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October 11, 2019 —

Meet the Maker: Ashley Aikele and Elyse Beard of Bravery Magazine

Shelley Welti
91 Magazine online content editor,
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Seeing a gap in the market for a children’s magazine focusing on inspiring women, friends Ashley Aikele and Elyse Beard created Bravery Magazine – a quarterly publication featuring strong female role models. After creating a Kickstarter campaign, their venture was funded within three days and now, two years later, they empower 5 to 12 year olds across the world to become their own kind of brave, through the stories of other brave women.

We chatted to the women behind Bravery to talk role models, the work/ life juggle and starting out in coffee shops…

Hi Ashley and Elyse, why and when did you decide to start Bravery Magazine?

Ashley: Bravery came about a few years ago after we had separate experiences with our daughters. I had the chance to dress up my almost three-year-old daughter as Rosie the Riveter for a Halloween photoshoot. I gave her a little background on Rosie the Riveter, so she would have some idea about what was going on. The entire week afterwards she ran around the house pretending to build and fly airplanes. I was floored at how influenced she was by the little bit of information I had given her. It was in this moment a lightbulb went off for me. I realised she could have real women as role models and it could be interesting and fun.

Elyse: I had an opposite experience with my daughter. As a four year old, she loved to dress up as princess, but one day I heard her running around yelling, “Help me! Save me!”. When I asked her why she needed someone to save her, she replied, “Princesses aren’t brave, so I can’t be brave.” I realised at that moment that I hadn’t given my daughter any other options for role models besides what the world made easily accessible. I knew I had to change what role models she had access to.

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What had you both done before Bravery?

Ashley: I have a background in advertising, business, and photography and have always had a great love for magazines. I’ve never had any experience in publishing or art directing so starting Bravery was a HUGE learning curve.

Elyse: I have a background in elementary education and have always had a talent for writing. After having my third baby, I was ready to pursue something that could utilise my talents in a meaningful way. When the idea for Bravery came along, I was ready to jump in head first.

How would you describe Bravery?

Bravery is a quarterly print publication for girls and boys aged 5-12. Each issue highlights a strong female role model and includes stories, DIYs, activities, recipes and more—all centred around the woman we are featuring and the field she is in.

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How does the magazine come together?

Typically we begin each issue about six months before it will be released. We start with a brainstorm of ideas for content for the magazine. We then narrow down those ideas and create an outline for the issue. After that, we take each page or spread and develop it into a spec sheet for the artists, writers, and/or photographers who will be contributing. The spec sheets go to the writers and editors first where the copy is written and edited before it’s passed to the artists. The artists create a rough draft, colour draft, and final draft. Once the art and copy have been approved, the content is placed into the magazine template and sent off to beta readers in a digital format. Once  we get their feedback we make final changes, send it to our editors for a final read through, then off to print! About four weeks later we have the magazine in our hands and available to our readers.

Each issue focuses on an inspiring woman – how do you choose your subjects?

We receive recommendations from readers and followers, we do a lot of study and research, then ultimately we pick someone who we are able to build a 64 page publication about. We typically like to choose someone who has been brave in their own way and someone we would want our children to look up to as a role model.

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Which has been your most popular?

Our first issue featuring Jane Goodall has been very popular—so popular that we had to do a reprint! Most people are familiar with Jane and find her very inspiring. She’s a great role model and was the perfect person to kick off Bravery.

Do you have a favourite issue (so far!)?

Ashley: Mine might just be our most recent issue featuring Zaha Hadid. I love the way the art and colors came together. It’s beautiful, interesting and fun.

Elyse: I also really love the Zaha issue. It’s super clean and an interesting subject. I also am partial to our Jane Goodall issue because so much hard work and heart went into building it when we were first starting up.

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Why do you think it’s so important that children have inspiring women to look up to (and encourage their own bravery)?

We think it’s important for both boys and girls to have inspiring women to look up to. There are so many untold and unknown stories about strong women out there and our goal is to help bring those to light. Society has conditioned people to think that boys will only be interested in learning about males and girls will only be interested in learning about females. We’ve found that to not be the case. Bravery strives to introduce strong female role models in a way that is interesting and empowering to all kids, regardless of gender.

That’s fantastic! You also create patches to accompany each issue – what’s the process?

We have a designer who sends us six to nine patch designs. We pick our favourite, have her make any adjustments necessary,  then send the illustration off to the manufacturer. After approving the samples, the patches are made and sent to our fulfilment center. It’s pretty easy and fun to make the patches for Bravery.

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Where do you create the magazine from? Does your location inspire you?

We started out creating the magazine in Starbucks and on our living room floor. Now we’ve moved up to a small room we rent out in an office. To be honest, it’s not very inspiring. It’s old and dirty and gets very hot but we are grateful for the space and we’ve learned that we can still create an amazing, beautiful product even in a small, stuffy space.

Amen to that! What does a typical day look like for you?

Our days are a constant juggle of parenting and work. There are a lot of drop-offs and pick-ups. Our day-to-day looks a lot like making lunches, running errands, jumping on the computer while the baby is napping, then running over to the office to jam a couple of work hours in. Then we head home, spend time with the kids, make dinner, help with homework, get kids bathed and in bed, squeeze in some time for our husbands, then jump back on the computer for a couple more hours of work. Crash, rinse, repeat.

The magazine was first funded by a Kickstarter campaign. How did you find the experience? Any tips for others looking to use the platform?

It was a ton of work but an absolute blast. Our top tips would be to study other successful campaigns and what they did, figure out the story behind your product (the problem you’re solving), and make that the centre of your video (and hire a professional to do your video!).

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If you were to share any words of wisdom with readers looking to start a creative business – what would you say?!

Don’t do it. Just kidding! It’s going to be SO MUCH WORK! You will make mistakes, but the hardest part is starting. If you’re passionate and ready then lean in and go for it. You’ve got this.

What’s been your highlight so far?

Hearing our children play and pretend to be the women we’ve featured and seeing our product come to life through them.

Finally, which one woman inspires you both the most?

Ashley: I was always influenced by my mom’s bravery growing up. She was a huge role model to me in the way she pushed to accomplish her goals and also pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and go for things. I also grew up with a large poster of Rosie the Riveter in my room with the statement “We can do it!” on it. I was incredibly inspired by Rosie and what women can do when given the chance. Many times, I remember feeling motivated by their stories and using that in my own life.

Elyse: I was (and still am) a major bookworm. As a kid, I read every book I could get my hands on. As I look back, I realise that the books I gravitated toward as a young girl had strong female characters in them: Ella in Ella Enchanted, Meg in A Wrinkle in Time, Hermione in the Harry Potter series. I was especially drawn to the story of Anne Frank. She inspired me to keep a journal for several years. I loved her optimism and bravery in the face of tragedy and cruelty. Anne’s story is still one that inspires me.

Quickfire questions

Describe your work in three words: Fun, playful, inspiring 

Tea or Coffee? Neither!

Mountains or Sea? Mountains

Night owl or early bird? Early bird (Ashley) and night owl (Elyse)

I wish someone had told me…  that every single person is just making it up as they go along.

See more from Bravery via their website and Instagram.

Photography by Kimberley Murray, Liz Stanley, Liz Johnson, Priscilla Gragg, Anna Killian & Kirsten Wiemer


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