Mom blogger, writer, photographer and activist Megan Peters, Founder of August Light Studio is the first Millennial #Germinder20 #PowerofPinkHonoree. She’s also the first internal Germinder Honoree. She joined Germinder + Associates as an intern and quickly rose to become an indispensable account executive. We’ve subsequently worked together as she launched her own firm. We now celebrate her Honoree designation during the Kansas City Global Animal Health Week, a fitting tribute to a brilliant young woman making her own mark in Kansas City – Lea-Ann Germinder
When we interview veterinarians, they usually have decided early in life to become a veterinarian. How about you? When and how did you choose to study journalism and ultimately go into public relations?
I knew fairly early on in my studies that I wanted to go into journalism, and as I pursued that degree from the University of Kansas, I found myself drawn to public relations. I really liked the idea of working with brands to help them put their best foot forward, and I felt the skills I learned as a public relations professional would be imperative no matter what career field I ultimately ended up in. That has been true! As I have built my own business and worked in advocacy, I’ve found my marketing and public relations skills to be some of the most important keys to success.
You started your Crazy Bananas blog in 2004 while you were in college. How did that come about and what was the appeal to you?
I jokingly call myself a “blogging dinosaur” because I’ve been doing it for so long! My blog was created initially as a way for me to stay in touch with friends and family while I studied abroad during my senior year of college. Blogs were very new at the time (this was pre-Facebook!) and I used it as an online journal of my travels. When I returned to the U.S. and graduated from university, I kept blogging about my life as a 20-something getting out into the real world.
I have always loved to write and share, and I enjoyed having an outlet that was all mine. It’s been a huge blessing, as it gave me the ability to hone my writing voice and an online presence I certainly wouldn’t have had otherwise. It’s also led to freelance writing and collaboration opportunities that have helped grow my business and my reach. It’s also really wonderful to have an online journal of my life, through getting my first job, getting married, having my children, starting my business…it’s been such a journey and I’m very grateful!
Do you blog about your pets now?
I don’t often blog about my pets, but they do have their own Instagram! We have two awesome rescues, a Rottweiler mix named Teddy and a cat named Pickles. They are a pretty funny duo, because he’s a 100-pound beast and she is a petite kitty, but they are best buds. We started the Instagram right after we brought Pickles home, because it was so funny watching this tiny kitten terrorize this giant dog! You can follow them @teddyandpickles on Instagram.
You joined Germinder + Associates as an intern and then were promoted to an Account Executive. We’ve worked together on and off for years. What is it that you remember most about starting in the public relations business?
I remember being very intimidated as I interviewed for positions in the public relations industry! Many of my friends went off to new cities and were working for huge firms, but I knew that wasn’t going to be a good fit for me.
At Germinder, I was able to work on big clients, but with an intimate team of people who became some of my best friends. I enjoyed having the ability to do varying tasks, from pitching media to helping design websites to cultivating social media strategy. I was able to grow a plethora of skills that I still use today!
Tell us how you transitioned from public relations to photography and particularly about your documentary work.
I fell in love with photography in 2006, when I was gifted my first DSLR camera. It started out as a hobby, but then slowly I began taking photos of family and friends. In 2008, I booked my first photography client and started shooting family portraits on the side of my full time job in marketing. In 2015, I officially transitioned to photography full time. In 2017, I opened August Light Studio, which is focused solely on photography and videography for brands and businesses. This has been a dream project, because it combines my knowledge of PR and marketing with my passion for photography.
Along with my business clients, I also enjoy working with non-profits and using my photography to bring awareness to social issues. In 2015, my images of domestic violence survivors from a joint project with the Willow Domestic Violence Center were chosen to be featured in “The Phoenix Project,” a community art project.
In 2016, I traveled to Greece where I photographed an informal school for refugee children inside a Syrian refugee camp. These images were featured in a First Fridays Art Show, which raised funds for the informal school and for the local group, KC for Refugees. Being able to use my art to help others is one of the greatest gifts.
You are a mom blogger and you are also a media contributor on parenting. Is it difficult to share your real-life experiences in these mediums? How do you deal with privacy issues?
This is an ongoing conversation for me, because I have grown up as a mother as the Internet has grown up! When I first started blogging about parenting, there was no Facebook and it was a relatively small community. Now it’s endless! I am fairly open on my blog and online, but I think it’s important that we all create boundaries that make sense for us. People may think they are seeing every detail of my life, when in reality they are only seeing about 10 percent.
As my kids have gotten older, I am more conscious about sharing their lives and stories online. Now if I want to share something about them, I ask for their input. Sometimes they don’t want me to post or share something, and I absolutely respect that. I want to help teach them good boundaries too; as I’m sure social media will be a part of their lives eventually.
Talk about your refugee camp experience. What brought that about?
My best friend from childhood is doing her PhD on education for refugee children, and had traveled quite extensively to refugee camps in the Middle East and Europe. However, she had found difficulty in accessing photos she could use with her work that really depicted what was happening in these camps, without exploiting the people who lived there.
When we were chatting about her dilemma, she asked me if I’d consider traveling with her to Greece to photograph this camp. As a journalist, artist, and activist, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. The informal school within the camp was completely created by volunteers, who came from all over to help these children in a horrible situation.
These volunteers helped train the adults in the camp to teach, and they ran classes in subjects such as math, art, language and more. I was struck by how intelligent and kind the children were and how hard everyone in the camp was working in order to make a bad situation a little bit better. I also learned quite a bit about the endless hoops that these refugee families, who were displaced by no fault of their own, had to go through just to try and get placed in another country.
It was heartbreaking, seeing so many mothers, just like myself, who wanted nothing but a better life for their families. After I returned home, I was able to secure the permission to display a number of the photos at an art show in Kansas City in order to host a fundraiser for the camp. It was an honor and a privilege, and an experience I will never forget. You can read more and see photos from the camp here.
What is the most interesting writing work you are doing now? How is it different than your photography work?
My freelance writing work is very different from my photography work, in that it’s more about me and my life! In the past I’ve written for sites like Scary Mommy and the Kansas City Moms Blog, sharing my perspectives on motherhood. I actually have a very exciting new project that will be coming out in October, but I can’t share more than that! People will have to stay tuned!
Let’s talk about your activist work. How did that come about?
I have been an activist and advocate for most of my life, but it’s definitely become a much bigger part of my life in the past few years. I had spent a few years away from activism in order to focus on my career and family, but as my kids grew older, I found I had a bit more time and energy to give.
In 2017, I was one of the founding members of a non-partisan political action committee (PAC) called Education First Shawnee Mission that is comprised of moms in my school district. We came together because we wanted to elect more pro-public education candidates to elected office. It’s been quite a journey, and we are in the midst of our second election cycle right now! It is nice to be a part of something that affects me so deeply, as the parent of two public school children, and to work at a hyper-local level. We’ve really been able to affect change by staying local and focused. I also love that we are made up of moms who simply wanted to make a change…never underestimate the power of moms!
In addition, I’m the Congressional District Leader in Kansas District 03 for the ONE organization. ONE is a global movement of people who are working to eradicate extreme poverty and preventable disease, and we work by pressuring our politicians to vote for bills in Congress that help the poorest people in the world. I’ve traveled to Washington DC twice to lobby my legislators for ONE, and I also visit their local offices on a regular basis. ONE is non-partisan, and it’s been really nice to see work done on both sides of the aisle, something that you don’t always see in politics.
What is the most important message you want to get across to the public about being an activist?
I have heard many people say they want to get involved, but they don’t know where to start or they don’t feel like they have enough experience. I say, “Just start!” I think much of the time we believe we have less experience than we actually do. There are so many ways you can use your gifts to help others. Start by reaching out to other involved people in your community and seeing if they can point you in the right direction. And don’t ever feel like you’re not experienced enough to make a difference! We all have talents to share!
Have you done any activist work with pet organizations?
I love working with animal rescue organizations because it’s something my family can do together. My daughter has helped me walk dogs at shelters and we have also fostered pets. I am a big fan of using your talents to help organizations, so I’ve really enjoyed volunteering in the past with KC Pet Project, the largest no-kill shelter in the Kansas City area which is why I chose to designate the Germinder20 Power of Pink Honoree donation for them. KC Pet Project uses local volunteer photographers to take photos of the animals in the shelter, giving them adorable images that they can use when they post the animals on the web and social media. This gives them a much better shot of being adopted. I think if anyone wants to get involved in volunteering at an animal shelter, they just need to reach out to the shelters. They can ALWAYS use more help, and you may have a unique talent that they can utilize to assist these awesome animals!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I think one of the biggest mistakes new public relations professionals make is getting frustrated with their positions or with their career and feeling stuck. It’s incredibly important to remember none of us have any idea where we will end up!
If you would have told me in my 20’s that one day I’d be an entrepreneur with my own creative business, I would’ve laughed in your face! But every skill I picked up along the way helped me to get where I am today. I also believe in supporting other women along the way.
I know I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of women and mentors (like you, Lea-Ann!) who have stuck their necks out for me, trusted me with a big project or recommended me to others. If we are fortunate enough to be able to grow and thrive in our careers, it is imperative that we pass that support along to the next generation.
Your creativity, solid work ethic and attention detail have always made it easy to hire and recommend you Megan. Thank you for all you’ve done and continue to do to help Germinder + Associates, your clients and inspire others. You are amazing!
Megan Peters Social Media
Instagram – @crazy_bananas
Twitter – @crazybananas
Facebook – Crazy Bananas Creative Studio
August Light Studio Social Media
Instagram – @augustlightstudio
Twitter – @auglightstudio
Facebook – August Light Studio