University of Denver, Clinical Social Work
Megan Gage’s current role started out innocently enough: a former social worker, she quit her full-time job to tackle the 24/7 job of a stay-at-home mom. However, her story quickly takes a turn for the unexpected, as she found herself building a professional hair care line for infants and children named Hot Tot. Within a year of launching her hair care line, Megan was cast for ABC’s Shark Tank and hit the proverbial jackpot, receiving an investment from billionaire Mark Cuban on the show. (Wow!)
Fast-forward to present day and Megan and her artistic team have styled for clients like Target, Little Marc Jacobs and Diesel Kids. Although she never envisioned herself thriving in the business world, she’s done just that; eagerly delving into the myriad roles of an entrepreneur for a product she believes in. “If I can do this, anyone can!” she writes.
Success finds those who are tenacious, patient and full of optimism. Have the courage to be creative and the audacity to be different.
How did you discover your current job?
My company was born in 2009, shortly after my son. I used to mix baby lotion and pomade to give him a simple curl. Anytime I would take him out people went crazy; continuously stopping my family to inquire about his stylish hairdo and what was used to create it.
After about six months of ongoing attention, I jokingly told my husband that someone would be “brilliant to create a hair product for babies” (with absolutely no intention of being that someone). He saw potential in the idea and began encouraging me to explore product development. I had recently quit my full-time job as a renal social worker to be a stay-at-home mom and was certainly not seeking a new project. However, I stumbled upon an article that detailed dangerous ingredients commonly used in children’s products and quickly became passionate about creating a safe and luxurious product for moms like me.
What responsibilities do you have in your role?
I wear a lot of hats, which keeps my days challenging and full. Like many who have started a business from scratch, I know every single component of my company. I’m involved in everything: product development, sales, marketing, customer relations and day-to-day logistics. No two days are exactly alike.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
I’m enjoying myself so much, it’s difficult to think of my journey as a job. I became a social worker years ago because I was inspired by the idea that my efforts could have a positive impact on the lives of others. Conversely, Hot Tot is advocating for change by offering safe hair products made specifically for kid’s hair in a way that moms can get excited about. My brand is educating parents on the importance of quality products and challenging beauty industry standards, two things I believe to be beneficial for the health and safety of kids. Though running a business was not the initial vision I had for my life, it feels strangely familiar. My goals are the same, though the execution is a bit different.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
I’m constantly thinking about new ways to orient the salon industry to adopt the idea that ALL salons should carry a kid’s line, even those who don’t service children. Most have a large portion of clients with kids and thus, a built-in user-base.
My theory enables businesses to increase their revenues without competing with primary product lines or performing additional services. Though it makes perfect sense to me, it’s very difficult to convince an entire industry to think differently. I’m always plotting new ways to share my concept with others.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Like many entrepreneurs, my life doesn’t have much balance. But I’ve learned to embrace the chaos and am grateful to have such interest in my beloved business. I have a family and try to remember that my kids won’t be young forever. There are times when I step away from the office to spend time with them, even though it isn’t convenient. The work is always there when I return. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Was there ever a moment in your career when you thought, “I made it!” What was it?
There’s still much work to be done before my little company becomes a global brand, though I believe we’re well on our way! I was thrilled to be cast for ABC’s Shark Tank within a year of launching my line and shocked to receive an investment from billionaire Mark Cuban on the show. My artistic team has styled for mainstream clients like Target and JCPenney and high-end clients like Little Marc Jacobs and Diesel Kids. We’re the first professional children’s hair product line to play an active role in fashion and are commonly used for ad campaigns and editorial work. Slowly but surely, Hot Tot is establishing its place as a key contributor to the evolution of kid’s style.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Make passion your master; allow possibility to feed your soul. Accept all things with gratitude, as lessons often come disguised as hardship. Enjoy the ride. Nothing worth having comes easy.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
Failure is inevitable without a passion that most will perceive as insanity. Success finds those who are tenacious, patient and full of optimism. Have the courage to be creative and the audacity to be different. Authenticity is key.
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
Do your best and follow your heart. Things have a way of working out exactly as they’re supposed to.
What is the ultimate goal for your company?
There was a time when hair products for men didn’t exist, though companies like American Crew legitimized the concept by finding success. I hope to do the same with kid’s hair products — immature hair is structurally different than mature strands.
Furthermore, small bodies are far more vulnerable to harsh ingredients and require products that are safe, gentle and effective. I dream of a day when products for kids are as common as products for men and believe that Hot Tot will be the top-shelf line in this scenario.