As communication and media pros, Beth Gebhard and Heather Adams took their more than three combined decades in the industry to launch their own boutique firm, Choice Media & Communications, in 2014, with a purpose of serving clients in the entertainment and lifestyle space. A few current clients include popular blogger and New York Times bestselling author Jen Hatmaker, Simplified Planner creator and author Emily Ley, and country music legend and author Naomi Judd, who has an upcoming release, River of Time. Throughout their careers, Beth and Heather have helped launch more than 75 New York Times bestsellers, and today we sit down with Beth and Heather to talk life, job, motherhood and Nashville.
I know Choice works with many women who have books they are launching. Is that your niche?
Heather: Beth and I share a rich history in book publishing – for Beth, through her work in NYC at Doubleday and Hyperion Books, and for me, here in Nashville at Thomas Nelson. I’ve always loved the saying “you have ink in your blood,” and I think that holds true for the two of us who are voracious readers and lovers of literature. We love working with publishers and authors, and we know how to do this well.
When we were building Choice and establishing our core values, two values that we immediately agreed upon were that we are driven by relationships – they are a priority with our family, team, clients and media; and, that we wanted to be passionate about our clients and seek to understand their needs. As two professional women (who LOVE working), married and raising young children, a sweet spot has easily become working with women we adore and admire who we also happen to be the target audience for. It’s no secret that for clients like Jen Hatmaker, we will work our fingers to the bone because we believe in her and her message to women and we want to raise her visibility so many, many more can soak up her goodness.
We are also excited to grow the business and take on an array of lifestyle and entertainment clients. Right now, for example, we are loving our work with Mary Huddleston’s luxury rental business Please Be Seated, and we just handled the launch of the not-to-be-missed Leiper’s Fork Distillery.
What is a piece of advice or saying that you lean on professionally?
Beth: I’ve always loved the advice that “luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” I’ve seen this countless times in my own career, so I’ve always tried to work hard, be prepared and stay open to possibilities that come my way.
Heather: Two immediately come to mind for me. My beloved mentor, Pamela Clements, who gave me my first publishing job in Nashville at Thomas Nelson, said to “always hire better and smarter than you.” And Michael Hyatt, who was then the CEO at Nelson, told me about a book called Love is the Killer App where the author shares his philosophy on being a “lovecat” – meaning you extend compassion (and love) to everyone, including those you may see as competitors. It’s never left me.
Both of you are moms, wives, entrepreneurs, volunteers … can you share any tips for keeping a balanced life?
Beth: I’ve found that screaming and acting like a complete lunatic seems to be my method of choice. Ha! No, but seriously, finding balance is absolutely my biggest struggle these days. Having a business partner like Heather to share life with, who gets it and steps in to help, is a big part of it. That and coffee, wine, mindless magazines, lots of help (super nanny and culinary genius Ashton Hauge has saved my life more times than I can count), being married to a man who cares about being a 50/50 partner, and having great girlfriends to talk about anything and everything with … this gets me through.
Heather: Years ago when I was pregnant with my youngest, I was working with both Robin McGraw (wife of Dr. Phil) and Marcus Buckingham (famed strengths-based executive coach). I’ll never forget advice they both imparted. Robin told me, “My boys are not the men they are today because of the mom I was between 9 and 5.” And Marcus said, “Your boys don’t want more time with you. They want you to be invested in the time they have with you.” I share this because combining that advice and applying it every day has allowed me to extend myself A LOT of grace – grace that I regularly need because mom guilt is real. And just this year I received the best practical strategy for keeping my life in order across all the different aspects vying for my time. Our client Emily Ley — creator of the bestselling Simplified Planner and author of the new book Grace Not Perfection — taught me about “Sunday prep”: meal planning for that specific week, picking up around the house, time-blocking my calendar for my weekly priorities and finding time to do something for just me. It has revolutionized my life.
Have you had any life lessons that make you appreciate what you’ve been able to accomplish?
Beth: The older I get and the more I learn about what it really takes to raise a family, live comfortably and enjoy life, I’m so incredibly humbled by the blessed life I’ve been lucky enough to live. I grew up in a nice home with loving parents who cared so much for me.
When I was 20 years old, my dad flew up with me to New York City to interview for an internship at Fox News Channel. It was a snowy February day in ’97, and I’d bought a navy J.Crew suit and a proper leatherette portfolio. When I came out of the bathroom to go hail a cab with my dad, he looked at me and said, “Go get ’em, girl.” The best part of that story is that I made him stand in the snow and wait for me. I wouldn’t even let him come in the building because I was too embarrassed to have my “Daddy” with me for a business interview. When I got the internship, I ran out to hug him, and we celebrated at Katz Deli in the East Village. My accomplishments are a testament to the love and support I’ve had over the years, and I only hope I can provide the same for my children.
Heather: After being at Thomas Nelson for the better part of a decade, I was laid off during the recession. Because there I felt like my work was so much more than a paycheck, it stung. They were my friends, my family. I went through all the stages of grief. But it was the best thing that ever happened to me professionally. There’s no way I would be here, owning Choice with Beth and loving this extraordinary life I live, if that one thing hadn’t happened. I learned that working long hours and sacrificing the most important people were not the best way to advance my career. At the end of the day, I realized it was a business decision. So, I learned to draw boundaries between work and home. I learned how to manage time much more effectively, and I learned when we built Choice what my priorities were going to be (family first) and I wasn’t ever going to be apologetic about that.
Heather, tell us about your almost two decades of mentoring college girls through the AOII sorority.
I could talk about my AOII girls for days. Working with these women is truly my mission field. When I graduated from University of Georgia, I went on to advise my own Alpha Omicron Pi chapter there for four years before Matt and I married and I moved here. Trying to engage within the community and, honestly, trying to get to know some more people, I volunteered at the AOII chapter at Middle Tennessee State University. I’ve been there ever since. Mentoring young women at this particular stage in life is hard, yet incredibly rewarding. When I first started advising, social media didn’t exist, so you can imagine how that has changed things. They are walking billboards for our organization, and we want to be proud to claim them. Thank you, Lord, for Snapchat not being around when I was a student at UGA! Ultimately though, I would say that the same advice holds true now just like it did when I began advising in 1999. These women need unconditional love. They need to know there is no judgment when they’ve made a grave error and there is someone there to listen. I always have their back – in celebration and in challenge. The greatest compliment that comes from this work is when they graduate and want to come back and advise because, they say, of the impact that I had on their collegiate experience.
Beth, tell us about volunteering with Project Return.
When I was living in New York, I volunteered for several years at Bayview Correctional Facility, a women’s prison that once stood directly across the street from Chelsea Piers in the heart of the city. I can’t tell you how much it impacted my life. I felt an immediate connection to the women, so many of whom were victims of extreme domestic and/or sexual abuse, and my eyes were opened forever to our very broken prison system.
When we moved to Nashville, I wanted to continue this line of volunteer work, and I discovered Project Return and their brilliant, inspiring Executive Director Bettie Kirkland. Project Return is simply amazing, and the way the organization has grown and developed over just the three years I’ve been volunteering there is so inspiring.
I could spend hours on this topic and why I’m passionate about it, but one thing I know for sure is that if we ever want to effect change and reduce the prison recidivism rate, we need to care about these people, show compassion, believe in second chances and set them up for success on the outside. I also highly recommend reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. It is such a powerful, haunting read on this topic.
Favorite restaurant for a date night in Nashville?
Heather: 5th & Taylor, hands down
TV show you miss the most?
Heather: “West Wing”
Favorite vacation spot?
Beth: I love the beach, so I’d say pretty much any beach.
Heather: Amelia Island
Best workout in town?
Heather: Playing basketball in my driveway with my three dudes (including my husband) is my favorite.
If anyone living could be a guest at your dinner table, it would be …
Beth: This is a tie. Either chief foreign correspondent of NBC News, Richard Engel, as my husband and I are literally obsessed with him. He travels to the most dangerous parts of the world, speaks so many different languages, has survived abduction in Syria and has written fascinating books … Or it would be Chris Rock, because he’s hysterical.
Heather: Sara Blakely. I’ve admired her career from afar for so many years. She’s a force and a pioneer, and I would love to take an ounce of her tenacity and learn from her.
Three things you can’t live without besides friends, faith and family:
- Classic Original ChapStick
- Red lipstick (My favorite is Tom Ford’s Ruby Rush)
- Music (The boys and I start our day basically dancing to school. I play it when I’m getting ready, when I’m cooking, when I’m working and really need to focus. All day, essentially.)
- The beach
Thanks Beth and Heather!
Special thanks to Ashley Hylbert for today’s gorgeous pictures!