Margaret Hennessy: Wellness Wisdom & Career Longevity with the Founder of SOLSTICE

If you’ve ever looked for a story about career longevity and resilience look no further than Margaret Hennessy. Each time Margaret met a roadblock, she pressed forward or paved a new road herself. She is the founder and publisher of The Solstice Green Directory (http://www.slosolstice.com/).

GH: What inspired you to create the Solstice Green Directory?

MH: Well, It’s kind of a circuitous route that I took. We bought a home here in California, almost 20 years ago and I was doing lots of volunteer work at that time. I met a lady while I was volunteering with the Women’s Community Center, and one day she asked, ‘Margaret, you have a publishing background. Can you help me put together a Green Directory for the California Central Coast?’ At the time I was semi-retired but the project sounded inviting. I did some research for her and came up with a plan. We launched the first edition in 2007. Businesses were eager to be a part of this new venture, and they became known as ‘members.’ Readers loved it and it began to flourish. Six months later, I was called by this same person, who co-founded the project, and was told she was leaving the area immediately for personal reasons, and could no longer participate. So, I took it forward myself. Although “semi-retired” I just didn’t want to let this wonderful project fail. And so, eleven years ago, I became the proud publisher of the Solstice Green Directory. And, I work on it from both Florida and California.

Cover of SOLSTICE green directory: Fall 2019.

GH: Who are the members of your team and what do they do?

MH: There are so many wonderful people that help make this publication possible. For the most part, they are volunteers (including me). Only the advertising salespeople receive a commission. Without these people, Solstice Green Directory wouldn’t be possible, so I can’t too much of the credit. I have to pass it along to the rest of the team. You can view them on page 3 of the online edition: www.slosolstice.com

GH: With your long career in publishing can you tell us about your past experiences that have led you to your work today?

MH: Okay, I was born in Brooklyn, New York, a long time ago. I attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City. After graduating, I worked at several ad agencies and retail art departments in Manhattan. I moved to South Florida in 1971 and worked at The Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale as Assistant Promotion Director. Shortly after that, I started working independently for a company doing their advertising and design. They suddenly, with no warning to anyone, they decided to bring in a New York advertising agency, and subsequently let me, and the chief copywriter, and everyone else go. As we walked out the door, the copywriter looked at me and she said, “Why don’t we start our own advertising agency, Margaret?” I answered, “I don’t know anything about doing that, do you?’ She said, ‘No… but we can certainly learn!” She was a  graduate of Cornell and was very, bright, so the two of us put up $1,200 each and started our agency in Fort Lauderdale in 1975. It was created out of anger because we both felt we were let go so suddenly and unfairly. It was called Johnston and Calandra Advertising. One of my subsequent business partners took over the agency in 1985 and it’s called Zimmerman Partners now. 

I married my husband David, a year later, and we moved to Colorado in 1990, to enjoy a less crowded environment, and get back to appreciating nature. At this point I considered myself, again, to be semi-retired. Since all I know how to do is marketing, and public relations, I decided to volunteer with nonprofit organizations and help them in these areas. One day, I was in the parking lot of a local shopping center, when I saw the ad rep for the community newspaper. I handed him the press release I had with me for a local non-profit event. He said, ” Margaret, I am sick and tired of these press releases, and you expecting us to run them free.’ He threw it on the ground and walked away saying, ‘When you get a budget, call me.” Humiliated, I picked it up, drove home, and had a good cry.  At dinner that evening, my husband asked why I seemed so sad. I told him about the incident in the parking lot. He looked at me, smiled and said, “You’ll think of something.”  The following day, I called a friend, who was eight months pregnant and I asked, ‘How would you like to start a newspaper?’ She laughed. “What?” I can hardly walk!.’  Yes, I said, but you can talk. So, I drove to her home, picked her up, and that was also the “birth” of a new community newspaper. It’s called The Mountain Connection. It’s been in the Evergreen/Conifer area of Colorado for 25 years. Small footnote here: the newspaper and the man who threw the press release at me are both out of business.      

After 10 years in Colorado, David and I bought a home in California. I don’t know what else to say except,  “If you make me angry, I do creative things.” I’m a peaceful person and have come to understand that if we can keep ourselves from becoming frustrated, and vindictive because of anger, we can channel that valuable energy into positive and productive things.

Excerpt from the SOLSTICE green directory.

GH: What are some of the most important issues the health, wellness, and environmental community needs to be focusing on right now?

MH: “That’s a very good question. I think for your generation especially, environmental issues are paramount to me. Even though I’m older, I do have a granddaughter, and I don’t want to leave the world to her in shambles. I’m not sure my days in politics are over yet either. I’m appalled by what is happening right now in Washington, just appalled. Along with environmental issues, educating people on what’s in all of our processed food is also a priority to me. It would appear that food plays a major role in our health. Hippocrates said it best: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”

GH: How do you balance work and life?

MH: My husband David would probably say, ‘Not very well!’ There never seems to be enough time. I have chickens (fresh eggs!), and a vegetable garden that I love. We have a son, and granddaughter, as well as other family members, in South Florida, and a son in California. I live and work in both states. I try my best to be a wife, mother, grandmother, gardener, and a chicken herder too! Sometimes it’s difficult. I feel strongly that it’s important to live life, so that each night when we go to bed, we are able to say, ‘Today I did what I needed to do to feel good about myself.’ And that’s what I try and do every single day.’ I don’t know how other people balance their life. I’m sure that they’re in the same boat as me.      

GH:  Would you be interested in syndicating your publication and/or helping people start their own local versions of the magazine? 

MH: Yes. I would love that. Please feel free to email me at solstice222@aol.com if anyone is interested in discussing it.  We need to spread the word on sustainability. It takes a planet. 

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