Elizabeth Skenes Millen

One from the Heart


I have had the privilege of writing "One From The Heart" for 88 issues. The title of my column came out of a casual chat with Elizabeth Millen. We were sitting in her old office, talking about featuring interesting women who had a "heart" for service to others.
The idea took shape: She named the column, set the guidelines for me, and trusted me to take it from there. (That is one of the many things I admire about Elizabeth-she is not afraid to trust. She has great faith in God's plan.)
For a long time I have asked Miz Millen to be the subject of this column and for the special 100 issue, she finally agreed. Want to know more about the origins of the magazine and the lady I call the Queen of Pink? Following is our celebratory conversation and review:

Judith: Talk about the first issue of Pink. Was it like an actual birthing process?
Elizabeth: By the time Pink came out on March 31, 2004, I had another monthly publication, The Senior Beacon. When I started Pink it just took off. I realized early on I didn't have the staff to do both.
The first issue of Pink was an emotional rollercoaster. Surprisingly, there was a positive response from advertisers for the first issue, but getting it all together was rough. I was working on a $300 used iMac G3. It was funny because it had voice alerts, and often, when something went wrong, it would say, "It's not my fault!"

I recently perused a first year issue and counted 17 articles that I wrote myself. It's one of those things that you look back and wonder how you ever did it. Back then I had to overnight CD's with files to the printer. I missed the Fedex cutoff by a mile. So at 2:00 a.m., we headed for Union, SC. After a full day of prepress, I stood at the end of the giant press, and when the first issue rolled off, I cried like a baby. It was a mixture of sheer exhaustion, extreme relief, and excitement.

Judith: What were some of the comments, positive and negative, when the first issue hit the stands?
Elizabeth: Most of the responses were positive. Women were really excited to have a magazine just for them. It was different; it was about women and what they love. Of course, I had a few people tell me it would never work, but my attitude was, it would never work for them.

Judith: What were some of the goals you had for the magazine?
Elizabeth: My mission has been clear from the start. There are five words that we live by: emPower, Inform, eNcourage, and evoKe thought. These words have served me every day since, and they have been in every issue. They guide me in just about every decision I make regarding the magazine.

Judith: What changes have been made since the early days-both in the magazine and in your personal views?
Elizabeth: I have grown tremendously as a person. It's not possible to meet as many women as I have and not be moved forward. I met up with a life coach, Dr. Kathy Murphy, only months after I started the magazine. She became a columnist, and we became great friends. It's the work I did with her that taught me to appreciate something in every woman. I truly learned to see beauty way beneath the exterior of people, but I think the biggest lesson was to first be able to see that beauty in myself. 
I have grown as businesswomen and the magazine has grown and matured, too. We constantly strive to keep the magazine fresh and relevant.

Judith: Along your way, share about those who have helped and supported you.
Elizabeth: So many people have supported me, and my vision for Pink, but my biggest supporter is my husband, Dana. Through all of the all-nighters I have pulled, he has made sure the children were fed, bathed, and to school on time. I used to write my articles longhand; he would read them to me while I typed. We moved here for Dana's 25-year career in the wine industry. Eventually, we decided he was needed at Pink. It was a scary decision, as he was making a successful living. He would say he was turning in his resignation, and I, out of fear or lack of confidence or whatever, would say, "Not yet!" Finally, one day he did it, and it's worked. So, here's a life lesson: Never make decisions out of fear; it will never serve you in a positive way because it is such a negative emotion.
Plus, we couldn't do it without our advertisers.we have the best customers! In fact, there are a handful of customers that have advertised with me since the very first issue. That speaks volumes. My background is from the marketing side of the business, so it's so important to me that our customers' ads work for them.

Judith: What else makes Pink the defining community niche holder that it has become?
Elizabeth: Hard work of course, but I also have a fabulous staff. We are small, but boy do we have heart, and we always work as a team! I can honestly tell you that having caring and loyal employees, who truly love the magazine, are genuine treasures!

Judith: "One from the Heart" ladies are big of heart and I know you are something of a legend as a community supporter and volunteer. Please talk about some of the causes you serve in Beaufort County.
Elizabeth: In our second year of business, I counted the approximate dollar amount of ad space I had given to local charities. It was over $80,000. I never counted again! The actual dollar value does not matter. There are so many organizations who do wonderful work. If I, along with the power of Pink, can showcase that, then I have helped. I also serve on the Board of Lowcountry Legal Volunteers. They do great work, mostly for women, who are, at times, desperate. I am on the Booster Club Board at Hilton Head Christian Academy, and I do a lot for the school with my children. I am also active in my church, St. Andrew By The Sea.

*Author's note: Elizabeth is too modest to admit it, but she has inspired many young people by example. Her daughter, Jacie, just started the Peanut Butter Project for the Church of the Cross Food Bank, and so far they have collected more than 250 jars of peanut butter and jelly, a food bank staple that is always in demand. The project is ongoing, so be sure to drop off some PB&J at Pink, Hilton Head Christian Academy, or 104.9 the SURF. Also, just take a look at programs and local events to see how often Pink is a sponsor or co-sponsor.

Judith: If you had it all to do over what would you do differently?
Elizabeth: Well, that's a whole book in itself. I have made mistakes along the way that I could help others avoid, that's for sure. I would be a great consultant-just buy the book when it comes out! As to words of advice, be sure to start right. Don't get caught up in the day-to-day, and forget that you have a business to run.

Judith: This is a portrait of a lady who is a dear friend of mine. She and her husband are an Island power couple, but they are also so much more than that. They are a shining example of a loving marriage, they are caring and devoted parents, they are Christians who truly live out their faith, and they are true givers, not takers. It has been a privilege to write this tribute.

  Final words, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: Always surround yourself with great people; don't let anyone steal your dreams; and lighten up and giggle.it's my favorite thing!