As I look at this photo and reflect upon the end of another year at CH2, I am so humbled by the women I’ve managed to attract into my life—and the blessings they’ve brought into it. The magazine business is not an easy one. It requires long hours and an unending passion that, if extinguished, will be apparent to all who observe.
As the “fearless leader” of this tribe for over 16 years, I admit sometimes it is not easy to keep that flame burning. One relies on the inspiration of and collaboration with others. As another year comes to a close, I want to salute the ladies who sit beside me every Monday morning at 10 a.m.—sometimes to come up with an idea so brilliant we can’t believe it just happened, and other times just to gossip, bond with one another, and commiserate about the human experience.
I’ll never forget my first encounter with Morgan O’Banion. Fresh from college, she was working at the Marriott in marketing and chased me across the lobby of a hotel in Palmetto Dunes to introduce herself. After making an impression on me and Pierce Lowrey with her sparkling personality, genuine compassion for others and can-do attitude, she was quickly recruited as part of our team and was one of the original “CH2 girls” back in 2007. She was in the room when we dreamed up the Bachelor of the Year contest (actually, it might have been her idea), and after a brief hiatus, has come back home. She’s been one of my best friends for almost 15 years, and I love her dearly.
Kim Conrad Crouch is also a Marriott alum and almost as native as you can get here on Hilton Head Island. I remember thinking how friendly and happy she was every time I would stroll through the Marriott Vacation Club office back in the day. What a crazy coincidence our paths would cross again almost seven years later as she was looking to get back to work after devoting some time to being a new mom. I am in awe of what a good friend Kim is to her crew and to me. With her easy-going attitude and natural hospitality, she makes everyone feel at home and comfortable. Kim keeps us connected as a team, driving our social activities and hosting us at her home too many times to mention. I love this about her—and the easy way she puts all drama into perspective.
I knew from the moment I met Kaila Jeffcoat she was a keeper. In fact, I remember telling Ashton (another former CH2 girl—shout out!) after meeting her that “Rhett better lock that down.” Rhett was her boyfriend (now husband) at the time, so he clearly saw the same qualities we all do. Kaila pulls double duty with us, excelling in her dual role as salesperson and stylist. She brightens up any room she enters, and we could not do it without her. Well, we could, but the fashion spreads would not look nearly as spectacular, and we’d probably mess up some pricing details.
And speaking of the details … let’s talk about Hunter Kostylo, the computer brain behind the scenes. I say “behind the scenes,” but she’s not really, as you’ve all come to know her as my eye-rolling, long-suffering sidekick who puts up with the office shenanigans whilst keeping us all organized and on-deadline. She’s my work wifey, the talent behind a lot of our creative videos, and the one who gets the brunt of “Maggie is having a bad day and she just needs to vent.” You know how they say, “Oh if the walls could talk?” Well someday Hunter Kostylo will write that tell-all book and retire a multi-millionaire.
It’s only fitting that the first person in this photo’s idea, lead to the last person in this photo’s being with us. I met Kandace Wightman through the 2013 Bachelorette of the Year contest. It wasn’t long before she went from contestant to teammate. As a fellow upstate New Yorker, we see eye-to-eye on many things (just not the ideal temperature), and she’s always there when I need her—to pinch hit at a photo-shoot, take some #bts video with style, or make her clients feel comfortable in any setting. She’s as gorgeous on the inside as she is on the outside. She never exercises but eats fast food on the daily and still looks like this. By all accounts, we should hate her.
I would be remiss without mentioning a few outstanding women who aren’t in this photo but are key in making sure this magazine happens every month. Catherine Davies is the brilliance behind a lot of the graphic design you see every month. Linda Hopkins, Cheryl Ricer, Becca Edwards, Courtney Hampson and Amy Bartlett contribute their words every month; and at its core, that’s what a magazine is. Words. Shared experiences. If I had a dollar for every nice letter I received about a Linda Hopkins article, I’d be retired.
Mame Bowser is behind the scenes handling all the things we creative people abhor … like paperwork, and accounting, and taxes, and payroll—you know, the necessary evils of a successful business. Thank you for doing the hard stuff we’re not so good at, Mame. We appreciate you.
In closing, I’m extremely grateful to Bonnie Lowrey, who took a chance on a bunch of young 20-year-olds, just starting out in new business during a terrible economy, with no experience and very little know-how but a lot of passion. We couldn’t have done it without you. You’ve always known when to advise and encourage or just to sit back and let us figure it out on our own. And that is the sign of a real leader. Here’s to 16 years down and 16 more to go.
Happy New Year to all the important, influential and supportive women in my life. I appreciate you more than you know.