If anyone knows a thing or two about building a brand, it’s Morgan Willett. Though you might know her from her time on MTV’s The Challenge and Ex on the Beach, or as the winner of Big Brother: Over The Top, reality TV wasn’t always the plan–and she’s done so much more than that since.
“I’ve always wanted to be in front of a camera,” Morgan Willet shared on Ten Minute Talks with Meagan Lynn. “I remember my mom tells this story all the time that when I was three, I had this pink pair of sunglasses and I was sitting in my car seat, and I just remember my mom said she looked back in the mirror and I was like, ‘Mom, I’m going to leave you one day and go to California.”
That’s exactly what she did, but not on a straightforward path. Willett went to college to cheer at The University of Texas at Austin and to study broadcast journalism with plans to become an entertainment reporter, but as 2020 has proven, plans change.
An unexpected path
“When I got to college, I started realizing very quickly in my internships with news stations my dream job probably wasn’t going to happen; I kind of had to face the reality that this job on the Hollywood red carpet that I wanted for so long is probably not going to come that easily,” she said. “I’m going to have to start moving to the middle of nowhere to be a reporter at a local news station. That’s how everyone started, and I just realized that’s not what I wanted to do.”
Instead, Willett stayed in her home state of Texas and took a job as a publicist assistant, a close second to journalism. However that also wasn’t her dream, and she says she went home crying most days. But then, just a week later, Big Brother called. Willett ended up winning her season in 2016, garnering a social media following that gave her the ability to build her own platform.
“It’s just kind of funny how everything works out for a reason because now, even though my dad likes to remind me that I’m not using my college degree because I’m a social media influencer, I still do use interview skills. I still kind of use my social media and my talking skills to work with brands,” she said. “So I like to say that life kind of has come full circle.”
Following her passion
Willett’s following and subsequently her success grew after being later cast on Ex on the Beach and The Challenge on MTV. With an established presence on reality TV and online, Willett started sharing her life on social media, primarily in guided workouts and wellness tips.
“I got so many requests of people enjoying the workouts I posted on Instagram asking to work with me, asking if I did personal training,” she said. “I’d always wanted to do it, and then when Covid hit and gyms shut down I realized, ‘Alright, this is my time.’”
After a roundabout path to get there, Willett became a personal trainer and finally started pursuing her lifelong passion for fitness as a full-time gig with the launch of her coaching business in 2020, Move Like Morgan.
It took the hardships of 2020 to push Willett to follow her passion, and she says it was difficult to come to terms with not following the path she originally set out on when she began studying journalism.
“I think about my father who wants nothing more than for me to work a nine to five and have health insurance and life insurance, and of course, I’m doing the exact opposite. So every day I’m battling, what do I do? Do I make him happy? Do I make myself happy?” she said. “You have to make yourself happy. At the end of the day, you deserve to enjoy what you’re doing, and a lot of people don’t realize that you have one life. You can either spend it being miserable and pleasing society or you can try your own thing.”
Advice for entrepreneurs
For someone considering starting their own business, Willett encourages budding entrepreneurs to find a mentor.
“Getting advice from someone who’s actually done it is definitely the easiest way,” she said. “What I’m learning is life is all about connections. It’s all about who you know, it is all about who can help you out. Thankfully with my business, I befriended a guy who had done it before me and asked him questions and he actually helped me make Move Like Morgan and guided me. Without him, I’d be clueless.”
Whether 2020 has put you on the job hunt or has you considering entrepreneurship, Willett recommends finding a side hustle to support yourself and your dream.
“If you are not finding a job immediately, don’t put all this pressure on yourself,” she said. “Do hustle after it, but also have something on the side. I used to be an Uber driver when I first moved to LA, so there’s no shade on that. Do whatever you can to get some extra cash because you’re going to need that, especially if you’re going to put it back into yourself and your business.”
Willett’s top tip for newfound business owners?
“You have to stay organized. That’s 100% the number one piece of advice,” she said. “Everything of mine is color coordinated. I have different calendars and different colors so I know what to keep track of because if you’re not organized, you won’t be able to do it. You’ll get overwhelmed. Things will slip through the cracks. You’ll get stressed out.”
Willet says it’s also important to realize it’s okay to ask for help.
“You don’t have to do everything by yourself,” she said. “I am the worst about that. I’m like, it’s my business and it’s my thing, so I’m going to do it all alone and I don’t want anyone to help me. Finally, I had to realize, no, I need help. It is totally okay to ask for help, everyone does it.”
“I now have an intern. I have a team working for me and before that, it was all me and I was dying and now I’m like, oh, so this is what it’s like getting help. I can breathe. I can function.”
Mental health matters
Running a business doesn’t just require organization and a helping hand; it also requires boundaries, which can be difficult to maintain when your job involves social media.
“My screen time on my phone is like 10 hours a day because it is my job to constantly be posting or responding to the 200 messages I get a day and it is taxing. It is not good for your mental health,” Willett said. “One of my new year’s resolutions was one hour a day, no technology, no phone, no TV, no computer, just to kind of cleanse and let my mind decompress.”
Willett recommends everyone take the time to unplug, even when it’s part of your job.
“Find time in your day to put your phone up and be present. I’m the worst about it. I’ll be having a conversation with someone and I’ll be messaging a client on the side and it’s like, no, that doesn’t work,” Willett said. “What I’m working on is either pay attention to your phone and give yourself an hour to post on social media, to answer people, to build your brand, and then put it up and give yourself an hour to enjoy dinner and talk to your friends and be present because you can’t be two places at once.”
In forging her own path, Willett has learned the importance of listening to your heart rather than the opinion or expectations of others.
“I’m such a people pleaser so I try so hard to make everyone happy, but you just have to do what you want because, at the end of the day, you really only have to make yourself happy,” Willett said. “You’re never going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I learned that the hard way after being on reality TV; I’m like, ‘I’m so likable, what do you mean you guys hate me? I love me.’ But not everyone’s going to like you; you just kind of have to accept that and worry about your close circle because those are the only people that really matter in your life.”
If you’re interested in training with Willett, you can head to her website movelikemorgan.com and follow her at @morganleighwillett on Instagram for more advice and inspiration!