Nancy Aust Strickland has climbed more than a few hills through compelling work and travel. In her 30-year career she’s had a big focus on politics and government: in D.C. working for the Republican National Committee and Chief Justice Warren E. Burger (Ret.) during the Reagan Administration, and later monitoring government and regulatory issues for her own sustainability and environmental affairs practice in New York City. Now reinvention brings her on another upward climb–building a new lifestyle technology company, My Apricot Hill, which is a blend of her marketing and communications talents and a life well lived.
Apricot Hill (www.myapricothill.com), headquartered just outside of Nancy’s current hometown, Charleston, South Carolina, was inspired in part by Nancy’s life: her experiences as a privileged only child, a college student in New England, a global traveller, frequent hostess, working woman, wife and mother. She has traveled more than five million miles, seen every nook and cranny of the United States and hosted more dinner parties than she can count.
As a PR executive alone she logged three million airline miles. Projects always led to the airport—like when she helped her largest client, Lever Brothers—then the soap and detergent arm of Unilever–create a North American sustainability practice on the eve of Earth Day’s 20th anniversary. She forged a partnership with America’s National Parks focused on end uses for recycled materials–which brought her to 235 of 497 National Parks.
Frequent flier miles were also in play when Nancy launched a major volunteer initiative providing much-needed manpower donations of 500,00 hours to more than 125 National Parks. She travelled to 25 events each year and spearheaded a program that gave people the opportunity to make a difference for national treasures. When she travelled, she often packed a suitcase for her young son. By age seven he had raked leaves in the Grand Tetons, rebuilt trails in the Everglades, released sea turtles into the Gulf of Mexico and learned the importance of stewardship.
When Unilever took their sustainability practice and partnerships in new directions, Nancy decided to put her PR firm on hold and dust off a book project on “Practically Inspired Living” that she had toyed with during her busy corporate years. She had always been the go-to resource for a wide circle of friends, clients and acquaintances who knew she was a seasoned traveler, an accomplished hostess and the one to call when you needed an idea for a unique gift. Much of her PR work also involved entertaining, executing events or finding special gifts for VIPs. She was well-positioned to gather all her lifestyle wisdom in a book, but never had the time to complete the project.
In 2010 Nancy finally had the time, but at that point she realized the book would need to be more than a one-dimensional print publication on style, traditions, travel and entertaining. That was when she formed a small team and began her career reinvention in earnest.
The original book idea morphed into a digital lifestyle magazine, an online membership community with personal management tools, a sharing platform and a blog. Apricot Hill now targets predominantly female consumers interested in managing—and enjoying—six life tenets that Nancy holds close to her heart: style, traditions, entertaining, travel, activities and stewardship. Articles and photographs jump off the page of her e-magazine–inspiring readers to consider new destinations, throw a simple but elegant dinner party, try paddleboarding and much more. Nancy says that Apricot Hill is “rooted in experience”—everything featured on myApricotHill.com is something at least one of the 10 Apricot Hill team members has personally done or seen.
Apricot Hill was borne of a woman (a self-proclaimed “uptight Virgo”) who has led an organized and well-crafted life. She has plenty of days that test her work-life balance efforts, and knows that all mothers need organizational tools. With Apricot Hill she has “moved the kitchen desk online”, providing proprietary personal management tools that “help you organize, remember, and share life’s important things.”
If you take a trip to Italy, for example, you can post information about your trip in the My Apricot Hill community exchange—noting where you stayed, restaurants, where you visited, what you enjoyed or would skip next time—along with photos, maps and notes. Other My Apricot Hill members can then benefit from your experience. By building your own My Apricot Hill library, you have a permanent archive of your life milestones, ideas and experiences–all the life details that could otherwise be misplaced.
If this all sounds a little Martha Stewart, Nancy agrees: “It’s unlikely Apricot Hill would be thriving today if not for Martha Stewart’s talent and vision.” The difference though, is that Nancy has positioned Apricot Hill to be more humble and less focused on one person’s ideal. “We want women to find their own place of perfection, define their own inspired lifestyle and better manage their lives.” —KAS
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