Written by Rebecca Falzano
Photography by Erin Little
People who move through the world mindfully have an ease about them—they are comfortable living in the moment, while others vacillate between dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Meghan Nesher is one of these people. She is the kind of person who talks about intention—being intentional about what she brings into her home, setting intentions. The kind of person who, when asked where she would live if she could live anywhere, answers that she is happy exactly where she is. So it’s no surprise that the 1940s home in Cape Porpoise she shares with her husband and two young sons, Julien (7) and Robben (2), is a reflection of that same kind of presence and intention. As CEO and Creative Director of Leader Bag Co. she also gets to be intentional about running a business and managing a retail location in Biddeford. Here’s a look inside both spaces, and thoughts from Meghan on making a home and a life in Maine.
THE MAINERS: Tell me about Leader. How did you start it? What does the name mean to you?
MEGHAN: When I was pregnant with my first son, Julien, I was shopping for a diaper bag that would work for both my husband and me, and I couldn’t find anything that was gender neutral and that fit my style. That was my ah-ha moment. I couldn’t believe that what I was looking for didn’t exist! My sisters-in-law had babies soon after I did (we all had little boys the same year), and we decided to team up and create something together. Naturally, we focused on creating a gender-neutral and fashionable diaper bag backpack.
The name came to me when I was on an airplane. I asked the universe what the name of our brand should be, put pen to paper, and the word “Leader” came out. I still have the piece of paper. I knew I liked it, but the meaning came later on. A few years into the business, I started to wonder what it was all for and was searching for a deeper meaning to what we were doing. “Lead with Love” came to me after I started asking those questions. That was the message that I wanted to spread.
THE MAINERS: Well, as a mom who appreciates a stylish diaper bag myself, I thank you! How has the business grown since inception?
MEGHAN: It’s grown slowly and organically since we launched 5 years ago. None of us had a background in business so we’ve learned everything as we’ve been going along. It was a side hobby for the first four years—something we hadn’t committed to 100%. It wasn’t until last year that I decided to go all in and give it everything I have.
My two sisters-in-law are now silent partners. They are very supportive but have decided to focus on other endeavors at the moment. I wear a lot of hats within the business. My husband works for us and does customer service and fulfillment and I pretty much do everything else. Technically, I am the CEO and Creative Director, so I have final say on all creative and business decisions. I work with our designer, Jay (based in Australia), on product development. I also do the marketing, lead the advertising, guide social media, personal outreach, and so on. It’s a crazy time.
THE MAINERS: When did you open this shop space?
MEGHAN: We opened the Leader HQ last year when we realized we had to have a little separation between home and work. With two young kids it became very challenging to focus on work at home. After I decided to commit to Leader full-time, we started looking for spaces and ended up finding a little gem in Biddeford.
Go-to outfit: RC jeans, a fitted turtleneck or bodysuit, Vans, Leader bag.
Favorite rainy-day activity: Get in bed and watch a movie.
Best local kids’ shop: Little and Day Trip Jr.
Last meal you cooked from scratch: I make a lot of soups this time of year. I just made a Kale and Coconut Lime Soup. Clean Soups by Rebecca Katz is my go-to cookbook right now.
Contents of your diaper bag: Always diapers, wipes, change mat, water bottle, snacks for kiddos, Lily’s (sugar-free) chocolate for myself, a notebook, lipstick, change of clothes for my little guy, cars, children’s books, crayons, and scratch paper.
Soundtrack to your life: This varies often, but lately I’ve been listening to A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman on repeat.
Favorite place to find home decor: Honestly? Right now, IKEA and vintage.
Weirdest place your kids have fallen asleep: They don’t fall asleep anywhere but in their beds.
Thing you're most proud of: I’ve re-learned how to love myself.
THE MAINERS: The shop is so well designed. I love the aesthetic. Is that all you? Where do you get your eye from?
MEGHAN: Definitely not all me. I worked with Kacee Pyles Witherbee from Insides Studio on the interior decoration. She is so talented and phenomenal to work with. She made the process so easy, fun, and beautiful. I also asked a friend, Lindsay Stone, to help with the window displays. She made these stunning mobiles and custom wooden block shapes for the displays. She also made a gorgeous clothing rack for the space and custom pillows.
I don't know where I get my eye from. I have always loved good design and have been drawn to beautiful things. I like what I like, and I don't like what I don't like. It's kind of as simple as that.
HE MAINERS: So why did you choose Maine, as a place to live and start a business? How does Maine cultivate your creative spirit?
MEGHAN: My husband, Dave, grew up in Kennebunkport. We met in Montana (where I’m from) at the University of Montana and then moved to Portland, Oregon where we lived for 5 years and had Julien. We felt pulled to try somewhere new and where we could live closer to family. Dave’s parents live in Maine in the summer so we thought we would try it out. Four years later we are still here and have no desire to leave. It is a nice mix of everything that we love: outdoors, beauty, culture, lovely people, family close by in the summer. It’s a wonderful place to raise a family.
I love Maine for its space and beauty. I love the ocean, the mountains, the colors, the change of seasons, the weather, the style, the fashion, the architecture. I miss the energy of a bustling city and often I need to leave to get that creative buzz back. But in general, as long as I set the intention to connect to something bigger than me (the universe!), I can tap into my creative energy. Creativity comes and goes though. I’ve learned that it’s important to just keep showing up day after day. Some days creativity will strike and I’ll feel on top of the world, and other times, it will feel dormant, but I show up anyway and do the work. Inevitably, it always emerges again.
THE MAINERS: I think that being able to make a home so reflective of yourself, especially when you’re renting, is such a beautiful skill. What do you love about your home? And how do you live stylishly with two young children?
MEGHAN: The house itself has really good bones and a lot of potential. We dream about being able to buy it and renovate it one day. It’s a manageable size. It was built in the 1940’s. What we love most about it is that it is on an amazing piece of land with a gorgeous view of the ocean and beautiful trees in the backyard. We see a lot of wildlife in the winter: foxes, deer, turkeys, squirrels.
I try to be really intentional and thoughtful about all my purchases. Often I don’t buy that much because I’m so particular. I hate to see things go to waste or not get used. I really try to ask myself if something brings me joy before I buy it and if it does, then I can bring it into my life. I don’t have much tolerance for clutter because it takes up too much brain space and leaves me feeling stressed and anxious. Admittedly, not everything in my house is stylish. If I lived alone perhaps my life would look a lot more stylish. But, I have a husband, two boys, and a puppy that I share the space with and they all have their own personalities and opinions and taste (save for the dog!) so it’s a balance. I’m manifesting a lot more style in my life one day soon.
THE MAINERS: How do you define your home’s personality?
MEGHAN: Relaxed, quirky, simple, easy, unfussy.
THE MAINERS: What are some of your favorite furnishings and what's the story behind them? We obviously have to talk about that floral couch…
MEGHAN: Haha! Four years ago, we moved from the West coast with very little furniture, so when we signed our lease, I started looking around for estate sales nearby hoping that we could furnish our house on a serious budget. The first estate sale we went to was in Portland and that's where I found the couch. We bought it and a matching chair for $450! It was kind of risky buying such a statement piece for our first piece of furniture, but I loved it and it ended up working really well in our space.
I'm not particularly attached to anything in my home. I'd actually be totally happy to part with it at any time. We furnished the home on a serious budget—some was handed down, some was found at vintage shops, and a lot of pieces are from IKEA.
If I had to pick a few favorites, I'd choose the bench in our kitchen that's from West Elm. I like the color, the shape. We spend a lot of time on that little bench eating meals and chatting. That's one of the only pieces that we brought with us when we moved from the West Coast four years ago.
I really like the dresser in our bedroom. I found it for $50 at a vintage shop near our house. You get what you pay for though. I'm considering letting it go because it doesn't work well at all and I get frustrated every time I have to open one of the drawers! Always trying to find the marriage between style and function.
THE MAINERS: You also have a nice mix of artwork. How did you start your collection?
MEGHAN: Dave's grandfather lived in Europe and loved the finer things in life. He would often go to auctions to buy artwork and vintage rugs. When he passed away, we inherited some of the artwork, which I think is really interesting. I probably wouldn't have bought it myself, but I like that it has a story and was passed down to us. Also, my mom is an exceptional artist. We have a few of her paintings that I really cherish. And, I found a framed preserved butterfly for $10 at a vintage shop that I also cherish. It's not only beautiful, but also serves as a powerful reminder to myself that I can morph and transform and create the life that I want to live and create the woman that I want to be.
THE MAINERS: I love that. How do you make space for yourself? What is a routine you depend on for your wellbeing?
MEGHAN: Me time: meditation/prayer and working out at home streaming the Tracy Anderson Method or Beach Bootcamp. I wish I had a separate workout space! Honestly, right now I'm working out on Robben's car mat from IKEA in his play area. I lay my mat out on top of it because I'm too lazy to move it. I just try to set the intention to provide that space and time for myself because it sets me and my family up for success and makes me a better person all around. I usually try to sneak my workout in first thing while the house is quiet and the boys are still asleep. It's not about having the perfect space and the perfect time, it's just about making it a priority, fitting it in, and getting it done.
THE MAINERS: Right—there’s that saying: perfectionism is the enemy of productivity! What role does food (preparing it and eating it) play in your life and in your home?
MEGHAN: Well, I will say that I am a multi-passionate person and one of my biggest passions and loves is food! It wasn't always a love affair though. For two-thirds of my life, I've battled with disordered eating issues and it's taken me a really long time and a lot of hard work to find joy again in food, eating, and cooking. My focus now is on feeling good in the moment and enjoying the process and the journey of figuring out what works for me physically, mentally, and spiritually. I'm always trying to find that sweet spot between eating for health and eating for pleasure. Some days it works beautifully, other days not so much.
THE MAINERS: Wow. It sounds like it’s been quite a journey.
MEGHAN: My time living in Portland, Oregon had a profound effect on the way that I eat and view food. It helped me realize the power in feeling connected to the place where I live. I learned the pleasure and joy of shopping at the farmers markets and eating seasonally and buying locally. I try to do that as much as possible here too. It was in Portland that I started to make the connection that we are what we eat, and how we feel directly relates to what we put in our bodies and how we move them. Once I started to get in tune with my body and respect what it was trying to tell me, there was no going back for me and my journey to true and deep healing had begun.
From my experience, I've learned that food is transformative, be it negative or positive. It's an exchange of love and of positive energy for yourself and for others if done with the right intention. I derive a lot of joy from sharing what I cook and create with my family and friends. It’s one of the biggest pleasures of my life! Now, if only I could get my 7-year-old to like my food! He's the pickiest eater and honestly doesn't like anything I make, except oven fries. Here's to hoping that one day soon he’ll come around.
THE MAINERS: Ok, so, dream scenario: if you could live anywhere, in any kind of home, where/what would it be like?
MEGHAN: Trying to live more in the moment, so honestly, I would say that I'm pretty darn happy right where I am. Going with the notion that if you feel abundant now, you will attract more abundance.
In dreamland though, I envision myself splitting time between a cold weather place and a warm weather place (I get antsy and feel cooped up if I’m in one place for too long). I envision a beautiful, comfortable, simple, uncluttered home with a classic and modern design, interesting art, good food, comfortable furniture, and lots of friends and family gathered around to share in the beauty of it all.