One year ago today, I was writing this letter with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, driven by that awkward balance between sheer fear and uncertainty and enormous and overwhelming gratitude. Last May we were forced to divert from the Austin Woman norm of featuring one cover woman because due to the lockdown all across our nation, we were physically unable to do a photoshoot, interview and all of the other human interactions it takes to create each issue.
Current advertisers were pulling or reducing their campaigns, new advertisers were nonexistent and our revenues plummeted over 40%. We feverishly awaited the first round of PPP, which we applied for the very first day, even the very first hour one was able to. Yet we were still given the bad news that “money had run out” prior to us making it through the system.
My instinct was to panic, but my intellect told me that I just had to get creative and figure out a solution. I picked up the phone and called dear friend and former cover woman Andra Liemandt to bounce some ideas around. I knew she wouldn’t judge me for breathing into a paper bag for most of our conversation. What I wanted to run by her was an idea I had about bringing former cover women together to help us not only get the May 2020 issue out with great content as our readers expected, but also to drive some much-needed financial support for the magazine.
Andra immediately jumped on the idea of former cover women “leaning in” and being the driving editorial and financial support that Austin Woman needed in that moment. Andra gave me the courage to reach out to nearly 20 years of cover women and ask for help. The response was overwhelming and the May 2020 “Lean In” issue was born. If you missed it, be sure to check it out. It is a testament to the power of community we have here in Austin and the women who unequivocally have your back.
This May, we are approaching what we might call our new “normal.” Vaccinations are free flowing, businesses are opening back up and, God willing, positive COVID-19 cases and subsequent deaths will begin to plummet. Throughout these past 12 months, Austin Woman has continued to publish, in print, each and every month. As a team, we made that commitment to our readers because we intrinsically understood that this past year, more than any other year in our nearly 19-year history, it was essential that we stay the course and continue bringing you positive role models, heroic stories and hopefully, even during some very dark days, the inspiration to continue moving forward.
That commitment from the team, however, did not come without sacrifice. Today, I want to thank them, from the bottom of my heart for leaning in; by tightening our belts financially, by putting out our very best work with a fraction of our usual page count, for manually mailing out copies of the magazine to our very generous readers who supported us with subscriptions and for charging ahead with our two signature events in a new and unchartered virtual space—and making them the best events to date—and even creating a new event to address mental and physical wellness that so many women were craving.
I am proud of each team member for her diligence and sacrifice. I especially want to thank Niki Jones, who for the past seven and a half years led Austin Woman’s creative vision and is now going to make her mark on a new company. We send her our outstretched arms to buoy her on her new journey, our love to warm her and our gratitude to uplift her.
On May 19, we will host our signature Woman’s Way Business Awards, live and in person at the Long Center with a safe, socially distanced environment where we can come together to celebrate female-led businesses in our city. It is so important that, especially as we learn about the effect that COVID-19 has had on women leaving the workforce, we continue to show up and champion women. I hope you will join us and become an active member of our incredible tribe of women leaders and change-makers.
Full of love, gratitude and hope for the future,