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Marketing Director
and Corporate Art Director, Whitaker Publishing

Megan Johnson’s recipe for success calls for hard work and talent, but also a dash of being in the right place at the right time. When Johnson was getting her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Missouri State University, she was also waiting tables at Galloway Station. “A group of 417 Magazine employees came to happy hour regularly,” Johnson says. “They knew I was studying graphic design, so they told me about a job opening at the magazine. I set up an interview and got the job.”

That was more than six years ago, and now Johnson has moved from an advertising designer to the marketing director and corporate art director. In this role, she leads the magazine’s marketing team in successfully managing 10 large-scale magazine events every year, one which was recently nominated for a national award.  “Each year, FOLIO: Magazine and min magazine have the FAME Awards, which is an annual competition honoring the best magazine events across the country,” Johnson says. “For their 2012 awards, we entered The List Party, which I was the lead on, and we were a finalist in the Best Regional Magazine Event category with the likes of Southern Living and other respected titles. We took home an honorable mention.”

Doing design work and a people-oriented job like marketing is a rare combination that suits Johnson. “I love being creative, and I’m a people person,” she says. “I love working with coworkers and clients and being at events when I get to mingle with readers.” Additionally, Johnson volunteers with Junior League of Springfield, serving as the chair of the Junior League Pitter Pat 5K/10K & 1-Mile Fun Run in 2012 and 2013.

Where Johnson goes next at 417  Magazine is not decided yet. “Where I am now is never where I thought I would be,” she says. “When I’m here six years from now, it will probably be in a job that hasn’t been  created yet.” —J.H.

 

417 Magazine: How would you define the secret to success?
Megan Johnson: Loving what you do and having a positive attitude. I don’t wake up and dread starting my day or dread going to work. I think having a positive attitude keeps you successful, because you are always looking ahead and not worrying about or dwelling on the past.

417: How did you end up at your current job/profession?
M.J.: Can I say Galloway Station? It’s kind of a funny story. I was working through college as a server there, and a group of employees from 417 were regulars, so I got to know them. When a design job came available (they knew what I was studying), I was asked to come in for an interview.

417: Where do you find passion to do what you do?
M.J.: I’m a people pleaser. I wouldn’t say I am a push over, that’s definitely not the case, but I like to do a good job, I like receiving recognition for that. I am also a very social person, so being in a profession and involved in a non-profit where I am able to meet and work with so many different people on a daily basis gives me motivation. I also like to enjoy life, so that keeps me passionate to work hard.

417: Are you single/married, and do you have any kids?
M.J.: Married for six and half years to a wonderful guy named Tim. We don’t have kids yet, except our fur babies Goose and Wyatt, but I am going to lean on him when we have pre-teens. He’s a middle school teacher, not many people can handle that!

417: What are your hobbies (when you’re not working)?
M.J.: I have a newfound love for reading. Sounds strange, but even as a little child, I preferred to be read to vs. reading myself. That has changed over the past year–I’ve read 17 books! I like to craft too. Not on a random Tuesday, but if I am throwing a shower or a friend is having a baby, watch out! The craftiness comes out swinging. I also love going to the movies, and one of my favorite things to do is grab an ice-cold adult beverage with my girlfriends on a patio somewhere. Is that considered a hobby?

417: Are you involved in any charitable organizations?
M.J.: Junior League of Springfield and the Appelquist Foundation

Junior League of Springfield, Chair of the Pitter Pat 5K/10K and One-mile Fun Run committee (2 years). My Junior League career began in 2010-2011 where I served as a New Member and also a member of the Done in a Day committee. As a New Member, I was required to volunteer at our annual Pitter Pat Race. I instantly knew Pitter Pat was a place I could plug into; I just didn’t realize how soon I would get that opportunity.

In the Fall of 2011 I was named the assistant chair to the Pitter Pat committee and while this took on more responsibility I would still have a year to learn the ins and outs of the committee and the event since I didn’t serve on that committee the previous year. That winter the chair of the committee had to step down for personal reasons and I was promoted to be the chair. I had to step in to this leadership role with less than four months until the race. It took a few weeks to get my head wrapped around everything that needed to be done, but I had confidence I could pull off a successful event. There was a bit of a learning curve because I had never even run at 5K at this point, but I was determined to make it a success. I really stepped up to show my new committee confidence that even with the change in the guard that we had an awesome team in place and that we would put on a successful event, and we did! Our 2012 race had 120 more runners than the 2011 race and we raised just shy of $25,000. That is a 33% increase from the year before. If the numbers aren’t enough I heard countless praises from League members, sustainers and community members about how organized and enjoyable the event was.
In regards to that, I could have easily stepped down and considered that my chair year, but I decided to chair Pitter Pat for another year, this year! I wanted to make sure the person coming into that position behind me felt as prepared as possible. So this year I am working hard to delegate tasks to not only my assistant but also my whole committee. By the time this issue comes out the event will have passed, but we are well above our sponsorship goal and confident this year will be another increase on money raised and given back to the community.

I am also involved in the Appelquist Foundation. This foundation started because a dear friend’s father was diagnosed with the early on-set of Alzheimer’s and we have seen the affect that this disease has had on their family. A group of close family friends approached the family to see if there was anything that they could do to assist the family with coping with the many stresses that came with this diagnosis. Therefore, it was decided that an annual Golf Tournament could be beneficial to the family and their many financial needs. In July of this past year the golf tournament has now become a memorial tournament for Jim Appelquist, but the tournament and awareness for the cause continues.

Aside from these two organization I honestly it feels like I am involved in 33 different charitable organization because at work I manage our charitable giving back to the 417-land community. One thing we pride ourselves on is being hyper local and supporting even the smallest non-profit. I work with more than 33 non-profit organizations on more than 47 community events. These non-profits know that our readers are their donors and they need as much marketing help as possible on very limited funds. I work with them to determine our level of giving and then determine their benefits of 417 being a sponsor. It goes above and beyond just an ad in the magazine, even though that is a key piece. They can use this space as promotion before the event or as a sponsor thank you after the event. I make sure our editor knows which events need to be highlighted in our Get Out and Give section highlighting charity events in the magazine. I ensure our digital team has the information to include the event(s) on our 417mag.com calendar and in our e-newsletters. I make sure our People Pics team gets scheduled and attends the events so we can spotlight the event in our People Pics section in the back of the magazine and online. I am always available as a sounding board too, if a company is in need of any marketing guidance.

417: What’s your favorite thing about your career?
M.J.: Getting to use my creativity. From branding all of 417 Magazine, 417 Home and 417 Bride’s marketing materials to planning events that thousands of 417-landers attend, I am always getting to be creative.

417: What’s your favorite thing about working in 417-land?
M.J.: Our openness to connect. It doesn’t matter if I’ve met someone through work, Junior League or through a friend, if you see them out and about, they are more then likely going to say hello.

417: If you could go back and give the high school version of yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
M.J.: No matter what life throws your way, just keep your head up and keep moving forward. It will all work itself out.

417: What was your “dream job” at age 5?
M.J.: I ask my mom this question and she said, “You wanted to be in control.” I guess things don’t change! The first thing I can remember wanting to be (but I wasn’t as young as 5) is a marine biologist. I loved dolphins!

417: List three traits that define a successful career:
M.J.: Positive. Motivated. Detail-oriented.

417: Why are you a 20 under 30?
M.J.: I’m a one-woman machine. I plan. I design. I organize. I’m reliable. I delegate. I just get stuff done. I’d say that I accomplish more during a workday than an average person. I successfully manage 10 large-scale magazine events (with the help of my marketing team, of course) a year, while managing my team, work with our area non-profits on our giving, volunteer for the Junior League in a chair position and still make time for friends and family. I’m busy, and I like it that way.

417: What projects do you have on the horizon at your job that you’re excited about?
M.J.: 417 Magazine’s Live Well Fitness Fest & Expo. This is a first-year event, which is always a daunting task. I knew that the ladies in 417-land would love an event like this. Getting together with their girlfriends for a day of trying new fitness classes, getting tips on living a healthier life and getting motivated to finally get started in whatever journey you are striving for. I’m excited to see how our community is really embracing our wellness message with this event, and I can’t wait for it to grow ever bigger next year.

417: What completed project are you most proud of?
M.J.: ANSWER 1:
Each year, Folio Magazine and min Magazine have the FAME Awards, which is an annual competition honoring the best magazine events across the country. For their 2012 awards we entered The List Party, which I was the lead on. For this event, we transformed Rick’s Automotive into a chic party space for a party for 400. In February, we found out that we are a finalist in the Best Regional Magazine Event category. In our category, we are battling against Our State (North Carolina’s State magazine), Sauce Magazine, Sunset Magazine and Southern Living. In other categories you see the likes of US Weekly, Teen Vogue and Sports Illustrated, just to name a few. This is such an honor to even be nominated, and I am so proud. I was able to attend the awards breakfast in New York City on March 12, where we were awarded an honorable mention. 

ANSWER 2:
I am very proud of is bringing a Whiskey Fest to the Midwest. This was an idea seen at CRMA from Philadelphia Magazine. Joan Whitaker ( 417 Magazine owner) was the first to recognize the potential for the event in our area, and the ball started to roll. I not only developed a look and feel for the event, but I secured more that 19 tasting tables comprised of more than 130 whiskey, bourbon and Scotch brands in four short months. This first-time event in January 2012 had around 100.

Our second annual Whiskey Fest was in January and we increased the event to 28 tasting tables with more than 195 brands. We had 374 attendees, a 274% increase! 

The most fulfilling thing is that I can see an idea and bring it to the table at work, where I am encouraged to move forward and then bring it to our community. Other markets saw the potential and interest in this topic, because St. Louis Magazine just launched Whiskey in the Winter, an event this December modeled after the 417 Magazine Whiskey Fest.

Fill in the following blanks with five words or less:

417: _____ makes life worth living.
M.J.: Friends and family close by

417: A day at work wouldn’t be complete without _____
M.J.: Joan leaving something in the office and coming back in to get it.

417: Ten years from now, I hope _____
M.J.: I’m a mom.

417: If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would _____
M.J.: buy a piece of land to build my dream home on

417: The best part about being a 20 under 30 is _____
M.J.: getting to celebrate with everyone at the party (April 25, Highland Springs Country Club, 7 p.m.)! Sorry, shameless plug.

 

Celebrate with the Class of 2013 on Thursday, April 25 at Highland Springs Country Club. 

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