We had the good fortune of connecting with Megan Lundstrom and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Megan, what do you attribute your success to?
The most important factor behind my success to date has hands down been understanding the importance of relationships. As a complex trauma survivor, I have struggled greatly with learning how to trust anyone, and initially it was a significant hinderance to getting The Avery Center off the ground. I believed that no one was capable of seeing my vision or helping carry any part of it – I was convinced that they were going to let me down at some point, or that it would take longer to explain things to them than if I just did it myself. The reality is that “fierce independence” can be a trauma response, and while it is admired in our society, it can actually be really detrimental. When I was in my graduate program at UNCO, I took a sociological theory course where we learned about Pierre Bourdieu and his theory on the different types of capital. I found the framework fascinating, because as a Finance undergrad, I though the only form of capital that existed was economic capital, and that if you “just worked hard enough” you would make enough money to have whatever else you wanted or needed. As I came to understand the theory in better detail, I began thinking about the access I had to each form of capital at different points in my life, and what I was lacking at the time. I developed a survey instrument and shared it with other survivors of sex trafficking, and discovered that we ALL struggled primarily with social capital – before, during, and after our exploitation. But the most interesting finding from my survey was that survivors who struggled to build social capital after exiting exploitation were the individuals who continued to struggle for even decades after exit with gaining and maintaining the other forms of capital. Basically – relationships are the lynch pin! From that point forward, I reprioritized my business strategy to focus on cultivating relationships – and the difference has been night and day. Not only has this radically impacted The Avery Center in so many positive ways, but it has very much been a part of my own journey of healing as I navigate how to form healthy and long-lasting relationships with donors, colleagues, staff, and friends.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
The Avery Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to leading the change-makers in our community and across the nation to end commercial sexual exploitation (CSE). Our research is used to reduce demand, convict traffickers, and decrease barriers for marginalized populations through evidence-based services. The Avery Center values survivor-centered and -led services and research activities because we believe that lived experience must inform change. I founded TAC in 2014 with less than $1000 in start-up funds from my own savings. Since then, we have grown to a million dollar organization that serves hundreds of victims and survivors of CSE and sex trafficking across North America, and our research is internationally recognized in this field. I am so proud of how far we have come – we often joke that we have made miracles happen on shoelaces and Band-Aids! When people ask me why we are different and/or successful, I always feel a little lost. We prioritize two things: (1) lived experience and (2) data. It shouldn’t be such a unique combination, but it is. And we are proof that it works.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I am a hardcore introvert (yes, you read that right). I love small gatherings, quiet places, and new adventures. You can find me at a cozy wine bar enjoying charcuterie, or going on a day trip out of the city and into the mountains where my soul feels at home.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Penni Jo Anderson. She was The Avery Center’s very first volunteer in history. I remember meeting her and thinking “I like this woman’s energy but I don’t know what she wants with us, or what to do with her.” She had a vision to establish our Volunteer Experience, and so I let her run with that vision, still not fully trusting it. Penni Jo told me many times over the year that she worked with me, “I don’t know why exactly I’m supposed to be here, but I know that one day we will both see the big picture and understand.” In truth and hindsight, Penni Jo was the first person I put an ounce of trust in with The Avery Center – she actually ran our direct services and did a remodel of our office space while I took a much-needed two-month sabbatical. It was during that time that I realized I *can* make good decisions, I *can* trust people to follow through on their word, and I *can* let other people join in to carry my vision. Penni Jo probably doesn’t see this journey the same way I do – it was a MESS! We both learned, cried and laughed so much through it all. But I see it as a pivotal point in learning to trust others as I built my business.
Linkedin: The Avery Center