From the time she first leafed through her mother’s magazines as a child, Alison Engstrom knew she wanted to be part of the world of magazine publishing. But it was a series of unsatisfying jobs and a life-changing medical diagnosis that enabled her to take the leap and make her dream a reality. Alison shared with us how she changed her attitude and developed the confidence to start Rose & Ivy, a biannual print and digital magazine that brings together her love of fashion, beauty, travel and food in a curated, more elevated way than most of today’s niche magazines. Hear her inspiring story of building the life she imagined and overcoming the roadblocks and detours along the way.
|Announcer||Welcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty™ hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.|
|Jodi Katz||Hey everybody. It's Jodi Katz, your host of Where Brains Meet Beauty™ podcast. Thank you so much for tuning in, I'm grateful for your support. This week's episode features Alison Engstrom. She is the editor in chief of Rose & Ivy, and if you missed last week's episode, it featured Rochelle Weitzner, she is the founder of Pause Well-Aging. I hope you enjoy the shows.
I am so excited to be sitting here with Alison Engstrom. She is the Rose & Ivy Journal editor in chief. Welcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty™.
|Alison Engstrom||Thank you so much.|
|Jodi Katz||Did I pronounce your last name right?|
|Jodi Katz||Engstrom. Did I do good?|
|Alison Engstrom||Engstrom. That's very Swedish.|
|Jodi Katz||Oh, say it your way.|
|Alison Engstrom||Engstrom. That's my not my maiden name, so .... It's my married name. It's newly acquired.|
|Jodi Katz||Thank you so much for being on the show.|
|Alison Engstrom||Thank you for having me, I'm so excited to be here.|
|Jodi Katz||I want to let people know how we met each other. So, through one of my clients, she said, "Oh, do you know Alison? I think you guys should get to know each other."|
|Alison Engstrom||Yeah. And I'm surprised we had never crossed paths before.|
|Jodi Katz||But maybe we did. We just didn't know it.|
|Alison Engstrom||Maybe stars weren't aligned yet then.|
|Jodi Katz||So I want to start off with one of my favorite questions to ask, which is, how are you going to spend your day today?|
|Alison Engstrom||Today I'm prepping for a shoot tomorrow, so I'm going to be going to some showrooms and doing some fashion polls. So ...|
|Jodi Katz||All day long?|
|Alison Engstrom||Not all day long. I'm going to be doing that, and then I just got back from Peru and I have about 900 photos to go through ... and I have a deadline so it's going to be fun. I'm excited to kind of relive that trip because it was so life changing.|
|Jodi Katz||Oh, tell us about it.|
|Alison Engstrom||Oh my goodness. So I had wanted to go to Peru since I was 15. Back then, I wasn't a photographer, but once I started, you know, being a photographer, that was one of my tough places to go for photography. I was in Cusco so we went to the sacred valley, we went to Machu Picchu of course, and we did a lot of the Chincheros which is the master weavers. It just was amazing. It was the most authentic place I've ever visited. It was just a dream.|
|Jodi Katz||And what were you shooting when you were there?|
|Alison Engstrom||So I was there for the magazines. I'm doing a large travel feature for the next issue launching in May, which is coming up very close. That's why I have a deadline. And just the food ... We did a food tour. I mean, it was just ... It was so sensorial and amazing. I'm still on cloud nine from that trip.|
|Jodi Katz||And what inspired you at 15 about Peru?|
|Alison Engstrom||I don't know. I think I had seen a picture or a book or something. And actually, I'm writing about that in the article. I feel like you kind of put something on your bucket list, and that was something I had seen. The native people, the Incan people, the colors. It kind of was ingrained in me like a Santorini sort of thing. I've been there, thankfully, already, but never to Peru, and I've been thinking about it ever since. I'm just so, so grateful that I got to go.|
|Jodi Katz||When I was in either first or second grade, I can't really remember, but my teacher went to Egypt-|
|Alison Engstrom||Oh, amazing.|
|Jodi Katz||And she brought back the knickknacks that you picked up along the way and showed us pictures, and that's on my list.|
|Alison Engstrom||It's like a memory burn, the pyramids.|
|Jodi Katz||I want to go, I want to take my family. And yeah, I'm so fascinated by it.|
|Alison Engstrom||Yeah, no, I think it's such ... I love going to different cultures and I feel like I had never really been outside of Europe or Scandinavia and so that has lit my travel list for South America. I definitely will return.|
|Jodi Katz||So tell us about what is Rose & Ivy, because then I have questions about your approach.|
|Alison Engstrom||Okay. So Rose & Ivy is basically a twice a year publication that I launched about three years ago and it's covers fashion, beauty, travel and food in a more elevated way. I don't know how we're going to get into my background, but I have always loved magazines, but I felt like there was something missing in the publishing world that spoke to a new generation of readers who, you know, are really curating their lives. They have so many different interests but I just didn't feel like there was one that kind of spoke to my generation of people who travel, they love food, they love fashion and this whole sensorial experience that people like to create for themselves. So that was one of the reasons that I started it.
We also have a website, and we've grown a lot since the beginning. Our next issue's launching May 31st, coming up very soon.
|Jodi Katz||And where can people find-|
|Alison Engstrom||We're online, so we're digitally and we're in print. So online you can access us for free. You can look at all previous back issues. We're also at Barnes & Noble, and here in the city we're at Casa magazines, McNally Jackson, and other independent newsstands which we definitely support because they have an amazing selection there.|
|Jodi Katz||All right, so now let's go back to the Peru trip. This was all work, or was this work play?|
|Alison Engstrom||I'm very fortunate that now I can be in a point in my career, what I'm doing, that I love what I do so much that it is not work. I mean, I was there with other journalists, so I was working and I was shooting video and doing a ton of photos and writing and asking questions, but I'm so in tune to what I'm doing that I can't say it's work because I always ... I don't know how far back into my career, but I always wanted to say that, that I was working but also just loving what I was doing. That is an example of that. It's not work. I am just so glad. I have such great gratitude that I get to do that.|
|Jodi Katz||Well then let's go all the way back-|
|Alison Engstrom||Go back, go back to…|
|Jodi Katz||To, where did your career start?|
|Alison Engstrom||So my original intent was to be a beauty editor and that's what I ... In college, most people don't know what they want to do, and I was going to be a beauty editor. I interned here in New York. I lived a summer here and ate peanut butter and jelly, instant coffee ... I lived in a Fordham dorm on the upper west side and it was a struggle to be honest. But I knew what I wanted to do. Most people in college didn't want it to end because they didn't know, but I'm like, "I know what I want to do. I'm going to be a beauty editor." But that was in 2006, and when I graduated it was ... No one was hiring. It was a very difficult time in general. The market hadn't crashed just yet, but it eventually did.|
|Jodi Katz||But what were the internships that you had?|
|Alison Engstrom||So I interned at Health magazine, so nothing too high fashion, and then another one was LIFE Time magazine. I laugh at that now because I think of ... But it was a great experience. I didn't have a typical internship where I was doing a bunch of grunt work. The editors trusted me. I went to launches. The product closet was my heaven, I was swimming in beauty products. I just loved it so much. I was very fortunate for that, but I just, it didn't happen when I graduated.|
|Jodi Katz||So let's talk about the experience of being a intern, but going on behalf of a major publications to an event. When you came back from the event the next day, were the editors really interested in what you observed?|
|Alison Engstrom||They were interested. I felt like they gave me a lot of autonomy to do that. They trusted in me, and I knew that's what I wanted to do because when I would go to these launch events, I felt like it was Christmas morning. I mean, I truly loved it and I was like, "This is what I want to do." I was talking to dermatologists and makeup artists and I was going into photo shoots and that was just what I wanted to do. It's just funny how it ended up playing out in the future.|
|Jodi Katz||Tell us how it played out.|
|Alison Engstrom||Well it didn't, so I ended ... It didn't, and I ended up working. So I love beauty products, obviously. I think that's what we have mutually in common for sure, one of the things. But I realized that I didn't really like the marketing aspect of the beauty products. I worked at some companies that just ... I was never in the right type of role and never in the right environment and I really struggled. I struggled a lot to be honest. I was laid off three times and I just kept kind of going back into the pot. I was staring at excel spreadsheets all day ... I felt, creatively, like I was dying inside, and I knew that this wasn't all that was for me in my life. I knew that there was more that I could do. I knew that I was creative, but I just never had a boss or anyone that believed in me, to be a hundred percent honest.
I tried to work in a magazine. I met with some editor. I met with an Allure creative director, I met with the Vanity Fair creative director and I begged them for jobs. I'm like, "I will do anything." I went to the cafeteria and I had lunch and I thought, I was like, "I'll do anything." Going from a marketing salary to going to an editorial assistant salary is ... It kind of makes you lose your breath a little bit, because New York is very expensive and you know, I wasn't supported by my family or anything, so it just never happened.
I knew that that part of me was always alive, and I started a blog. What I should go back to is that I remember looking at my mom's magazines and I was 10 and just thinking, "Oh my gosh." I've always loved magazines, and I don't know why. My Dad also liked print, so I don't know if it's hereditary ... I don't know. But I never lost that. I started a blog when I was at this one company because I thought I was going to die there.
|Jodi Katz||You mean, this was your side hustle just so-|
|Alison Engstrom||So I started a blog. Yeah. I just, I randomly ... It was called Heart of Gold and Luxury. I cringe at the name of that now.|
|Jodi Katz||Is that Heart of Gold-|
|Alison Engstrom||Heart of Gold and Luxury. I cringe.|
|Jodi Katz||And how old are you at this time?|
|Alison Engstrom||That was when I was 25. So I started shooting with my iPhone, and I was bad, but I knew that I always liked light and I knew that ... I studied art history. I majored in art history, so I've always been more artistically inclined, but I didn't really ever play with a camera before. I did photography class in high school, and my photography teacher told me I was bad and that I shouldn't pursue it as a career.|
|Jodi Katz||Wait, this is the guidance that was given to you?|
|Alison Engstrom||Yeah, this was the guidance that was given to me, and I ... You know, high school was a little tough for me, as was most people, and I believed him. I feel like people like that should not be teaching, but also I've learned that ... Because that is my biggest passion, is photography. When I'm behind my camera ... for example, when I was in Peru, I'm so happy that I get to capture beauty, and I am sad that I listened to him.|
|Jodi Katz||Wait, can we press pause on this for a second? So this is a college professor-|
|Alison Engstrom||In a high school, high school-|
|Jodi Katz||A high school teacher who said, "Don't do this."|
|Alison Engstrom||Yes. He told me to not pursue it as a career.|
|Jodi Katz||So that sticks.|
|Alison Engstrom||It does stick.|
|Jodi Katz||Right? It's such a sticky thing to say to a teenager. I remember ... I mean, I wasn't a teenager, I was in my twenties, and a client's boss got mad that I was talking to another boss or whatever, and then they said, "You can never talk to that person." I never questioned it. I'm like, "Oh, I guess I'm not allowed to talk to super higher people," and that stuck with me and got in my way for almost a decade, until I was able to shake it off. These are big things that are told to us that we internalize and keep.|
|Alison Engstrom||Yeah, I agree with that. I've actually always had problems with teachers. I always feel like I can't talk to teachers, from yoga teachers, I ... Even to this day, I'm very aware of it, but I feel very weird because I had really bad teachers. I hate to say that, but I really ... I had a teacher that told me, in math, I couldn't learn anymore.|
|Jodi Katz||Oh my God.|
|Alison Engstrom||This is, again, high school teacher, and I kind of believed them because I'm not a math person, I am much more artistic. It's just sad that they didn't believe in me either. I had to find my own way.|
|Jodi Katz||But this speaks to their lack of talent as teachers, right? As a kid, I mean, even as adults we don't ... We believe that these authority figures who we perceive as experts know what they're talking about.|
|Jodi Katz||Think of how damaging that is.|
|Alison Engstrom||I was very damaging, and I suffer with confidence a lot and it's still something that, every day, I have to realize I am worthy. I am, I am, I am, I am, I am. I can have things, I can achieve greatness, I just have to believe in myself. And I think that really ... It took 10 years to undo that, and I still have to assert myself every day to say I am worthy of greatness. I am worthy of achieving something. I am worthy of having this person in my magazine or talking to this person. What I've realized is that we're all the same. Everyone's the same. It's just ego's that get in the way.|
|Jodi Katz||Well that's the whole point of this podcast, which is to show how we're human and we're not robots. I actually have a sign that I hang in my home office that says, "I am confident, competent and capable."|
|Alison Engstrom||I love that.|
|Jodi Katz||Because I needed to undo all, you know, all of that junk in my head.|
|Alison Engstrom||Yeah, I had read a lot of self help books. One my favorite books are the Motivation Manifesto. I don't know if you've read that one.|
|Alison Engstrom||So good. And Daring Greatly too.|
|Jodi Katz||Do you ever Google this teacher?|
|Alison Engstrom||Oh, I do actually. And he's actually living my dream life right now. He's retired in the south of France and has a farm, so I'm kind of jealous of him. So that's what I've asserted. That's what I'm manifesting is my farm house in the south of France one day.|
|Jodi Katz||So he's a year in Provence, like that?|
|Alison Engstrom||Yeah, exactly, but they moved there permanently.|
|Jodi Katz||That's cool.|
|Alison Engstrom||To be honest, he wasn't that great of a photographer. He took our family portraits. Anyways, I'm not badmouthing anyone.|
|Jodi Katz||I want to go back, because you had these internships in editorial, loved it, couldn't find the job in editorial. You took these jobs in marketing. So I should say that if someone goes to your LinkedIn, there's no history of your career beyond what you're doing right now.|
|Alison Engstrom||I know. I deleted it, I know it's terrible, but I deleted my past. Not to be dramatic, I know, but I was at a point where I was just around such toxic people and I knew that when I was doing the magazine, when I was still working in my corporate job, that I would meet people who were just happy and nice and not condescending and just bullies. And I was like, "You know what? I don't want those people to ever look at my profile, and if they reach out, sorry, decline." Because I am at a point in my life, and an age, that I only want to be around people with good energy.|
|Jodi Katz||I love that. So you're not going to tell us where you worked, but what kind of jobs were these?|
|Alison Engstrom||Well, they were here in New York. Luxury beauty companies and fragrance companies.|
|Jodi Katz||What was your task?|
|Alison Engstrom||I was very operational, so that's just one of the reasons that was not ... That was not my set of skills or talents. I would look at a spreadsheet all day and I just felt my soul slowly dying as I went deeper into these spreadsheets. It was ... producing things in China, and cost of goods, and all of these things, and it's just ... Thankfully, I can do that, and I can think analytically, but I am much more of a creative vision than looking at numbers. I don't like numbers.|
|Jodi Katz||All right, so you had your Heart of Gold and Luxury blog, taking pictures with your iPhone, trying to tell yourself that you are actually are capable of doing this.|
|Alison Engstrom||Yeah. My first trip to Santorini was one of the bucket list trips, with a new camera. I had no idea how to use it. It was that trip that I was like, "Wow. Oh my gosh, I think I like this. Even though I don't know what I'm doing yet. I really think I like this." And I just started working on it. I was baking ... I was like Julie & Julia. That was kind of my alter ego at the time because that movie just came out. I was baking at night, I was baking on the weekends. I was bringing treats in for people, I was photographing them. They were still so terrible, the photos, but I was just consistently doing that and that was really kind of making me feel better in this time of incredible turmoil where I was so anxious every day going to work. I would cry a lot. It was a really toxic time in my life.
And then I was there, and I unfortunately had a contract that I could not leave. That was really hindering to me, and I just, I begged them to let me out of it.
|Jodi Katz||You had a work contract?|
|Alison Engstrom||Yes, I did a noncompete.|
|Jodi Katz||And then you got-|
|Alison Engstrom||They have coordinators sign these things.|
|Alison Engstrom||So basically, it ruins your career, because if you're in a toxic place, you can't go anywhere because no one's gonna wait for you for six months minimum. Now they make people sign a for year, I've heard.|
|Jodi Katz||But why would a lower level person have a contract that locks them in like that?|
|Alison Engstrom||I don't know. That's a good question. I was trying to get a lawyer involved. I just was like, "Let me out of this, please." My health was ... I think that's kind of maybe one of the reasons my health ... we'll talk about it in a minute, but it just was a really toxic place, but I just couldn't go anywhere.
Finally this VP was like, "Okay, you can go, you can go." And I'm like, "Oh my gosh!" I was just so happy. I just felt like a gigantic weight ... My team had had already flipped twice since I was there.
|Jodi Katz||But this wasn't tied to a visa or something?|
|Alison Engstrom||No, no, no, not at all. This was just tied to work. This was tied to a toxic job in a toxic company.|
|Jodi Katz||So you were begging anyone who had listened to, "Let me out, let me out." You couldn't just quit?|
|Alison Engstrom||I could quit, but, you know, I wouldn't get unemployment. I couldn't even go if I quit, I couldn’t go to a competitor because they would find out. It was a very weird situation. I think it should be illegal, because I'm not vengeful. I'm not going to tell trade secrets, you know.
But it was just ... I had no friends. All my friends had left. Everyone had left except me and it was like, "All right, just please let me go." And they did. I'm thankful for that.
|Jodi Katz||What was happening in your health at that time?|
|Alison Engstrom||Well, nothing really. I did find another job at a fragrance company, and I was there for five years. About a year into that I ... Everything was fine. I think I had some weird things happen to me earlier on, but I just didn't know what they were. So I was at this other job, and again, it was the same thing. I just kept going to these different pots, and nothing ... It just didn't feel right, ever. I knew that I had so much more to offer, and it just felt like this cannot be it for me. I am too passionate, I want to be happy, and I just ... That was always in the back of my mind.
But then four years ago I had this really strange thing happened to me where ... my body was really warm inside and I'm like, "This is so weird. I'm self insulating, it's so cold outside, is my body above science?" It was really strange. and then slowly my right leg just kind of went numb. It was really weird, and my husband tapped me and he's like, "Do you feel this?" I'm like, "No, I don't feel it at all." Eventually I went to get a MRI, and they called me the next day and they're like, "You need to go to the ER right now." I was at work, and I'm like, "What?"
I've never been sick in my whole life. I was a runner, I did yoga, I eat healthy, I don't smoke, I don't drink. So it was like, "Wait, what?" And they didn't know. So I ended up being in the hospital for five days, and I had people telling me it could be a tumor on my spine, it could be MS, it could be something else, it could be Lyme Disease. I was a very scary time, because I didn't know what was going on. It was very emotional for me because I don't do well being sick or being around sick people. I just cry. Really, I'm very sensitive and I ended up, you know, leaving the hospital after five days of total steroid fog that I was diagnosed with MS. So that was a huge ... Now I can talk about it without crying, but it was a huge blow.
It was like everything was almost taken away from me. My healthy lifestyle, my running, which was ... I was an avid runner. I'm telling you, I would run six times a week, and I couldn't do that anymore. I kind of lost my identity a little bit and I got so depressed. I was just like, "What did I do wrong? I've done everything by the book," except for stress. That's the only thing that I had never managed that well. And so I was just floating. My husband, we hadn't even gotten married yet, I'm in the hospital bed and I'm like, "Do you still want to marry me?" It was just really terrifying to me, and you know, I think going through something like that just shifted my life and perspective, and knowing that I can't continue to live my life this way.
I knew, I knew deep down inside, and now I can even say even more surely is that I was destined for more. But the path to success or the path to your purpose is just so not clear, but you're given signs along the way and you don't listen, you just keep going back to what you think you want and it's not right. It just really opened my eyes to ... Listen. The thing with MS is that they don't know the progression, and the weirdest part about my diagnosis was I worked in a building that had MS research facilities, so every day I saw these women my age in wheelchairs, with walkers. I mean, it was like a rude awakening every day to see that, and knowing that I was going to the same elevator, but I wasn't stopping at their floor.
And I said that, in 10 years, if I am in a walker or have a wheelchair ... or I mean, God forbid, or a cane or something, I will have at least tried my dream, and that it always went back to having a magazine, and I wanted to create beauty and share with the world. Unfortunately, I had to come in this sort of weird package, but I've always wanted to inspire people as well, and I feel like I try to tell people that they can do anything. I feel like so many people stop themselves from achieving what they want to achieve, and I am a hundred percent ... I mean, listen, I don't have money. I didn't have anything when I started this magazine, and now I can say that I've had a big celebrity on the cover. It blows my mind. I mean, it really does.
|Jodi Katz||So what is living with MS? What are the symptoms?|
|Alison Engstrom||I'm very fortunate in that I have a milder case of MS and I do have relapsing remitting. What is that celebrity’s name? Oh my gosh, I'm blanking.|
|Jodi Katz||Oh, Selma Blair?|
|Alison Engstrom||Yes, Selma Blair. She has a much more rapid form, but I think she said she had it for a while and she just didn't do anything. When I first got diagnosed, I was on a medication that suppressed my immune system completely. So it made me more susceptible to getting sick. I felt like I was hit by a truck every day. I could barely walk around the block and I said ... I'm very anti-medicine and I'm very holistic in the way. So I went off of that and then I just-|
|Jodi Katz||What was that intended to do?|
|Alison Engstrom||To stop my MS from progressing. So to stop more lesions from forming, because what happens is, every time you have a relapse, you get a lesion and that could, you know, impair your sight. It could impair your talking, your speech, it could impair your walking, your balance-|
|Jodi Katz||Is the lesion in your brain?|
|Alison Engstrom||In your brain. So my original lesion that caused me to go in the hospital was on my cervical spine, and the remarkable thing is ... So I went on a very ... I said, I'm very healthy, but I drink turmeric every day with an orange or an apple, and my, I think ... My neurologist doesn't say this because she's hesitant to, but it healed my spine remyelination which is very unheard of.|
|Jodi Katz||What does that mean?|
|Alison Engstrom||Meaning it healed. So my-|
|Jodi Katz||So the lesion's gone?|
|Alison Engstrom||The one on my cervical spine is completely gone.|
|Jodi Katz||Is the lesion like a bruise?|
|Alison Engstrom||It looks like, in the MRI, it's like a white dot, and the bigger the white dots, the worse that your lesion is. So I have dots on my brain from previous ... I think I had an episode in high school, I just didn't know what it meant, what it was. I have impressions, and the those I think ... They can't tell you for certain. I get very fatigued. I can't stand for a long period of time. I get so tired on certain times of the month that I just feel like I'm dying. And I feel like, too, I like to talk about invisible disabilities. The biggest thing, I think ,is getting diagnosed with a disability, because I am a very able person and sometimes I'm on the subway and I can't stand. I don't look like I have anything wrong with me, but I am just leaning against a pole. I don't want to feel different, but at the same time, I learned you have to ask for what you need. That is a huge ... That's hard.|
|Jodi Katz||How've you been doing on the subway?|
|Alison Engstrom||If I feel bad, I do. I did jury duty and I was like, "I can't wait in this long line." I went through and I just felt like ... I feel embarrassed, still, about it. I think I just need to get stronger, that if I don't feel well, I just need to ask for help. I think that's the hardest thing.|
|Jodi Katz||What's so hard about asking for help when you don't feel well?|
|Alison Engstrom||I don't know. I think it's a pride thing for me.|
|Jodi Katz||But if you were coming down with the flu on the subway two years before this and you're like, "Oh my God, I feel like I'm going to faint. Would you have said to somebody, "I really don't feel good. Can I sit down?"|
|Alison Engstrom||Maybe, maybe. I don't know what it is. I think that I've had to kind of work through that ,as well as just kind of missing my old life sort of thing. But now I just have a new normal, and I'm more okay with that now. If you would have talked to me two years ago, I probably would've started crying. Yeah.|
|Jodi Katz||Other than the fatigue, what is MS management for you like?|
|Alison Engstrom||So it's really about ... Well, I think stress management is the most important thing. Stress is the worst thing ever, and being an entrepreneur, it's kind of crazy because it's very stressful as you know. There's a lot of pressure. It's so ambiguous, don't know what's ... there's so many things up in the air. But I think I've ... meditating, I do eat healthy, I try to sleep eight hours no matter what.
I find that the biggest thing that I think helped me was just being happy, and being on this different road, because I was so unhappy for so, so long. I mean, my father passed away right when I graduated from college. It was this period of just dismalness for me in my life and I just was not happy. I was struggling. I think that the path to joy or happiness has really ... They say that being happy, it's good for your health, and I really do believe that. I'm not happy all the time, but I mean, just finding joy. It's the most important thing.
|Jodi Katz||After the diagnosis, you were still working at this other company. How did you transition yourself to this path of joy?|
|Alison Engstrom||I was sitting by the water and I wrote a list of things that I liked. I said, I like food, I like fashion, I like beauty. I like flowers, I like gardening, I like travel, and it just still ... I went back to a magazine. And so I was like, "I'm going to start a digital magazine. I'm going to photograph everything in it, I'm not going to tell anybody because I'm embarrassed." Because I was designing it, and then I showed my designer, who I'd worked with at my old job. And she's like, "It's not that bad." And so Monica Picca has come on and designed the magazine, and we've won national design awards from it and she gets my vision. I'm very particular and we just ... I mean obviously we sometimes are like, "Well this looks better. No, this looks better." But we always kind of net out to where we're both happy.
It was kind of interesting how certain things have to happen in life in order for you to go to the next phase. Sometimes it's excruciatingly long, And I like to tell people that sometimes you just have to make stops at certain places just to meet someone or to learn something until you can move on to the next phase of your life. That's how I do feel about that. I think that, if I hadn't experienced the terribleness of those places, that I wouldn't be so treating everyone with respect. I'm kind to everybody. I don't care if you're an intern or ... I treat everyone the same, and I just want my company to be the anti of all those other companies I worked for.
|Jodi Katz||You know, so interesting the time that you mention that because we've been hiring more people at Base Beauty and we have a lot of conversations around the PTSD that some of these people, who are lovely people that I've known for a long time, are bringing with them.|
|Alison Engstrom||It's interesting.|
|Jodi Katz||Our job, because we are a non-chaos agency. If you're a client that's very chaotic, we're not the right partner for you. We are pleasant to work with, and we want to work with pleasant people.|
|Alison Engstrom||I find that's very hard in this industry.|
|Jodi Katz||Well, we have a lot of really great clients, so it's not that hard. I think we attract what we want. But I spend a lot of time with my team because I'm like, "This is important, undoing ..." and I'm not a therapist, obviously-|
|Alison Engstrom||Yeah, but you kind of have to be.|
|Jodi Katz||Unraveling, "I know that this is the way it was for you, but we're gonna help our clients get to a better place together so that you can wake up in the morning and not have anxiety." It's so important to me. It's critical.|
|Alison Engstrom||You shouldn't come to work with anxiety. If you're coming to work with anxiety, there's something that has to change.|
|Jodi Katz||Yeah. But a lot of people, you know, especially when you're early in your career, you suck it up, right? You do what you need to do, you get the experience out of it. You know you're not going to be there forever. But I don't think until you leave that environment and you have a different kind of code that you realize, "Oh right, why was my body shaking?" You know?|
|Alison Engstrom||Yeah, exactly. But also too, I feel like if you're not treated with respect, you're much often more likely to go to somebody else and not treat some people with respect. So I feel like it's kind of a cycle, and I don't tolerate that at all from photographers, a stylist, anybody. If you have an attitude, I'm not going to work with you, because everyone needs to be treated with respect in my opinion.|
|Jodi Katz||Well we don't work with prima donnas, which it's been that way for ... since I started the business 12 years ago. And, you know, as these conversations around Me Too and abuse on sets, or the other side, I'm like, "You know what, I'm so grateful that I haven't been around a lot of that," because I've been working for myself for so long.|
|Alison Engstrom||Yeah, we're very lucky. I know.|
|Jodi Katz||So my team has had the chance to set the tone for everything that needs done for the past, more than a decade. And you know, I didn't have as much visibility into the, cruelness of the industry and I'm just so proud that we're able to-|
|Alison Engstrom||I should have come to you in my earlier career, oh my gosh. Where were you?|
|Jodi Katz||You know, I think it just proves you can create great work and really move the needle for brands without being an asshole, without being a jerk, without being an egomaniac, without robbing people blind. It can be done.|
|Alison Engstrom||I agree with that, and I think in New York, too, the mentality is like, "Faster, harder." I've worked across PR people from fashion, beauty, travel, food. I worked across all, and it's very interesting to kind of see the difference of personalities. I don't think that there's a place for that. I think that it's just too tiring to treat people like that, to be a hostile environment. I'm just so thankful that I'm not in those environments anymore because I definitely had PTSD.|
|Jodi Katz||So what is the day to day like for you now, running your own business?|
|Alison Engstrom||Yeah, so it's very busy. I mean, I'm doing something different every day. I think that the variety ... I think at my old jobs I worked with the same four people every day, and I like meeting people. I like talking to people and so I'm doing that all day. Whether it be planning for shoots, dreaming about what can happen, thinking, conceptualizing, meeting photographers, talking to PR people all day, trying to find ... Because I'm at the point now in the magazine where we're getting, you know, approached a lot more.
When I first started, I got ‘no’ all of the time, and no one said ‘yes’ to me except a few people. Those people are very dear to me, because now I give them my heart, because they believed in me when no one else did. So now I'm at the point where I'm getting pitched to a lot of people, and I'm just trying to kind of figure out what's the best ... I don't want to become too celebrity, but I want to be really a place of inspiration. So people who have great stories or who believe in the greater good, who are doing something bigger than themselves, who can inspire.
But it's just, I don't know. I really feel like even though it is hard having an ... I know you have a lot of people on here who are more established, and I feel like I'm more of the beginning stage of the entrepreneurialship even though I've been doing this for a while, because I think a year and a half was just groundwork. I'm telling you, everyone told me no. And so, with the Mandy Moore issue, that kind of put us in a different bucket, and I'm still so grateful however that happened in the universe, because it just came to me.
|Jodi Katz||It's so beautiful.|
|Alison Engstrom||Thank you.|
|Jodi Katz||I'm obsessed with Mandy Moore.|
|Alison Engstrom||Thank you. I love Mandy. She was so lovely. And I said, I am big about manifesting and I'm big about kind of putting out there what you want. I put out there that I wanted to do photo shoots and things like that a long time ago when I was interning. It didn't happen for many years after, but I had said that I wanted, when I first started Rose & Ivy, that I wanted ... I dreamed up Mandy Moore on my cover. I don't know why, man. I always liked her. I felt she was very personable and real. One day last April her rep emailed me randomly and pitched her for the cover and I was like, "Hmm, let me think about that." I couldn't sleep for two days after that just because I felt like that was when things were changing. All the hard work, the perseverance, the wanting to give up sometimes when it was just so hard was beginning to pay off.|
|Jodi Katz||Hard work really does create whatever greatness that you want. I didn't know that. I thought, in the beginning of my journey, and even when I worked for other people, I just thought some people have it and some people don't. I didn't know you could create it for yourself.|
|Alison Engstrom||Yeah. I think we live in a world where it's fast, and people have this idea of quick success. It's at the point where I have to really tune out a lot of people ,because people ask me questions that are so out of bounds that I'm just like, "Wow, how do you have the strength to ask me such questions?"|
|Jodi Katz||What kind of out of bounds questions?|
|Alison Engstrom||Asking me about my revenue and things like that, and I'm just like ... People who it's really none of their business and I'm just like, "Okay, you're ..." It's like Brené Brown. If you're not in the arena, it's the cheap seats in the back sort of thing. I have a very hard time allowing those people in my orbit anymore, and I'm kind of an all or nothing person. So I've been struggling with that recently because it takes a long time to establish yourself with a credibility of so many different people. It's not easy. There were times I do want to give up and I'm like, "Can I keep doing this?" I had a really tough March, actually, and I was really questioning everything and now I'm like, "April's so much better." It's just the roller coaster.|
|Jodi Katz||Yes, it is a roller coaster. So I think a lot of our listeners, many of them are entrepreneurs, are going to want to know, how can they get featured in your content? What do you look for?|
|Alison Engstrom||I really wanted, with Rose & Ivy, I wanted to be the voice between mainstream and niche media, because I felt like there was something missing in between, where I feel like the mainstream media has just so many of the same things. It's the same people, same brands, same dress. To me, it's just kind of a little boring, where niche has more of a sort of like me, ...I don't really understand this. It's kind of already ... So wanting to be in between, where we create stories around with brands and things like that, but with 60% of brands, the mainstream, maybe they don't know just yet. So I love finding new beauty brands, new fashion designers, travel spots. I mean that's just my favorite. But then also about 40% of brands that people do know, so there's an air of familiarity because I don't want it to be polarizing. I just want it to be like, "Oh this is new, oh this is the new product from them." Or just something kind of flowing like that. So you know, people can email me.|
|Jodi Katz||What is your email?|
|Jodi Katz||Okay. And they will, now that you've said it.|
|Alison Engstrom||We look for brands, and we're really looking at branded content, because we're more content creators. I feel like the conversation I had with you is that so many brands now, they might look at ... When I say print, people get either scared or seduced. It's the worst thing. The scared people are scared. The seduced people only want prints. Some celebrities only want print, some brands only want print, some destinations only want print, and others are scared to death of it. So we have a digital and the print is more of a boutique. We're going to keep our print a little smaller than most magazines for right now at least, but we're really creating content and we're not like a traditional magazine. And we have influential people on our covers, so it's kind of like looking, approaching us in a different way. I think that brands need to approach us in that different way because we aren't like a normal magazine.|
|Jodi Katz||Right. Yeah. I almost see you as a content creator influencer, right? You're sort of the influencer who creates a printed publication that has the feel of a magazine, but in a new way. Right? So you really are-|
|Alison Engstrom||With celebrity endorsement sort of things to throw out. So, brands, yeah.|
|Jodi Katz||I think if you're a brand that has a distinctive point of view that fits the aesthetic of your publication, then they should look at you like an influencer or partner, content creation partner.|
|Alison Engstrom||Yes, thank you.|
|Jodi Katz||Kind of makes the most sense because you are so different.|
|Alison Engstrom||Yeah. And we really are all about creating a feeling. Rose & Ivy, I feel like, has a really strong brand identity and people say, "Oh that's so RNI." And I'm like, "That's so amazing that it has a brand identity."|
|Jodi Katz||How special!|
|Alison Engstrom||Yeah. It's been such a labor of love from the beginning, so it's like, "Wow," you know, because I'm very ... I do have a very strong vision, and it can change and it has changed and evolved from the beginning. Sometimes I look back and I do cringe, but now I feel like we're on a path of working with such great people and featuring brands and such that we're on our way, basically.|
|Jodi Katz||Well, you know, it's your passion and obsession with print that makes you a different type of content creator. A regular influencer would not have many experiences with print or an opportunity to understand the mechanics of creating a print publication, but because you were always obsessed with it, it was natural, which is why you're different.|
|Alison Engstrom||I'm very passionate about it and I could talk about it for ... People say, "Why print? Why are you doing print, print's dead?" I could talk to them probably for an hour and just talk their ear off, but I don't do that. But there is a space for print, and I do believe print's not going anywhere. It's just going to be ... After all the follow-up, people selling whatever, there will be print magazines left, but I do believe they'll be more niche. That the Kinfolks, the Cereals, the Darlings, the Aways, the ... well not Away, Afar magazine. There's so many different amazing publications out there.|
|Jodi Katz||Yeah. Well, I think it's like the rest of our marketing landscape. It's more niche, it's more tailored, but there's means there's a lot of room for a lot of creative people.|
|Alison Engstrom||Yeah, for sure.|
|Jodi Katz||Well, thank you so much for joining us today.|
|Alison Engstrom||Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.|
|Jodi Katz||We're so grateful for you sharing your story and wisdom.|
|Alison Engstrom||Thank you. I have to inspire people.|
|Jodi Katz||And for out listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Alison. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes and for updates about the show. Follow us on Instagram @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast.|
|Announcer||Thanks for listening to Where Brains Meet Beauty™ with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.|