Ashley Aikele & Elyse Beard Interview

Ashley Aikele & Elyse Beard

Founders, Bravery magazine

Tell us about your respective backgrounds and how you came to start Bravery magazine.

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 utilize my talents in a meaningful way. When the idea for Bravery came along, I was ready to jump in head first.

Bravery came about after we had separate experiences with our daughters. I (Ashley) 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 realized she could have real women as role models and it could be interesting and fun.

I (Elyse) had an opposite experience with my daughter. As a four year old, she loved to dress up as princesses, 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 realized 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.

What sets Bravery magazine apart from other titles on the market?

There are a few things that we believe set Bravery apart from what else is on the market. First, it’s designed for both girls and boys. We believe that boys can (and should) learn about strong female role models just as much as girls should.

Secondly, the interactive nature of the magazine makes it stand out. It’s designed to be a resource that parents, caretakers, and educators can use to teach their children about strong female role models.

Lastly, the aesthetic of the Bravery is beautiful. We wanted to make a magazine for children that was designed so parents could enjoy it as well. We believe that children should be exposed to and learn to appreciate beautiful art and design.

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Bravery Magazine is a quarterly print publication for girls and boys that features strong female role models. Who have been some of the most influential female figures in your own lives?

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.

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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 realize 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.

What are some of the rewards & challenges associated with running your own business?

The biggest reward is doing something we feel passionate about and getting to work with so many talented people. We’ve been amazed as we’ve reached out to people all over the world to contribute to Bravery and they’ve said yes! With no previous experience in publishing, we weren’t sure how to go about things, what standard processes were, and if people would want to work with us. It’s been so rewarding to work with some really talented creatives.

One of the biggest challenges of owning your own business is the sheer amount of time and work it takes. We’ve sacrificed family trips, nights with friends, LOTS of sleep, and more to make Bravery what it is today. Sometimes it’s easy to feel burned out by the amount of work and stress that comes with owning your own business.

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(Above) Artist, Olya Tsikhanchuk works on a page for Bravery's fourth issue

How would you describe the styles of illustration you are interested in commissioning?

Each issue has a specific style to it, but overall I would say our style is very different from what you might think a typical children's magazine would look like. We like the art to be very simple and something that an adult could enjoy just as much as a child.

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Photography courtesy of Kimberley Murray, Liz Stanley, Liz Johnson, Priscilla Gragg, Anna Killian and Kirsten Wiemer

You've worked with a variety of wonderful artists. What have been some of your most memorable collaborations?

I think when Rebecca Green said yes to doing our very first cover, that was a huge moment for us. We had nothing to show her since it was our first issue and she took a big risk with us. We love the way the Jane Goodall cover turned out and it will always have a special spot in our hearts.

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Another favorite collaboration is when Alice Lindstrom did the story illustrations for our Frida Kahlo issue. Alice is a paper artist and the details of her illustrations are absolutely incredible. 

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Select some of your favourite Bravery magazine covers to share with our audience.

It’s so hard to pick, but the first four covers of Bravery are some of our favorites.

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What portfolio advice would you offer illustrators looking to appeal to magazines like yours?

Make sure you’ve found your style. I’m always attracted to artists who have honed in on their style and have found their niche. If you want to highlight separate styles then put them in separate sections on your portfolio using their image set feature.

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Share the best piece of feedback you've received from a reader.

Our Temple Grandin issue talks a lot about autism, and we had a reader who ordered that issue to help tell her daughter that she had autism. She used the content in the Temple issue to show her daughter that she actually had a gift in the way she was able to process the world.

Everytime we think about that email, we get choked up. It’s exactly why we created Bravery—so kids could have strong female role models to look up to and so parents could have a resource to support them in the difficult and important conversations they want to have with their kids.

What are your goals / dreams for the future?

We’d love to grow into a podcast and YouTube content some day. Our goal is to be a resource for parents, teachers, and caretakers. We’d love to expand our platforms and reach more kids in more ways.

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