I wouldn't be here now. And I'm grateful for all of it.
In fact, some of my favorite stories and conversations are about starting down a path that pivots into something else, whether it's niching down in to something specific, or making a more radical change. Either way, it's always an amazing story—and you're going to hear one of those stories today from Megan Gilger from Fresh Exchange. Megan and her husband, Mike, started a design studio that evolved into something completely different. Today they have an amazing blog and online community at FreshExchange.com that's all about the pursuit of community and connection and reciprocity with the earth. It's not necessarily what they set out to do, but it's what it became.
You'll hear about how this journey has unfolded for Megan and the Fresh Exchange brand: how it all started and gained traction, and how Megan knew that this was the route she was meant to follow. So if you're somebody who's starting out and wants to try a bunch of different things, or you're facing a fork in the road and unsure which direction to choose, pay attention because this episode will inspire you and give you a lot of actionable advice, too.
Megan Gilger and husband, Mike Gilger created and run Fresh Exchange, a lifestyle website and community focused on helping us connect and grow through the natural world through garden, food, and community. Fresh Exchange existed solely as a blog for over 10 years and shared Megan and Mike's journey as designers and creatives till they firmly planted themselves in a simpler and slower life in Traverse City, Michigan with their two kids and dogs and now thirteen chickens. Over the last few years, Megan has brought her passion for food, seasons, and the garden into content that supports readers and followers to pursue a more holistic and grounded life. In January 2021, Megan and Mike launched their private membership community that is focused on judgment-free support and connection for those growing a garden of any kind and size all over the world. Megan shares tips, hosts webinars, and welcomes guests both for her community and on her podcast, Fresh Exchange. When not working, Megan is wrangling chickens, weeding the garden, cooking whatever is in season, and building Magna-Tile towers with her children.
- How the blogging world has evolved since Megan started FreshExchange.com
- How Megan “drifted” into a niche organically (yes, that's a gardening pun)
- Why their business coach is “the best money” Megan and Mike spend each month
- The business-building mindset shift Megan struggled to make as a result of her design background
- How Megan dealt with audience pushback when she announced the launch of her membership community
- The temporary loss Megan and her husband endured to realign their brand with their conscience
- Why Megan is having a blast cultivating (yep, another pun) an amazing online community on the Circle platform
SPI 501: Niching Down & Leaning In to Your Passion So You Can Make a Profit with Megan Gilger from Fresh Exchange
I had a really interesting conversation with somebody not too long ago, in fact. It's funny because this seems to always pop up at least once or twice a year, this question of, “Hey, Pat, if you could go back in time, would you still do architecture?” Because I don't use my architecture degree anymore, but it's what I went to school for. So, on one hand, yeah, I don't really use the things that I learned, and I'm imagining all that time I spent in studio building models and learning about the industry and how I don't even apply any of that today. But at the same time, I think about the skills I've learned, and even early on in my career, the certain things that have happened to get me to where I'm at today.
So, if I were to take a different path, I wouldn't end up where I am today, and I'm grateful for the experiences, of course. So, it's hard to determine, if I could choose or if I could go back in time, what I would have wanted to change. I kind of like the way it all turned out, of course. But these are my favorite stories, right? These are my favorite conversations, the ones where a person might start something for one reason, and then it evolves and it turns into and pivots into something else, whether that's a niching down into something particular or a completely radical change. And either way, it's just always an amazing story.
And you're going to hear one of those stories today, from Megan from freshexchange.com. Her and her husband, Mike, they started a design firm or design studio and it evolved into something completely different. And today, they have this amazing blog at FreshExchange.com, which is about the pursuit of community and connection and reciprocity with the earth. And it's definitely not necessarily what they set out to do, but this is what it became. And we're going to hear about how this journey has evolved for Megan and the brand and how it all started, how she initially started to get traffic, gain traction, and how she knew that this was the route she was supposed to go down.
So, if you're somebody who's like me, who maybe you're just starting out and you want to try a whole bunch of different things or you're not quite sure which direction you should end up at, well, make sure to pay attention because this is going to be a great story, one that's going to inspire you and has a lot of actionable advice as well. So, FreshExchange.com with Megan. Let's cue the intro. Here we go.
Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it's all about working hard now so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now, your host, he wants to share a quick message with you before we begin: You are loved. Pat Flynn.
What's up, everybody? Pat Flynn here, and welcome to session 501. Yes, we made it past episode 500. I hope you enjoyed the last episode. Thank you so, so much for being here for the next 500, and I cannot believe we're already here. This is just incredible. I never thought I'd be here, just like how most of us who end up somewhere never thought we'd be here through all the experiences and the journey that we take because it's not often what we set out to do where we end up. So, again, that's what we're talking about today with Megan from Fresh Exchange and her journey, the story, the things that she's implemented, the things that maybe should have been done differently, all that great stuff and more here. So let's not wait any further. Here is Megan from FreshExchange.com.
Megan, welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Yeah, absolutely. I'm excited to be here.
I'm really excited to chat with you. I want to know a little bit about your origin story with Fresh Exchange. I know this is a popular blog and podcast, and you help a lot of people. What do you help people with, and how did you get that all started?
I've been blogging for 12 years now, and it started out as simply a lifestyle blog. And it was so broad back in the day, it wasn't really necessary to be super niche about anything. You could just talk about whatever you wanted. There wasn't social media, there wasn't Instagram. Well, that has all changed dramatically over the last decade. I mean, blogging then versus now is a completely different animal. So, we've diversified Fresh Exchange and then also tucked into a niche of focusing more on the garden and, I guess you could say, “modern homesteading” would be the word, and what it's like to live a rural life.
We live in Northern Michigan, like a stone's throw from Lake Michigan on a peninsula that is full of agriculture, and it really exemplifies what it means to live that rural life with all sorts of amazing, modern amenities. It's a hot place to live for a reason, and we get all four seasons, so we talk a lot about that. We talk about the garden, and we've built this community on the Circle platform where we are just building a very intimate, judgment-free community that's focused on helping people pursue gardening and pursue this connection to nature through community and through gardening.
My hope is always that people walk away with a deeper meaning in their life with less, so to speak. I walked away from the typical blogging model of sponsorships and things like that, consumerism, because I was really struggling with it as a parent and thinking about the environmental impact. And instead, I wanted to focus on how I can do something, like build community, build connection, all these things, and also help the environment. So now I have a crew of people that are building gardens and planting native plants and just really thinking through that impact along the way while still building a business and making passion turn into something that is providing income for our family.
That's so amazing. And it sounds like you live in a beautiful area. I mean, I, here in San Diego, only experience really one season, so I can't even imagine four seasons. And to see what you've created and cultivated with your community, I do want to ask you about that, and we'll get there. But I want to go back to the early days, back around the time when I started blogging. You were right, you could kind of just talk about anything, and as long as you spoke about something and put the right keywords in, you would get found. I'm curious, when you say you started general, what kinds of things were you talking about? I'm sure gardening popped up every once in a while, but what else was there?
Well, for the most part, my husband and I, we graduated in the recession from college with two creative degrees. So, we both had degrees in art, and our goal was to work for a major studio to produce top marketing campaigns, things like that. That was our goals when we left school, and that didn't happen. They were letting employees go, so we had to figure out, how in the world are we going to leave college with debt and make a living as creatives? And so we both took a lot of freelance work that was not pretty, not fun, so to speak, and did a lot of gritty things in order to get to where we were.
But part of that was the blog. And we started traveling, and we were kind of nomadic. I mean, we were in our 20s, young 20s, 23, 22 years old. We traveled a ton; we always came back to Northern Michigan. My husband was in Texas, because we weren't married then, and so we were just doing a lot of traveling. And so, really a lot of our conversations on the blogs centered around our travels. And when the blog really took off, it was this cataloging of... Basically, we were in Paris on a job, we were filming something, and we cataloged 14 days of being in Paris. And we were there for four weeks, but it was like our photo journal. Then I would do handwritten script on top, and every single day was different. That was when it really launched.
And this was really pre-Instagram. So, this was even just at the cusp of Pinterest. And so since then, I went and I had been at a conference and came upon meeting Ben Silverman from Pinterest, and then he whitelisted me when they connected Facebook to Pinterest as a sign-on. And I was a suggested follow, and overnight gained a huge following there, which also propelled my blog significantly at that point. But the conversation was still on basically travel, design, all those things. And there was gardening here and there, or food or something like that, but it was very general, and I would just find a word that seemed right or focus in on Pinterest and getting a lot of likes or clicks from that. Yeah, that was pretty much all it was at that point.
How do you go from what was seemingly going to be a travel/creative blog to now gardening? What happened?
It's a big step, isn't it?
Yeah. There's still a disconnect. Can you connect that for me?
Yeah. I mean, basically, we built this pirate ship and then we had to figure out which way we wanted to move it. We were talking about traveling specifically probably about six years ago. Then we had our son, which kind of grounded us. We decided that, okay, what are we going to do? And that's when the ideas of home design and all these other things... It kind of adapted with me. At the time, I feel like... I mean, that's what I could do. Now, I think that's so much harder to do; you just have to grab a niche. As it went, these things started filtering in. I had a lot of connections in the food world, from design clients, and things like that.
I got really curious about food, and so I just started talking about it. I started talking about it in Instagram. I started talking about it all over because there's such a passion. I'm somebody who just has to chase those things, and as it adapted and I changed and I shifted, Fresh Exchange started shifting, and over time it just took shape into this space where it was like, okay, I talk about how to grow tomatoes and then how to save the tomatoes and then how to make a dish that's super simple out of these tomatoes. And these were things that I was learning from friends that are chefs or things like that around here, sitting at dinner parties. It's just a way of life that turned into content over time and then turned into a niche.
So, it wasn't necessarily that you had this general blog and then you made a conscious decision, "You know what? We need to change our focus. We need to go into the gardening space because there—or the food space because there's an opportunity there." It just organically changed while you changed and while you grew and while your family grew. Then how did that turn into subscribers? How did that turn into income?
Well, I think uniquely, I feel like this is where it was a little bit of luck; it wasn't planning. We now have totally nailed down like, "This is our niche. This is what we do. This is what we're focused on." Our following was growing along with me. Their lives were shifting too. These things that I was experiencing, many of them were experiencing it or found it interesting to watch it play out, I think, and now a lot of them are doing it. I mean, I get messages all the time on Instagram where it's like, "I started a garden because I've watched your garden grow and watched how you've shifted from just pots in an urban setting to now living on 15 acres and seeing that that's a reality I want to make happen."
And they've been following me since 2009. So, I think in some way it was a really natural thing for them to ride along with us. And obviously there's been some change in that. I mean, a lot of people that followed us for design and things like that back in the day and travel specifically, I think they fell away. And I think that's always the struggle when you decide to go niche and decide to focus your content. You are going to lose some, but you're also going to gain exponentially in my experience.
I mean, I was going to ask you about that because that's the big worry. If I niche down, I'm going to leave all these other people out, or people who initially followed me for this, they're not going to be around anymore. I love that you just said, "You know what? That's okay." Because you have to play this sort of Tarzan situation, right? If you imagine Tarzan, he's going from vine to vine. If you're holding on to two vines, you're going nowhere, and you kind of have to pick one and go and go down that direction and see what happens. So, I love that you've given us permission through your own example of doing that. And that's exciting.
When it came to monetization, you're building this audience and they're starting to see you in this new part of your life as you're speaking about food and garden and such, you had mentioned earlier there were things like sponsored posts and maybe advertising on the site that were more traditional ways that blogs made money. Is that how you started, and how long was that the case until you branched away from that?
I think this is where I could say I failed a little bit. I think that's always good to say. As a business owner, I was very stuck in my head about design because I was a designer. That was my degree; that was my husband's degree. We designed websites and designed huge brands and things like that. That was our livelihood for a long time. And so, adding these Google ads onto our blog was like, "No, we can't do that. We'd give up design; we'd give up aesthetic." And now we're going back. We are going into that. We're working to do that now, and that's going to be a shift hopefully here in the next few months with a media partner and things like that. But I wish that we'd done it sooner.
But there's a few friends of mine that are in the blogging world and that had made those same decisions because they were first designers and now we're all laughing at ourselves because we're doing this. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that at all. I think it's really smart for creators to think about these things and how we diversify our income, so to speak. It's a smart, passive income to utilize. You've already built this following, so why not use it? But to go back to your question, I had an agent, we had multiple sponsors. We would be doing a month, we would have four to five different brands we were working with, shooting content, promoting it all over our different platforms, different things like that.
But at some point, I started questioning it the more I dug into what I was doing. Like, I'm exemplifying this, but I'm showing this, and I'm not 100% about these brands, but I'm bound to them as an income source. Can I do this? Can I walk away from this? I was starting to get really not—disgusted, maybe, is the word. I just didn't like the consumeristic concept. It wasn't settling with me, and I also saw a trend where people were starting to walk away from it as well. Followers were starting to question things; they were starting to become really specific about what we were doing.
They were speaking up and asking about these things?
Specifically about the thing that was supplying us income. So I was like, “We got to rethink this.” So, my husband and I made a decision. I mean, we've been entrepreneurs on our own for 10 years, and we decided that he would take a comfortable contract job in order to give us the opportunity to walk away from this income, shift our income for a while in order to then shift into something new. This was like four years ago. We've had two kids in that time, and we have built a home and settled in, but it's because we were brave enough, I feel like, to shift our income and say, “This may be comfortable, but it doesn't align with our brand. We can't do that.”
So, instead of finding a different means of income as an entrepreneur, and then to open ourselves up into a way where we can start thinking about not working in the service industry, which is even what sponsorship and partnership jobs are—it's a service—and moving into more of this world of living off of more passive sort of income. And that's where we're in the middle of. And we spent 10 years working more service-based. It's really exciting to see this. I feel like we could have been smarter earlier. I also have to tell myself I’m only 34, so I feel like this is a great stage in my life to start thinking about that, and I feel ready to.
You and your husband took essentially a temporary loss, if you will, putting aside these sponsorships that just didn't align with the brand; it didn't feel good. You listened to your gut, which I think is a really important skill that a lot of entrepreneurs need to have. The money was there, so that's very attractive, but you are in this for the long term and you want that relationship with your audience to last, and so you took essentially a temporary position, if you will, or contractual jobs to supplement that income.
And during that time, was that the time where a lot of brainstorming was happening and a lot of ideation for what the next phase would be? What were those conversations like? And eventually, what does it look like now in terms of the passive income streams that you have as a result of this time?
We actually hired a business coach about a year into it after I took time off to just recover. When you're doing five to six sponsored campaigns a month and balancing being a parent and two entrepreneurs, it's a lot. I was burnt. I was really burnt out, and I was exhausted of defending our brand from these partnerships and making sure that I was maintaining what I wanted our brand to represent. It was exhausting. I needed a break. So, we took some time off. I enjoyed being a mom for a while. And I still shared content; I just wasn't focused on it being a revenue source for a while. And I feel very grateful and thankful that I had that opportunity to sit back and really look at the bigger picture for a while.
That's when we ended up hiring a business coach. We started individually, and then we started working on things together. Even now, once a month, I meet with my business coach. My husband meets with the business coach, the same person, and then we meet together as well. And so, we cover different things. And he has helped me figure out exactly what I wanted. What was I looking for as this—with what I have? What is it that I wanted ultimately? So, this opened up huge conversations. We tried a couple of different things, and we started diving into building in the backend, building a niche with SEO, and things like that in a more like subtle way. We knew this was something that we wanted to do.
Then we also were looking at, what is this bigger thing than we want to do? What is the larger piece in terms of connection, community? Community kept coming up for me. I was struggling with Instagram because Instagram, though it was a great way to connect with people, and I think we even felt that even more during the pandemic, but I was really struggling with feeling like I could really connect with people in the way that—on my terms. That's why we started focusing on building an email newsletter base. And that has been great, which is a great revenue source on its own.
But that's when we started looking for, how do we build a community? And this idea started coming up, I was like, "I want people to have this like hive mindset." I get all these questions, but I'm not an expert.” Within the community, if I post a question on Instagram, there's like 20 people who message me with different answers that are all different, great ideas, but I'm the only person seeing that. And that's where I was like, "I want something that connects everybody." That's how we started down this route of searching for, how do we build a community?
That's so cool. I do want to go into the community stuff, but I do want to ask you also about the business coach decision to hire. That's a huge moment, and when you allow yourself to open up your business and you're vulnerable and you're sharing this with somebody who can hopefully help, was there any reluctance to hiring a coach, or was it like, "I need a coach now. Let's find him or her"? Then how did you find them?
Well, the coach is actually a long-time friend of my husband's and he's known him most of his teenage years. Then he's older, and then he's gone on to build multiple amazing businesses. We've done some design work for his businesses in the past. Oddly, there was one night we were sitting, having a glass of wine, and Scott, our coach, he messaged Mike and was like, "Hey, how are you doing?" We hadn't talked to him in like six months. Mike was like, "Actually, I can give Scott a call. Are you okay with that?" I'm like, "Yeah, sure." And before we knew it, we were just hashing it out with him. He was like, "You know what? Not to sell myself, but I think you guys need to hire me.”
And I think sometimes I was a little hesitant at first because I'm such a—I’m a really introverted person, and I don't always like thinking through so much of these faults and identifying where I need to grow. I just felt really lost and didn't feel like I had really what I needed to give in coaching to make it valuable from a cost perspective. That's where Scott was just like, "Nope, you're going to do this. I will help you.” And sure enough, in three sessions, in three months, I knew exactly what I wanted. It is the best money that we spend every single month and I tell everybody that. Whether it's somebody like Scott specifically or somebody else, it doesn't matter, somebody that you connect with that can help you see very clearly what your path is.
Before doing it, I just felt like I was a little bit like sitting on the shore watching... in darkness a little bit. I could hear the waves a little bit, but I could not see where I was going. By the time, I was ready to jump in the water headfirst, and it was because of him just helping ask the questions that I don't think anyone else could. It was just like, "Here's how we're going to get you to figure out what that path is." He doesn't have a background in blogging; he doesn't have a background in these things. What his background is in is helping people identify clearly what their identity is in their business, what they want to achieve.
Right now, personally, he's working with Mike and I, my husband, on how do we identify success? What do we do when we succeed something? Because we're both such achievers that we can just keep going. We hit a milestone, but we don't really acknowledge it. And helping us feel more achievement in what we're doing, which is a huge thing. How do you do that as an entrepreneur? It can feel really hard to do that. So, I was reluctant. I don't know if I would be here right now if it weren't for making that choice.
Yeah. And that's a very common phrase that's spoken after working with a great coach. Really quick, are the sessions more like, "Okay, Megan, here's the plan. You're going to do this, you're going to do this, and you're going to do this." Or is it more question—is it almost kind of therapeutic?
It depends on where we're at with the work. Sometimes the check-in is really therapeutic, especially in the sessions with Mike and I because we have a history of working together and then we have our relationship. Those are two separate things. But many times, one thing has to be worked on in order for the other thing to be worked on. So, many times he's working through helping us navigate that complication of working with the person that you live with and raise kids with and are married to. So, those sessions, yes.
But the ones with that are more one-on-one, it's a lot like... For instance, if I'm struggling with some fears, it's like helping me identify where those fears are coming from, how to behaviorally overcome them mentally. But then also he'll set hard goals for us too. If I need to create programming for the community, he's like, "Okay, next month I need all of this done,” which is great, because sometimes you just need somebody to tell you and hold you accountable.
That's great. Well, thank you for that insight. Let's talk about your community. Well, first of all, everybody should check out FreshExchange.com. Join the email list, you can get some great stuff there. With your community, talk about the community. How did it start? How did you launch this? Because this is a very, very big trend right now, people launching their own private communities to better support and create connections within their audiences that they've built no matter where you build them. But starting that process can be very overwhelming, and often people don't do it because it's a big task. How did you get to start this community? And we'll go from there.
Well, it started with the coach, like where I sat in the session with him and he was asking me what my goal was, like, when I'm 90. Where do I want to be? What will I identify as being successful in my life? That sort of idea, which sounds really general, but it's a big thing to think about. Then him saying, “You have 60 years to do that. How are you going to do it?” It's like, okay, that's reality. Okay. That was where I identified, I want to encourage and help people connect to nature through the garden and through community.
He was like, “Well, you're already doing that with the blog, in the podcast. You're talking about gardening and how that connects to nature and all that, but what about the community element?” And I was like, “I don't know. That's the piece I just can't figure out.” Mike and I just started going down, a lot of Googling. And this was actually just recent, this was in September. And we'd been kicking around a lot of membership ideas: do we do a membership-only podcast? Do we do—there was all these different ideas we had.
And none of them felt—we kept playing them out, we got a board of some friends who are also entrepreneurs that we just pitched some of the ideas to, what would you do? And they were very kind to sit through that hour-long session to give us some ideas. And we just kept coming back to, "Okay, we need something that's like Facebook, but we don't want Facebook." Then I don't even know how I found it, but Circle popped up. I started looking at it, and I sent it to Mike ,and he said... I was actually laying in bed with my daughter—she's 18 months this month—and she was napping and I was just Googling on my phone while she napped.
And I found this, and I sent it to him, and he was like, "I think this looks amazing. What do you think?" We watched all the videos, and he was like, "I'm in. Let's give it a go. Why not?" And so we joined the Circle community itself and just started jumping in and watching how other people were doing. We attended a lot of the different Zooms, and a lot of show and tells. I loved interacting on this community. After feeling so at the mercy of the algorithm with Instagram, I felt like I was losing community in many ways.
But this was offering me to be 100% in control of what my community was seeing, how I was interacting with them, how they were interacting with each other even more importantly, and I was sold, really. And we just started going after it, honestly. Every late night, after we'd finished the things that we already had for that month or that week, we would be working on building out our community and identifying, okay, what are our spaces? How do we want people to move through this? What do we want them to take away? And then we started presenting this to our business coach and he started helping us.
He helped me design all of the programming for each season, and we built it in such a way where there's... Since we work through the four seasons basically in the garden and what we cook and how we connect to the natural world, we wanted to make sure that people rode through a whole season with us. So, our memberships were set up as, like, you can have a year, or you can do it season by season, and so three-month increments at a time. And this allowed us to just all launch into a season together. There's some people who wanted to leave for winter or fall. When they're not really doing as much in their garden, depending on where they live, they can step out for a couple seasons.
And so far, I mean, it's been incredible to watch it unfold and just how people interact. We set up—I made it really clear in the beginning, this is a judgment-free zone. You can post any sort of photos, it doesn't have to be aesthetically pleasing, your garden can be in process. It doesn't matter what size your garden is. And if your tomatoes die, that's okay. We're all going to be here, and we're going to help you figure it out. I was reading Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown, and she talked about how the shame and everything, and I realized that that was so big on Instagram and how we felt so... Especially in the gardening world, there's this appearance that needs to happen in order to show success.
And I don't like that because I think that that disconnects people from something that's so powerful and so good for the environment. We just don't really focus on that. I just love the conversations that we can get into. There's things about parenting and how to parent with children and all of this, and the conversations that we've been able to have there are just so powerful and so incredible. And I found that even after like a month, I wasn't really doing much other than interacting with people here and there. It's something I could totally do from my phone and be with my kids out in the garden.
But most people were answering the questions for me, and I no longer was that source of everything. I wasn't at the center anymore. The whole community was interacting together, and it's been so beautiful to watch it unfold.
How long has the community been live for?
We launched in March.
I expected that we would be hands-in all the time, every single day, for at least three to six months. We hold a Q&A once or two times a month, and now they've been so excited about the Q&As that we're now adding special guests coming in to do specific Q&As. Everybody hops on, and we all know somebody's dogs, and it's so fun to just interact with these people and get to know them.
How did you initially let your audience know about this? I'm curious about how you launched this and started to get those initial members.
So, we send out a monthly newsletter, which is a pretty robust newsletter. It's intended to set the tone for that month since we talk a lot about seasonal living and intentional mindsets and things like that. We send out this very specific email. Previously to even launching or talking about this, I started downgrading, because with the membership, you get even more amazing email basically. So, on top of your membership into the community and all this content and webinars. But I started downgrading it a little bit so that those people that decided to just stick in the free world, they could stick over there and still get a lot but not as much as what you'd be getting in membership.
Then when we started talking about the membership, we gave a preview email of what people would be getting, and then we also started talking about it on Instagram, and I just did like... I think it's still on my Instagram in highlights. But it basically lays out, here's what you get. It costs this for this amount of time. These are your two payment options. I just kept teasing it and talking about it, showing what would be happening, giving these insights into what it would be. We're talking like months prior to even launching this. But I kept repeating, “This is going to launch March 21, 2021,” because it's the first day of spring.
I got a lot of questions. I got a lot of feedback because some people didn't like the idea. They didn't like that I wanted to do this. And I get that. When you've been used to receiving content for free for so long, it can be hard. But we sometimes forget that content creators are spending so much time creating this, and you’ve got to have multiple streams of income. This was just another opportunity. It wasn't really going to change much for most people, but this was just an opportunity to dive in deeper. And that's what I kept selling it as, and what it really is. So, it was just a constant talking in an honest, open way and facilitating questions about it if people had it.
I wish we had done a little bit more promotion. I feel like that was somewhere where we could have done a little more, but we're hands tied behind our backs a little bit right now with two kids at home that are under five. But I feel like for what we had to work with, it was very successful because I set such a low goal of people that would join.
What was your goal?
We had like 20 people join. I'm going to be excited because it's such a new thing. I don't think we'll feel like this is such a new thing in like two or three years; this will feel very normal. But right now, it feels very unique. We ended up hitting over 140 people. I was so excited about that. And also, Mike, he's our business manager basically, all the things he was reading he was like, “Yeah, your email newsletter just exactly pinpoints that percentage that they say you'll get is exact. It's a science.” So, it's always good to know that... I forget what it is. Sorry he couldn't jump on today with us. But—
Oh, it's okay. Tell him I said hi and thanks for being part of the story and helping to inspire us. So, first of all, congratulations, to go from, “Okay, our goal is 20,” to 140. That's awesome. I mean, that speaks highly to the community that you've built even before launching this paid and premium thing. I do want to go back to those comments that you got, like, “Oh, why are you doing this?” I think this is something that a lot of us are scared of when we start selling stuff especially after, like you said, having delivered free, amazing value for so long. I can imagine comments like that derailing people or having you question yourself: “Well, maybe I am selling out. Maybe I am being greedy here,” or what have you. You had just briefly mentioned your counteroffer, which was, no, this just allows you to go deeper. Can you go deeper into what that actually means? What does the community provide that they can't get anywhere else?
First of all, the community provides the opportunity for the community, the actual connection with this amazing group of people. Obviously, that wasn't right away, but I think I have a big belief in manifestation, and I was like, “I know that the people that are going to be in this are going to be amazing. I know that.” Because I knew my community well enough on social media and through my email newsletter and just the interactions that I have, these people are incredible humans. So, I knew that they were going to bring that. Whoever signed up, even if it was 20 people, they were all going to be amazing humans.
I gave a couple of my friends who are very close to me, and I gave them free memberships. So, I at least knew that there was like 10 people in there who are amazing, and that was helpful in that sense to me, selling something where I'm like, “I know that you can at least hang out with these 10 people, and they're really cool.” But beyond that, also, I think years of doing so much work, working in the client world, as a designer, you're told so often that your work isn't good enough. You have to go back and make iterations and you never bat 100. And I'm very used to people coming back at me in some way. I think that's just part of social media; people like to do that.
So, I feel like my backbone is very hard. I know that this is going to be good too, and I know that I'm doing good. When I got those comments and those fears start creeping in, this is also where, once again, a business coach is really helpful because I could say to him, “Okay, I'm feeling crappy about this. Am I doing the right thing?” And he can say, “Yes.” He can reiterate that coach conversation to me of, “We've spent all this time building this. You know what your purpose is. You know what your goal is. You know it's in a good spot. So, this isn't intended to be for everyone, and that's okay.” There is going to be, your hundred, thousand, whatever true fans you want to put to yourself, and those are the people that are always going to be there, and they're going to support you, and they believe in you.
And I knew that I had a base of people that really wanted something like this. They wanted to go further. They wanted to do it with me, and I wanted to do it with them. Just because somebody is getting something for free, it doesn't necessarily mean they might jump into this next ship, but there's a group of people who will and it will be right for. I think just reassuring when you have people come up like that, like they're going to question you, just making sure that you are grounded in what you believe that you're doing, first of all, but also just reiterating to them, “It's okay if this isn't for you. I'm not expecting it to be. Nothing is really going to significantly change that you know right now. So, if you want to jump in with us, we'd love to have you, but if not, I totally get that too.” And just keeping that positive attitude about it because not everything is for everybody, and that's okay.
Wow! I want to talk to you for hours more because there's just so much to unpack here, but I think people can get a lot of the experience of what you have to offer over at FreshExchange.com. And go ahead and again join the email list; check out the community. Is the community just the Fresh Exchange Community, or is there a specific name for it that you have?
It's just the Fresh Exchange Community.
Cool. Then how do you get involved with that from your website?
If you go to FreshExchange.com/join, you can join the email list and be getting all sorts of information about when the next signup is. Every signup in opening starts at the beginning of the season. So, the next one's June 20th and then for summer, and then there's one in fall, which is in September, and then one in December.
I like that positioning. Do you let everybody in who wants to join, or do you have an application process?
For now, right now, yes. So far, so good. If it grows to a certain point, we might have to just in order to make sure that we can manage and do all of it. But for now, yeah.
Is it just you and your husband right now manning the community, or do you have any other help?
Nope, just us right now. Yeah. And we like keeping it that way.
Yeah. I mean, that's great. I mean, obviously, people listening to this know I also have a community on Circle as well. I absolutely love it, SPI Pro, and it's becoming the center of our business as well. It's just so neat and it's just great to hear that in a very specific niche like yours, it’s happening, and you go and you do research on other communities. I mean, there's communities for everything now, and I think people are migrating off of Facebook and are looking for their people, and us as creators like you can step forward and go, “Okay, let's all come together. Here's where it's going to be. Let's have these amazing conversations and connections.” And like you said, it's not for everybody. But for those who are in there, it just becomes something special.
It does. It's so fun. I find myself there all that time not just because it's part of my business, but because I just really love connecting with everybody in there. It's just exciting.
Right. I mean, those are your people too as much as it is for them and each other as well.
Megan, this has been super fantastic. Thank you so much for coming on today and sharing with us all the ins and outs of what's happening over there. If you could tell us one more time where can we go to learn more, and of course feel free to drop your socials in as well.
So, you can just head to FreshExchange.com. If you want to find out more about the community, sign up for our newsletter. You can go to FreshExchange.com/join. You can follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/freshexchange, all one word. And yeah, we hope to see you around.
Awesome. Thank you, Megan. Thanks for the inspiration, and hopefully we'll chat soon. Appreciate it.
Sounds good. Thanks, Pat.
All right. I hope you enjoyed that interview with Megan. Again, you can find her in the website at FreshExchange.com. A lot of people say, "Blogging is dead. Blogging is not like it used to be." And it's true, it's not like it used to be, but it's definitely not dead, and freshexchange.com is definitely a place where you can see a thriving blog with a community behind it and some amazing content. And I've just actually dove right in because I'm doing a lot of gardening and stuff with my kids, and she talks a lot about that as well. So, definitely and highly recommend it. So, FreshExchange.com.
And again, thank you so, so much for listening in today. I appreciate you. If you haven't subscribed yet, make sure you do so because we have a lot of great episodes coming up, including our Follow-Up Fridays. They're coming. They're coming back. So, we want to take a little bit of a break during the summer, hit episode 500, and you'll hear a Follow-Up Friday this coming Friday. We're back, where it's just you and me, and we're going to go deeper into some of the stuff that we talk about here in this episode with just us. So, looking forward to hanging out with you there, and if that's already available in episode 502, go ahead and click forward and I'll talk to you, just, again, you and me there.
If you'd like to get the links and the resources mentioned in this episode, all you have to do is head to SmartPassiveIncome.com/session501. Again, SmartPassiveIncome.com/session501. Cheers, take care, I appreciate you, and I'll see you in the next one. Peace out, and as always, Team Flynn for the win.
Thanks for listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast at smartpassiveincome.com. I'm your host, Pat Flynn. Our senior producer is Sara Jane Hess, our series producer is David Grabowski, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media. We'll catch you in the next session.