I’m Megan Fairley and I am a Chocolate Queen. This is my story.
On February 16 at 10.15am, 2017 the company I had dedicated 17 years of my life to, announced they would be closing the following year. That company was Cadbury’s, owned by Mondelez International.
This news was incomprehensible, we’d just made a $130 million dollar profit, and now we were all being made redundant? The word redundant means ‘not or no longer needed or useful; superfluous’, and that’s how we felt-used and betrayed by a company we had poured our heart and souls into. The redundancy was the beginning of a downward spiral for me, it honestly made me feel like the biggest piece of shit. I loved my role as the second-floor night-shift frontline leader, and the staff I worked with in a culture filled with love, laughter, kindness and respect. Suddenly this was all stripped from me and it triggered a time of uncertainty, depression and anxiety.
However this Chocolate Queen is a fighter, filled with strength and resilience, and I paved a new path for myself by creating Notion-an online fashion boutique and concept store based in Dunedin. I’ve alway had a love for New Zealand fashion, and working at Cadbury’s enabled me the income to be able to afford to buy designer clothing.
Notion is my way of giving back, by supporting sustainable and emerging New Zealand fashion designers I help those carving out their careers by offering them a platform through notion.co.nz to reach a global audience, while the concept store offers women a luxurious destination shopping experience, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Building Notion hasn’t been easy, I’ve faced adversity with some people not wanting Notion to exist, and other’s calling me a traitor for speaking out against Cadburys & Mondelez. This bullying, coupled with the shame of being made redundant has led me to suicidal ideation, but I will not be quiet, I will not shut up, I’ll yell from the rooftops, because I know there are other New Zealanders going through what I (we) went through. Mental health must be talked about, the stigma attached to it must be challenged. I hope my speaking out will encourage others to do the same. My dedication to mental health awareness and love of fashion led me to re-create the t-shirts I made for my team when Cadbury’s closed. I wanted each staff member to feel valued and proud, so I printed the slogan, Chocolate King or Chocolate Queen across the front. Now I’m making them for everyone and have teamed up with amazing mental health advocate, Mike King and I AM HOPE, donating all proceeds from the t-shirts sale to his organisation.
I’ve worked extremely hard to promote the Chocolate King and King T-shirts, sending out media releases, creating videos, doing public talks etc. Many don’t realise I also work a full-time job to pay my bills and to keep Notion afloat. At times working while building my business can be overwhelming-I get tired and need support. It’s hard to admit, but it’s true. Recently someone close to me asked me when I’m going to stop working my “other job”? I really felt like saying in response “when are you going to turn up to support Notion?” Honestly don’t tell someone how to live their lives when they haven’t even bothered to show up to support!!! I guess when you experience trauma and struggle with mental health, then add bullying and lack of support into the mix, it can really push you to the edge. In my darkest times I knew deep down that if I harmed myself I wouldn’t be hurting the people who had walked away from me or the ones who had been cruel-I’d be hurting the ones closest to me-my rainbow family. These people are the ones who pull me through the mud everyday-the people who travel with me on the bus when the limo is broken.
The biggest project I have started working on is me-and it’s the most rewarding. I’m not going to be an influencer who tells you to get your shit together. I am sharing with you what I have done to help elevate the pain of being made redundant.
Cadburys is a part of me, I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for the extraordinary culture the chocolate factory provided. I own it-I am a Chocolate Queen and by heck my Cadbury’s family and I are going to celebrate the culture we created with the world. I am damn proud of my background and my roots. People in the fashion industry may have laughed at this woman from a chocolate factory, who started her own boutique. They may stereotype me, thinking factory workers have low intelligence, but I know my worth, and the worth of the other cadbury’s workers.
To be the change you hope to see in the world you have to you after YOU! Here’s a good place to start:
I believe change does happen, and people do change. I started focusing on myself and looking after my well being. It’s called self-love and it’s helped the tears subside. People may think we are not strong enough to have so many tears-to carry so many burdens. I buried my brother when I was 10, my mother when I was 26 and my dad when I was 30. The tears after this Cadburys redundancy flowed like they have never flowed before, and they would not stop. To keep pushing forward with Notion. I need these tears to stop.
Change the mindset, this is so not easy, it takes patience and a lot of time. Wake up every morning and start to say positive words to yourself, you will see this flowing through with Notion on social media, as we focus on positive affirmations to keep us on track. You can view our posts at @notion_fashion
I love running, I am not a natural runner, so it is something I have had to really work on. I run on a treadmill first thing in the morning. I do a treadmill run as my legs are getting a bit buggered from standing on a concrete floor for so many years. The treadmill is not new. We have had it for years, with a few fix-ups on the way, but it keeps me active. Part way through the day (and this is one of the game changes) I take a break from Notion and go for a walk outside. Connecting with nature is so important and big thanks to my doctor for this push. Sometimes I take my music, sometimes I take my man on the walk, but I walk and exercise for my mental health or else I start to lose the plot!!! This walk is the winner, the fresh air helps to cleanse and flush the negative thoughts from the chaotic mind. You must keep doing it, keep repeating the good stuff.
I am not going to tell you what to eat, you eat whatever, but I have started to drink more water and I suggest you do too!. It helps-especially my head. I used to fill up on coffee by the bucket load thinking this would help to keep pushing me through the day but honestly I think it made it worse.
Connect with those who inspire you, motivate and keep you moving forward. Loose the focus on those who have walked away from you and don’t support you. None of us are here on this planet for long so why should I waste time on people who don’t care about me or support me? Starting a business is no mean feat, it is extremely hard work but a huge eye opener as to how humans behave when to do throw yourself into something as big as this. Look after you, you are number one.
Go to bed at a reasonable hour. Don’t stay up thinking that if I just do this one thing it will get me closer to my end goal. It doesn’t work, it just leaves your mind more shattered the next day.
Thanks everyone for reading. I hope this helps people to understand our struggles, and know you’re not alone. I have added the I AM HOPE support number if anyone needs to reach out, you are also welcome to reach out to me on DM on insta too. I am the only person in charge of the Notion social platforms, so our conversation will be confidential. You can reach me on: @notion_fashion. You’re more than welcome to share this story with the world, and thank you again for the wonderful support we have received.
I AM HOPE – Text or call 1737 any time, 24 hours a day. You’ll get to talk to a trained counsellor, completely free of charge.