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Thoughtfully Magazine: Living Passionately, Beautifully & Thoughtfully Every Day – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Brandie Gilliam, Founding Editor & Creative Director, Thoughtfully Magazine

January 13, 2016

“When I look at print and digital; for me, digital is something that you go to when you need something fast. You’re looking up information, which is typically how most people are engaging with digital. It’s very much something on the go. When you look at digital, the underbelly is much different; it’s not for this kind of meaningful, thoughtful connection and I think that’s what print brings. They’re different mediums and I think it all comes to life. That’s what I’ll say print does; print brings a project to life.” Brandie Gilliam

“They’re hungry and I think with print it’s not so much that print is dead; I think the way we’ve been doing print is dead. And it’s very important for those who are doing print to understand that. Readers, especially in this digital age, are much more informed than ever. They are much savvier than they’ve ever been and the power is really in their hands, not in our hands. No longer can we just feed this level of information and expect people to just accept it.” Brandie Gilliam

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story

image1 Creative curators and inspiration enthusiasts, this is how the magazine Thoughtfully describes itself. It is a passionate statement made through the pages of an exceptionally stunning magazine that encourages its readers to live passionately, beautifully and thoughtfully every day of their lives. And the driving force behind this creatively-done publication is a woman who personifies those elements of the “Thoughtfully” lifestyle herself.

Brandie Gilliam comes from the corporate world and knows how to wield understanding and marketing strategies to really comprehend what the customer wants and needs when it comes to a product. According to Brandie, Thoughtfully was born from a consumer need to understand what print was and could be in this digital age, and a desire that women had to see themselves in a more definitively positive way.

I spoke with Brandie recently about the genesis of Thoughtfully and the fact that she felt this consumer need was better served in print and digital, rather than a pixels-only publication that couldn’t be physically held and touched.

We talked about the fact that Thoughtfully is not only an engaging magazine, but also a community and a movement; a lifestyle that the brand is encouraging their readers to delve into. Living passionately, beautifully and thoughtfully is not only the magazine’s tagline, but also its underlying reason for existing. And through every word printed, Brandie strives to convey that message.

So, I hope you enjoy this most “thoughtful” interview with a woman who knows how to help us all live a better life in a very creative way.

And now, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brandie Gilliam, Founding Editor & Creative Director, Thoughtfully Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

image1 On whether “Thoughtfully” began first on the web and then moved into print: No, we actually started in print. It’s available in a digital version that you can download to your iPad or digital reader. We wanted to give that option to readers, even though we do ship internationally.

On that moment of conception with the magazine and why she decided to go with print in this digital age: I think there’s always been this recognition that there was something needed on the newsstands; we would hear it over and over in different conversations, whether it was in forums or on social or Vine, but women were really longing for a better connection with what’s happening in print today. They wanted something that was more representative of them, something they could read and feel good about doing so. They wanted to read something that assured them that they were good enough.

On her own personal background: My background is in corporate. I have a Bachelor’s of Science from Liberty University in Management Information Systems, with a dual minor in Psychology and French. So, marketing and branding has been my labor of love over the years in both the print and digital space. And I’ve also been in a couple of Fortune 500 companies. That’s really what I’ve been doing over the years.

On the fact that she’s not just founding editor and creative director of the magazine, she also writes quite a bit herself: Yes, there’s a lot that I touch at Thoughtfully, so it’s really a labor of love for me. The entire process, from laying out what our content is to the different contributors; it’s all very much hand-selected through a thought process. Everything is intentional. Everybody who touches the pages of Thoughtfully is carefully selected. Even the content that I may get involved with; obviously, I’m not going to set out to write an entire magazine, nor do I think anyone wants to read a complete magazine with one, solo writer. Plus, I think it makes it great when you hear different perspectives, different stories from different viewpoints.

On whether friends and colleagues asked her if she was out of her mind to launch a print magazine today: (Laughs) I don’t think anyone asked me that because it happened so fast. Maybe if I had done the typical planning, which usually I would do. I come from years of being in a corporate environment where there’s a lot of market research and product development goes into it and it’s one or two years in the making before you even hit to market. This was not the story for Thoughtfully.

On what she thinks print can deliver today that digital cannot: You hear so many people say all of the time; when I just want to lie on the beach and read a good book or have a good magazine with me or the times when I just want to cozy up on my couch and feel something between my fingertips and have an experience, I want print. It’s a bit different and much more connective since it’s tangible and something you can actually feel when you touch the pages between your fingertips. You’re able to see print come to life and it’s a much different experience.

On what she has learned between issue one and issue four: (Laughs) Oh, I have learned a lot. Some of the big differences obviously, coming from a corporate background; you’re used to a big, big budget. And Thoughtfully, of course, doesn’t have that luxury. When you’re starting new, you don’t always have it, especially when you’re doing it and it’s not backed by some type of corporation. So doing more with less has been a big lesson that I’ve learned.

On the major stumbling block that she’s had to face: We are based out of Destin, Fla. and literally most of our team members are spread throughout the United States and I even have some contributors internationally based. My background in corporate has served me well up to this point, in terms of being used to working with great talent. Sometimes you find that working with great talent means that they may not be sitting in your backyard and so you have to get really good at communicating over the phone and via emails.

On whether a year later she is more determined than ever to continue on this journey: Yes, more than ever I’m encouraged by our readers and the feedback we’ve been getting when people discover us. They call us a breath of fresh air and say that we’re exactly the magazine that they’ve been waiting their entire lives for. And to see it really resonate with people, that for me really is exciting because it’s much more than a magazine. We call ourselves a community and a movement, but I really look at Thoughtfully as being this kind of aide with helping people live their best lives.

On whom her reader actually is: Our reader is primarily female, between the ages of 25-40. She has a hunger and a desire for more. She eats relatively healthy or wants to eat healthy; she enjoys traveling and exploring; she enjoys wanting to be the best version of herself, and she may be vegan or she may want to go organic. Or maybe she’s just more thoughtful in her approach to her eating habits. And she loves the outdoors and being connected to nature as well as those around her.

On why she wants to slow her very active reader down and make her think: That is what we’re literally doing. So, how do you, with all you’re encountering and doing, get this kind of moment where you can stop and really be thoughtful and intentional in how you’re living day to day? We’re all in this kind of rat race, this journey where we’re chasing life. We just did an article about that in issue four. And so, how do you provide these types of pauses and touchpoints to get this woman to dig a little deeper? And it’s up to her as to how deep she wants to dig, but what we want to do is be able to provide that.

On anything else she’d like to add: For us, just adding what Thoughtfully is really doing to this space and why I think people are gravitating toward it. They’re hungry and I think with print it’s not so much that print is dead; I think the way we’ve been doing print is dead. And it’s very important for those who are doing print to understand that.

On what she would be doing if someone showed up unexpectedly to her home: It would be a combination. You’d definitely find me curled up with my husband and our dog. We have a small dog; she’s a Lhasa Apso named Angel. So you would see me curled up with them and I will probably have a magazine by my side. I will have an iPad in hand and I’ll probably have my iPhone next to me. And a book of some sort as well.

On what motivates her to get out of bed in the morning: The desire to create at a high level. That’s what gets me out of bed, the desire to do it better than I did it the day before.

On what keeps her up at night: How to do it better. And when I say do it better; with Thoughtfully I’m constantly thinking what are the conversations that are happening? What do our readers need to know right now? What is top of mind in their lives and how do I get to know that and how can I do that better? How do I tell the story better visually and in our writing?

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brandie Gilliam, Founding Editor & Creative Director, Thoughtfully Magazine.

Samir Husni: My first question to you is, did “Thoughtfully” start out on the web and then move to print?

image2 Brandie Gilliam: No, we actually started in print. It’s available in a digital version that you can download to your iPad or digital reader. We wanted to give that option to readers, even though we do ship internationally. There is just an element of our readers and customers that do want that ease of a digital format. And we made sure to provide that.

Samir Husni: Tell me about that moment of conception for the magazine, when you had the idea to live “Passionately, Beautifully and Thoughtfully” every day. How did you come up with the idea and why did you decide to go with print in this digital age?

Brandie Gilliam: That’s a great question. I’ll start by saying that our story is a bit different than most. It was really one of those things where you see a need that’s been there for a while and then one day you decide to fill it. And I think anytime an idea forms, there’s usually this buildup, these conversations in our lives and then everything just sort of escalates to this moment in time where suddenly you say: I need to do this. Or it comes to mind that now is the time.

But I think there’s always been this recognition that there was something needed on the newsstands; we would hear it over and over in different conversations, whether it was in forums or on social or Vine, but women were really longing for a better connection with what’s happening in print today. They wanted something that was more representative of them, something they could read and feel good about doing so. They wanted to read something that assured them that they were good enough.

Also the sort of green beauty or that organic space; really finding something that from a beauty perspective had products in there that did not contain toxic chemicals or fashion that was actually ethical as far as where it was produced. When you see the main pockets of thoughtful living, you usually see it in health and fitness and some gardening things. But really food and fitness are what dominate it.

So literally, it was this idea that happened; we saw the need and in a matter of three months, from the idea to the content, Thoughtfully was born. And within a month of our first issue being born we were on newsstands nationwide starting with Whole Foods Markets.

Samir Husni: Tell me a little about yourself, Brandie.

Brandie Gilliam: My background is in corporate. I have a Bachelor’s of Science from Liberty University in Management Information Systems, with a dual minor in Psychology and French. So, marketing and branding has been my labor of love over the years in both the print and digital space. And I’ve also been in a couple of Fortune 500 companies. That’s really what I’ve been doing over the years.

I do not come from the world of journalism or magazines. I attended Fashion Institute of Technology for my graduate level work in New York City and had the opportunity to intern for Essence magazine, and that’s about as close to the magazine world as I’ve been. But I’m an avid reader. And being a marketer and a brander, a good one, you learn the skill of listening. What I believe a good marketer does is not just solely push a message or a product on someone; you really understand how that end-user would be relating with your product or service and you’re getting to know what they want.

With Thoughtfully, it was really listening to the conversation and saying, you know what, there’s a big need for this, let’s produce something with the expertise that I bring to the table. Knowing how to bring creators and different creatives together and being able to spearhead and execute a project from start to finish, knowing the level of detail and project management, resource management; all the things that are involved with it. And I had to transfer that skillset into this world of constant producing.

I kept it at a quarterly because I knew that was something that would be doable and I certainly wasn’t going to bite off more than I could chew. And it’s really been a great story since we’ve launched our first issue.

Samir Husni: I noticed after reading through Thoughtfully that you’ve written a lot yourself in the magazine, so you’re not just acting as a founding editor and creative director, you’re also a writer for the magazine.

Brandie Gilliam: Yes, there’s a lot that I touch at Thoughtfully, so it’s really a labor of love for me. The entire process, from laying out what our content is to the different contributors; it’s all very much hand-selected through a thought process. Everything is intentional. Everybody who touches the pages of Thoughtfully is carefully selected. Even the content that I may get involved with; obviously, I’m not going to set out to write an entire magazine, nor do I think anyone wants to read a complete magazine with one, solo writer. Plus, I think it makes it great when you hear different perspectives, different stories from different viewpoints.

But yes, I do play a role in everything from start to finish; I’m not just the publisher. We try to make sure at Thoughtfully that we have a nice group of different creatives, from photographers, other writers, illustrators, artists that get to play a part, because that’s important. To me there are so many talented people out there and how do we provide this platform for them and do it in a way where we get to really share those gifts with the rest of the world.

Samir Husni: When you discussed the idea with friends and colleagues at work; did people ask you if you were out of your mind to launch a print magazine today?

Brandie Gilliam: (Laughs) I don’t think anyone asked me that because it happened so fast. Maybe if I had done the typical planning, which usually I would do. I come from years of being in a corporate environment where there’s a lot of market research and product development goes into it and it’s one or two years in the making before you even hit to market. This was not the story for Thoughtfully.

That being said, because it all happened so quickly, no I didn’t. I didn’t really have time to stop and think and ask that. It was one of those things that happened fast, but we did it in a way that was worth the risk. I’m very conservative in my thought processes and approach, but obviously starting a print publication you can definitely tell I’m a risk-taker. But I take risks that whatever the outcome, I’m willing to live with.

With Thoughtfully we said let’s produce an issue that we’re literally willing to live with and if it doesn’t work, great; if it does, great. So either way for me it was a win/win outcome, even if it turned out to be solely something that just allowed me to create a really meaningful product like I had done for so many other people over the years that would be fine too. But only this time I was doing it for myself, which was a completely different ballgame. If that was only going to be it, then so be it.

So because of that and the moving so fast, again, there wasn’t a whole lot of time for other input, just simply getting people to buy into the idea, in terms of if they wanted to be a part of it. And through that process and through the formulation of issue one, we did not encounter a single person who didn’t want to be part of it or who wasn’t excited about it. And that for me was a confirmation that we were really headed in the right direction.

I’m a big believer that print is not dead. And I think that because I have that underlying ideal within me, this endeavor was worth doing. And again, we did it in such a way where it was well thought-out, because that’s where I see a lot of publications going wrong. They sometimes bite off more than they can chew and they don’t think about all of the aspects that are involved with going to print and making sure that you’re doing something again, that’s really well thought-out.

Samir Husni: What do you think that print can deliver today that digital cannot?

Brandie Gilliam: When I look at print and digital; for me, digital is something that you go to when you need something fast. You’re looking up information, which is typically how most people are engaging with digital. It’s very much something on the go. When you look at digital, the underbelly is much different; it’s not for this kind of meaningful, thoughtful connection and I think that’s what print brings.

You hear so many people say all of the time; when I just want to lie on the beach and read a good book or have a good magazine with me or the times when I just want to cozy up on my couch and feel something between my fingertips and have an experience, I want print. It’s a bit different and much more connective since it’s tangible and something you can actually feel when you touch the pages between your fingertips. You’re able to see print come to life and it’s a much different experience.

Even with Thoughtfully; from reading our digital to seeing it on print, and we hear this over and over again; it’s a completely different experience. And that to me really sums up the experience between digital and print. They’re different mediums and I think it all comes to life. That’s what I’ll say print does; print brings a project to life. That’s really what it does.

Samir Husni: What have you learned between issue one and issue four, over this one year span?

Brandie Gilliam: (Laughs) Oh, I have learned a lot. Some of the big differences obviously, coming from a corporate background; you’re used to a big, big budget. And Thoughtfully, of course, doesn’t have that luxury. When you’re starting new, you don’t always have it, especially when you’re doing it and it’s not backed by some type of corporation. So doing more with less has been a big lesson that I’ve learned.

Another lesson has really been to pace myself. If you’ll notice the differences between issue one and issue four, you can see a clear evolution and a clear transformation visually, as well as our content and that was very intentional. When you’re doing something with a smaller budget on a smaller scale, you have to give yourself room, meaning, I know what we’re capable of doing if we had a much larger budget, but unfortunately that’s not the case. You really have to start where you are, use what you have, to do what you can. And that’s really been the motto. And that’s really some of the things that I’ve learned to a greater level with Thoughtfully.

I’ve always been well-researched with everything and of course you become even more so when you’re running a ship of this scale from start to finish. Previous roles; yes, you play a part when you’re working for an organization or for someone, but I think when you’re actually doing it for yourself and doing it of this magnitude and people are depending on you, you go to an even greater level of personal ownership and accountability.

Samir Husni: What has been the major stumbling block you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?

image3 Brandie Gilliam: We are based out of Destin, Fla. and literally most of our team members are spread throughout the United States and I even have some contributors internationally based. My background in corporate has served me well up to this point, in terms of being used to working with great talent. Sometimes you find that working with great talent means that they may not be sitting in your backyard and so you have to get really good at communicating over the phone and via emails. When you don’t have access to them readily by phone, you have to constantly be able to convey your message through email, because with Thoughtfully it’s very hands-on; it’s not simply passing it off to some third party and letting them create the magazine and then it just shows up on our doorstep.

It’s really working with everyone and making sure that vision comes to life and really reading the stories through and through. There may be a certain point or idea that we want to expound on, so we push it back to the writer and pull that out of them. Or working with one of our artists or photographers who are starting to scratch the surface, but it’s not quite there; how do you keep pushing back to get to that depth product?

That’s our motto at Thoughtfully; we don’t go for good or average, the whole goal is that everything we’re doing has to be great. We don’t have time to waste or energy to expend for just the sake of expending energy. We want to output our best at that time and place. And that has been something to really learn and get good at; how to communicate with people who aren’t sitting beside you every day. And to bring out the best in everyone that you’re working with.

Samir Husni: And a year later, are you more determined than ever to continue on this journey?

Brandie Gilliam: Yes, I am. We’ve gotten really great feedback thus far in our first year and we’ll continue on with all of our same outlets that we’re currently being sold at. And of course direct to customer through our website.

So yes, more than ever I’m encouraged by our readers and the feedback we’ve been getting when people discover us. They call us a breath of fresh air and say that we’re exactly the magazine that they’ve been waiting their entire lives for. And to see it really resonate with people, that for me really is exciting because it’s much more than a magazine. We call ourselves a community and a movement, but I really look at Thoughtfully as being this kind of aide with helping people live their best lives.

And how we do that in a really creative and innovative way is in how we approach design and content. It’s in everything that we’re doing and I believe our readers feel that authenticity when they touch our pages and get a chance to read us from start to finish.

Samir Husni: Who’s your reader?

Brandie Gilliam: Our reader is primarily female, between the ages of 25-40. She has a hunger and a desire for more. She eats relatively healthy or wants to eat healthy; she enjoys traveling and exploring; she enjoys wanting to be the best version of herself, and she may be vegan or she may want to go organic. Or maybe she’s just more thoughtful in her approach to her eating habits. And she loves the outdoors and being connected to nature as well as those around her.

Samir Husni: Technically speaking then, this woman is very active, living in the speed lane; why do you want to slow her down and make her think?

Brandie Gilliam: Yes, that is what we’re literally doing. So, how do you, with all you’re encountering and doing, get this kind of moment where you can stop and really be thoughtful and intentional in how you’re living day to day? We’re all in this kind of rat race, this journey where we’re chasing life. We just did an article about that in issue four.

And so, how do you provide these types of pauses and touchpoints to get this woman to dig a little deeper? And it’s up to her as to how deep she wants to dig, but what we want to do is be able to provide that. It’s not up to us to tell someone how thoughtful they should be living. You’ll have a number of readers, as I mentioned before; some of them are Vegans; some are not. It’s not up to us to tell them how to eat.

I will say that, obviously, we are huge components of being cruelty-free; we are completely against animal cruelty. We want to get them to understand where their food comes from and if that causes them to be Vegan or to choose a different action, then so be it.

We want them to really understand. Do you know where your clothes are being made and produced? Do you understand the affects, when you continue to support that fashion; what that’s doing to those people on the other end and their livelihoods in different parts of the world? And not just that, but how it’s affecting the environment where those factories are.

It’s not this idea that it’s overwhelming or a worry or a fear about things, but really getting people to give a little bit more thought. And if that starts with just five minutes a day, and then through your journey maybe it increases to 15 minutes, an hour, and then before you know it; it’s infiltrated your entire life.

But again, it’s that idea of starting where you are, with what you have. And then how do you become thoughtful starting with just a few minutes each day?

Samir Husni: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Brandie Gilliam: For us, just adding what Thoughtfully is really doing to this space and why I think people are gravitating toward it. They’re hungry and I think with print it’s not so much that print is dead; I think the way we’ve been doing print is dead. And it’s very important for those who are doing print to understand that.

Readers, especially in this digital age, are much more informed than ever. They are much savvier than they’ve ever been and the power is really in their hands, not in our hands. No longer can we just feed this level of information and expect people to just accept it. Now they question it. They know; they can tell things that are authentic versus what isn’t. They can tell when you’re just trying to sell them something.

Even in print, folks are longing for ad-free; they don’t want to be bombarded with a whole bunch of ads. And their digital experiences are being customized. Now we see digital wanting to go over to the print perspective.

So I think it’s really important for those of us who are in print to learn that. I know that’s one of the things that we do here at Thoughtfully, and again, really producing something that lasts. Each issue is meant to keep and to have. Each issue is something that’s timeless, but still belongs to the now-season. But it’s also something that you can go back to and reference. And that’s very important with us.

We want to empower and inspire those who touch our pages, who live passionately, beautifully and thoughtfully every day.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home, what would I find you doing? Would you be reading a magazine, or your iPad; watching television or what?

Brandie Gilliam: It would be a combination. You’d definitely find me curled up with my husband and our dog. We have a small dog; she’s a Lhasa Apso named Angel. So you would see me curled up with them and I will probably have a magazine by my side. I will have an iPad in hand and I’ll probably have my iPhone next to me. And a book of some sort as well.

My husband and I will be chatting and discussing the day’s events or a certain topic that’s caught our interest, while maybe we’re preparing to watch a show on Netflix or pull it from an app.

It would definitely be a combination. That’s typically what you’ll find me doing on any given evening.

Samir Husni: What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

Brandie Gilliam: The desire to create at a high level. That’s what gets me out of bed, the desire to do it better than I did it the day before. And to be better than I was the day before and in turn, to make others better than they were the day before.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Brandie Gilliam: How to do it better. And when I say do it better; with Thoughtfully I’m constantly thinking what are the conversations that are happening? What do our readers need to know right now? What is top of mind in their lives and how do I get to know that and how can I do that better? How do I tell the story better visually and in our writing?

But it ultimately leads back to the readers and how can I provide a better experience for them with Thoughtfully each issue?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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