Print media hardly makes the hot list of money-making entrepreneurial ideas in the 21st century.
But Helen Bowles thought of an idea for a magazine that no one else had. It was inspired by her friend Jean Maday, who was an executive director for the YMCA when Bowles met her.
Jean was single and fabulous, a traveler who was known for her personal style and enviable shoes. Everywhere she went, she always had a glossy lifestyle magazine in her bag, Bowles says.
After Jean was diagnosed with cancer, Bowles went to visit her in Chicago.
“She said, ‘These magazines I carry around with me make me sad now,’” Bowles recalls. “I can’t do the makeup; I can’t do the hair. My body has changed shape, so I don’t want to buy any new clothes. It just augments the thought that my life is not going where I want it to.”
Jean died a few years later, in January 2020, but Bowles’ new magazine, Brighter, is produced four times a year in her memory.
Bowles worked for the YMCA for over a decade before becoming a personal trainer specializing in postpartum women as clientele. She was looking for her next thing when the pandemic hit.
She took her idea for a lifestyle magazine for women with cancer to an acquaintance who is an oncologist in Fort Worth.
“She said, ‘If you don’t do it, someone else will,’” Bowles says.
The conversation showed her she was onto something unique that would fill a hole in the media landscape.
The only problem: Bowles had no idea how to publish a magazine.
She says she’s called to serve and uplift women as part of her Christian faith, and she told her husband she felt like Moses, with a message to bring the world that just needed a medium.
“I just need an Aaron,” she told him, referring to Moses’ brother, who was his assistant and spokesman.
Bowles’ Aaron turned out to be Erin Schreyer, a photographer and leadership coach from Highland Park.
“She helped me hash out my mission and vision and goals for the magazine,” Bowles says.
Brighter has a board of directors and has applied for nonprofit status, which Bowles expects to be finalized in April.
The magazine is entirely self-funded and produced with all volunteers, including Bowles herself.
The editorial staff includes four students from the Hockaday School, and its main editor is Hockaday senior Clair Cahoon.
“They’re rock solid and a huge part of the reason we can be successful,” Bowles says of her Hockaday interns.
Other volunteer writers include cancer survivors, doctors and health professionals from all over the country.
Their issues have contained headlines such as “The girlfriend’s guide to cancer” and touched on topics such as dermatology dos and don’ts. A wig expert answers questions. They’ve taken on the dirty details of pelvic radiation therapy as well as how to draw the perfect eyebrows.
An idea driving their content: “I wish someone had told me that after I or a loved one was diagnosed.”
“We’re a support group for all types of cancer,” Bowles says. “We’re always looking for diversity within our pages.”
Bowles, a longtime Lake Highlands resident who now lives in Preston Hollow, wears all the hats of a small publisher, including advertising sales and delivering magazines out of the trunk of her car. She’s building a mailing list and distributes copies to local doctors’ offices herself.
Besides Jean, Bowles also lost her mom, Christie Steel, to pancreatic cancer in 2004.
“There are very few people who haven’t been touched by cancer, so people come out of the woodwork to help,” she says.
Brighter published two issues in 2021, and four are expected this year.
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