BY DENISE HEIDEL
Once upon a time, an entrepreneurial woman dreamed of starting a magazine. This woman worked hard, tirelessly investing hours into creating a magazine based on positive content and important information for the other women in her community. While she didn’t have the benefit or convenience of a Fairy Godmother, or the help of woodland creatures, this woman did have a daughter. And her daughter, sharing in her mother’s vision, became a part of the business.
If the story of Forsyth Woman was a fairy tale, it might have gone something like that…. After all, 15 years ago, the magazines were started by the hardworking and tenacious Keela Johnson, with her daughter Brooke, a 15-year-old West Forsyth High School sophomore helping from Day 1. And now, the torch is about to be passed.
From Day One, the mission of Forsyth Woman has been about celebrating women in and around Forsyth County. While the magazine’s page count, design, look, logo, and even writers have changed, that core mission has remained steadfast. “It’s a constant part of who we are,” shared Keela. “We are not, and have never tried to be, a news-oriented magazine. People can find out the news from other sources. Our concept was to focus on positive, uplifting, encouraging stories and information relevant to the women in this community, as well as the importance of supporting local business.”
Keela continued, “The small business component is a by-product in a way. While our initial mission was and continues to be celebrating women, along the way, our whole team fell in love with small businesses. Not only because we ARE a small business, but because we got to know so many creative, passionate people in the community. The saying you see on social media sometimes that says, ‘When you buy from a local business, an actual person does a happy dance,’ is absolutely true! We’ve seen first-hand how our magazine, through its celebration of women, has also benefited and celebrated the small business community through awareness and promotion of the ‘shop small’ movement.”
Brooke chimed in, “It’s been a wonderful mission that has truly shaped my life. From my formidable years in high school to my college years and now that I’ve turned 30, my life and livelihood have been based on the celebration of local women and the accomplishments in this community. I am so fortunate to have my mom trailblaze this path so that I could walk in it myself.”
“It’s funny,” said Keela. “September 2020 will be our 180th issue. Not to mention all the issues of Forsyth Woman Engaged! and Forsyth Community we’ve done! I’m also not counting our sister-publication, Forsyth Family since that’s always been my business partner, Robin Bralley’s baby. It’s never gotten old. But to look at the magazines from the beginning to where we are now is quite a trip down memory lane. We started as a black-and-white, 26-page publication, and today we average over 130-pages per month of an all-gloss magazine and have even gone up to 184 pages in some months. I honestly could not be prouder. It’s been a long journey, and through the process, I’ve learned so much. I’ve been able to watch our community grow and bloom through the pages of Forsyth Woman!”
“I agree,” said Brooke. “I remember being on our annual beach trip with mom’s best friends and their kids when she announced her idea to start Forsyth Woman. The idea didn’t receive the excitement that my mom had hoped for from either family or friends. But my mom is strong-willed and determined. I think our lack of enthusiasm probably propelled her determination even more. But even with my initially lukewarm response, I’ve been a part of things from Day One, and at 15-years-old, I learned how to do magazine layout in Microsoft Publisher – something our designers think is laughable now!
“I worked with Mom throughout high school and even had a column in the magazine during my high school days. Then I went to college and graduated from High Point University with a degree in education. I didn’t plan to work for Mom and Forsyth Woman until after a few years in the classroom. But after graduation, teaching no longer felt like the right decision. I love education and still have a passion for it, but I’ve found a way to direct that passion into the pages of Forsyth Woman. Still, working with your mom comes with a unique set of challenges, as well as blessings. Thankfully, we’ve worked together very well. We’ve had years of learning– both from one another and with one another! I could easily write 50 pages about all the lessons I’ve learned from Mom and Forsyth Woman.”
“And now, I’m turning over the reins,” said Keela. “Passing the torch is something that I’ve been mulling over for a while now. Especially with everything that’s happened in our family for the last few years. From my husband Tim’s retirement…. His stroke… My second bout with breast cancer… Losing my dad last year, who was this magazine’s biggest supporter and champion. I just know that right now it’s time. Plus, I love numbers. It’s 2020. Brooke is now 30. I’ve led the way for 15 years, and it just feels right to let Brooke take the lead now.
“But,” Keela continued, “I’m not leaving.” She laughed, “Oh, no…they’ll never get rid of me that easily! Brooke and I are basically switching roles. She is becoming the publisher, and I’ll take the backseat to her proven leadership. That will enable me to live out my dream: watching my daughter take the business I’ve poured myself into and turn it into her own. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, enjoying my husband’s retirement at Lake Norman and still being a part of what I love. I feel like it’s a win-win! Brooke is more than capable of taking over now. Not only has she grown up with Forsyth Woman, but she’s also grown into a model Forsyth Womanherself. It’s been such a joy and privilege to watch Brooke’s confidence blossom and her own entrepreneurial spirit grow.”
“It’s hard to believe that Mom is retiring. Or semi-retiring,” Brooke mused. “I know she’ll never quit entirely, and as weird as it may be at first, I’m very excited for her. Her passion for these magazines is legendary, and I know that even with my years of working for Forsyth Woman full-time, I have some ginormous shoes to fill. But life is short. Mom and Dad have had a rough few years, and it’s time for them to enjoy themselves. It’s put things in perspective for all of us, and I’m thankful that they get to live out their dreams on the waters of Lake Norman. Mom is still close enough to work and visit, and I’m honored that she trusts me with her ‘other’ baby. For those who may be concerned about Mom stepping down, please understand – all this really means is that she’s going to stop working 80 hours a week.” Brooke smiled, “She may surprise us and only work 40 hours. That will definitely cut down on a few emails.”
“As for me,” Brooke continued, “I’m excited about this. The magazines have proven to be an asset to this community, and that’s credited to my mom’s perseverance. After all, Forsyth Woman survived the 2008 recession, two bouts with cancer, my dad’s stroke (my mom never left his side), and recently, COVID-19. We’ve been the ‘Little Engine That Could’ who just refuses to give up.”
While I’m more committed to a healthier work-life balance, I’m the daughter of two hardworking entrepreneurs. I’ve learned well, and it’s in my DNA. I’m a risk-taker, too, just like my mom. And I’m excited and eager to preserve the mission of Forsyth Woman by celebrating local women, supporting local business, and also paving the way for the next generation.”
Forsyth Woman can be found in hundreds of locations in and around Forsyth County, along with sister-publication, Forsyth Family. Digital editions of the magazine can be read online at ForsythWoman.com. Call 888.892.3204 or email Advertising@ForsythMags.com to learn about local advertising opportunities. Be sure to like Forsyth Woman and Forsyth Family Magazines on Facebook and follow us on Instagram @forsythmags.
SIDEBAR # 1
You can’t produce a monthly magazine for 15 years without accumulating some great Fun Facts!
- Fox 8 News anchor Cindy Farmer was on the very first Forsyth Woman cover – September 2005.
- Forsyth Woman Editor Kim Beane has been with the magazines since 2005, making her the longest-running team-member besides Keela and Brooke themselves.
- Forsyth Woman’s Senior Writers, Carolyn Shore, Denise Heidel, and Meghan Corbett, have the most writing seniority in the family of magazines with 14, 12, and 11 years, respectively.
- Rosey’s Review is Forsyth Woman’s longest-running column; it was introduced in July 2006, and to date, four different writers have worked under the Rosey pseudonym.
- Forsyth Family, the sister-magazine of Forsyth Woman, was introduced in November 2007.
- Forsyth Woman’s popular Girls’ Night Out has been held monthly since January 2009 and was the brainchild of Forsyth Woman Editor Kim Beane.
- In 2010, Forsyth Woman went on its very first community shopping trip: the Consignment Shop Hop. Since then, the Consignment Shop Hop has evolved into Tour de Boutique, and the magazines have taken hundreds of women shopping to local boutiques on 15 different shopping trips.
- Forsyth Magazines has been a consistent supporter and sponsor of local community events.
- FW Engaged, Forsyth Woman’s bi-annual wedding publication, debuted in June 2011.
- Forsyth Community, the fourth title in the Forsyth Magazines line up, debuted in 2015.
- The Forsyth Magazines logo art changed in November 2018.
- The Forsyth Magazines podcast debuted in January 2020!
SIDEBAR # 2
GET TO KNOW BROOKE:
Brooke Eagle is the new publisher of Forsyth Woman magazine! Brooke is passionate about fitness and health, and is really into CrossFit and wake-surfing on Lake Norman. She loves being a dog-mom to her one-year-old Berne-Doodle, Carter. Brooke is also the host of the Forsyth Magazines Podcast. Since joining the Magazines full time in 2012, Brooke has become an outstanding and recognized leader in the community. In addition to her role at Forsyth Woman, Brooke has served in the following capacities:
- Trellis Foundation Leadership Council Member (previously Hospice Foundation Leadership Council) 2016 – 2020
- President of Professional Women of Winston-Salem 2016 – 2017
- Lewisville-Clemmons Chamber of Commerce Board Member 2018 – 2020; VP of Education 2019, Secretary 2020
- Recent graduate of Leadership Lewisville-Clemmons inaugural class (2019-2020)