Megan Flanagan tried to start her first business soon after she began learning her A-B-Cs.
“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” the Clarksville, New Hampshire, resident said. “Starting at three years old, I tried to sell pens and pencils to kids at preschool. I used to set up lemonade stands. Now it’s soap and photography. Maybe it will be something different down the road.”
A four-year recipient of the Neil and Louise Tillotson Scholarship, Flanagan graduated last spring from the University of Vermont with a degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism. Scholarships, including the Tillotson Scholarship, helped her to get her bachelor’s degree without taking on any student debt. She is now pursuing her Master’s in Business Administration via online courses through Champlain College — while running two small businesses on the side.
“We know that many young people want to stay in, or come back to, the North Country,” said Kirsten Scobie, director of the Neil and Louise Tillotson Funds at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. “And the region needs their ingenuity, their energy and their commitment. We hope that this scholarship will help more young people envision vibrant futures for themselves here.”
Flanagan hopes her entrepreneurial spirit and ongoing studies will help her find a niche in this northernmost corner of New Hampshire, just across the state line from her hometown of Canaan, Vermont — and the place she considers home.
“I love how open it is here. I don’t have to wake up to loud noises. I can’t see my neighbor. I have a 360-degree view of mountains, which is priceless to me,” Flanagan said. “You can get that in other places. But this is the place I grew up.” It’s also the place she plans to stay, and she hopes other young people stay, too. She sees developing a robust outdoor recreation economy as essential to making that happen.
Flanagan sees the future of the Great North Woods as promising. As part of a generation poised to help shape that future, she sees outdoor recreation as a driving force for boosting the economy and enticing more young people to build community here.
For now, soap and photography are part of Flanagan’s focus when she’s not busy with her studies. Through her Northeast Kingdom Soap venture, she crafts and sells handmade soaps and lip balms. With her Northern Exposure photography, Flanagan is pursuing another life-long interest. While Flanagan considers both ventures as hobbies for the time being, she hopes to develop her photography business into a career.
“Photography has been in my family for years. My great-grandfather was a photographer in World War II,” Flanagan said. “I’ve always loved taking pictures.”
While Flanagan has done senior portraits and engagement photoshoots — and hopes to delve into wedding photography eventually — she’s most enthralled with astrophotography: shooting the stars and other nighttime celestial bodies.
“It takes a lot of patience,” she said of capturing the night sky. “Ideally, I would love for my photography business to flourish and grow. Hopefully, I can learn how to run a better business through my master’s program.”
Eventually, she wants to combine her knowledge of the area and with her two degrees to build something big for the area – she dreams of a re-imagined version of the long-shuttered Balsams resort.
“This would combine my knowledge of recreation and tourism with my MBA,” she said, “and I would absolutely love to be involved with creating something that will bring generations of people to the area.”