Today I am talking with Jessica Pfohl Paisley, the founder of Amidst, a magazine that showcases the art, beauty, culture, design, fashion, film, music, and photography of Midwest creatives. After being told she needed to move to one of the coasts to create, she decided to create a space to highlight Midwestern creatives from her home in Iowa.
In this episode we will cover:
- Amidst Magazine
- Learning along the way – and not stopping.
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Midwest.
- The Community of the Amidst
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The Legalpreneur Podcast is advertising/marketing material. It is not legal advice. Please consult with your attorney on these topics. Copyright Legalpreneur Inc 2022
Episode 246: Showcasing Midwest Creativity with Jessica Pfohl Paisley Transcript
Andrea: [00:00:03] Welcome to the Legalpreneur podcast. I’m your host, Andrea Sager, founder and CEO of Legalpreneur Inc. As a serial entrepreneur and someone that works exclusively with small business owners legally protecting their business, I’m dedicated to covering common legal issues faced by business owners, providing you with the business knowledge you need to catapult your business’s growth and showing you just how some of the world’s most elite entrepreneurs have handled these legal and business issues themselves. In true attorney fashion, the information in this episode is not legal advice. This is for informational purposes only, and you should always consult with your attorney before implementing any of the information in the show. Hello there and welcome back to another episode of the legal podcast. Today’s guest is Jessica Foale Paisley, the founder and editor of Amidst Magazine. It is a digital and print magazine dedicated to the online community for creatives with a midwest connection. So Jessica founded amidst with a passion for storytelling, creating a space for connection and expanding the definition of the Midwest experience. I love that, by the way, with a background in fashion styling costume design for independent films and writing for area publications, Jessica has had the opportunity to connect with many amazingly talented creatives across the Midwest in a variety of industries musicians, filmmakers, artists and many others. Making these connections and seeing the expertise right in her own backyard is what inspired her to launch amidst. Jessica. Thank you so much for joining me today. I’m so pumped to be talking to you today because I think this is something that has been so needed.
Jessica: [00:01:53] Thank you so much. You know, it’s really interesting hearing somebody read your bio that you wrote yourself or kind of put together. I’m like, oh, wow, that is really cool. There’s a lot of things in there.
Andrea: [00:02:05] Yes, that’s awesome. I first want to just hear from you. Like, I’m already like, oh my gosh, I have so much to ask, but I want to hear from you first and tell the listeners, how did you get to where you are today? So I got a little bit of it in the bio, but just kind of deep dive. Like, how did you even get started in this?
Jessica: [00:02:22] Absolutely. Well, I think. You know, similar to most entrepreneurs or founders and creatives, it’s like an unintentional pathway. It’s not that it was accidental by any means, but it just kind of one thing kept building up on top of the other. I worked at a corporate background for a really long time. I also worked a non profit background for a very long time. And in both of those worlds which are very different, I was always the one that was sort of they call it the entrepreneur, the person who’s trying to the new projects within the company within as much as you can. So I was always the one who was doing special events or strategic initiatives, all the things that were kind of new and up and coming. So it was really interesting to transition some of those. Pieces that some people didn’t really like. Yeah, that’s a little risky even for the company. Yeah, I don’t want to do that. So that’s basically how I got my entrepreneur background is being an entrepreneur and companies first. And as far as the magazine goes. That I was a frustrated, Midwest creative and was someone that was like, okay, I am told I’ve been told my entire life that if you want to be successful as a creative and you have to leave and you have to go to either coast and I love both coasts, but I think that you can be a successful creative right here in the Midwest.
Jessica: [00:03:44] And with my background too, you know, I grew up in the middle. I grew up in the middle of the country. I grew up in the middle of two cultures. I grew up in middle two languages, the magazines actually English and Spanish, which was really important for me and the whole thing. Yeah, Thank you. And that’s part of where my bio. You said expanding the definition of the Midwest experience is to just enhance what people think of the Midwest. People think they hear Midwest, they think corn, they think flap, they think flyover territory. There’s nothing going on. And there are so many things going on. I’m actually based in Iowa, right, where Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin connect on the Mississippi River. So it’s really cool to see. I’m 3 hours from Chicago, I’m 3 hours from Des Moines, I’m 4 hours from Minneapolis. So I have access to a lot of things. And because of my background in fashion styling, I’ve been doing styling for about 15 years. So image consultant work, professional presentations. And when you’re the only person in the area that does that, you have, you know, you kind of a broad reach. And that expanded into doing costume design for independent films and some other things. So as a frustrated Midwest based creative who was like, okay, nobody’s covering this stuff, like, you know, Vogue has all their amazing features, I submit they’re like, I’m this tiny little fish and, you know, submitting. They’re like, okay, there needs to be something here in the Midwest that highlights the work that creatives are doing.
Jessica: [00:05:10] So I actually started something in 2020. We did I called it a capsule magazine based on like capsule wardrobe, only the essentials. It was a print and digital. So the print was just one sheet cover. And then on the back side was our table of contents, and then everything else was digital. So we did three issues January 20, 20th February 2020, and then March 2020, March 2020. I was stuck with about 10,000 prints that no one would touch because nobody would touch them. And by the time things started to open up a little bit, kind of where I’m at, it was September of that year and everything said March. So people thought it was old. It was still, you know, I was always wanting to be timeless evergreen material, but it was dated. So I learned two things. I joked that it was my expensive beta test is one, people want print and digital, but they don’t want them together. They want a print piece they can hold and keep and collect and they want digital. Whereas the more fast moving ongoing update things and then don’t date anything because then that you date it, then it’s no longer relevant. So I took the summer. At the time I had a one year old. She’s now three and a half and spent isolation with her in a kiddy pool for however many weeks.
Jessica: [00:06:36] We were there and had a great summer. My mom actually, unfortunately, was one of the first people who had gotten COVID. She’s okay now. I always tell people that, but it gave me a lot of reflection on. What I wanted to do as mother, how I wanted to have a business and do like this creative thing in all these different areas. So. And that fall, the concept of a midst came to me. And of course, I have to show this because I think this is the coolest piece is how we have our logo so omits. When I finally figured out what it was to highlight the Midwest. And then amidst is a term that you’re among others, you’re part of something, you’re part of it. And our issue one, we only come out twice a year, so it’s something that’s a collectible. I had a lot of help actually, from another Midwest based. Publication that actually ended in 2020, the same time I was picking up. So they gave me like six years worth of publication knowledge that I would not have had otherwise. And that’s all, you know, I’m not sure that you’d get that in every industry, but I’ve been really fortunate to have people. Want to help and want to see the succeed. And, you know, there’s there’s just so many pieces to it that that’s kind of where where we started. But I’ll get to the rest of it as we continue our conversation.
Andrea: [00:08:02] That’s incredible. And like I my hat off to you, like I tip my hat to you because I can only imagine having 10,000 print copies of something when COVID hits. And that would just set me over the edge. It’s like, okay, I’m done with this. There was a.
Jessica: [00:08:18] Little bit of.
Andrea: [00:08:18] That time to time to move on to the next thing, which I mean, you did, but you’re still in the same industry, still pretty much doing the same. I mean, it’s a magazine and I. I know. How hard. Anything print is and then sell magazines. You know, we’ve been hearing newspapers, magazines. They’re all dying. But you have found a way to still make it work, which is incredible. And I love the spin on amidst having it bring together the Midwest. And one quick question that I have is what is considered the Midwest to you? Because I know I’m in Texas. And so sometimes we’re considered the Midwest, sometimes we’re not. Sometimes we’re just south. And so I want to hear from you. What is your version of the Midwest?
Jessica: [00:09:07] That was a big struggle at the very beginning because there are so many definitions of what the Midwest is. And yes, technically so we didn’t include Texas. I apologize because I do consider Texas South, but because it’s wet straight down. But we had, you know, where with my background and nonprofit and we did a lot of surveying and things like that. And what I’ve found is the best ways to kind of mimic the federal government and some ways. But we did the federally recognized 12 Midwest states, so we have them listed. It’s Iowa, Illinois. It is. There’s northern Midwest, states like Minnesota and others like that, too. But it is the 12 federally recognized Midwest states. And we’re home based in Iowa. But my co founder, Carolyn, is actually in Illinois and she’s literally and people are like, oh, one of these in Iowa. One of you is in Illinois. We’re across the river. We’re 30 minutes away from each other. And she we have that kind of starting area. And then we have a lot of connections in Wisconsin. So we’ve really started because of our our reach here. Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin is very, very prevalent and issue one with a little bit of Minnesota because we have a great relationship with Fashion Week, Minnesota. They’ve been great to work with. And again, expand the definition of the Midwest experience. When people hear that there is a fashion week and the Midwest are like, what? And it’s amazing.
Andrea: [00:10:36] Like, what are you talking about?
Jessica: [00:10:37] It’s beautiful. They do a great, great job.
Andrea: [00:10:40] And do y’all have is it a lot of Western fashion? That’s what I think of when I think in the Midwest, it’s a lot of Western fashion is surprised.
Jessica: [00:10:49] It’s not it’s not as much as one would think. I mean, there are elements, of course, and one thing that I’ve been really excited to see, too, is the influence of Native American and indigenous designers in this area, too. So it has been. You know, we have all it’s all over the place. In ISSUE one, I guess this designer, she has a little flair for Western. But this is one of my favorite looks. And yeah, it’s just kind of unique pieces. Megan’s walker.
Andrea: [00:11:21] And if you all are listening to this, go watch the full interview on YouTube. If you’re listening to this in the car on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, the full video, and you can see what Jessica just showed on YouTube. Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh. Yeah. You’ll definitely need to go watch on YouTube. And I mean, of course, go check out the magazine as well. But if you want to just see these quick clips, definitely go watch the whole video on YouTube. So one thing that I want to get into is the community aspect. So tell me more about what that means for the magazine. Is it a community for the contributors? The designers? Tell me more about that.
Jessica: [00:12:01] So when we first kicked off, you know, like, okay, we need a magazine, we need this media piece to tell people’s stories so they have a space to submit their work exactly how they want it to be told. So that was the concept of this print magazine Digital. And then, oh, by the way, here’s this online community that everybody can connect in afterwards. Once they submit, it completely flipped on its head. 100%. I had no idea that it was going to do what it did. But people who don’t even submit the magazine, they want to join the community first. So we had we started out with everything kind of behind a paywall. Like for media, that doesn’t necessarily work. You need to have it open for people to access. And then we did the same thing with the community, and then we found we didn’t want to have barriers. We didn’t want a financial barrier to be a reason someone didn’t join. So we kind of have tiers and we’re still working on what that looks like. We’re a young company. We’re only a year and a half old and with our community aspect. So we have a platform that we use called Mighty Networks and it’s called our community is called Amidst Creatives of the Midwest. So it’s a tie on amidst overall, but it’s you join the community first. You can meet other community members. You can connect with them based on industry and discipline is a lot of associations are specific to industry.
Jessica: [00:13:22] So there’s legal groups, there’s fashion groups, but there’s not anything that crosses over. So with my limited experience in the film industry, I realized there was a lot of things like you could. People need extras or they need hair and makeup. You’re always looking for a little bit of everything because film is one that kind of transcends all the areas that actually influenced it. What the community needed to look like for me personally. So this community and then again my co founder, Carolyn, she started out as our community host from day one and then has helped build it from there. But that’s where. She posts prompts in there. She has conversations with people, post opportunities like if there’s grants or other things. And as we have kind of figured out what people want. We have monthly industry expert speakers, so one of our first speakers are actually our very first speaker was Andre, right? He is the co founder of Humanized My Hoodie and he is actually in issue one and their focus, he’s a fashion activist, which I just love the concept. And again, people would don’t necessarily know they’re right here in Iowa, but the concept is the misperception and misconception that black men and hoodies are threatening. And so literally, it’s called humanize my hoodie. So the word human is here first, and it’s a conversation starter. So that’s one of the things I’m looking for that.
Andrea: [00:14:46] But I just got chills hearing that. Oh, my gosh, that’s incredible.
Jessica: [00:14:51] The diversity, equity and inclusion side of things is extremely important to us. Again, like having the magazine in English and Spanish. We had somebody that has different eyesight, so they are colorblind and could only read. So we made sure like the colors where they’re able to read that and all the stories that we’re highlighting or highlighting the diversity that does exist in the Midwest. And we know that it’s more than what people stereotype is. And so this is. Andre from Humanize My Hoodie. And they have a documentary actually called The Black Liberation Space, which I love that you can. So him and his partner, Jason Sole. Oh. But he was our first speaker in the community. And there that conversation was just really eye opening for a lot of people that, for one, that this exists in the Midwest and to the type of conversation starter that it is to have somebody who’s a fashion activist, he’s shown a New York Fashion Week, he’s done all these big things and to work with him as one of our partners for issue one was just absolutely amazing. And then again, to have him as our first speaker in the community. So that’s a huge part of what we do is we have these monthly industry expert speakers based on either being a successful Midwest creative or like a topic that our creatives would need to know about, whether it’s legal or mental health, all those different things we we try to pull it. And so we’ve had a different speaker every month. And then the other event that we have is we call it the friendly artist hangout and it’s literally just a topic. And then once a month people get together and chat about something in their creative life.
Andrea: [00:16:37] Oh, my gosh. That’s incredible. I love this. Oh, my gosh. Congrats. First of all, for the first issue. Just sounds like it was a great success and having such a great activist to partner with for the first edition, that’s that’s awesome. So kind of moving on to the business side of things. Well, the legal side of things, I’m curious, have you not I’m going to ask, have you run into any legal issues or questions or what has come up as you’ve been creating this magazine? Because as a creator, it’s a lot of intellectual property. And so I’m curious what has come up for you?
Jessica: [00:17:20] That’s a great question. So there’s been a couple of things. And, you know, you don’t know until you know. And one of the things we always want to do is take people at face value, like we want to believe people that what they saying is accurate, not always the case. So we have had a couple of things. Fortunately, nothing huge, but we’ve really upped our process on the permissions side. So making sure we’ve we’ve had absolutely everybody documented as far as their. That crediting. Excuse me. Yes. Like getting credits for their work. So if a photographer submits something that’s the model, hair and makeup, it’s the designer. It’s all these things that kind of come into play and then vice versa if it’s we had like. So for Andre’s story, for example, they submitted the their photos that their photographer had taken, but by sending them over to us saying that they had permission from him to do that. So we’ve just had a lot of those type of things. So now we have a lot more streamlined process than what the issue one was, because issue one was a lot of people from my experience or my connections, I would say, and some of the photos I even took myself actually, because then it was just easier. Yeah.
Andrea: [00:18:44] Well, and that’s that’s the easiest way to do it. So for those listening as a reminder, whoever takes the photo by default has the copyright to it. So even if you are the subject of the photo, the photographer owns the copyright to the photo. So if somebody, let’s say amidst magazine or Vogue reaches out and they want to use your photo that you’re in, you actually probably don’t have the permission to give. It belongs to the photographer to say, yes, you can use my photo or, you know, yes, here’s the fee or whatever they want to add on to the license. But remember, you do have to have a license, which is just permission.
Jessica: [00:19:23] And that’s that’s what we learned quickly. And like, you know, I had known those things based on my other work that I had done. But being the one responsible for all of it was a game changer. And we did have, you know, and doing interviews and different things, having, you know, we did find out that we even though we’re not investigative journalists, because most of the time we’re having people submit their story and how they want to be portrayed is that if we are doing an interview, we do need to dig a little deeper and talk to everybody involved if there’s more than one party. So we just had a couple of things like that. But for the most part, we’ve had some really great experiences and great creatives and like I mentioned, like our partnership with Fashion Week, Minnesota, they were actually the cover of Issue one is how I was connected with them. The model photographer and designer are all from Minneapolis and we’re absolutely great to work with. And now we do their lookbook for amidst us, the lookbook for Fashion Week. Like we just do like this little mini special edition version. And then we have the digital copy on our website and all those type of things. So, you know. It’s interesting to me to see, like in the creative industries, how many people don’t have legal things in place. And I was I thought I was being paranoid and like, overcompensating on stuff. And now I’m kind of glad that I had and like, I had documented things and I had tracked on on what? And again, it’s when we weren’t perfect with some a couple of these situations, we made sure that we addressed it appropriately. But yeah, going forward now we know with like issue two, we actually had some publication delays for you too, because we wanted to make sure we had all permissions in line before anything went to print.
Andrea: [00:21:08] Yeah, Yeah, No, I understand that. Oh, my gosh. Well, Jessica, what what else can you share with us about the magazine, the community?
Jessica: [00:21:17] Well, I would say if you’re a midwest based, creative and you’re looking for somewhere that you want to connect with people amidst creatives is our website amidst magazine dot com is the digital magazine. And we have issue one on there. We have a preorder for issue two and we’re looking for stories we want people to submit. So we want people to join the community, share their story. One of the things we’re getting up right now is we’ve figured out instead of me doing like a one on one interview with every single person is saying, okay, we’re looking for these three types of stories. We’re looking for a third person interview style. Like, here are the questions. Complete these answers. Another one would be like stories you’ve already submitted. So actually right now this would be one of my questions because I’m just brand new into this is syndication and figuring out like, again, it’s kind of a permissions type thing, but I’m not a I’m not a media expert and this is an area I’m new into. So understanding how syndication works and that there’s no industry standard that has been like.
Andrea: [00:22:23] Yeah, there really.
Jessica: [00:22:24] Is. It’s like whatever your agreement is with whatever party you’re working with, more or less. And so that’s the thing that I’m getting into right now is syndication. So if you’ve written a blog or if you submitted to another publication or something, because we’re kind of an umbrella for the Midwest. So if there is something that we can say, okay, this was first featured in XYZ publication, but here it is here, and especially if it’s only a print now, we can give it a digital life and kind of repurpose some of these stories because there are so many things and we don’t have the same audiences. So how we can cross promote like that. So that’s one of the things that I’m really looking into next is making sure we have all the syndication stuff and. Where it needs to be.
Andrea: [00:23:07] I love it. Yeah. Syndication is really tricky because there isn’t one standard and you have to have permission. It really is just the agreement. With every single publication, it’s different. And so obviously, like for bigger publications, there are some that are just nationally syndicated, but it’s a different agreement depending on the publication. So. Yeah. Not fun. Well, Jessica, before I let you go, I ask the same question to everyone, and that is, what is your number one business tip for those listening?
Jessica: [00:23:43] Keep trying. I know it sounds semi generic, but it’s one of those things that’s like you, you know, you know that what you’re working on is going to be successful. You have to keep working on it. And for however many no’s or how many obstacles that you might face, there is still, you know, the people who succeed are the ones that you see that. Feel like the overnight sensations as they had a crazy long journey to get there. And that’s that would be my my business tip is don’t give up. Just keep trying.
Andrea: [00:24:21] Yeah, I love it. Well, Jessica, I know you love the links. Anything else that you want to leave with the listeners?
Jessica: [00:24:28] Thank you for the opportunity to be here. And, you know, after this, I’m looking forward to asking you some more legal questions. So I’ll be sending you. We’ll be working together.
Andrea: [00:24:38] Yes. Yes. All right. Well, Jessica, thank you so much. You guys go. Download the magazine. Go buy it. Go join the community. If you’re in the Midwest, go contribute like this is a great way to get your name out there and start building your own business.
Jessica: [00:24:52] Absolutely.
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