Andee Hoig: An Inspirational Journey
An Inspirational Journey
It was not an auspicious beginning...
At the time, when Bob Hoig, PUBLISHER of the midlands business journal and Andee Hoig’s father, sold her a struggling charity-oriented magazine known as METRO MONTHLY, he remembers thinking, “fat chance; it will never make it,” and he let Andee know that he questioned – not only the viability of the concept – but her capabilities and commitment as well.
Perhaps motivated by some evidence to support his misgivings, or perhaps motivated (from intentions unknown even to himself) by a secret hope that she would prove him wrong, Bob Hoig unenthusiastically sold a lackluster five-year-old publication to a daughter he didn’t see as publisher material and couldn’t bring himself to deceive with unwarranted encouragement.
Andee had struggled as a child and teen. In the beginning she had shown a brightness and energy – even a vision – that sparkled and promised something special. But when Andee was 13, her parents decided to put her in a back brace to deal with a case of scoliosis, and in the years following that adjustment, they watched the light go out in their formerly precocious daughter.
The confidence that had seemed so natural for her was replaced by insecurities and other natural by-products that came from being subjected to the cruelty of the schoolyard, where girls wearing braces could expect more than their fair share of harassment.
Bob’s relationship with his daughter was a challenging one, that didn’t improve as she ground her way through high school as something of a casualty, experiencing bouts of depression and experimenting with alcohol and other counterproductive coping mechanisms.
College education wasn’t looking likely or desirable for Andee. The only thing that seemed to keep her anchored at all was her willingness to serve full-time as a sales account associate and event photographer for Metro Monthly. So when Andee, in 1996, offered to buy him out, Bob had little hope that she would actually make a go of it.
On several occasions over the next 20-plus years, Andrea Hoig was given numerous reasons to prove him right.
However, in contrast to those expectations, in the early days – as publisher of the newsprint tabloid – driven nearly as much by desperation as ambition – she worked three additional jobs to keep the magazine afloat.
No matter the circumstances, no matter the obstacles, Andee persevered – choosing to continue, often working with little rest, reward or profitability.
“That girl with the camera” became a recognized fixture at local charity events, attempting to shine a light on a segment of the community that area publications paid little attention to.
“I believed in this publication so much over the first couple of years that I did everything I could to keep it going, even when it looked like it wouldn’t survive,” Andee said. “When dad sold me the magazine, he had zero confidence in me, but I knew I could make it work. I was determined.”
That determination proved to be a saving grace for many of the challenges that lay ahead for Andee: a determination and passion to create something meaningful.
Giving Birth (for Real!)
In 2000 Andee found out she was pregnant. It was an unexpected pregnancy that caused a lot of soul searching, something that would prove to be a “blessing in disguise”.
Andee’s life was very chaotic at the time: working nonstop, working long hours; finding out she was pregnant – however unexpected (or initially devastating) – required that she slow things down to breathe and be present. In the midst of this, she prayed, cried and prayed some more.
The answers came in mysterious ways: not only for Andee but for a couple near and dear to her. Andee’s brother and his wife had been investigating adoption, unable to conceive a child of their own. Andee sat down with them and after some additional soul-searching and prayer, the three agreed that the baby should be adopted by the couple. Andee knew deep in her heart that this was the right decision. Once they found out the baby was a girl, the adoptive parents named her Ivy.
During the months she was pregnant Andee experienced some of the happiest and most peaceful moments of her life. She would put headphones on her stomach so Ivy could feel the vibration of a music CD: Baby Symphonies. She would go swimming, spinning around in the water imagining Ivy smiling and giggling with delight. She would sit on the sofa with her beloved cat, Murphy, next to her, telling Murphy all about Ivy and Ivy about Murphy. She talked to Ivy for hours, all of these moments incredibly special to her, as the challenges and discomforts associated with her pregnancy were outweighed by the immense JOY she found.
And the challenges were varied: people congratulating her on her new baby, people asking her if this was her first child and telling her how lucky she was, inquiring if the child was a boy or a girl, what were names being considered? Many people that she knew in the community expressed that they hadn’t realized that she was married. She wasn’t.
All of the niceties and delights that came with carrying a child became, for Andee, reminders that her time with Ivy was limited, that the clock was ticking, marking the time left to share the growing love she held for Ivy.
Andee was still running the magazine solo so she had to be out in the community photographing events, making sales calls, running her business. People who found out about the adoption often assumed it was a planned event, that she was a surrogate – which she wasn’t. Dealing with the challenges that came with these inquiries and assumptions was difficult, yet the community that had become like family to her – those in the philanthropic sector who had come to know her better – were very supportive. They sent gifts for the baby. A group of women came together and threw Andee a “shower” honoring her decision to entrust Ivy to a situation that would better serve her daughter’s needs, while also serving the needs and hopes of Ivy’s adoptive parents.
On the evening of September 29, 2000, Andee experienced the most unforgettable event of her life. She was attending the Arthritis Foundation’s Woman of the Year Gala honoring Deb Trowbridge. As usual she was there, covering activities and taking photos. She felt the need to leave early and went home to rest. At 5 a.m. the morning of September 30th she was having a dream about the Junior League of Omaha (the work always so much a part of her life) when her water broke. Ivy was on her way.
The moment – rather than exhilarating or exciting – was devastating. Ivy was two weeks early, and Andee wasn’t ready to let her go. Her time with the daughter she had nurtured and carried for most of the year was abruptly coming to an end.
Suddenly she was at Methodist Hospital, going into labor, finally giving birth to a beautiful little girl, one of the most significant events in her life. While in the hospital she cooed with this little baby girl, telling her how much she loved her, how much she meant to her and how happy she was going to be with her new family.
The adoption went though the Nebraska Children’s Home, which encouraged her to have an entrustment ceremony. The ceremony was a way to honor everyone involved and allow Andee to present Ivy to her new family. It was unquestionably the most difficult thing she ever had to do, but she had no doubt it was the right thing to do.
She went home to an empty house with an empty womb, and a business that she wasn’t sure how to show up for. What followed was a period of intense sadness and loss where Andee slipped into a deep depression. The work would provide a way out and up; the community she had come to cherish, and facing the challenges that came with supporting it, allowed her to refocus and rebuild.
Catching the Vision
Today, published quarterly rather than monthly, supported by web and social media, mQUARTERLY enjoys a thriving readership and is well respected in the Omaha metro community and serves a very specific niche. But the winding path that brought Andee to this place was hacked through weeds and thistles, and carved out through numerous obstacles and brambles.
The publication had never been an advertising gold mine, and remained a difficult sell, so much of the commitment to increase the quality of coverage and presentation was absorbed by Andee herself – once again determined to herald those making a difference in a manner she felt was deserved. But there was something new motivating her now. Her doggedness to see the publication succeed went beyond desperation, beyond ambition, beyond her personal desires to gain her dad’s acknowledgment, or at least prove him wrong.
Those motivations had been replaced by something Andee had “caught” along the way, influenced by those she was covering, enhanced by something she had regained from within. The fire that her parents had seen glimmer, and then fade, had been rekindled through her years of exposure to those making a difference. Andee Hoig had rediscovered a glimpse of her original calling, and of her original authenticity: Andee had “remembered” why she was here – to make a difference for others more than herself…to give back, and to grow as a human being through doing so. Andee Hoig had rediscovered her place in The Universe.
Even in its early days, the magazine accomplished something that no other publication in the community was able to do, by amplifying local charitable events, featuring the people behind the scenes or attending fundraising efforts; by raising awareness about civic and charitable causes. Over time, Andee’s mission and publications have evolved into something much more than that.
She’s offered a much-needed voice – not only to promote giving back, or to promote those already invested in making a difference, but to inspire those not yet invested to experience their own awakening to the benefits of growth through giving. And as other publications and enterprises eventually saw the value in supporting the philanthropic sector, Andee remains perhaps the single most recognizable and acknowledged beacon and champion of local giving.
“For as long as I’ve known and worked with Andee, she’s always been all about giving everything for those who give to others – and she’s consistently done it at tremendous personal sacrifice,” said metroMAGAZINE’s Editor and Creative Director Rob Killmer, who’s worked at the magazine for more than 15 years.
“Andee was out there slogging it out in the weeds, working long, arduous hours, to call attention to nonprofits long before it was fashionable or profitable.
She has always been driven more by her passion for giving back – that’s the single, most intense and authentic driving force that guides everything she does.”
In the early 2000s, this passion drove Andee to up the ante and move to a full color publication, switching from newsprint to gloss and expanding coverage.
For years Andee labored, sometimes for 72-plus hours or more in a stretch, to deliver on that vision, and she labored essentially in isolation. There were some special part-time or full-time staffers who came and went during this season, but Andee shouldered the bulk of the burden – creative, financial and otherwise – alone.
It was at this time that The Universe (as it so often seems to do) brought Andee into contact with another visionary attempting to recover something of himself: a middle-aged Texan, Rob Killmer, who carried some synergistic energies, experiences and perspectives that synced up well personally with Andee’s, and whose professional skillset filled an immediate and longer-term need. Like her, he was a soul undergoing “repairs-in-progress” – who was attempting to re-engage with his own innate gifts and resources. Assisting Andee with hers seemed almost destined at the time. He eagerly embraced the opportunity to help her transform her publication and business into more of what she dreamed it could be. It wasn’t a perfect alliance, but the synergy was tangible and productive.
This all reads a bit too “dramatic” (even a trifle “romantic,” though not embellished) because we’re not talking about a love affair here, but still discovering a “soul connection”. For all of us, as such moments occur, there are no violins or drumrolls; no “lights, camera, action!” When we find ourselves aligned with someone else, or more aligned with ourselves in collaboration with others, we may have a sense that we’ve discovered someone we are “intended” to serve, and we move in cooperation with that sense. At the time, it’s not as “special” as it reads in retrospect, but still, something compels us to “hitch up and go,” to show up in support of someone else, come what may, through hell or high water. We feel “guided” to form a bond.
Andee could now set about facing a new set of challenges with Rob in tow, as both signed on to do more with and for each other. Between 2001 and 2006, their combined efforts led to a series of transitions, culminating in a full-fledged, more legitimate magazine format replete with human interest stories, focus-features, columns, and (as always) Andee’s commitment to extensive photo and background coverage of local events – all dedicated to aggressively promoting the cultural and philanthropic agenda of area nonprofits and individuals making a difference.
The addition of collaborative local partners and staffers with similarly aligned vision and dedication fostered a succession of creative and editorial achievements, including award-winning cover designs orchestrated in collaboration with globally-renowned local photographers Laurie and Charles Kay, acclaimed editorial features by authors such as internationally published Timothy Schaffert, or noted Alexander Payne biographer Leo Adam Biga.
Such contributors invested in Andee’s vision because they, too, shared her passion for shining a light on the work being done by area nonprofits and local leaders. All of these, and many more, aligned with Andee in an expansive effort to add more substance and brilliance to her dream of shining greater light on those who give, and the growth continued.
In 2005, Andee launched her most ambitious and most challenging effort at bringing greater attention and support for those advancing charity and culture in the region, with the release of the first edition of The Event Book (now known as The Giving Guide & Event Book).
This first annual was launched at a special reception hosted by Walter and Sue Scott, introducing the publication to the local philanthropic community.
Envisioned as a beautiful coffee-table book featuring high-end photography and extensive nonprofit profiles, event listings and resources, the publication was so well received that – while garnishing numerous press awards for editorial content and design – it has become the go-to social calendar for the region. The publication delivers its 12th edition in January of 2017, and is symbolic of the “growth in giving” that Andee and her collaborators have achieved.
Ever the trendsetter, Andee’s was among the first niche publications to launch a website, metroMAGAZINE’S SpiritofOmaha.com, and introduced the first local published e-newsletter (now metro’s weeklyCONNECTOR), and was among the first to take her publication online. Among many of Andee’s “firsts” were ideas that many readers now take for granted in virtually every local publication, but many of these, such as multi-page fashion spreads, focus feature segments dedicated to local area real-estate, restaurants and care-providers, appeared in metroMAGAZINE before they regularly appeared in other area publications or websites, but always the true heartbeat of these efforts was giving back.
By this time Andee had definitely established her staying power, demonstrating an ability for professional growth and achievement, but new threats and challenges pressed Andee to grow personally.
Something deeply compelling and meaningful started clicking for Andee around this time; she felt a “call” from deeper within, and purposed to answer it in whatever way she could. A passion to do much more for others was ignited, a kind of sixth sense, that urged her to dramatically change and grow.
Even with additional backup and support staff, some of the “character defects” and counterproductive devices that her father had observed, continued to plague Andee and limit her in ways she felt she now had to overcome. It was time to begin releasing the “false self” that Andee had carried with her since her youth, and recover her true identity and purpose.
That meant diving into her “personal zone” with the same dedication she had managed to find in her “professional zone” when reinventing and rejuvenating metroMAGAZINE. Now she needed to apply the same commitment and drive to the process of reinventing herself…and it would be a process, requiring as much determination and endurance as the “survival” process leading up to it had been. This would require dedication for the long haul, and Andee Hoig was clear about it – fully locked in.
She became a ravenous consumer of self improvement materials, and she began working diligently (through exploring personal therapy and a vast variety of other healing resources) to understand who she was really capable of becoming, as well as understanding the mechanisms in her life that were holding her back from being that person and fulfilling an expanded mission.
When we say “yes” to an inner calling, life has a way of testing our resolve, and Andee was no exception.
The 2008/2009 “Great Recession” that buried so many businesses dealt nearly a mortal blow to Andee’s publishing house, forcing her to shave staff and work bare bones to keep it going. It was essentially the equivalent of starting all over and reinventing her business model from scratch (a reinvention many businesses were forced to undergo but many did not survive). Andee managed to rise from the ashes of the recession – taxed, weary and conflicted about her future. These were not the last ashes she would have to dig out from under.
In 2010, the “Bagel Bin Fire,” which took place on one of the coldest nights on record, took the business’s offices, sparking a storm of events posing the most serious threat to the future of metroMAGAZINE.
Andee & Rob actually witnessed the fire starting from Andee’s home, and had Rob not run down to the office and removed all the data drives before the fire spread, the fire may have meant an end to the vision then and there. Andee was compelled to dig deep and decide whether or not she wanted to keep going despite a devastating setback.
“When the economy went bad in 2008 and 2009, things looked really bad,” said Hoig. Christmas 2009, she laid in bed crying and said “God, I need some kind of life-changing experience – a new perspective in life.”
Two weeks later, the office burned. She said she knew then it would have been a respectable time to back off and shut it all down. “No one would have blamed me.”
“A lot of people would have folded their tents and called it quits, if they had faced the adversities Andee has overcome; especially as they watched their business being burnt down in the middle of a depressed economy,” recounted Rob.
“I recall seeing statistics that 95% of small businesses who experience that kind of trauma fail within 18 months. Unless you’ve experienced it, you can’t imagine all of the ongoing aftershocks, the insurance hassles, obstacles and complications to recovery efforts, and the long-term adjustments and riptides that follow the original tragedy.”
Andee had endured all of these. She had solidified herself as a person and had been persistent as a professional. She had come to a place of personal awakening and a hunger for enlightenment. Maybe this was God’s way of directing her to move on to something new, having made a difference here in some small way.
But beginning the very next day, she was discovering that her contributions had perhaps been greater than she realized. Immediately and continuously, she received so many calls, text messages, letters…expressing not only concern, but gratitude and appreciation, including many which pleaded with her to find a way to keep her mission going.
“How can we help you? You’ve done so much to help others! Don’t let this beat you!”
In a way she had never experienced before, Andee realized she had a legion of people who were being reached and touched by her mission. But, also in a way she had never before experienced, Andee Hoig was discovering what it meant to receive.
The community came out to support her and the magazine, rallying to encourage Andee, mirroring her efforts to rally the community in support of others.
It was, in some ways, a spiritual watershed – one that further illuminated her understanding of her path.
“I saw things in a different light. Being on the receiving end helped me appreciate giving in ways I never could have before,” said Hoig.
In terms of chronology, at least, the rest (as they say) is better known local history.
Today, metroMAGAZINE, the flagship publication for ALH Publications, has been converted to mQUARTERLY, which now releases each February, May, August and November. Andee has come to trust and rely greatly on her intuition.
“As with most of the other decisions and changes I made over time, I just knew intuitively that moving to a quarterly publication was the right thing to do,” she said. “The intent was to elevate the magazine to a new level, and I believe we’ve accomplished that.”
That intuition is a vital resource that, only in recent years, has Andee come to fully appreciate. Today, she lives more instinctively from an ongoing collaboration with the “Source” of that intuition and inspiration that “guides” every decision she makes, every effort she undertakes.
From her first few days as publisher and editor of Metro Monthly in 1996, and continuing to the present, Andee’s focus has always been about more than simply running a publication about charities or about living well, but in recent years, through her commitment to a “spiritual” (or at least a personal devotional) path, she has gained additional clarity about providing a forum – a voice – for promoting giving back to others in need, about living from the inspiration she discovered along the way.
Andee’s story is about much more than the chronology – it’s about much more than any one person’s triumphs or adversities, it’s about the journey all of us make in understanding who we are, who we are not, and how we are uniquely equipped and supported in sharing that journey with others who are facing similar questions and obstacles. It’s about things we all share in common.
For each of us, it almost inevitably becomes about “growth in giving”. As we grow, we begin to understand, as Andee did, that pouring our heart and soul into mere achievement or ambition never actually fills us; unless we are involved in helping and healing others, we never truly experience our own moments of help and healing.
When Andee was working three jobs – at the Visiting Nurses Association (VNA), Omaha Steaks and bartending at a local pub (while also giving plasma) – in order to accomplish her goal of making the magazine a success, it wasn’t about living from inspiration; more from instinct.
“In all honesty, in the early days, I never allowed myself to truly believe I couldn’t make it as a success because I didn’t have any other real career options,” said Andee.
“I truly believed in this publication and knew I could turn it into something not available in town. I had been in the publishing business my whole life. It’s what I knew.”
What Andee did not know or see at the time (what most of us are not equipped to see early on) was that many of the limitations and adversities she had to overcome, both externally and internally, were critical “exercises” that would prove essential in helping her to recover her original vision and mission for her life, but with vital, added humility, compassion and gravity.
“I’ve been introduced to so many sources of wisdom and illumination, especially over the past ten years, and it’s really transformed the way I see myself, my business, and those I feel compelled, even destined, to serve,” said Hoig.
“I’ve experienced so many different “epiphanies” along the way, ever since I went ‘all-in’ with my ‘spiritual’ life. It’s never been about religion, or a specific philosophy or approach, it’s always been a willingness to say ‘yes’ and to cooperate (at times surrender) to what is being revealed from somewhere deep within, and to what is being provided from beyond. It’s impossible to explain. Everyone has to experience this in their own very private way, but when we do, we recognize the significance, and we move to give ourselves more completely to it.”
From 2006 through the present, as this more inspirational element of her life has unfolded, Andee’s capacities and capabilities have expanded well beyond anything she can account for. She has witnessed (and been actively at work advancing) a complete transformation of her life vision, mission, priorities and practices.
As she has grown her small, local publishing house during this period, Andee and ALH Publications have raised the profile of nonprofits and giving in the Omaha community to levels that, quite frankly, even she couldn’t have imagined when she first took over the publication. She has company. Bob Hoig is a believer in Andee Hoig, having witnessed her emergence from the “caterpillar” she once was, to a “butterfly,” poised to take fresh flight.
When Andee began her journey with growth in giving, there were 85 charity events in the region; now there are hundreds. SpiritofOmaha.com’s Community Calendar receives over 1,000 event registration entries every year.
Andee is convinced that a new generation of givers is watching in the wings, waiting to be inspired to live beyond themselves, eager to experience their own growth in giving through the message and modeling that Andee, and others who have caught the vision, can provide. Andee’s journey has expanded her vision, and has ignited a fresh passion to share the insights and resources she’s acquired along the way.
Today, Andee is a sought-after speaker, appearing before civic and business groups as well as nonprofits, to champion and expand the vision shared by all who think in terms of doing more for those in need, and all those desiring a better way of life, not only through receiving, but through giving back.
As Andee shares from her own inspirational journey, whether through speaking engagements, her writings, or through forging new, powerful strategic alliances with local, regional, national and international thought and change leaders, Andee’s focus is on educating, empowering and equipping those who have yet to experience their own “giving spark”.
“I’ve received so much from being exposed to the joy of giving back, it’s vital that I pass those experiences and insights on to others,” said Hoig. Passing the torch, inspiring a new generation of givers, has become the greatest motivating force for Andee moving forward.
“I still love the magazine – I always will – but I’m interested in branching out into new opportunities where I am now working with businesses in the community (and beyond) who want to do things to support nonprofits but aren’t sure where to begin or what to do,” she said.
Her desire and passion to speak to professionals, students and other forums about the power that community service and giving back can have in creating stronger communities, stronger individuals ,is leading her in fresh, new directions. In addition to publishing Andee now offers one-on-one consulting to help organizations implement strategic giving plans, and we envision more services and support to come in the months and years ahead.
“I see this stage of my journey as an extension of the publishing path, and just as the magazine has evolved over time, I must do so. I’m excited about the next steps.”
“At the end of the day when it comes to living a fulfilling and meaningful life, it’s not about what is happening in the economy, or in politics, or what the P&L sheets say. It's about what is going on in my head..”
~ ANDEE HOIG
PRESIDENT AND CEO
ALH PUBLICATIONS, INC.