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40 Under 40 - Class of 2019
Business Observer Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 7 months ago

Erin Meagher, 36

CEO and Founder, Beneficial Blends
by: Traci McMillan Beach Contributing writer

When Erin Meagher was a high school teacher more than a decade ago, teaching 18-year-olds accounting, computer and business classes, her favorite subject was entrepreneurship — it always got her excited. So much so that her students started to ask her why she was in the classroom with them instead of directing her enthusiasm into starting her own company.

Even going back to when she was little, Meagher used to tell her mom: “'I just want to be grown up and go to work now,'” she says. “I’ve always had a work ethic and a desire to build something, to do something. I was born with that side, and I can’t turn it off.” 

Meagher did start something. In 2009, Meagher found an untapped opportunity — and something she was passionate about — in coconut oil. At the time, coconut oil looked like Crisco — “just a lump in a jar,” Meagher says. “No one was giving it any love or attention.”

Meagher found only a couple brands in the marketplace, and no one talked about sourcing or quality. She started Kelapo Coconut to produce sustainable, fair trade coconut oil sourced from Sri Lanka.

That company became Beneficial Blends, which has morphed into one of the region’s fastest-growing businesses, recognized in the Inc. 5000 five years in a row.  Now also producing private label oils (including coconut, avocado, CBD oil and more), company officials project the 60-employee firm will do $20 million in revenue this year.

But success hasn’t come easy. Meagher learned a lot of lessons fast: In the beginning, it was how to import food in the U.S., how to work with organic facilities, how to package, how to trademark, how to build a website and more.

“As you grow, bigger things become bigger problems,” she says. “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” Money is always an issue, Meagher adds. “I vastly underestimated how much it would take to be up and running.”

Meagher says she didn’t have a mortgage or kids to make her think twice before taking a risk when she first started. (She and her husband now have three children.) But most of all, she was and remains passionate about the product. “Of all the lessons learned, if you’re not passionate about something, when you hit roadblocks, itʼs hard to keep going.”

That passion has kept her going — from pitching to Publix and being shot down the first year, to making it into three stores the next, to 100 stores the next and even more the following. That passion also keeps her in check. “Tons of enthusiasm is great,” she says, “but execution is where people can fail.”

ON THE RECORD: Erin Meagher

Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland

Years on the Gulf Coast: 20

Marital status/children: Married with three children

Alma mater/degree: North Carolina State: Bachelor of Science in business and marketing education

Where is the best place to network? LinkedIn

What's the best business lesson you've ever learned? The reward for solving small problems is getting to solve big problems. 

What's your top tip for being productive? Consistency and routine. Show up for work every day, and make it a habit of getting things done.  

What's the weirdest job you've ever had? The most boring was putting back periodicals on the library shelves during college. 

What community group or organization are you most involved with? Locally, it's the Tampa EDC.

If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? A small food stand where we only sold popcorn

What's your favorite off-hours activity? Relaxing and going to the beach

What's your favorite board game or video game? Playing a lot of Go Fish right now with my 2 year old

What's the top item on your bucket list? Grow my business to $100 million in revenue

Where is your happy place? My office on a Saturday morning is so quiet. I have time to myself to reflect on all the craziness happening around me, whether it's at home or at the office. 

What's your favorite podcast? NPR's "How I Built This"

Who/what is your favorite musical artist/band? Don't have a favorite

Who would play you in a movie about your life? Jennifer Lawrence

What was your first album/tape cassette/CD? I remember playing Garth Brooks tape on repeat every night when I was supposed to be going to bed

What was your first concert? Can't remember.  Last concert was Queen with Adam Lambert

What's one song that will get you out on the dance floor? It's not really the song, more like if there's enough alcohol

What's your favorite karaoke song? "Dancing Queen" — ABBA

What instrument/role would you play in a band? Groupie

Please describe yourself in three words. Tenacious, driven and resourceful




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