If you work in a creative industry, chances are you struggled a little bit (or maybe even a lot) to find your dream job. April Hubal is no exception – what sets this Pittsburgh native apart, though, is the fact that she didn’t just wait for the right fit to come along and find her.
April founded Maniac Magazine when she was fresh out of college and its continued to grow and thrive since. It’s a fashion-centric lifestyle magazine for Pittsburgh’s young professional community and working as the magazine’s publisher has allowed April to photograph stars like Lucy Hale, Kelly Osbourne and Kate Upton (whose first magazine cover just so happened to be an issue of Maniac!)
I caught up with April to discuss the process of getting her business off the ground, what its like to shoot famous faces and all the lessons she’s learned along the way.
STATEMENT/scene: First of all can you tell us a little bit about your background?
April Hubal: I started in graphic design but I also loved photography and during school I found myself doing a lot of internships with photographers. I loved the design aspect but I also loved free flow of photography and being able to capture things immeadiately. I really got into the fashion thing because I always loved clothes.
SS: What was the process of getting the magazine off the ground like?
AH: It was kind of crazy. I started it because I could not find a job in field. I wanted to go to New York but I wasn’t able to do that. It was right after 9/11. I figured I’d start a magazine in a city with an older demographic and they didn’t have much media here for a younger demographic. I didn’t have a major plan but before I knew it, 30 days later I had rolled out the entire project.
SS: What was the biggest challenge you faced?
AH: Just being a female and having to deal with 50, 60 year old men on a constant basis. When I started I was 24 and I didn’t get that level of respect but now, ten years later I have all the relationships. It took ten years to gain those relationships but it’s easier now than when I started. Plus it’s hard when you don’t have a product that people trust. Now people trust it – it’s been around for a while. It doesn’t happen overnight.
SS: I’m sure you had a lot of people telling you that print media is dying as well.
AH: You know, when I started I didn’t have a lot of that. 2007 is when social media really started to take off. I started the magazine in 2003 – print was declining but it wasn’t a dead art. Pittsburgh was very excited that something new was coming out and they were really interested in the fashion aspect of it. I didn’t have a lot of naysayers. People really wanted me to produce it. They were giving me checks before the issue came out – I didn’t have any investor money; I had to go after the advertisers literally with an idea in hand. In terms of print, it’s still around. There’s a lot of people that say it’s dying and they’re trying to go online but I say ‘where is it?’ It’s still around. Vogue isn’t concentrating online. You can get it online but people are opting to get the print version. That’s kind of what I think.
SS: Can you pinpoint the exact moment when you really felt like you made it?
AH: I’ve had some exciting moments and I’m really blessed to be in this career. One of those exciting moments was when I was shooting Kelly Osbourne, that was a great shoot. It was a great energy and she was fantastic. I just felt like I was really lucky to be doing what I loved to do and shooting somebody who was that big. I have the business aspect of it but I’m still able to enjoy the creative part of it. That’s when I felt really lucky. I have a lot of those moments where I feel like ‘oh this is really great, I can’t believe we’ve made it this far’ but I haven’t felt like I’ve made it yet. It’s also a process and a journey. I appreciate the journey more than just that one moment of feeling like I made it.
SS: If you could go back to when you were first starting and give yourself advice, what would it be?
AH: That’s a really tough question. I think of that a lot. I think when you’re starting out, you really want to trust a lot of people and feel like they have good intentions but a the end of the day you really want to protect what your plan is and not let everybody in. It’s important to say no a lot of times. It’s difficult in that sense. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and to think of a few of them is tough.
SS: I know personally how hard it can be to find a job in a creative industry, which is something you touched on earlier. What advice would you give someone who is feeling discouraged and thinking about giving up or switching to a different industry?
AH: It depends on what they’re setting out to do. The best thing you can is find the most successful people in whatever field they’re interested in and do internships with them or jist follow them around. You should really figure out what they do before you even decide to get into the field. Whether it’s the top photographers, the top writers – whatever it may be, find someone who is really A list in their industry is really important. It’s nice to have all the information before you just spend time doing. If it turns into something else, just follow what it’s turning into. It’s all about the journey.
SS: Did you always see yourself as someone as a business-minded person?
AH: You know, I’ve always loved the creative aspect but I’ve always been a leader. In all my classes and everything, I was always the one to head up a group project and things like that. I think it comes naturally to me – I have a vision and I just o and execute it. I had kind of seen myself in that role but I never in a million years thought I would have a magazine. That was never something I wanted to do. It let to that but I never wanted to do – I wanted to go into photography.
SS: What’s been the most rewarding thing about starting MANIAC?
AH: The people I’ve met along the way have just been incredible. I mean, I travel all over the place and I’m always shocked at the people I’ve been able to meet. That’s the thing I’m most thankful for – there are so many creative people out there and just meeting them and talking to them and getting to know them has been really interesting to me.
SS: You mentioned Kelly Osborne – are there any other people you’ve really enjoyed meeting, interviewing or shooting?
AH: Yeah there’s been a ton. Ben Watts was a photographer that I interviewed. He was awesome – he’s Naomi Watts’ brother. Pheobe (Tonkin, The Originals) was awesome. All the celebrities I’ve dealt with have been great. We just did a shoot with Sasha (Pietrse, Pretty Little Liars) and she was a doll. Kelly Osbourne was the big stand out one. We’ve had some bad ones too but it’s cool getting to know them. We get really play on who they are instead of just a celebrity look – we just have them do something different, that’s the MANIAC edge. Oh – Kate Upton. I shot Kate Upton before she was Kate Upton. She was 15 years old and just any other model. Sports Illustrated tweeted us because they found it – that was technically the first cover that Kate Upton had ever done. She was great in person.
SS: Do you see that as a measure of how far you’ve come – the kind of people you were shooting them versus the kind of people you’re shooting now?
AH: Yeah. We get a lot of these people who become huge which is great. When Kelly Osbourne happened, they reached out to us.
SS: Do you think you’ll always stay very visual?
AH: It has editorial in it but it’s definitely very visual. I want to keep it light, fun, fashionable and connect people outside of Pittsburgh to Pittsburgh because there’s a lot to do here.
SS: It really seems like you guys have sort of created a young professional community here in Pittsburgh – at the very least you’ve been creating opportunities for members of that community to connect with your events.
AH: Yeah. Events are always a big part of publications now matter what so we’ve definitely go into the segment.
SS: Do you see MANIAC staying in Pittsburgh?
AH: No, I want it to go outside the lines of Pittsburgh but I’m taking my time.