Megan Stoll was born and raised in Hickory, North Carolina, home to some of the nation's most famous furniture manufacturers. It's a mecca for people from all over the world searching for the perfect hand-crafted chair. But don't expect Stoll to be looking for a chair anytime soon. As co-founder and marketing director of the wildly successful Treefort Music Fest, she has to be one of the busiest people in Idaho right now, with preparations for the festival's ninth iteration in full swing.
True, Stoll went to the University of Greensboro (in North Carolina), graduated with a degree in textile design and marketing and worked in design and architectural firms in North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Oklahoma. But when she moved to Boise in 2008 her professional life took a significant left-turn and, as a result, she helped reinvent the Boise music scene on the grandest scale to date.
It's worth noting that when you moved to Boise in 2008...
The economy was in the toilet. I went to every architectural firm in town with my happy smile and solid resume, but they told me they were barely keeping the staff they had while trying to keep the lights on. I went to a temp agency which got me a job at the Idaho Business Review. I helped them for a while but got laid off in 2011. I was like, "Whatever." So, I decided to take advantage of what Boise had to offer that summer: floating the river and seeing some concerts. That's when I first met Eric Gilbert, who was booking many of those shows. He said, "Wouldn't it be cool to start an amazing festival right here in Boise? Say, don't you do marketing?" But I answered, "Hey, right now I float the river professionally." But later, I thought I could dust off my marketing skills. A few months later, Eric approached me again and said, "Look. I'm working on this with a couple of friends [Lori Shandro Outen and Drew Lorona]. Do you want to be part of the team?" And I said, "Sounds great." And the very first Treefort was six months later.
And now here we are, ready for the ninth Treefort, with no fewer than 441 bands or performers on the schedule. Additionally, you now have a total of nine ancillary "forts"— Alefort, Comedyfort, Filmfort, Foodfort, Hackfort, Kidfort, Skatefort, Storyfort and Yogafort. How do you know if that's the right number?
They all have autonomy, but also fall within the Treefort umbrella. So we share resources, like booking hotels, graphic designs, illustrations, web designs, much more. And it all falls under the marketing department, which is pretty small.
How big is Treefort's year-round staff?
And contract employees at festival time?
And can I assume that there are hundreds of volunteers?
Closer to a thousand.
Let's talk about how you market Treefort. It's quite strategic in that it targets very particular communities far from the Treasure Valley.
It has shifted quite a bit over the years. I used to spend a lot in the traditional, corporate marketing style, but have pulled back from that. Now, I do a lot of underwriting on community radio which is very important to us. And we do that in a number of markets, not just in Idaho, but in Colorado and Montana. Seattle too.
How do you know your strategy is working?
Ticket sales. And ticket sales are up. Plus, there's a real robust social media [presence], and that's really awesome considering how it has grown from the very beginning.
How do you spend most of your waking hours when the festival is going full-tilt?
I'm spending a lot of time checking on our entire social media team. We have several photo and video teams sending out photos and videos, recapping each day, each night.
The Treefort entity is technically a so-called "B Corp."
We're the very first festival to receive B Corp. status in the United States.
Explain what that means to a layperson.
Basically, it means we're not trying to fill our pockets at the CEO level. We're trying to reinvest back into our community, be economically sustainable, and give a damn about our planet.
Boise Weekly has put together what we're calling an unofficial survival guide to Treefort. So I'm curious, what are some of your own Treefort survival tips, particularly for first-time attendees?
Good point. The weather in mid-March is all over the place.
Last year, we had 70-degree weather when we wore shorts and t-shirts and then it snowed. Pack a jacket or something that will keep you warm. Also change your shoes every day.
Wait a minute...what?
You need to rotate three pairs of shoes. Your feet will thank you.
I never considered that at a festival, but it's a great tip.
Next: earplugs. We sell some really awesome ones at our merchandise booth. You've got to protect your hearing.
Always have snacks. The food trucks will be up on the street, but they probably won't start appearing until Thursday. Power bars are great. Another biggie is your own steel cup for beverages. There are no plastic cups allowed at the main stage. Yes, we sell an official steel cup, but if you have your own 16-ounce steel cup that is sealed, bring it.
Speaking of provisions, I'm guessing that you drink a fair amount of coffee.
I really don't like hot drinks, especially coffee.
I'm not a big caffeine person. Sure, I need my water bottle. I guess all this energy is just part of my DNA.