Working on this issue and reflecting on the past 10 years has been very emotional for me.
I remember the disappointment in not being able to secure funding from investors for my media company, the frightening decision to fund it myself with money from my retirement funds, the excitement of crafting the content and design, and the fear and feeling of defeat when I thought I couldn’t secure enough advertising to sustain it. I remember every Rotary group and Bible study that I spoke to and every fair and festival that I sold subscriptions at. I recall the countless trips my parents and I made traversing the state, begging shops to sell the magazine. And here we are. Ten years later. Wow.
There are so many stories that I could fill a book. Stories like the one about the woman who thanked me with a bear hug at our booth at the Forest Festival in 2009, saying that, because of the subscription to WV Living, her daughter moved home from out of state. Or the 80-year-old woman who called from California to tell me that she was like a kid at Christmas looking forward to every issue of WV Living because she would probably never again step foot in her home state—before breaking down in tears. I cried. She cried. I still cry about that call. Or the woman from New Jersey who said that her husband had taken a job as a doctor at WVU hospitals and that she told him that she’d give him no more than two years—that there was no way she was selling her house and moving to West Virginia. She called to tell me that WVU had sent a copy of WV Living in their recruitment package and because of that she had decided to give West Virginia a chance.
Those conversations in the first year kept me going. When challenges felt insurmountable, something would happen to remind me why I was doing it all. In that first issue, I said, “WV Living is a celebration of who we are—and who we are becoming. A celebration of our people.” And that is still true.
As I think of all the people who have helped me along the way, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. People like Bethany Crites, my first student intern; Anne Meyers, my first graphic designer; Jessica Schueler Rubin, who modeled for me and then sold advertisements; QVC queen Kim Parrish, who wrote a style column for me in the early years; and photographers Rebecca Devono and Rebecca Kiger, who’ve each traveled with me from one end of the state to the other. My first office manager, Casey Cid, was a godsend without whom I could not have survived. Katie Hanlon jumped in and helped do everything from writing to photography to marketing to staying up into the wee hours hot gluing paper flowers for our first wedding expo (she still has scars to prove it).
I’ll never forget when Sandy Burky, who at the time worked for Snowshoe in group sales, showed up at my office and wanted me to book a corporate retreat at Snowshoe. She said, “Bring your team to Snowshoe.” I replied, “You are looking at my team. It would be a corporate retreat of one. But I could really use a great sales person to help me out. Why don’t you come work for me?” And surprisingly, she did.
I love that our 10th anniversary issue contains our annual Best of West Virginia winners (page 84), because we do what we do because of the places and people that have made this distinguished list. I also thoroughly enjoyed revisiting Lewisburg (page 76), with my very first story in mind. It gives me great pride to know that 10 years ago, I didn’t know a soul there, but now there’s hardly a downtown business that I don’t know the owner—most of whom have become great friends and business people I admire. When I walk through their doors, it feels like I’m home. I belong. And that’s what WV Living is all about—belonging.
I promised 10 years ago and I promise now that, in every issue, we will continue to showcase the best that West Virginia has to offer with positive stories reflecting our unique heritage. Our articles will continue to capture modern-day life in the Mountain State while remembering our roots and treasuring our traditions.
I’m indebted to all those who have worked with me over the years—thank you. To my family, thank you for going on this journey with me and supporting me through the good and the bad. A special thanks to my current fabulous team for believing in our mission and in me. And thank all of you for supporting our publications with subscriptions, gifts, and advertisements. You are an important part of our family. I hope you enjoy reliving the last 10 years with us, and I look forward to seeing what the next 10 years bring us and West Virginia!
Nikki Bowman, Editor