Megan Megale loves a challenge – especially when it’s one of her own making.
“The greatest asset that we have out there as an agency is that we go into areas where we are unexpected.”
For the Northern Virginia mom, who is co-owner of DM Public Relations, the unexpected can take all sorts of turns on any given day. She and her business partner, Nanette Di Falco, have a small but high profile roster in their boutique firm. Representing a range of businesses, TV personalities, and a few sports notables, Megale admits she refuses to take ‘no’ for an answer, strategically placing her clients in professionally beneficial partnerships. “We have to have a story. It’s not always a story that you bring to us. People will call us and tell us what their products and their goals are. We are another set of eyes.”
But Megale had a different vision for herself several years ago – and is the product of reinvention. Prior to her life as a PR expert, she was a traveling medical sale representative, juggling motherhood and career. She had to put the brakes on everything when her daughter Shea was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or SMA. The rare and destructive illness affects the brain and spinal chord, deteriorating a person’s muscles and their mobility.
With the devastating news, Megan wanted to dedicate all her time to her daughter, but couldn’t afford to quit – particularly since she had two other children in college. “I needed to continue working financially, and it was hard for me to do so.”
She purchased a guide dog named Mercer for her daughter. The dog became a tremendous source of therapy for Shea, particularly when the young girl would write stories in her journal about all the magical things Mercer could do.
Megale was aware her daughter wrote regularly in this journal, and admits that one day she let curiosity get the best of her. “And like any mom, I read her journal,” she laughs.
She was surprised and inspired by her daughter’s creativity. “Through Mercer, she was living vicariously through him, and imagining what it would be like to swim, ice skate, etc.”
She decided to turn Shea’s journal into a book, and create a companion stuffed animal modeled after Mercer. Megale recruited her brother as the book’s illustrator. With manuscript and drawings in hand, she traveled to New York and knocked on the doors of publishers and toy stores. She finally got a break with FAO Schwartz.
There were meetings for more than a month, and finally, the CEO of the famed toy store gave her the space to pitch again. She remembers explaining to him the importance of this cause. “I said, ‘We just need a home.’ And the CEO said, ‘Well, you’ve found it.’ I walked out with a deal.”
The victory put Megale, Shea, and Mercer on the map, including on the Today Show. “In a three minute segment, we sold 34,000 books.”
But Megale’s perseverance also opened up the door to another opportunity. The then VP of marketing at FAO Schwartz, Nanette Di Falco, was so impressed with her spark and drive, she offered Megan the chance to work with her and develop their own firm. They created DM Publc Relations three years ago, just as the recession was starting to hit.
Creating a business hasn’t been easy – particularly during these rough economic times, as companies are struggling. “We are the first to get cut. Our budget is not a cheap one. If you can barely make payroll, we are the first to get cut.”
She adds, “I have always been very used to having a paycheck. But that is what motivates me to stay on the phone.”
Her new position has also allowed her to work from home, telecommuting and making occasional trips to New York, where her counterpart is located. She says the time she has been able to spend with her daughter is priceless. “Every tragedy brings upon a gift. I had to fight harder to get it, and I appreciate it more.”