atlanta lifestyle photographer | meet morgan ashley of eat here atl
Sidenote (because there’s always one): I would've had this up sooner, but I saved the original draft of this post to my macbook’s desktop (or no reason other than not wanting to get up to get my external hard drive) and the next day, after 7 years, my macbook decided to go on to glory…taking with it my first draft of Morgan Ashley, girlboss. Moment of silence for both.
Now let’s meet my lovely friend Morgan!
In February, I met Morgan for a semi-second a few minutes after settling into my booth at Ladybird with my girlfriend. The magic of instagram hashtags connected me to Morgan once again a few days later, and there we became instant friends. After learning that she was the founder of this super cool social media account for Eat Here Atlanta, and both of us always down to make a new friend, we decided to meet up and talk business, Atlanta, and everything girlboss.
I'm so happy to feature Morgan in my newest #Girlboss installment. I absolutely adore Morgan, you would seriously be so lucky to be her friend. She just has the most uplifting spirit, and she makes hard work look super easy (its not though). I decided to feature Morgan this month specifically because she is a just getting started, and I thought it would be helpful to feature women in all different phases of the entrepreneurship journey. Reading an interview or blog post about a female entrepreneur that was currently in the process of ramping up was always something I wished I could find when I was starting out.
Morgan moved to Atlanta from California. Alone. Girl... At the time, she wasn’t eating pork or beef. Not really knowing anyone and having a hard time finding local eats with a menu to match her then diet, she started keeping track of the places she was eating and quickly became something of a go-to food guru among new friends. Morgan is an epic visual merchandiser by day (and sometimes night), but working for other people can take a toll sometimes. At the time, she wanted a personal project that was just for her, something that could feed her soul creatively. So her passion for food and community turned into an Instagram account called @EatHereAtl. She didn’t have a set business goal in mind; she just wanted to post about local restaurants she really loved and specific things on the menu she thought other people should try. Eventually 5 followers, became 20, and 20 became…well 700 (edit: 800+ by the time this post went live!).
Now with her Instagram (and now twitter) accounts being a big hit, Morgan wants to ‘bring community back to the table’ in an even bigger way. Her next move is to create a downloadable app that will serve as a resource guide for people to know what local spots they should eat, drink and be merry in. She also plans to expand this app to her other favorite cities which include Nashville, New York City, and San Francisco. She wants people to be able to search by neighborhood and hit up the best local spots, ones where she’s actually eaten and connect people through food. She’s super passionate about the necessity of having and supporting the community around you. “I live on the East Atlanta/Decatur border and try to spend my money in that area because I love my neighborhood and want to give back to it.”
I asked Morgan if she always wanted to be a girlboss. She says yes, but at a young age, didn’t necessarily know that in bouncing around from one hobby to the next she was ultimately telling the universe she wanted to be her own boss. She was always into different things, like myself when I was younger. Sometimes creatives have a way of bouncing around until they find just the right creative outlet. For example, she wanted to be a chef, then a ballerina, then an actress. She’s been a dishwasher, a clothing stylist, she’s run social media accounts for Free People and has even been on Vampire Diaries. Like most of us, Morgan knows her passion won’t ever lie in working for others. Her mom even runs her own business (alongside her younger brother), so clearly she was destined for entrepreneurship. One thing Morgan said that I just loved was, “I don’t know how not to lead. I can’t sit back. I don’t do that very well.” Even when she didn’t know she wanted to be her own boss, she did.
Since Eat Here Atlanta has gained such a large following, I asked her what are some of the ways she currently gets her name out there to the masses. She told me it’s actually not a hard task for her because she’s a talker. Lucky duck. It’s funny that when she was younger she would get in trouble at school for talking too much. Her report card notes would literally say ‘Does her homework, but talks too much.’ But now talking ‘too much’ is helping her gain tons of new followers and creating epic new business opportunities left and right. She talks about Eat Here Atlanta to people she’s never met the same way she would make a new friend. By introducing herself and saying “Hey, this is what I do, who are you, what do you do?” Some people are all about making new friends and connects, however some people aren’t as friendly. But Morgan says “That’s ok too, because I’m not mentally friends with those kinds of people.” Compartmentalizing at its finest.
So if you are new to the entrepreneurship game and aren’t exactly ‘Queen of the Extroverts’, she does have some advice on putting yourself out there: “It is ok to make yourself uncomfortable.” To create a community, to get people to rally behind what you’re selling, or creating, to grow professionally, and to succeed, you MUST put yourself out there. And if you aren’t comfortable with chatting it up with like-minded strangers…well you just need to do it until it gets comfortable. There’s lots of goodies waiting for you just outside your comfort zone, I swear!
Morgan finds it easiest not to try to plan out every step of her business dreams too far in advance. “I try to live in the moment and then take a peek into the future. Just a peek.” Personally, in the next few years, she hopes to be a full-time entrepreneur, own a clothing store with her partner, be married (maybe with one child), and wake up when she wants to. “I want to work hard for myself and my family and not have to call out of work or ask someone else about my benefits.” Her legit, legit goal in life though is to be a dope ass lady of leisure. That’s a direct quote. And that’s why I love her. Morgan’s spirit animal, if you haven’t guessed, is Beyonce (yass!). Another reason we are kindred spirits. “I try to channel Beyonce when I need to be superhuman, when I need to be a boss bitch, or when I need to be super sexy.”
If you’ve been trying to figure out how to balance a full-time job and a new business (or a hobby that you might want to parlay into a new business), trust me, you are not the only one. It’s always tough in the beginning, but setting small goals that you can handle on a daily basis will keep you motivated and moving forward, especially if entrepreneurship is your calling. Don’t let a crazy work schedule keep you from your dream! Some ways Morgan balances her full-time job with growing Eat Here Atlanta’s following and exposure is by setting hella alarms on her phone (her crazy work schedule changes week to week) and prepping multiple posts at a time so that she can actively post at least once a day whenever she has a free moment. She is sure to meet up with people anytime she can and she makes it a point to post something to her ever-growing account at least once a day, no matter what. Sometimes twice a day if she’s feeling particularly superhuman. “If you’re trying to let people know who you are its important to post every day.” I can attest to this. Setting a goal of posting at least once a day to the social media page(s) of your choice will keep your audience engaged and help you grow your following organically.
You also have to give a little to get something in return. Morgan knows the importance of building a community and empowering others, so she is sure to set aside time to comment positively on other people’s pages that are doing cool stuff. Genuine interactions on social media are uber important. If you want people to show you love, you have to take time to do the same. If this scares you, just remember, no one can bite you over the internet so you're good.
Like me, when Morgan gives advice she tries to take it as well. She wants other women who decide to follow their passion to know this one thing if nothing else: “Don’t focus on what other people have going on over there, just focus on what you are doing. You will get so much farther just focusing on your own stuff.” I have to agree. Unless you have confidence of steel, tunnel vision is imperative when you enter the world of solopreneurship. It’s really easy to knock your own self out of the game because you can’t stop comparing yourself to others. Some people will be doing the same thing as you, longer than you, hell, maybe even better than you, but it doesn’t matter, you will get to where you want to go as long as you focus. Morgan’s final advice is simply “Focus on what you’re doing and just do it.” I may or may not have left out a colorful expletive. I want to thank Morgan for sharing her story with me and hope that her new hustle takes her to the moon. I'm thinking we should meet up same time next year for a follow up interview :) yassss
For our photo fun, in true #eathereatl fashion, Morgan and I chose Krog Street Market. Morgan’s tip for finding a good place to eat: check out the line. We did indeed pick the longest line at the market and had the most delicious meal from Gu’s Dumplings. We capped the evening off with some even more delicious ice cream from Jeni’s (I took the last couple of shots while balancing an ice cream cone with two scoops in one hand..because it was that serious). Enjoy!