BABE #138: AMY ROBB, Partner + Publisher @ Edible Northeast Florida Magazine
Amy is one of the movers and shakers in our community who works tirelessly, supports endlessly, and always surprises us with her successes and adventures. She has traveled the country by land and sea, settling in St. Augustine and starting our favorite local magazine, Edible Northeast Florida. We’re thrilled and honored to have her on the blog, and to uncover a few more of the secrets behind the well-spoken, well-read, and well-traveled woman, friend, and professional she is. Thank you so much for your time, energy and constant encouragement, Amy! You are absolutely a hustlin' babe.
Hometown: Portland, Oregon
Current city: St. Augustine, Florida
Alma mater: Portland State University
Degree: B.A., English, M.A., Adult Education & Intercultural Communication
Very first job: Newspaper Delivery, somewhere around age 12. I was our neighborhood’s first and only girl carrier, and I didn’t particularly enjoy waking up early in the cold to make my rounds, but with all those boys looking on, I didn’t dare complain or quit.
Hustle: Partner & Publisher, Edible Northeast Florida Magazine
Babe you admire and why?
Ami Vitale. Her career, her life and her images speak.
How do you spend your free time?
These days, I spend the majority of my free time either alone, or with my husband. I love to noodle on ideas and gravitate toward things that give my body something to do while allowing my mind the freedom to roam. Puttering in the garden, morning runs before dawn, finger knitting (it’s kinda my thing), kiteboarding out west, and spending time in my kitchen - these things help recharge my batteries for a busy social week ahead.
Favorite fictional female character?
Pippi Longstocking. That red hair! That super-human strength!
Go-to adult beverage?
Most days, it’s a granny spritzer: sauvignon blanc with a splash of seltzer (embarrassing, but true). Bellied up to a bar, it’s bourbon (neat) and a cold beer back. Occasionally, I flirt with tequila + tonic, but that never ends very well.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Chilaquiles, refried beans and two fried eggs at a Mexican roadside shanty. Extra crema.
Go-to news source?
Twitter. I’m a junkie. It serves up news from all my favorite “fake news” sources, mixed with a few wry-humored tweets for a good belly laugh, daily.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Any one of the women on this list. New Zealand’s Prime Minister and the youngest female leader in the world at 37? The first female president of Estonia leading a digital revolution that challenges our notion of “state”? YouTube’s CEO who also happens to be a public advocate for paid maternity leave? Hells yes. These women are helping to shape, redefine, and challenge our understanding of the roles women are capable of playing on a global stage - and whether I agree with their politics, perspectives or even the businesses they run, there’s something powerful (and intriguing) about what they’ve accomplished.
What game/reality show would you win?
Is there a game show dedicated to people eating an embarrassing number of doughnuts in one sitting?
What’s something that not many people know about you?
I’ve run three marathons and I rarely follow recipes.
Beach or mountains?
I dig the wide-open vastness of the sea. I lived on a sailboat for many years, and I worked my way through the Caribbean as a cook on a boat. I also spent three years chasing wind and water kiteboarding. But I also grew up in a climbing family. My parents were active climbers, and our weekends were spent on trails or chasing summits. My dad’s climbing expedition to Pakistan in the 1980’s -- and the stacks of slides and tales of adventure he brought home -- forever changed the way I saw the world. I’m mesmerized by the ocean, but the mountains are in my blood.
Tell us about your hustle.
I’m the publisher of Edible Northeast Florida magazine, and my job is all about business development that supports the mission of our magazine. While I do check-in on most stages of creative development and content production, my primary responsibility is making sure we’re supporting the business partners who support us, and that the magazine --- both online and in print -- is financially sustainable.
What does your typical workday look like?
I start in the morning with a 15-minute block of time where I set my priorities for the day. Binder, pen, paper and coffee in hand, I make a list of all the things I want to accomplish, then I set priorities based on what needs to be accomplished first. After that, it's phone calls, emails, business meetings and photoshoots in the field.
When/how did you first get involved with Edible, and what inspired you to start the Edible NE FL branch?
I’ve followed Edible publications for a decade in markets across the country and I’ve always loved their work and mission. In 2015, I had been freelancing for a number of years when my husband and I spent a season skiing in Colorado. I reached a point of craving a project that would allow me to pull together all the skills I’d been honing as a freelancer for clients across the U.S. and overseas. I began interviewing for jobs, but as things got closer to having to commit to one organization or another, so too did my desire to work on a project I could develop from the ground-up.
What has that journey been like, and how has your role changed + evolved within it?
For me, Edible has always been more about starting a community conversation than starting a business. Food and drink is this crazy common denominator we all share as human beings, and it affects the way we gather in community, how we understand our cultural identity, the health of our local economy, the environment, our daily routines, and our sense of well-being. The opportunity to dabble in those ideas excited me, and that’s why I started Edible. Before taking the plunge, I spent a lot of time business planning but nothing quite prepared me for the financial pressures of owning a business with fixed expenses: the sleepless nights of worry, and the conflicted business decisions I’d eventually have to make. I always knew the creative aspects of what we were setting forth to do would come together. But I underestimated the learning curve I’d face in working to make it a viable enterprise.
Have you always had a love for food, photography and writing? Did you always plan to combine them in your career?
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d be publishing a magazine about food and drink. Food, farming, drink and food culture in the Northwest are so strong and ubiquitous, it’s just something that was always kinda there. Over the years, I’ve worked as a barista, baker, bartender, waitress, and cook. My grandparents were farmers and grocers, my sister runs a restaurant, my aunt was a pastry chef, another owns an organic farm (with alpacas!). My brother is a farmer, my brother-in-law brews beer, my Uncle Don is a master at baking bread. In many ways, I’ve come to my love of food by spending time with the people who make it. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the effort required to bring food and drink to our tables, so when I saw the opportunity to combine a few skill sets I’d gathered from previous jobs to create a dedicated platform that celebrated the story of our local chefs, artisans, farmers and makers, I dove right in.
What brought you from the PNW to Florida?
In 2009, my husband (boyfriend at the time) and I sold our houses and nearly everything we owned and bought a camper, which we perched atop a little 4 cylinder Toyota Tacoma and hit the road. For three years, we traveled Baja, the US and parts of Canada in search of kiteboarding meccas. One summer up north on Cape Cod, we decided we were ready to have a slightly larger space to hang our hats (we now live in a spacious bungalow of 646 sq. feet). We both made a list of three places we’d visited during our time on the road that we thought we could happily call home. St. Augustine came up on both our lists, so we booked tickets, flew in for a weekend, found a house, and three months later, became North Floridians.
How do you stay organized and on top of your work?
A mini 3-ring binder (so I can neatly remove pages of completed to-do lists without creating those tattered notebook edges that drive me nuts), time blocking, and loads of mental determination. It’s really easy for me to unravel in the fear of falling behind, and that’s exacerbated if I focus too long on the entirety of things I need to get done. On climbing trips as a kid, my dad used to remind me: “glance ahead to see where you’re going, but don’t stop to look down when you feel scared. Stay focused right where you’re at, take a deep breath, and keep going.” At work, I do this by setting daily priorities and by blocking my tasks into manageable chunks of time (1 hour for emails, 2 hours of editing, 3 hours for phone calls, maybe a 15 minute break for personal text messaging).
How have your past internships, education, and work experiences prepared you for your work today?
I’ve had so many different work experiences, it borders on embarrassing. Program manager, associate director of international programs, university lecturer, speech writer, cook, harbormaster, whitewater river guide, food server, digital media editor, social media manager, freelance photographer, the list goes on. When I was fresh out of college, I completed an internship on Capitol Hill then went onto to fulfill a 6-month grant doing research in rural Ecuador. 7 years later, I completed my M.A. while working full-time (in the longest job I’ve ever had, 8 years) and miraculously landed a fellowship in Intercultural Communication, which led me to a training job for Fulbright scholars. I wouldn’t exactly call my trajectory a strategy for building a career. It doesn’t come with some of the traditional rewards of a longer-term focus on one industry or profession. Still, I like to believe that every one of these endeavors, in one way or another, has prepared me for what I’m doing now and, more importantly, have given me the opportunity to live the life I want to be living.
What would you say is your biggest career milestone and why?
I hestitate to call what I’ve cobbled together a “career”. It’s more like a compilation of life experiences that have been interesting to me and, hopefully, helped a few people out along the way. Every job has been punctuated with a milestone or two. When I worked at the University of Oregon, it was being asked to apply for the Executive Director role of international programs. When I worked as a freelancer, it was being paid to travel abroad and do work that felt meaningful. When I was a cook on a boat, it was surviving the long hours and seasickness below deck. I’m still waiting for my “publishing” milestone. I’m not sure what it’ll be. But, I know it’s coming.
How would you say being a woman has affected your professional experience?
A few years back, I was on a photography assignment in India. I’d been in the field for just over three weeks, working long hours in rural hospital settings and in patients’ homes, when at one particular clinic, I was told that the home visit I needed to complete would not be possible because it wasn’t safe for a woman. The case study was re-assigned to my male counterpart, and the news nearly broke me. It was, literally, the first time in my life I’d ever been told I couldn’t do something because I was a woman. A day later, clinic staff agreed we would, instead, travel together, collectively to the village where I would have been sent previously alone by motorbike. When we came to a stop, I looked out the window onto a sea of people, and there wasn’t a woman in the lot. Dhubri is a village in Northeastern India and a concentrated Muslim district where men fill most of the traditional public roles. While I didn’t feel any immediate danger by the gender disparity alone, I instantly knew that the sheer volume of humans around me, combined with the fact that I was toting an expensive camera, could have gone very wrong, very quickly. I immediately knew that it wouldn’t have been safe for me to work on assignment there alone - maybe as a woman, but mostly as an outsider. For the first time in my life, I was glad I hadn’t made a fuss on principle.
Do you ever feel like your age is a disadvantage in the workplace? What about an advantage?
It has taken me a while to get used to being in my forties. Not because I feel much different than I did at say, 23, but because professional roles change a lot between the early stages of one’s work life and where I’m at in this moment. I spent a lot of years yearning for more experience, but now that I have it, I’m keenly aware of the tremendous responsibility that goes with it -- both to others and oneself. Some people are naturals at stepping into that role. I, on the other hand, sorta skidded into it, ass-first.
What is one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work? How’d you overcome it?
Sales. When I first started the magazine, I was so uncomfortable with the idea of having to sell anything, and felt so strangely vulnerable in trying to doing so, that I enlisted the help of a coach. Over time, he helped me re-shape my thinking about what a sales program is and means, both to a business and its partners. I think good sales people know that selling isn’t about a single transaction, but rather a mutually-beneficial relationship that pulls toward a common goal.
What inspires you most as a writer?
I don’t consider myself a writer, but I do have a strong sense of what inspires me in writing, especially for Edible. I look for pieces that do one of three things: either educate our readers (delivering useful, practical information), entertain our readers (with a well-crafted narrative and a particularly witty, artful use of words), or enlighten our readers (presenting ideas that make us think differently about a subject, and lead us to an “aha” moment). Serious bonus points if a writer can do all three.
How much collaboration is involved in putting each Edible issue together?
Everything we do has always been collaborative and it’s even more so now that we’ve partnered with Void. Every single issue we produce requires a team of photographers, writers, designers, recipe developers, restaurant owners, chefs, farmers and drink makers who contribute their time and expertise, and none of it would be possible without their efforts. Edible would have also never gotten off the ground if it weren’t for the gamble Lauren Titus, our editor, took on our mission. We work in separate locations - she likes to work from home, I prefer an office - but talk multiple times daily. When it comes to getting a magazine out the door, she’s the yang to my yin. The peanut butter to my jelly.
What’s your favorite thing about your job? Least favorite?
Spending time on a farm or watching a professional kitchen in full swing. Hearing from readers who tell us a story has inspired new thinking. Eating all the fooooood. My least favorite part is having to make tough business decisions and saying no. I’m not a fan of having to say no.
Who are some women in your field that you look to for inspiration?
Women who run their own business and juggle the pressures of motherhood simultaneously. It’s downright hardcore.
What advice would you give to a Babe trying to break into your industry?
If you want to write for a magazine, pitch stories you want to explore. Do a quick search to make sure the publication hasn’t already covered the idea, or pitch it from a new angle. Request an editorial calendar so you know what themes an editor will be looking to cover. If you want to be a media publisher (print, digital or otherwise), make sure you know your numbers intimately and have a plan for creating the revenue streams required to sustain it, especially if there are fixed expenses involved. The lure of creative projects is always strong, but making them viable financially requires a whole different set of skill sets. If you don’t have those, learn ‘em quick -- or partner with someone who does.
What motivates and inspires you?
Good people coming together to share great ideas.
What helps you wind down and manage stress?
I’m a damn good worrier about things I can’t control, and that alone is the single greatest source of most of my stress at work. Reminding myself that no one will die if I miss a deadline, the world won’t fall to pieces over typos, and that there are bigger things affecting the fate of humanity than a magazine in Northeast Florida is usually a pretty quick fix.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
I once botched a flight reservation landing me in Vancouver BC at 11 pm the night before a huge business proposal at 8am - in Victoria BC. (Seriously. I bought tickets to the wrong destination. Who does that?!) I met a nice fellow through airport immigration who kindly offered me a lift by cab to downtown, and after hearing more about the program I was working on in Argentina, generously insisted he cover a week’s cost of rental car fees to get me to my destination by morning. The gentleman turned out to be the Vice President of McAfee Security, and with his help plus three blurry hours of sleep on a hotel couch, I made it to my presentation, the program launched, and my benefactor became a friend for years to come. Years later, when interviewing for a job, I told this story when asked to give a personal example of “how I tolerate unexpected ambiguity”. I got the job, and the interviewers appreciated my “resourcefulness in the face of adversity." My point is this: Bungles happen. Planning can mediate the worst of ‘em, but it can’t erase the occasional fumble. The important thing is how quickly you recover and how creatively you reposition your thinking to turn what feels like a complete shit-show, into a quick laugh and ongoing opportunity.
What’s next for you?
No idea. But it better be an adventure.
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