Meredith is an entrepreneur, community leader, and outdoor adventure. She is part of Geeks in the Woods, a new wave of pioneers building technology companies from remote, yet connected Valdez, Alaska. Meredith is modernizing how grant writing is taught. Her expertise has been featured in Fast Company, and her book, How to Write a Grant: Become a Grant Writing Unicorn, is a #1 bestseller for nonprofit fundraising and grants on Amazon.
Meredith has secured over $42 million in grant funding, and her students have secured over $250 million – a number that grows daily.
(I am about to really launch my personal YouTube channel with more videos targeted at women entrepreneurs – so bare with me as it isn’t much now!)
Can you give me an overview of learngrantwriting.org?
Hi there! Learngrantwriting.org teaches movers and shakers how to write winning grant applications. It is an online experience to learn wherever you are, whenever you want.
YouTube video about writing and launching a book:
Where did the idea for learngrantwriting.org come from?
I recall vividly. I had quit my job as a full-time grant writing consultant completely burned out. I had starry aspirations of starting a software company. Never mind, I didn’t have a clue how to code. Less than four months into my self-employment journey, I realized that my business idea was fundamentally flawed.
I didn’t have a clear problem to solve. I saw several problems, but not a single one that was painful enough to warrant being paid for a solution.
I grew up on a cattle ranch in Wyoming. I went home to help my family with the calving season (when the babies are born!). It was in the time spent outside with only my thoughts (and the cows) for a company that I realized I should teach grant writing to others.
I had taught several grant writing workshops and had coached people over coffee, but I wasn’t providing a full transformation. Our poor brains can only soak up so much information at one time.
We need space to let it marinate, and we need to apply what we learn with hands-on experience.
I was further inspired because I learned to grant writing through trial and error. I received permission multiple times to take formal training, but all the options were so…well old school. I couldn’t get excited about them, and they were expensive.
At the confluence of those experiences, I decided to create learngrantwriting.org, where we modernize how grant writing is taught. The powerful secondary benefit is helping our audience build fulfilling careers that are driving positive change in their communities.
What was your age when you started your company, and what makes you be your own boss?
I have had several businesses over the years. Everyone should have a side-hustle consulting business to learn the basics of business. My current business, however, is where I have truly taken the training wheel off.
I started the company in January 2018 with $4,000 in savings. I scraped through year one, paying myself a meager $24,000. It wasn’t much, but it was profitable. In year two, I did $120k in the first six months, before turning off the consulting spigot to focus on publishing a book and launching the online course. We are on track to hit $350k this year.
I have since grown to have three full-time staff and five part-time subcontractors (several of which I will hire in the future). It’s an adventure of a lifetime. It’s fulfilling beyond words. I work hard. And I often work. But it does not feel like work!
When you chart your own destiny, you get to make each move count. Or rather, you MUST make each move count. The feedback loops are tight. If I’m not offering genuine value to the world, then I don’t get paid. If someone isn’t pulling their weight, we have to let them go quickly. As a startup, pouring all your earnings into growth, you have to make each move count for survival.
What makes me my own boss? Responsibility to self and others.
If I want the lifestyle freedom I have, I have to be extremely responsible about how I spend my time and resources. As I have grown, others have joined in the risk of an early-stage startup because they believe in my vision and leadership style. I have a responsibility to them to make the business as successful as possible, so they too can have the career and lifestyle they want.
Since a child, you knew that writing is your only love, or do you want to pursue something else?
Nope. I was a mediocre writer at best. The only definite was knowing I would be my own boss. I had an inspiring English teacher in High School that brought in several business leaders. I was enthralled by the lives they had built for themselves by seeing the opportunity and taking action.
At my core, I want to build businesses that create opportunities for women. My next business will be in high-density housing development. When you’re a boss, you can be a boss of anything you set your mind to.
What does a typical day of a writer look like, and how do you make it productive?
Great question! I start every day with my three priorities. I complete the first priority before opening the email. I take a song-dance break between major activities (from MadFit’s YouTube channel!).
I also set three priorities for the week. I look at those days to make sure my daily tasks are in alignment.
This means that my inbox can take on a life of its own. I’m okay with that. I rather get deep work done that moves my business and life forward than have a perfectly manicured inbox.
Do you enjoy yoga and exercise? If yes, then does it help in brainstorming the ideas?
Absolutely! I live in Valdez, Alaska, where I work remotely.
I work in a tent during the summer. I love to let the breeze pass through or hear the rain. I pick salmonberries when I need a break.
I have a trail that I walk 2-3 times a week. I know it so well I don’t have to think about where I’m going and can get into a meditative state thinking about my business. I carry a journal to jot down ideas.
It is important that entrepreneurs find ways to bake in reflective thought every day. I also journal and highly recommend that practice.
For brainstorming ideas, one of the best sources I have for that is my partner and his twin brother. Finding people, you can surround yourself with that are also creative, will train your mind to generate a high volume of ideas and enjoy riffing on them.
What does success look like to you?
Hitting $1M in revenue per year. Only 2% of women-owned businesses hit this threshold. I will get there, and I’m documenting the path carefully. I want others to know they can get there as well. It takes breaking down self-limiting beliefs and growing into a newer and better version of yourself every six months.
What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs?
And then focus some more.
Oh, it is hard. Even when you think you are focused, it’s so easy to sway here and there.
I know that I’m “leaving money on the table” with my business. I could have a membership for my die-hard fans. But before I take action, I remind myself:
One Conversion Tool.
That means, I must focus on one ideal customer, with one product (the online course), through one main distribution channel (SEO), and one conversion tool (a webinar), for one year, or until hitting 1,000 customers. (Kudos to Dan Martell of SaaS Academy for that tip).
My #1 bit of advice for other female entrepreneurs is to resist the temptation to do it all. Focus. Focus on laser intensity. Doing so will be your competitive advantage.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an inspiring writer?
The one habit I attribute my productivity to be listing three projects per day. Since we already covered that, I’ll offer another tip.
I have this system called the “Point System.” I have a laminated sheet with habits I strive to achieve. It has things like getting 8 hours of sleep, taking my vitamins, stretching, etc. I start the morning by adding up my points from the previous day. I then journal a half-page that includes how I slept, how my body feels, the exercise I got, what I ate, what I’m thankful for, and my priority for the day.
If you want pictures or a copy of this point system, let me know! It works beautifully because I don’t care if one day I stay out late, eat junk food, and have a few cocktails. What matters is if, over time, the trend line for healthy habits is increasing. Typically, when I see it tanking, I know that I need to take corrective actions (like say no to more things) and get my healthy habits back into practice.