On this week’s podcast, Marcus sits down with Hayley Hill. A New York girl in Alabama went from working for some of the greatest magazine publishers to becoming one herself. Grab your coffee and listen to Hayley’s story from college to the creation of Access Magazine.
Hayley: My name is Hayley Hill, and I am the Founder and Editor of Access Magazine.
Marcus: Well welcome to the podcast Hayley.
Hayley: Thank you for having me.
Marcus: Yeah, no, this is awesome. I'm excited to have you on the podcast, 'cause I'm a big fan of what you all are doing, and what you represent, and what you're bringing to this community. So thank you for coming on today.
Hayley: My pleasure.
Marcus: Yeah, so well one of the things that we always start with is we get some of the backstory about the person that we're listening to. So we want to hear where you're from. Where'd you go to school? Did you go to college? If so, what did you study? And any other backstory that you want to share with us.
Hayley: Well I could fill a novel with my backstory. But I am for the most part from New York City, where I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology right there in Midtown.
Hayley: And from before I could even really remember, I had a obsession with fashion. I considered high school my runway. I was determined to get to New York, that was my tribe, and life did not start until I moved there in 1986.
Hayley: I did go through school in New York at the Fashion Institute. Back in those days, before the big celebrity movement, and before the term celebrity stylist had even come to fruition, I would go to my advisors and say, "I want to work at Vogue, and I want to put those outfits together." They didn't know what to tell me. There was no major for that. There was no way to study. So I picked up different internships with magazines, and photographers and found my own way. I had landed, in the early 90s, at a magazine called Teen People.
Hayley: I was one of the founding editors. That's back in the day when People Magazine did Carol Channing on the cover. It was a much older celebrity. Culture wasn't interested in the young celebrity yet. So Teen People came in right at the time of the 90s pop stars like, Britney Spears, NSYNC, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera. All those pop-stars were really just taking over. So the launch of Teen People was the perfect time. So I was able to get a job there, and I got to meet all those celebrities, and then I started dressing them on the side, as well as being an editor.
Hayley: So my original career was in fashion, either through the celebrity styling, or as a magazine editor.
Marcus: And so you would say that editing was really ... I mean that was your way into what you really wanted to be doing, which was the styling? Or were they kind of-
Hayley: That's a chicken or an egg question.
Hayley: I love being an editor, but I also loved being in fashion. I loved dressing celebrities.
Hayley: And I happened to hit it just at the right time. I mean, it's been said about me that I was the first celebrity stylist there was, so that's interesting.
Hayley: You know, where I was taking it up a level doing the tours, the album covers, all the ad campaigns like, remember Got Milk?
Hayley: All that kind of stuff. For all those young celebrities that I just mentioned.
Marcus: So I'm having kind of a brain fart here, how in the world do you end up here from New York City, doing all that, you've got to tell that story. I mean how did-
Hayley: That's a whole nother book. But it starts and ends with a man.
Hayley: And I had three children. From Teen People, I had this great career in styling, and I was an editor. I went on to work at In Style, and US Weekly as well, and did all their fashion pages. And then I ended up having three children that I never saw, because I was working constantly. And I had a team of eight that worked in my apartment making outfits for NSYNC and Britney. It obviously was a lot. So when I had my children, I just was like, "Okay, I've done this for a really long time." I did it for over 20 years. And my now ex-husband and I decided to move to Mobile, where he was from. I had never heard of it before.
Hayley: But I did end up here, and my plan was to just stay home and raise my kids. But some of the local women, the movers and shakers, heard about my background, and they sought me out to help them with their wardrobes. So I got into the whole culture of Mobile, and was exposed to ... You know, like a Southern wedding is like a blood sport. It's so competitive. I'm not knocking it. I absolutely love it.
Marcus: No, I know totally what you're saying. I completely understand what you're saying, and I hope the audience does too, but that's great. I mean it's a blood sport.
Hayley: It took an outside view to see what was happening here.
Hayley: I was asked to dress the Queen of Mardi Gras one year. I thought Mardi Gras was a day.
Marcus: I've been here for 12 or 14 years, or something like that. I'm still trying to understand Mardi Gras, and all the ceremony that surrounds it. Because there's a lot of stuff that you don't ... It's not just the parades. I mean, like you're saying-
Hayley: There is a whole underworld.
Marcus: Yeah, there's a whole underworld that goes along with it.
Hayley: Starts in November with balls and parties for the courts. It's a whole other show, actually that what goes on.
Hayley: But I was so mesmerized by the process of dressing a queen, and what goes into making the train, and what goes into curating a wardrobe for the whole season. Sometimes they have their own china made. You know, extravagant parties. As an editor in New York, I would have died for these stories.
Hayley: So I got to thinking, "I should start a magazine." And this was kind of at the time where the newspaper had started cutting down their frequency, and I had tried to get interviews at some of the other local media outlets, and people didn't know what to do with me.
Hayley: 'Cause they just saw fashion. But I had also already had 20 years editing. I had worked at the top-
Marcus: Just probably more than most of the people that you were actually trying to get in front of.
Hayley: So not to be heartbroken, I just decided to do my own thing.
Marcus: I love you. I absolutely-
Hayley: Which, you know, sometimes ignorance is bliss.
Marcus: That's incredible. Let's take a minute. Let's take a pause there for just a second, 'cause you're starting to get into another question. But, do you remember what your very first job was? And I'm not-
Marcus: Yeah, your crap job. Yeah, not your good job. Your crap job. What was that?
Hayley: Crap job, it was the take whatever you can get. I was just graduated from FIT, and there was, I had two job offers. One was from Harper's Bazaar, and one was from Woman's Day Magazine. The one at Harper's Bazaar was to be a credit assistant, which means that you write up all the fashion credits from all the photo shoots. And that is not my strength.
Hayley: Even though I wanted to go to Harper's Bazaar, and I had a really awkward interview that could be qualified as maybe a me too movement moment.
Marcus: Oh God.
Hayley: And then I had an interview at Woman's Day Magazine, which is like what all our moms read.
Hayley: And they had made me, they offered me the job to be the location scout, and the model editor. So I thought that was much more fabulous. So I took that job. It was great. So I started going scouting for locations for the different photo shoots, and booking the models to wear the mom jeans, that kind of thing.
Marcus: So what lessons were learned out of that first job, that carried into your career? Was there anything that you, when you look back at that, was there anything that sticks out as a lesson learned? Or I mean it could be even as nebulous as knowing how to work with people, or I mean something along those lines.
Hayley: Right. I think, you know, I noticed early on, it's an industry of relationships. It's also an industry of hard work. It all looks so beautiful. It all looks so glamorous. But I notice, so many of the girls that I worked with were there because it's almost like they wanted to be the models themselves. But I realized that behind every photo shoot, behind every article, you have to go after every detail with such persistence and stop at nothing to get what you want, and that's what I'm really good at. I am not afraid to work hard. I am not afraid to introduce myself. I am not afraid to speak up about my ideas.
Marcus: You're from the Northeast, of course not.
Hayley: Right. But the industry is full of a lot of followers. It's very interesting that there are just a lot of people who just want to be in the industry. I wanted to make my mark on the industry. And I just have never been fearful. So that's one thing that I always want to instill in everybody who works for me, go after what you want.
Marcus: Right, be hungry, be driven.
Hayley: Yes, and don't be afraid to work.
Marcus: Yeah, we were talking at lunch, and one of the things that kind of grates on me, is when people don't try. When they don't put in the effort, even for something that they are passionate about.
Marcus: They're not going after it and being driven and seeking the knowledge and seeking the activities that they're going to need to do in order to actually achieve the goals that they have for themselves.
Marcus: They just wait for it to happen.
Hayley: I didn't spend a lot of time as an assistant. I moved up the ranks pretty quickly because I brought more than what was asked to the table.
Hayley: And I wasn't ever shy about introducing a weird idea, or a new idea. I wasn't shy in talking to my bosses. It got me to a place where I realized, it's like, so many people will tell you what you can't do. I just look at them and say, "Tell me what you can do." Stop at nothing.
Marcus: That's awesome. That's really good stuff. Now you started to talk about starting the magazine. What was that like? 'Cause I mean it's not ... We talked about it a second ago, or minute ago before we started. But Mobile is a difficult market, and especially when you start thinking about running a magazine like yours in a fairly small market. What has that experience been like?
Hayley: Well it was very interesting, to say the least. First, I was faced with two really big challenges.
Hayley: My dream was to start off with a $200,000 investment from some venture capitalist, or some local person that just wanted to be associated with my obviously genius idea. And I literally spent two years on a business plan.
Hayley: And I got so frustrated, 'cause I would go out and tip-toe around in my heels and try to talk to people about my experience and what I thought this magazine could do. It was not working at all. I got no bites, and I was so frustrated. And then it just got to the point where luckily I had engaged myself in this community, going back to having met all these women who brought me into their life, and I became their friends. I just started hosting events, and asking these women to come and they did. One of the events that I did, it was called Seventh on the Hill. It was a runway show. It involved all the local businesses. I had partnered with one of my friends who was on the board for what was then Junior Miss, which is now Distinguished Young Women. So we were able to produce a fashion show where we, I think we made over $100,000 with the last show that we did. I was working on that fashion show, not getting any bites on the magazine to get this business partner that I needed to have the big office that I thought we should have, and all the fabulous startup things that we should have. I just was like, "You know what, I need to launch this magazine at this fashion show." So I went to my friends and I begged them to work for me for free. I was like, "You know what, there's going to be a payoff. It's going to come in about three months."
Marcus: That doesn't sound familiar does it? I'm looking at Jared.
Marcus: The story is that we started this podcast, and he didn't work for me, it was just a side project that we were doing. It was kind of a fun thing. But yeah, now he does work for me, and he does get paid, so yeah.
Hayley: There you go. There you go.
Marcus: But no, that's really cool.
Hayley: Yeah, so we did it. We broke even on our first issue. Everybody got paid, and we were off and running, but I never found a backer.
Marcus: When was that? When did you start the-
Marcus: Nine, very good.
Marcus: Wow, so nine years?
Hayley: Yes. Yeah.
Marcus: Okay, that's really cool, 'cause I can imagine. I mean it's print, in general is not an easy, there's not an easy-
Hayley: Well that was the other challenge, is trying to tell people that Mobile values print. That print is not dead.
Marcus: No, it's not.
Hayley: Bad content is dead.
Hayley: And for lack of a better term, there's so much crap content out there.
Hayley: But the one thing I know from 20 years of editing in New York, is I know women, and I know how to talk to them, and I know what they want to read. And it's just my people are like, "How do you do it?" And it's simple. You put your consumer first every time.
Marcus: So tell us more about that story though. What else surrounded the startup?
Hayley: So we had no money to startup. I had a team with no print experience, that I had to personally train every step of the way. We also had no fancy office. So we worked in a pool house, that somebody said we could use for free.
Marcus: Now do you mean a pool house like shooting pool? Like somebody's actual pool, like a swimming pool?
Hayley: No, like off of somebody's actual pool, yes. Yes.
Hayley: It was in the Spanish Villa apartment complex, which was hilarious, because there was a lot of shenanigans that go down in the Spanish Villa apartments.
Marcus: Nice, yeah.
Hayley: So we just put ourselves there. Sometimes there was a/c, and sometimes there wasn't. But we got to work, and we did it.
Hayley: And you know, now I look back and I would have it no other way. Because now I appreciate our giant, beautiful office that took us several years to get, but it's doable.
Marcus: But you bootstrapped the whole thing. I mean not taking any investors means that you have been able to decide every step of the way, and control the business every step of the way, versus giving up some level of control to someone else that all they've done is just donated money to you.
Marcus: Yeah. Well if you were talking to someone that wanted to get started in running their own business, what's the one bit of wisdom that you would impart to them?
Hayley: Kind of what we were just saying is like, go for it. Don't wait for your million dollar venture capitalist to come through. If there's a will, there's a way.
Hayley: You know, I had to get so super scrappy, but I did it. Don't give up. And I mean, Mobile is a hard place to launch a business, but it's also a great place to launch a business. We're not so ... We're not Seattle, where we're at the center of the IT community. It's not the media capital of the world. You can take some of the tried and trued, tried and true, excuse me, trends that are happening in the business world and mimic them, the successful ones here.
Hayley: It's kind of a perfect market.
Marcus: Have you ever ... 'Cause even you ... We live in the same kind of world. Have you ever seen a time like this where it was so easy to actually get started in a business though? 'Cause I don't know that I ever, I've thought about that a lot lately 'cause I'm preparing a talk for a big conference over in Pensacola. One of the things that I just keep thinking of, there's never been an easier time to come up with a product, get that product made, whatever it is, whether it's software or a physical product, or even a magazine, or anything like that, and get that in front of an audience. There's not been any time like that in my recollection, have you?
Hayley: Well, we need to talk. I have a million ideas. You know, all I can really speak to is what we've done. I wouldn't say it's been easy at all.
Hayley: But I would say I'm super proud. And yes, being in New York 20 years ago, you have so many outlets now to publicize yourself.
Hayley: Social media, obviously. The media in Mobile, in terms of TV and radio, they're so flexible and happy to hear from you, and happy to help you.
Marcus: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Hayley: That just doesn't happen in big markets, without a big check at least.
Hayley: So that part is easier.
Marcus: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, no absolutely. Now, is there anything you all are currently working on that we can talk about? And we can X this if you don't want to talk-
Hayley: Well one of the things that has really been important to our brand as we grow is we've really realized that we need to be a community partner. We do so many stories on women that have impacted this community. Like the women who have built cancer centers, to the women that are feeding people at battered women shelters. But we decided, we need to do more. So that really has seemed to be a great avenue for us. We've been able to partner some of our clients like Porsche, with the Mobile Symphony, or Mobile Ballet, where we can bring both audiences together for the greater good. We're really good event planners, so we do a lot of event planning, and our clients can network at those events. So the whole thing of being more than a magazine, which is our tagline, has really been important to us. We seem to be doing really well with that. Mobile is driven by community service. You know, your more influential clients or consumers are so connected to their charities.
Hayley: And as a business, if you're not genuinely and authentically connected, they might look elsewhere.
Marcus: Yeah, and I think people want to know that you're giving back.
Marcus: They want to know that you're plugged in and that you actually give a shit, know what's going on in this town.
Hayley: Exactly. How are you going to ask me to buy something from you, when you have a beach house on Ono, and you have children at a very upscale private school, and you have the fancy house on the golf course. But you don't do anything in this community.
Marcus: Right, yeah.
Hayley: So we've really been able to bring a lot of people together in those worlds, which extends our brand.
Marcus: That's incredible that you've been able to do that, and I have heard nothing but absolutely fantastic things about the events that you all hold.
Hayley: Well we do like to throw a party. We do like shenanigans.
Marcus: That's awesome. So if you look to the business world, is there anyone that sticks out that motivates you? If you think that person, they really achieved something. Or they're working on a project. Or they've got a skillset, or something that really draws you in?
Hayley: Wow, tough question.
Marcus: You didn't think this was going to be all softballs did you?
Hayley: Who motivates me? Who motivates me? I mean it's going to sound lame, and it's going to sound like it's not genuine, but it completely is. I'm really super proud of my team, and I'm really proud of my sales team because as you know, it's not easy in this market to get out there and sell your services to people. At the end of the day, while Access is a great read, and it's beautiful, it's very expensive to produce.
Hayley: My girls get hung up on all the time. They get snapped at, and I always want to scream at people, like, "We're also consumers here in this market. Don't treat us like that." They have such thick skins, and they keep going into battle every day. If it weren't for them, we would not have a publication.
Hayley: Ruth Ginsberg, love her.
Marcus: No, going back to what you were saying though, I get it, there are days where you get up and I mean it's the employees that motivate you. It's like, "I'm not feeling it today. But I know I've got to be on my game, because if I'm not, then they're the ones that are going to bear the brunt of that." But also, I want to go back to your ... It's amazing to me that people don't put the connection together of I have a platform. I don't want this to come from an arrogant place. But recently I was thinking this through. Most of the time I go in places and I treat people with respect, and I'm the guy that says thank you to the person that's cleaning the table, and doesn't treat them disrespectful or anything. But recently, we've had some situations where I'm just like, "I don't think you realize the reach that we have, as a media house." And I try not to go there, but at the same time it's like what you're saying. Don't treat people with disrespect when they're calling you on the phone, or ... Now granted we all get the recorded sales calls. And I'm always the one that's like, "Stop."
Hayley: I don't have a student loan.
Marcus: No. It's not even a person. It's just a recording. Those, I'll say some choice words to, because they don't even have the common decency to have a person call you. But anyway, as to the audience, treat people with respect.
Hayley: It is astonishing, yeah absolutely.
Hayley: And it's like we're ... Yes, it costs money to participate in our media platform, but we're going to work so hard for you. If you're not interested, just say, "No, thank you."
Hayley: It's so simple, and I will come eat your pizza.
Marcus: It's fine, you know.
Hayley: No hard feelings.
Marcus: Yeah, exactly.
Hayley: I can handle no, I'm 50.
Marcus: Alright, so this next one, is are there any books, podcasts, people or organizations that have been helpful in moving you forward?
Hayley: God, you're making me seem so shallow.
Marcus: No, not at all. Not at all.
Hayley: The current book that I'm trying to read ... I don't get much time. I'm a single mom, three kids.
Marcus: Oh yeah.
Hayley: And I work around the clock every day. But I did recently meet this guy who is from Pritchard, so I've taken an interest in Pritchard. He wrote a book. He goes by the name Champ, but his book is called it's Prison and Poverty. Or Poverty and Prison, I don't remember. So I'm trying to read that, and he writes about how he was in prison for murder, and how he became a drug dealer. He makes the connection of how he evolved into becoming a drug dealer. Saw his dad killed at three years old, in front of his house. You know, this horrible life. So that's what I'm reading. I don't know if it relates.
Marcus: No, it's light reading.
Hayley: But I love the human story. That's more interesting to me than reading a business manual.
Hayley: 'Cause I read business manuals. They're like, "Do a business plan." I threw that in the garbage, 'cause I couldn't get any ... Two years I spent on it.
Hayley: I also read this great book a long time ago that really all entrepreneurs should read. It's called Startup Nation. And I don't remember the author, but it's all about Israel. Which I don't know if most people would be interested in that. I'm very interested. They have a huge percent of entrepreneurs, when you look at it in terms of the world, and they have a huge economy, when you look at it in terms of the world. The book is about how easy it is to start a business in Israel, and how business deals are done over a coffee and a handshake.
Hayley: And it's not this process that we have in the states. And it's very interesting because the Israeli government ... And I don't know if they're still doing this. But what they did to build their nation was, if you had an idea, and you could prove that it was a decent idea, the government would actually give you money. And if you made it, you pay the government back.
Hayley: If you didn't, thanks for trying. And they built this whole nation. I mean they're the lead of agriculture, technology-
Marcus: How encouraging is that? 'Cause you think about what that communicates to the nation as a whole, to the people-
Hayley: Anything's possible.
Marcus: Yeah, anything's possible.
Hayley: I mean out here you can't get a loan. I mean you can't.
Hayley: It's so hard. You have to beg your friends, like I did. Let's do a project.
Marcus: What is the most important thing that you've learned about running a business?
Hayley: I've learned maybe the deeper level, is that there are days when you just want to cry, and you just want to throw the towel in. Our days as business owners can change in a minute. One minute you're down in the dumps, and the next minute you're on cloud nine.
Hayley: Just always keep that in the back of your mind, like, "It's going to be okay. Ride it out. It's okay."
Marcus: And if you have that trusted advisor that you can call to talk you down off the ledge, sometimes that's helpful, or your sidekick that you can have talk you off the ledge then it's helpful too.
Hayley: Right. My relationship with my staff in Mobile is very different than the relationship I had with my staffs in New York.
Hayley: In New York, everybody's making bank. You know, it was I hire, I fire, get it together or go home.
Hayley: When you have your own business in a small town, you have to have the comradery, you have to be each other's support team. So we are all very close. I mean, I don't always let them see all of my stress. But they do definitely see a lot of it, and they know the business, the hurdles that we have. They know the problems that we have. It's not hidden like it was in Time Inc.
Marcus: Yeah, absolutely. So how do you like to unwind?
Hayley: Well, I'm no stranger to a cocktail.
Marcus: [crosstalk 00:28:12] this is a trick question. Yeah. You did mention you like to throw a party, so.
Hayley: We throw a lot of parties at Access, but that's for networking opportunities for our clients. It has nothing to do with our enjoyment of libations. You know, I walk, I lift weights. I hang out with my team. I have three kids, and a good night's sleep is about all I can ask for.
Marcus: Believe me, I completely understand that 'cause I'm not getting much of it-
Hayley: I did just go back to New York though, and that was everything, for a visit.
Marcus: Yeah? Have a good time?
Hayley: Yes. It's so inspiring.
Marcus: See any good shows, or do anything that stands out?
Hayley: Interesting you should ask. I saw, I think the name of the show, it was based on the Go-Go's. I can't remember the show. The name of it. It might have been ... I'll have to think about that and get back to you.
Marcus: No, it's all good.
Hayley: I had a band in high school called the Stop-Stops. 'Cause I'm an absolute Go-Gos fanatic.
Marcus: The Go-Gos versus the Stop-Stops. That's great.
Hayley: True. So at Access we're contemplating starting our own band about angry housewives.
Hayley: All we have to do in this world, and work too. So that's ... But anyway, the show in New York was awesome. I saw a great exhibit at The Met about how the Catholic imagination has influenced designers. Where else in the world would you find something that specific?
Marcus: Yeah, fairly specific. Yeah.
Hayley: It's just to be around all those ideas, it's so good for creative types like us.
Hayley: We have to get involved with those movers and shakers.
Marcus: I mean oftentimes I'll go to conferences just to get away. I'm not even so much concerned about what the topic is. I mean if I can get something out of it, it's great. But conferences are an excuse for me to go to bigger cities and see what's going on, eat some good food, see some good shows, or go to an exhibit or something along those lines.
Marcus: You know, it's nice to just get out and see what the world has to offer. Where can people find out more information about Access Magazine, and maybe some of the offerings that you all have?
Hayley: Okay, well I'll start with the offerings. Access is primarily a women's magazine. Most people don't know that women are the core consumer of all products and services.
Marcus: Really? I had no idea.
Hayley: You do. Most people don't though. It's astonishing. There's a study out there called the She-conomy, that we like to quote a lot. Literally, everything from healthcare to groceries, to where we live, what shrubs are in our front yard, to cars, to-
Marcus: To the flooring that you're putting in a new office [inaudible 00:31:00]
Hayley: Women's opinions are behind every decision. Jen, my girl sitting over here, her husband might be like, "Oh, we're going to get this car." If she thinks it's ugly, it's not happening.
Marcus: He's not getting that car.
Hayley: And if she and her husband pick out a car and their teenage daughter doesn't like it, then they're not getting it again. So even though we're a pretty magazine and we're glossy and it's all about local women, it really is a business vehicle to let people know what services and good are sold in the Mobile, Baldwin County area. We take a very unique approach. We might do a story on a cosmetic surgeon. Well I don't want to spend 1,200 words writing about boob jobs and facelifts. I want you to know who that doctor is. Where did he go to school? What kind of dad is he? What kind of [crosstalk 00:32:03]
Marcus: What does he like to do? Yeah.
Hayley: What kind of sense are running through his office? And does it feel like a spa. So we're much more-
Marcus: Painting a picture for people versus just telling them the straight facts.
Hayley: Right, it's conversational. So that's essentially what we do. Where you can find out the most about us, our website is under construction, so I would send people to Facebook for Access magazine.
Marcus: Access Magazine on Facebook, very good. Well I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. To wrap up any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?
Hayley: I think I gave you more than ever asked for.
Marcus: Now I appreciate your willingness to sit here with me, and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur. It's been great talking with you.
Hayley: You too, thank you.