Today we’d like to introduce you to Megan Epley.
Megan, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I think where it all began my passion for art and the youth. My experience with my art career is that it gave me a regained identity. Something that it is hard to achieve especially for younger ones and for some odd reason I’ve had this passion to help our youth see their identity. See their value now and not when they’re an adult. Education prepares us for our future, but we also need to instill in our students that their purpose and identity is incredibly valuable right now.
With that guiding passion, things seemed to just take its course. During college is when I started working in education and volunteering with another art organization Free Arts. From then I was offered to teach art part-time at a charter school. Since I was just part-time, I found another part-time job as a marketing and development associate for the Phoenix Boys Choir. When I first started, it seemed so random, but it was one of the most impactful jobs of my life. I worked for some of the most respected and talented directors out there. It was also when the dream started.
I realized I somehow wanted to mix my teaching side with my administration side. I just had to wait & gain more knowledge to execute it because I really didn’t know what it was, but I just knew it was something. I then started working at a school full time as a math & reading intervention teacher as well as still teaching art. Through that time I began recognizing that the schools were missing a crucial developmental element to success, creativity. I began integrating art with my intervention groups, and students’ test scores began increasing dramatically, up to two grade levels.
This was when the dream was born. I formulated my program of creating a rigorous art curriculum infused with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) to help students understand their identity through gained creativity and academic success. I quit my full-time job and pitched our program to one school. Three years later, we’re still at that same school plus seven others.
Has it been a smooth road?
No, and yes. I think when you have a dream or just an idea it’s always difficult to fully articulate that and bring others on board. It took me a really long time to be confident enough to do it (start a company) as well. My biggest roadblocks when it comes to stARTem were myself.
When I first started off, I self-doubted myself every day. I went through the Seed Spot program (a social entrepreneurial accelerator program) where it ended with me presenting stARTem in front of 1,200 people at the Orpheum in Phoenix.
The two days leading up to that event I woke up to tissues covering my room because I would weep with self-doubt and possible terror every night. Dramatic I’m well aware, but that was my reality. My lack of self-confidence was my rockiest road.
But somehow I got the courage to do it, and thankfully I did for it was the biggest turning point in my life. It’s still not smooth because let’s face it, operating a business is hard. Especially in education where funding is limited, but the road has been smoother for I’ve just grown to gain confidence.
That confidence blooms when I put things in perspective and look back on the fact I actually did it. And through that regained strength I’ve been able to attract more team members and schools which is always a humbling, surreal experience creating that smoother road.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the stARTem story. Tell us more about the business.
I founded and developed our organization stARTem where we put the art in STEM. Our curriculum is a blend of rigorous art standards as well as STEM connections to offer a well-rounded education to lower-income students. We want to set our schools up for success as well where we provide it all. We provide our teacher, standards-aligned curriculum and all materials needed for projects.
I want stARTem to be known as an education company that is changing education by providing more creative tools and solutions. STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, art, math) is getting traction in education. It’s a hot topic, but it’s a hot topic with substance. It’s relevant, it’s impactful, it leads to emerging jobs and higher education opportunities, it brings identify.
stARTem sets itself apart from others because we provide all that is needed in one big box filled with all mentioned above. stARTem has been proven to increase student engagement within our classes as well as others but also has helped engage the whole school and community. We want to be innovative, collaborative and teamwork driven because our educational system in Arizona needs it. Our students need it.
When people “get it” and want to be involved with what we’re doing, then that is when I am most proud of our brand.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Watching some of my first stARTem students graduate high school. It was so special seeing them proud of themselves. With our lessons, it’s a process and it’s a challenge but when students have that turning point and complete a project with pride, it warms my hurt. So seeing them all ecstatic on graduation day with that similar process, I think my heart may have burst. stARTem has impacted over 1,000 students which are insanely wild to me. I’m fond of our talented, inspiring and rockstar teachers that have helped impact that number. They inspire me. And I think we can all agree that we’re proud of the courage our students have found to discover their talents, creativity and strengths. I know I certaintly am, they all make me proud. Including the ones that have started our alumni committee that’s organizing upcoming events and a big summer project that once it comes intro fruition, I think we all will look back with pride.
- Website: startemnow.com
- Phone: 602-617-6315
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @startemnow
- Facebook: stARTem
- Twitter: @startemnow