#Mompreneurs: The inspiring duo behind Bravery Magazine
My dear readers, you are in for a treat! I am so excited to share the following Q&A with the cofounders of Bravery Magazine, Ashley Aikele and Elyse Beard. When I discovered the Kickstarter for Bravery last year, my heart skipped a beat. The backstory: these longtime friends felt there was a lack of strong role models for their daughters...and decided to take action, creating a beautifully illustrated and wildly creative print magazine to teach children about bravery. I thought back to my own fears, feelings of inadequacy, and lack of confidence as a preteen, and how badly I want my own daughter to have brave, strong role models to help guide them through those particularly challenging years. The Bravery Mag concept spoke to me on so many levels, and apparently a ton of parents felt the same way. Their Kickstarter was fully funded in three days and they've been growing ever since! So far, they've published three issues, each highlighting a strong female role model - Frida Kahlo graced the most recent cover - and featuring stories, educational activities, and even a parent section! My little one is too small to fully appreciate Bravery, but I've been devouring each issue and saving them for Laila. Can't wait to share them with her in a few years! And now, without further ado, let's dive into the Q&A.
1) Tell us a bit about your backgrounds and how those backgrounds have served you in launching and running Bravery Magazine.
Elyse: I got a degree in Elementary Education, but didn’t teach. I had kids early and have been a stay-at-home mom who has always struggled with finding my purpose in life outside of raising my children. I was actively searching for something of my own when the idea for Bravery came along, and I was so ready to put my fears aside and try it. I also have a talent for writing, and was trying to write a book right before Bravery happened. My background in education and my talent for writing has really helped in making sure our content in Bravery Mag is educational, age-appropriate, and reads well. It’s been fun to use my knowledge towards something useful and unconventional.
Ashley: I have a degree in advertising and have had some experience with photography and design. Before Bravery, I worked for a woman’s lifestyle blog as a manager and fashion editor. It was the perfect part-time gig that gave me flexibility and let me be home with my kids. I’ve always wanted to own my own business. I was just waiting for the right idea to come along. My background has helped me have a base knowledge of things like the design program we used to put the magazine together as well as some ideas about advertising and marketing. I also used to take a lot of the pictures for the magazine at the beginning when we had limited resources.
2) Your Kickstarter campaign was a quick success. What did you learn in the funding process?
Our Kickstarter campaign ran last year and was funded in less than 3 days. We ended up raising double what we had originally planned to raise. The response was pretty unexpected and overwhelming to us. We were completely blown away by how quickly we were funded, and then how quickly we have grown. To us, our growth is a testament to how badly this product is needed -- people want to inspire and empower their kids with strong role models who teach their kids important values and lessons. It’s just really humbling every day to hear the response of our readers as they receive their copies of the magazine. That funding process was our first glimpse into how people viewed our product, and it gave us a lot of confidence to keep moving forward and helped us realize that maybe we were onto something.
3) As a solo entrepreneur, I am always curious about how business partnerships work! How did you know you would work well together, and how do you divide and conquer (the work)?
We’ve been friends for almost eight (!!!) years now, and though we knew each other well, there’s just something different about being legitimate business partners. It’s like a marriage - you learn a lot about the other person. In our partnership, we are usually on the same page and our strengths and weaknesses compliment each other, but we have learned a lot of patience and grace towards each other and ourselves. It’s really humbling to let someone that’s not your spouse see the weaknesses that you hide from everyone else and realize they will still accept and love you for who you are. Since working together, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and how we work. Our talents have lended themselves well to certain workloads and it has been pretty easy and natural to divide the workflow between the two of us. Ashley is a genius at marketing, branding, overall vision and aesthetic, so she takes on that aspect of the business. She designs and lays out each issue and organizes (and sometimes takes) photographs, decides on images for social media, etc . Elyse is hyper-organized and is a talented writer, so she takes care of most of the copy in each issue, the copy for our social media, handles customer service, etc. We both come up with content in each issue and just naturally divide the million other things that come with running a business.
4) How do you manage your time between work, family, and self care?
We both individually work about 30-40 hours a week, plus staying home and raising our kids. We now have a babysitter come in 1-2 days a week for 3 hours, but didn’t for a long time. The rest of our work we squeeze in at nights and nap times. Work is a constant in our lives right now, and we can get pretty burned out pretty fast. Honestly, we both like working, and so a lot of the time our work feels like self-care. But the stress catches up to us quickly, and then self-care looks a lot like binge watching Netflix and eating whole pints of ice cream some nights. Sometimes it’s making sure that we give each other space when we need it, taking time to be with our spouses, or doing things together as friends instead of work partners.
Balancing work and family is very difficult at this early start-up stage. We’ve learned a few tricks as we’ve muddled through it. Having kids help with chores that we already have to do, like dinner or cleaning, is a great way to still power through a to-do list but also have meaningful time with our kids. We’ve learned to be creative and intentional with our time management and include our kids in our magazine work and house tasks when we can, making the time we have with them count. Our poor husbands get the shaft. We try to make sure we carve out times for them, but it’s also fun because they help us out with some important parts of Bravery, so they are involved in our work life quite a bit.
5) What has been the most surprising part of starting and running your creative business? The most challenging? The most rewarding?
Elyse: For me, the most surprising part of starting and running my own business is how much I’ve learned about myself personally. This really has been a huge personal growth year for me. Just a year ago, I was struggling a lot with self-doubt, not knowing what my talents were or how I could contribute. I was always afraid of failing and wouldn’t try new things. It has been so rewarding to know that I can do something, and to have tangible proof of that is incredibly rewarding to me. On the other hand, the personal growth that has been the most surprising and rewarding is also the most challenging for me. I’ve learned a lot of things about myself that I would rather not know, and now Ashley knows them too, so that’s always a scary, humbling thing. It has also been really challenging to overcome the “mom guilt” that comes with doing something that has taken over my life and my family’s. I’ve had to learn how to manage my time and be ok with doing something for myself while also accepting that it’s benefiting my children to see me happy and doing something that I love.
Ashley: I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by this but the way it’s taken over my life has been a little surprising. There isn’t much that can prepare you for that when you are starting something you aren’t even sure will be successful. It’s been a challenge to learn how to balance my time and my relationships. I always joke to my husband and Elyse that I feel like I’m married to two people. The most rewarding part has been watching what happens when I don’t quit and what comes when I push through my desire to have everything be perfect.
6) I'd love to explore the last question, but for motherhood! Most surprising part/most challenging part/most rewarding part?
Elyse: Oh motherhood. Such a fickle thing. I love my kids fiercely. They are beautiful and funny and my life wouldn’t be the same without them, but man, sometimes they make me want to tear my ears off and run away. The most surprising part of motherhood to me has been how much of it is a paradox. Motherhood is extremely difficult, disheartening, exhausting, and defeating. At the same exact time, it’s achingly beautiful, fun, uplifting, and empowering. As a mother, it’s so hard for me to rise above the mom guilt, the comparison, and the constant feeling like I’m not measuring up. But even when I’ve had my most terrible mom day, I am reminded in some way that I’m doing ok. I see one of my kids do something kind for someone else, watch them laugh while they play together, or randomly tell me that I’m beautiful when I haven’t showered for days and am still wearing yesterday’s gym clothes. It’s all equal parts surprising, challenging, and rewarding.
Ashley: This question is making me laugh right now as I’ve literally got my two kids hanging on me as I type this. I think before I had kids I always thought every mother loved being a mom and everything came with it, so I was kind of surprised when I became a mother and there were things I didn’t love. The most challenging part of being a mother is having no clue what I’m doing. My girls are strong-willed and they both like to do things their way (why listen to mom?). Sometimes I struggle to see these things as strengths. I struggle knowing how (and having the patience) to parent them and guide them, but most importantly teach them and raise them. Sometimes I feel like all of motherhood is a struggle for me. The most rewarding part are of course the I love you’s, the snuggles, the hugs, the “I’m really into you right now mom”, and other phrases. I love seeing them learn and grow and seeing them discover things they like and don’t like. Watching a human learn, grow, and develop is truly incredible.
7) When you were young(er), did you have strong female role models?
Elyse: I really don’t remember having any stand out role models. I loved reading as a kid, and looking back, the books of my youth that stand out are books about strong female characters, some of my favorites being The Diary of Anne Frank, Ella Enchanted, and Harry Potter (Hermione forever!). So maybe I did lean that way a little bit subconsciously.
Ashley: Growing up I always looked up to my grandma Jean. She’s an incredible woman full of love and kindness and the most incredible baker. She’s taught me so much about strength through her gentleness.
8) Any advice to parents of brave young children (aside from reading Bravery, obviously!)?
We are both just parenting young children right along with you! Between the two of us, we have five (almost six!) kids under the age of six. We’re not sure that we are the people to go to to for advice, honestly. We both struggle, fail, excel, and fail again on a daily basis trying to figure out how to raise our kids. We both want to raise strong, confident children who believe they can do anything they set their minds to. The desire to provide our children with strong, brave role models is at the very core of why we started Bravery. We both wanted to teach them empowering stories so that they could be empowered to be brave in their own special ways. Sometimes we feel a bit of imposter syndrome as we build this magazine -- neither of us were ultra-aware of these brave women or how to teach our kids about them before we started this business early last year. We are still learning. We’ve found that showing up, being consistent, and always looking for opportunities to have these empowering conversations with our kids has made a difference. Bravery is the tool that we were originally looking for to help us do that, and so it’s been really cool to see how using our product as a conversation starter and a fun, safe place to talk about difficult issues has helped build our children up.
Thank you Elyse and Ashley for sharing your creative journey! Be sure to check out Bravery Magazine right here.