One day, not too long ago, Erin Meagher was reading information about the benefits of coconut oil. Some of those benefits claimed it could help with brain and heart health, and even weight management, because it boosts metabolism.
“I thought if this is real, why isn’t everyone using it?” Meagher says. “These are the three things that Americans fight with, every day, and there really wasn’t anything out there.”
Meagher, seeing a void in the market, decided to take the leap and create her own coconut oil brand.
“I think I started working on the business on a Monday, and by Friday of that week literally had everything ready, all the way down to being incorporated. Everything that you needed to, basically, start a business was done in the first week,” she says.
By Dec. 1, 2009, it was full throttle.
Meagher currently lives in a home in front of the same house where she launched the business. She can see the window of her first “office” from her (now) home, which is where she ran the business for the first eight months, from her living room.
Aside from some help from the “For Dummies” books, Meagher was a one-woman shop throughout the launch of her business. She filed for trademarks, handled the website, imported the food and applied for licenses.
Meagher, driven and ambitious, had no intentions of going for the low-hanging fruit. She was on a mission, from day one, to create a national brand.
“I was starting a national brand. That’s what I said from the very beginning,” Meagher says. “There was no in-between on this.”
One of her first big retailers was TJ Maxx, which over the years has stocked healthy snacks and beverages, although at the time, no one really bought those types of items there.
Ask anyone riding the Ketogenic or Paleo diet train and they confirm it’s a great shopping destination to find products that adhere to diets, these days, but again, that wasn’t the case when Meagher’s products hit the shelves.
Meagher was visiting Expo East, in Boston, checking out vendors, and strolled past the TJ Maxx booth and noticed food.
“I thought ‘who buys food at TJ Maxx?’” she says. “The next day, a buyer from TJ Maxx came up to me and said they wanted to put my product in their stores.”
She took the deal.
“Looking back, if I had not gotten into TJ Maxx, I wouldn’t have had the volume to keep going,” she says. “That was a huge blessing for me.”
Beneficial Blends products are now available in Walmart, Kroger, Aldi, Sprouts and Publix, among others. In 2021, the company is projected to have more than $25 million in revenue.
In addition, it has a private label CBD brand called Chillax’n CBD and is launching a CBD-infused sparkling water this month available for wholesale, and direct purchase, online at chillaxn.com. Chillax’n CBD currently offers CBD shots, beverage enhancers, tinctures, mouth spray, body creams, candles and diffusers.
“Chillax’n, as a brand, is all about bringing in more of a ‘chill’ mood throughout all moments,” Meagher says. “Not just when you step off a plane to go on vacation.”
Born in Baltimore, Meagher grew up in the same house her father was raised in.
“I remember a lot of my childhood was just about playing sports,” Meagher says. “I had a great, fun childhood. Everything was about family.”
She says, honestly, she doesn’t remember being extremely gifted in any particular sport but does remember getting Slurpee’s, from 7-11, after games and practice.
“We had the benefit of a lot of great things, growing up, but by no means were we well-off or privileged,” Meagher says. “Just a lot of love, and a lot of family.”
When Meagher was 16 years old, her mother moved her to Pinellas County. The culture shock threw Meagher for a loop.
“The difference about growing up in Maryland, that I saw at the time, versus the difference of Florida, is that in Maryland, it was all about education. What college you were going to go to, what sports were you playing. It wasn’t a lot about appearance,” she says. “I got to Clearwater and it was all about going to the beach, and looking a certain way. I wanted nothing to do with the Florida lifestyle, back then.”
The irony is, that Florida lifestyle did grow on her, and she chose to establish her business in Tampa and plant family roots there—but she’s still not really a fan of Pinellas County.
When it came time for college, she knew she didn’t want to go all the way back to Maryland, but she also didn’t want to stay in Florida.
North Carolina was an appealing midway point, as they say, a half-back place. She attended Clemson University in South Carolina for a year but it wasn’t a good fit for her, she says. “It was so generational there—parents, and grandparents, of students had attended Clemson. Everyone would go home for the weekend and I wasn’t, and didn’t want to” Meagher says.
She transferred to North Carolina State University, to be in a more urban setting and graduated with a degree in teaching.
At the time, her grandparents, with whom she was close, moved to Tampa, so she decided to come back home to be closer to them.
“That’s how I got back here, and I just never left. Now, I really love it,” she says.
She began teaching 12th grade, for the Pinellas County School System, at Osceola High School.
“I was three or four years older than the kids,” she says with a laugh. “I lied about my age so they would listen to me.”
Anyone with a teenager at home knows, high school students can be a lot.
“It was a challenge,” she says. “The girls gave me the hardest time, but then they gave me a class of ninth-grade boys. Never again,” she says as she rolls her eyes and laughs.
It takes a special kind of person to teach, and Meagher knew it wasn’t for her. Not then, not ever.
“I have so much appreciation for teachers. It’s a really tough thing to do,” she says.
Meagher’s drive to teach was founded in her passion for education.
From an early age, she had an understanding that education would be her path to a better future. Her mother, affectionately, gave her the nickname of “Mighty Might.” But her mother also had a very hands-off approach, she let Meagher do things on her own, or not do them at all. As a mother now herself, Meagher says while she won’t be quite as hands-off, she will employ some of those same principles.
“I was one of those kids that was like, ‘Can I stop being a child so I can go to work already?” she says. “Education was a great equalizer. I think that’s how I got pulled into teaching. If you can teach other people, than you can give them an opportunity to do better and be better.”
She also derived business inspiration from her grandfather, who had his own custodial business polishing floors at night.
“As kids, we would go into these banks at night and we would help him,” she recalls. “He worked really hard and was able to sell that business, and retire off that. I saw an opportunity to do the same.”
While she never really had intentions of starting her own business, that inspiration from her grandfather turned out to be her next professional leap.
“I didn’t have a precise moment of, ‘I’m leaving teaching, right now, to pursue this business,” Meagher says. “I just knew that I’d be a bitter old woman if I stayed teaching—you know the type.”
Meagher took a summer off between teaching, and worked at a financial institute, considering a move into the finance industry. Then, the financial collapse of 2008 happened.
That’s when Meagher stumbled over the information on coconut oil, and the journey of Beneficial Blends began.
HEALTH AS WEALTH
The Beneficial Blends brand is all about the “health as wealth” mantra. Taking care of your mind and body creates a better overall person.
Married and a mother of three, including a set of twins, Meagher knows all about the importance of wellness.
“A lot of my peer group, we’re moms, we’re working, we’re stressed and we have social anxiety,” she says. “We’ve been wound up into these balls and then, there’s something else we need to manage. It’s really unsustainable, it truly is.”
Meagher admits, she doesn’t have it all figured out. Often the desire to find that “perfect” work-life balance is elusive, especially for an entrepreneur.
“We’re all in this cycle of work, work, work and everyone’s trying to break that cycle a little bit,” Meagher says. “We’re looking at how we can incorporate [a product Chillax’n CBD] into your life to be able to actually break up the highs and the lows. If you slow down, you will actually end up being more productive than if you think you can just go and go.”
When asked what success feels like? Meagher laughed and admitted she doesn’t really know.
“There are some days where I go to work and I’m still like, ‘Is this successful?’” Meagher says. “I’m a very driven person and I just always knew it was going to be a success.”
For what it’s worth, Beneficial Blends did grow from a one-woman show, run out of a home office, to being carried at major retailers all around the United States. Those who know the “Mighty Might” of Meagher, understand the tenacity of her character.
“There was, actually, no option to fail,” she says. “You just have to find another path to get through whatever the obstacle is, and then you will be successful.” ♦
Beneficial Blends started out as a Fairtrade-certified brand from inception. This means, the company pays a premium for all the coconut oil that is sourced and that goes back to the farmers.
For example, in Sri Lanka, Meagher was able to witness what having Fairtrade pricing can do for a community. It means computers for school children and access to the internet. It helps build infrastructure, roads connecting cities to more rural areas, and more.
Beneficial Blends also recently supported the Coconut Coalition of Americas Lighting Up Lives campaign, to help raise funds to install solar panel lighting for coconut farmers.
The company is also partnering with community organizations that promote mental well-being. Each year it will donate a portion of sales, plus $1 for every Chillax’n CBD Oil tincture sold.
Photos by Michael McCoy with MP Studios in Tampa.