After years of working in marketing and learning to use professional networking to further her career, Susan Morgan knew that when she became a first-time mom, forming relationships with other new mamas would be the key to her success. By sharing stories, exchanging helpful information, and even venting, Susan — the VP of New Business at Team Epiphany, a full-service cultural marketing agency in NYC — leans on her support system to get her through the ups and downs of being a working mom. And loves every minute of it.
So, what’s her secret to forming a solid friend group of strong women? Keep reading to find out! Plus, Susan also reveals the best parenting advice she’s ever been given (spoiler: it was from her boyfriend!), takes us inside her busy daily routine, and shares four of her best mom hacks for staying organized.
What was your first job and how did you land it?
My first job was as an Assistant Media Planner at Burrell Communications Group, an advertising agency based in Chicago. I landed that job through a dear friend of mine who was already working there. Her mother ran (and still runs) the media department and was looking for new talent. I actually met with her right before I graduated college, and at that time, I knew nothing about media planning and buying, but I knew that I wanted to be in the advertising/marketing industry. She took a chance on me after the interview and offered me a job that I ended up starting just one month after graduation. I’ll never forget that family vacation we took just before I started working. I had purchased this “Practical Guide to Media Planning” book and spent my afternoons highlighting words and phrases, trying to figure out what GRPs, CPMs, and Reach/Frequencies were.
Today, you’re the VP of New Business at a marketing agency. Tell us about your role and how you got to this point in your career.
Fast forward 15 years and I’m now VP of New Business at Team Epiphany, a full-service cultural marketing agency in NYC. I’m responsible for identifying and securing new opportunities and clients for the agency. I’ve been at TE for 7.5 years and previously led the Account Management department with a colleague (who also happens to be a dear friend and fellow mama!). Not only do I love the agency and the brilliant, best-in-class work that we do, but I know the agency inside and out. And having left the agency world from 2008 to 2012 to do a brief stint in advertising sales, I know how to pitch and sell our core competencies to prospective clients.
What do you love most about your job?
I consider myself blessed to say that I love many things about my job. I love that I get to work at an agency that really feels more like a family. I love that I’m surrounded by so many talented, creative, passionate, and driven individuals that truly just want to put groundbreaking work into the world. I love that collectively we get to create and impact culture.
Can you walk us through your typical workday?
A typical workday for me starts at 10am with a coffee. Then, it’s time to review and align on the day’s hot items with the team. As the New Business lead, I’m constantly fielding, prospecting, and solidifying new opportunities, so my to-do list is never complete. There is always something more that can be done. I spend a lot of time in meetings, both internal and external. I’m typically managing a handful of proposals and decks that need to be sent or presented to prospective clients. I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn and various trade media sites to stay on top of news and movement within the industry. Lunch happens at some point … and possibly an afternoon coffee with colleagues. I try my best to wrap up each day by 6pm to get home to my other full-time gig — being a mama!
You are a connector at heart, both personally and professionally. How has this helped you in your career as a marketer?
Relationships. The relationships I’ve built and maintained over the years continue to prove to be one of my best assets. Having friends and contacts in almost every major city helps me find a bit of home everywhere I go. A dear friend of mine told me early on that “your network is your net worth” and that really stayed with me. And that doesn’t mean that you should always be sizing up what others can do for you. It means that you should seek out real relationships with people who share the same values as you, will keep you honest, and invest what you’re willing to in a friendship. I believe in watering the garden and supporting my friends with the hope that they’ll do the same. I also enjoy the diversity within my networks. My diverse network makes me a more dynamic person and a better human being.
You recently also launched Itadi Body, a natural skincare line, with two friends. Why did you decide to start this business?
Yes! Itadi Body was a labor of love of two years with two dear friends, Tabi Bonney and Erik Pettie. Tabi and I started talking about his family’s farm in Togo, West Africa years ago and when he and Erik mentioned wanting to create a skincare line using the Coffee Berry harvested on the farm, I was all in. We also saw an opportunity to create a new story and offering around coffee and its benefits. Most people are only familiar with products that feature coffee bean’s exfoliating properties. But our products’ active ingredient is the actual coffee berry, and it offers a lot more health and skin benefits with its antioxidant properties.
What’s next for Itadi Body over the next few years?
We just want to continue to grow our presence and potentially expand our offering into other categories. Perhaps including body care.
Tell us a little bit about your family!
I love my family. My 1-year-old son is literally the center of my universe. My boyfriend is my rock. We met almost 20 years ago while attending Howard University in Washington, D.C. We were just friends until about three years ago when we reconnected and discovered a spark that was probably there all along. Neither of us ever imagined having a New York City kid and now we’re here raising our Brooklyn baby.
How do you balance working full-time and being a mother?
I’m honestly still trying to figure this part out. If only there were four more hours in each day, then I think I could maintain some sort of balance. I will say this: I make it a point to get home by 7pm each night to spend time with my son before he goes to bed and to be there to tuck him in. I also try to make the weekends all about him and his dad.
Can you walk us through your daily routine?
At 7am, my alarm goes off. I’ll usually hit snooze a few times but once I’m up, I get dressed, and if I have time, I prepare breakfast. If not, daddy handles! By 9am, I’m out the door and headed to work on the train. I arrive at my office at 10am with coffee in hand, ready to go. Around noon, I normally check in with my boyfriend to see how our son is doing. If I can, it’s a FaceTime call. Between 1 and 2pm, I’m trying to figure out what’s for lunch. Most times, it’s ordering in from Seamless, especially once the temperature drops. However, I do make it a point to get up and leave the office for a few minutes during this time just to get some fresh air.
I wrap up work by 6pm and head back home to Brooklyn. I arrive home around 7pm and figure out a dinner — it’s either a home-cooked meal or ordering something in from our neighborhood. From about 7:30 to 9pm, I get a chance to unwind and hang out with my son, and I really try to give him my undivided attention during these hours. If I haven’t already passed out while trying to get the baby to sleep, I usually spend time from 9:15 to 11pm catching up with my boyfriend, watching a little news, or reading a book — if I can stay awake!
Last year, you started a mom support group with your friends which grew into a larger community of women. In what ways do you guys support each other?
I love my fellow first-time mamas! We are constantly messaging each other with questions, rants, tips, and encouraging words. We support each other really by just being available … and without judgement. Because we live in NYC (and now one mama lives in LA), we don’t get a chance to see each other IRL often, but we’re definitely present in each other’s lives.
Do you have any advice for other new moms on how to find a support group?
Don’t be afraid to speak up and make a connection when you see other mamas in the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, on the train, etc.
You travel a lot for work and are able to bring your son along with you. What are your tips for traveling with a little one?
Traveling with my son in the beginning was a breeze. Well, traveling with my son and boyfriend, that is. He was the one responsible for lugging the bags, breaking down the stroller before boarding, and putting it back together again once we landed. But in the early months, the only thing I had to be sure to do was breastfeed my son during take-off and landing. He slept through his first 10 flights. Then, we flew to Jamaica right before his 1st birthday, and he was a lot more active and had almost weaned himself. So, that flight was very different. We (over)packed an abundance of snacks, toys, and board books — and he wanted nothing to do with them. Instead, he wanted to stand on my lap, lift himself up on the back of the seat, wave to other people and talk. Luckily, grandma and grandpa were traveling with us and sitting in front of us, so we didn’t have to worry about him kicking the seat and bothering strangers. Plus, we were able to pass him around to them as needed. He eventually fell asleep, but we found out then that flying with him would never be the same again.
My tips for traveling with a little one would be to pack light for yourself and pack smart for your little one. Stash some snacks and toys in an easily-accessible pocket. Oh, and always dress them in a zip-up onesie for the flight. It is more comfortable for them and more convenient for you for while changing their diaper in the airport and on the plane.
What’s it like living in a big city like New York with a baby?
It’s a lot, but it’s manageable. You have to be honest with yourself and do what works best for you and yours. For us, that means we have a car and pay for parking in our building. We have two bedrooms and in-unit laundry. Our lifestyle is too hectic to have to deal with riding around all day looking for parking or lugging clothes back and forth to and from the laundromat. I know a lot of people who don’t have a choice or don’t mind it, but I know it would add a lot of stress to our system, so we pay more for the convenience.
We also keep track of the places and spaces that are family-friendly and make those our home away from home. You have to move a little differently with little ones in the city. And while NYC can sometimes be a little overwhelming, it also offers so much. There is always something to do, something new to see, somewhere new to explore, and so much culture, energy, and inspiration. I love that my son gets to experience all of this at a young age. I know that he’ll not only appreciate it, but he’ll also be a well-adjusted child who can just navigate any city or new environment with ease and confidence.
For now, the plan is to raise him in New York but to also make sure to expose him to our hometowns, Chicago and D.C. We have to make sure he’s equally familiar, comfortable, and at home in those cities as well.
When it comes to being a mom, what are you most insecure about? And what are you most confident about?
I’m probably most insecure about getting things right. I’ve learned that, at times, motherhood is basically just questioning everything you do. There are so many decisions to be made and so many ways to do things. Every decision is a balancing act between instinct and popular opinion. And you really just have to learn to trust your gut because most times you’re doing what’s best for you, your baby, and your family — and that’s what’s most important.
I’m most confident about my child’s happiness. He’s always smiling, laughing, and just all-around joyful. And that’s important to me. Knowing that he’s happy and feels good brings me peace. His positive disposition and mood give me the reassurance I need in those moments when, on the inside, I may be freaking out and questioning everything.
Can you share a few mom hacks you rely on to make things work in your day-to-day life?
1. Eat breakfast. As a mom, especially during those early months, it can be hard to get that first meal of the day in, but it makes a real difference in my productivity and energy level throughout the day if I do. Even if it’s a quick, grab-and-go meal, I notice a difference when I skip it. Mamas need fuel too, especially when you’re breastfeeding and pumping!
2. Keep a calendar. I literally live by my calendar, both for work and personal. Everything gets recorded. If it’s not on my calendar, there is a 50/50 chance I’ll forget (mommy brain is real!). Also, don’t be afraid to pencil in quality time with your little one. It might feel a little silly, but it can definitely help put things into perspective when you see that your kid is only getting two hours of your uninterrupted time each day. Perhaps there are little changes that can be made to find more time.
3. Keep your weekends open. One lesson I had to learn very quickly was to not overcommit. Gone are the days of making lofty weekend plans with friends. Keeping your schedule clear on the weekends is heaven-sent and allows you the opportunity to be lazy, spontaneous, or anything in-between.
4. Keep a stash of snacks for the little one everywhere. I have snacks everywhere — at home, in the car, and in random pockets of my jackets, purses, and totes. My 1-year-old has the appetite of a teenager, and sometimes when we’re in a hurry to get out of the house or just not on our A-game, we forget to check his diaper bag for snacks. It’s nice to discover that stash of veggie sticks or yogurt bites hiding at the bottom of my bag. Plus, I like those puffs and yogis too!
Susan Morgan is The Everymom…
Beauty item you recommend to everyone? A red lip! My favorite is the MAC Retro Matte Lipstick in Feels So Grand. I don’t leave home without it and break it out whenever my skin looks dull and tired. It instantly brightens my face by drawing attention to my lips and away from the bags under my eyes. Plus, it lasts all day!
Favorite date night activity? When we’re lucky enough to have a sitter, a typical date night for us is a nice dinner and/or cocktails somewhere in Brooklyn. We also love just riding around the city, exploring new neighborhoods and looking at homes.
Coffee order? At home, a pour-over coffee. At work, an iced oat milk latte. Sometimes two.
Favorite restaurant in Brooklyn? Juniper in Williamsburg was our go-to until they sadly closed this past summer. Now it’s probably a tie between Bangkok Bar in Industry City and Pattie Hut in BedStuy.
Greatest challenge in your career thus far? Learning how to balance it all. I work a pretty demanding job and being a mom is a 24/7 thing, so the first few months were quite overwhelming for me. I had to adjust and figure out a new pace that worked for me so that I could be my best self at home and work. I also had to be patient with myself while I figured it out and found my groove. It took longer than I imagined.
Self-care activity you love? Sounds cliche but a mani/pedi is a real treat. Also, sleeping in on Sundays and having brunch with my bestie.
Most embarrassing mom moment? Applying for our son’s first passport (with rush delivery) was quite the fiasco. It took three trips, on the same day, because I was having a serious case of mommy brain and just wasn’t prepared.
Best mom advice you’ve been given? When I returned to work from maternity leave, my boyfriend gave me some of the best advice: it’s impossible to be 100 percent present at home and work if you’re trying to think about it all and do it all at once. So when at the office, focus on work; and when at home, focus on the family. So, I just focus on being present and not overloading myself with too much.
Also, find your mama tribe! Once I finally started telling people that I was pregnant, I found out that a few good friends were also expecting at the same time. One by one, friends and former colleagues started sharing their good news and I decided to connect everyone on a WhatsApp group for us to exchange information, share stories, vent, whatever. And, honestly, they have been my rock. We talk about anything and everything. We support and encourage each other and make ourselves available for one another 24/7. While I have a ton of friends who have been mamas for some time now (and they too have been a huge support!), I have a really special bond with my group of fellow first-time mamas.