Do you have an expensive hobby or something Substantial, with Greg Hedgepeth

One day Greg Hedgepeth’s grandpa took him into the woods, gave him a gun, and taught him an important life lesson that you can’t just shoot aimlessly – you need to have a why you do the things you do.  Years later, Greg was working as a professor at Shaw University and as the director of communication at NC State University, plus he had an expensive hobby – running Substantial Magazine. It wasn’t until he started focusing on what he wanted to accomplish that the expensive hobby turned into a scalable business.

If you’re drinking along with us, that means you have a lemon rosemary gin fizz.



Dana: Welcome to Hustle and Gather, a podcast about inspiring the everyday entrepreneur to take the leap. I’m Dana 

Courtney: and I’m Courtney. 

Dana: And we are two sisters who love business on this show, we talk about the ups and downs to the hustle and the reward at the end of the journey.

Courtney: And we know all of the challenges that come with starting a business between operating our wedding venue, doing speaking and consulting, and starting our luxury wedding planning company, we wake up and hustle every day. 

Dana: But we love what we do. And today we’re talking with Greg Hedgepeth, CEO and owner of Substantial Magazine. Substantial Magazine focuses on the promotion of influential and affluent minorities, spotlighting their successes and discussing relevant issues that directly affect our communities.

Greg is a marketing and communications professional, higher ed leader, professor, speaker, and social entrepreneur, Greg, welcome to Hustle and Gather. 

Greg H: Hey, thank you both so much for having me. I’m super excited to be with you.

Courtney: No, we’re excited for you. And by the way, for those of you that are listening today, we are drinking a lemon rosemary gin fizz. As always, you can find the recipe in the show notes. 

Dana: Although I heard we really should have been drinking some cherry coke. That’s your preferred beverage? Correct? 

Greg H: That is it, you guys, every time I tell someone they stay, are they like, go, are you serious?  I have never taken a drink of anything alcoholic., the first thing everyone says is, so are you a pastor or are you feeling like no, not at all. Like I just, just never took a notion. Between running and golf, that’s my, that’s my outlet. Running and golf. That’s it.

Courtney: Well, that was quite an intro we had there. I feel like you have a very long list of accomplishments.  We think it’s so amazing that you started a Substantial Magazine. We know you’re a professor at Shaw University. You’re a Director of Communications at NC State, but really before we get into all that, we really want to hear, more of the beginning of your story. So, take us back to hear how you got to where you are today. 

Greg H: No, that’s a great question. And again, thank you all so much for having me and thank the audience for listening.  I’m just, as I always say, a country boy from Halifax County, North Carolina, that wanted to be so much more than, right. when I say that, it means so much more than whatever society, whatever that particular county, whatever those data and statistics said, I would be.

My journey started very early in life, again being born and bred in Halifax County, North Carolina, working on the farm. And so, I spent a lot of my time growing up with my grandfather, and I’ve been kind of semi, quasi- famous for going around when I do my speeches and telling the story about how with less than a middle school education, my grandfather taught me what I had to pay Simon scenic somewhere about 15 to $2,500 for, and that was to understand and have a why.

 If I can share just really quickly, I’ll never forget. I was about 19 years old.  and my mother raised me and my brother and my sister and being the oldest, you know, I was kind of smelling myself a little bit as the old folks say, right. Full of piss and vinegar and it, so I thought I was the man.

Yeah, as I was getting all types of trouble to some degree, right. And so, my grandfather, if you can imagine it takes me out into this field, him being a farmer, takes me out into this field. And as far as you can see nothing but a Woodline, a field on a wood line at the horizon, and he puts a gun in my hand.

We we’ll do things right in the country, y’all so just bear with me, but he puts a Smith and Western six shot revolver in my hand and he says, you think you a man, I want you to take this gun, I want you to shoot it. And y’all, I promise you that’s exactly what I did at 9-10 years old, I took that gun and went pow pow pow.

Every one of the bullets was gone within the first two or three seconds of me pulling the trigger. He snatches the gun out of my hand. He said, how does that make you feel, son? I said, I feel like the man you knew I was the man, that’s why he gave me the gun in the first place. And he, goes out there to this day, I don’t know where he got the small box it’s from, but he goes out there and he sets up this little small cardboard box. He comes back, he loads the gun up again. He puts it in my hand, he said, I want you to shoot out there again, but this time I want you to aim at that box and y’all when I tell you my entire demeanor changed.

My entire demeanor changed. I went from shooting aimlessly into the Woodline, into like a deep breath and a focus that I have never had. And y’all my grandfather taught me in that moment, he said, you got to have a reason son to be shooting in the first place. You got to have a why you do the things you do.

And he said, when you’re shooting aimlessly out there into the Woodline, while it is fun, you have absolutely nothing to measure your success by. Have a goal, have a target, that’s how the Greg Hedgepeth that stands before you now, was molded, was shaped, was so determined to be more than just, and I think our brand Substantial speaks to that, right?

When I think about that word, of considerable important size of worth being strongly built or made, that is me. That was my grandfather with that less than middle school education. That was my mother who put three folks through college, you know, it’s everybody that I have the opportunity to meet with and talk to in the communities that we serve.

Dana: I like have goosebumps. I feel like it’s such an important lesson in life. I don’t even know if everyone even has experienced that why and can know that they do the things that they do for a reason. I think it’s just exactly what you said, expectation and where they feel like they’re supposed to be, or they feel like they’ve been told they that they should be, but that’s powerful. 

Courtney: I think a lot of people spend a lot of their life looking for their why, and if you’re lucky you find it, you know? A lot of people who don’t ever find that, that why? Yeah. 

Dana: So, what sparked your desire to start Substantial? 

Greg H: So being in the media space for as long as I was, you know, working in higher education and I assure you, I initially wanted to be a town manager or city developer or something as it related to the economy and economics, right. Because my undergrad degree is in economics with a minor in business administration.

And I was going to go back to Halifax County would be the best town county developer one has ever seen, but somebody put a piece of paper in my hand and it was 24,650. And that was the salary amount that someone was willing to pay me to get into marketing and communications. Y’all don’t laugh like back then it was a lot of money for me. It was like okay, 24,650. And I ain’t got to, okay, yes. But it is what really sparked this journey into like communication and understanding that everything revolves around branding and how people internally and externally view you and who you are and your brand, or your organization or your company.

And so, I really like everything dived headfirst into it, and it was, probably I would say 2010, 2011, when, I was beginning to notice that there were some historically black owned and operated media companies, publications that were struggling a bit and being who I am. I went out and asked, how can I help?

What do you need? What can we be doing?  And there was some business there, there was an opportunity to do some marketing, some branding for them. But then at, at with everything, right, it’s up into a point by which, you can only tell someone how far to go with their own thing, right. And so, we decided to dive head first into creating our own, hence how Substantial was born.

We wanted to make sure that we were telling the right stories in the way by which we thought those stories should and needed to be told, and that was substantially, for lack of better words, right? So, no pun intended there, like, you know, how do we, how do we sometimes see ourselves as it relates to small business?

I taught a class recently and I asked the question. I said, if you could be anybody’s brand, who would you be? People were like, oh, Amazon because this or Coca Cola or Nike, because of that and all these things. And I simply said, if I could be a brand, I would be Substantial. I would want to pour into myself to become the giant that I needed to be.

Not nobody else’s I want to be my own thing.  It’s so crazy how sometimes we look at ourselves and our businesses and we don’t see that growth potential, or that opportunity to be the next Jeff Bezos or to be the next Steve Jobs or whomever else. And it’s like, nah, like I want to be nobody else.

 I want to do what they did. I want for folks to be looking at Substantial when somebody else asks that question, they go, man, I want to be that guy, Greg Hedgepeth. I want to be that brand Substantial Media LLC. You know, so that’s how we got here. Sheer determination.

Courtney: So, what year was that? What year was it? Did you start Substantial? 

Greg H: 2012 is when we started, and y’all, I promise you, I love the name Hustle and Gather because it’s exactly what we tried to do, right. You know, we hit the ground running.  And we had some early traction. We were working with the city of Greenville down in Eastern North Carolina, cause that’s what we were born and bred.

We have since expanded into the Raleigh RDU area in the Charlotte area. But for a while there, you know, Like anything, right. You take off, you hit the ground running and it’s all love, and then the hard work starts and you’re like, well wait, like we actually got to do some stuff. Like we really got to produce some things.

Right? And there’s some revenue that needs to be generated to sustain this thing. And it’s that point where, a lot of people say, you know, if you’re passionate about something, you’ll never work a day in your life, that is a lie. You’re going to work. You just going to enjoy doing it. That’s the difference, right?

Like you going to work, you just might enjoy it a little bit more.  And, and so in 2012, we started, we had some, some early wins and in 2016, we kind of shut it down a bit, right. We really looked at how we rebrand, regather ourselves and start hustling again.  I actually took a hiatus and went out to south Florida where I served as the chief communications officer down there for a while.

And then we came back in, in early part of 2018 with some, some early wins and investments from folks like Donald Thompson, and a few folks like the five-prime media group and others. And we were now in this point, a place where we’re giving it that second shot. So,

Courtney:  So, it sounds like you must have faced some challenges along the way. So, would you mind sharing one or some of the challenges that you face, like with it? Like what caused the shutdown in 2016 and, you know, kind of rebirth in 2018? Like what were some of the challenges that you faced? 

Greg H: No, that’s a great question. And, you know, forgive me because you know, I’m from, I’m a country boy from Halifax County and everybody tells me I’m the king of like metaphors and puns quick thoughts. So, you know, nobody ever wants their baby to be called ugly, 

Courtney: right. 

Greg H: like, can you imagine you had a baby and somebody was like, man, as an ugly baby, like you might want it.

The reality was that while the baby was nice on the outside, there’s some things internally that that baby was struggling with it took, it took, you know, myself, my team, some folks that were early investors and adopters to what we were trying to achieve to really tell us that. 

And for me, it was a matter of at that moment making a decision, and I’ll never forget how I went. My, again, I mentioned his name, Mark Woodson, who’s a great friend and mentor of mine, we were part of the, Green View economic development small business plan competition. And Mark pulled me to the side and he said, hey, listen man, at the end of the day if you’re not in this business to make money, revenue, right, be revenue generating, then you just got a real expensive hobby.

And I was like, yeah, I was like, well, I said, I appreciate you for that. Like, you know, and, and so that was one of those early strokes. That was my long-winded way of answering your question. We found that while everybody absolutely loved the concept and, and what we were trying to achieve in the content, not everybody was willing to pay for it.

You know, we, we struggled early with, gathering the necessary and hitting the goals we needed for ad revenue and some other things.  And in a space where right. Local media across the board was dying, not just black owned and operated, but local media in general, right. This thing called, social media was beginning to take over and you know, why do I need your publication?

That’s physical in nature to, to kind of concentrate. An advertising brand when I could just, you know, put a Facebook post out there and gather and garner just as many influential eyes. So, we begin to kind of find ourselves competing in that space. and so that’s why we shut down.

Dana: So, what, what was the rebirth like then? So, how did you kind of shift either your mindset or your business model so that it is successful today? 

Greg H: You know what it was, it was this idea of the product life cycle and, and having a firm understanding of that life cycle and how at any given point in time, depending on the product and service, if it is not changed, if it does not innovate itself right then it died.

And what I found was we entered into the market already at the end of the product life cycle. We didn’t come in and try to, we just tried to do the same thing everybody else was doing. We just tried to make it look better, right. We didn’t actually come into this with an idea that was so awesome that it was going to revolutionize local media.

We just said, let’s tell stories, and so when we really sat back down and I promise you, everybody was still hungry for it, right. So, we quit, or for lack of better words, we ended that venture early in 2016, not so much because people didn’t want what we were producing as it was that it just didn’t generate the type of revenue that warranted the investment of both time and resource.

And so, what we did was we went back and said, okay, what is our minimum valuable product, right? What’s our MVP? What, what is it that we can do and sustain without necessarily having to throw a ton of resources and people and all of that at it, first and foremost? Secondly, how do we innovate something that has been around well before I was ever even born and that storytelling.

And now you think about the technology that exists around storytelling, all of these, you know, digital publication, softwares and offerings in the immediately, it hit us to become a multichannel platform where we said, we’re going to take podcasting and zoom casting. We’re going to take, YouTube and social media integration.

And we’re going to create a publication that now gives you the ability to tap into all of those things in one centralized space, and that’s going to be our unique value add. So that’s what we did and somebody, thought it was, you know, decent enough to invest in. And so, it made me even want to spend a little bit more time and effort into it myself.

Courtney: There’s something about someone spending money on your products? Like we’ve done things like for free before, like to, you know, for exposure. I hate that word or, like just for a friend, like as a favor and. Something that makes you, you take yourself seriously when someone pays you for something, it gets just a necessary part of it.

You don’t think it is until you’re not paid for something, and you realize how that feels, but there’s something about just that, no matter what it is, that monetary amount that’s tied to your value and your time and your effort that I think brings out the best in people. But I, I love the story because I feel like a lot of people just would have hung up.

Like hung it up 2016 was it, they would’ve just given it up. And I think it’s not about trying something and failing, but it’s about how you bounce back from that failure, how you learn from it and grow from it. That makes you a success. 

Dana: Oh yeah. But I that the introspection you had to have on that is amazing. Like, I think a lot of recognizing as an entrepreneur to come into an industry and realize that you are at the end of that life cycle and you need to innovate something and make something new and fresh in order to be successful is a really amazing viewpoint that I think a lot of people miss, I think it’s too why the reason why people are afraid to break into an industry, because they’re like, well, I’m just some of the same. 

Courtney: Like they’ve already done, they’ve already perfected it.

Dana: Right, it’s already been done. Like, and they’re afraid to think outside the box and say, well, how can I take this and make it something new and amazing and be successful at it? 

Greg H: Yeah, and just grateful to, you know, like I said, those folks that not only believed in the dream, but the dreamer, right? Like, a lot of our early investments, that’s where they came from, was folks believing in the dreamer more so than the dream, right. They’re like, look, if you have the ability and energy to present this in such a way, then I absolutely have to find a way to at least invest just a little something in you to get you over the hump.

Right, and so I’m just grateful for that and this idea of the rebirth of what local media could be in, and through great partnerships.  And what I found was collaboration is really what was key for us, right. Is the only way we had planned to scale was we had to go out and strategically find the right partnerships, right?

Go out and gather the right people. I always say it this way when I’m presenting and trying to go on to those strategic partnerships is your friends become my friends, my friends become your friends and the more we get together, the more influential we will be, right. Like that’s a song there, but I just kind of, you know, I kind of adapted it a little bit to what I needed it to be, and it’s the truth.

Courtney: That is the truth. That was the lesson that we learned, where it was talking about this midway through our business, like how, cause we’re partnerships. So, you can tend to be very insular when you’re talking to someone, like you don’t really need to go beyond that. Like, you’re just kind of your own echo chamber basically right between each other. And it wasn’t until we went out and started like really networking and, getting some outside opinions and seeking outside comradery, 

Dana: But it was our business flourished and it’s like plateauing and it really wasn’t until you created what you said, those collaborations, those partnerships and, you know, their friends became our friends and our friends knew their friends that we were like, okay, like this, well, this was sustainable because there was a lot of conversations, very much like you had in 2016, we were like, 

Courtney: it’s an expensive hobby. Isn’t it? 

Dana: It’s an expensive hobby. That’s not worth it. Like I might get, like, I got a new dining room table one year, that was the extent of my paycheck and I was like, this is bullshit. All this work is not worth it. 

Courtney: I know. All I got was this dining room table. 

Dana: I know. I mean, it’s been a great table. That’s still,

Greg H: That is awesome. I feel like if nothing else, this show has validated a lot of my early thoughts where I was just like, yo, am I giving up on myself? I was like, nah, it ain’t worth it.

Courtney: Yeah, we’ve let go of businesses too, that were even seemingly successful, right. That supported itself and made money, and we’re at the point that we, you know, had dreamed it would be one day and then we look back and we’re like, this isn’t how we want to make money. Right. I can make money in a more efficient way and an easier way.

And we’ve let go of our floral business for that purpose, that it was, it wasn’t that we didn’t have customers. It wasn’t that we didn’t make money. We were charging what we wanted to charge, but at the end of the day, it was a lot of effort and not the type of effort that we wanted to be putting in at that point.

So, it just made sense for us to let it go. 

Greg H: That’s good. Hey, you know, when you think about yourself as a tree or your business as a tree right there, the roots. There’s this trunk, that thing that’s always going to be there, the value add and the strength that is just never going to waiver. And then from that, there are those branches and then leaves, right?

Those things that begin to bear fruit. And when you start to think about those different in multiple streams of that trunk, that those branches in that business, you go, it makes sense, right? It’s like we will always be rooted in this thing. The trunk is us because we’re the ones that’s having to do it.

And then these branches, now that stem off, they’re bearing fruit because of those things that exist. So that’s great. That’s exactly how we’ve began to kind of explore other parts and pieces of Substantial to kind of really create that team, and have that sustainable kind of revenue that we were looking to is, is looking at this, not so much from a storytelling arm, but how does that storytelling on begin to allow us to lend ourselves to these other areas?

Right? How do we create a merchandising space? How do we create a brand studio that while we’re out here and we’re talking to some of these entrepreneurs and business owners, we can now also offer up these services within this marketing communications and public relations space?  How do we go out and speak, how do we go out and help others speak in story tell?

And so, it’s just really, really interesting that you say that because that’s exactly what got us to this point. When we relaunched in 2018, we said, All right. Let’s map this out and really look at those different streams and branches of income that could come from us creating a really strong base and brand.

Dana: That’s like really great advice too. I think, I think it’s hard for people to imagine the roots and the base and the brand, because, you know, and, and so many people tell you just do it, just start, just start. And I don’t think that’s bad advice. I think that is the truth you also have to have a vision.

You have to be able to know what, what do I want to be grounded in? Like, how am I going to grow this company in a way that not only is sustainable, but it’s also honest, that’s fair. That is meaningful. That’s enjoyable because that is just as important as sustainability at the end of the day. Yeah. You know, so yes, really great advice. 

Greg H: Hey, look didn’t I tell you I was from Halifax County and I’ve got all types of metaphors and stories?

Courtney: Yes. 

Greg H: You saying that made me think of when my grandfather, he used to always tell him. He said, don’t never started digging a hole with a man and you on one, don’t know why you digging the hole and two, whether or not there was an excavator to help, right?

So, this idea of like, you got to shovel and y’all digging. You don’t know why you digging, but you digging and then you turn around and look over there. And there was something that could have helped you dig that hole a lot faster, a lot deeper, a lot more efficient. And it wouldn’t have took half a year in energy.

And so that, that story, like I said, there’s always those little stories in small pieces that come to me. I’m like that man had less than a middle school education and he could have taught all types of MBA business classes.

Courtney:  Well, life is a great educator in general, you know, for sure. Like you get knocked down, get back up, get knocked down again, figure out what works. I think just life in general is super important for that. But getting kind of like to what you do, like one of our favorite sentences on your website under your page is we are Substantial, and so our stories and our communities, our businesses and our lives and everything about us. 

So, what is one of the biggest pieces of advice that you would give someone who wants to share their story or wants to start their own business? Maybe they want to make an impact, but feel that people wouldn’t care or they’re not important enough. 

Greg H: I always ask this question when it comes to how important marketing and communications is, right. Tell me the next big thing that’s coming out of silicone valley and 

Courtney: Are we supposed to know that? It’s a trick question. 

Greg H: Yeah, yeah. Like if you don’t know, right. It’s because it hasn’t been communicated yet. 

Courtney: Yeah. 

Greg H: It’s because it hasn’t been thought of, it’s because if it has been thought of it hasn’t been packaged in the right way by which it’s time for it to be revealed or to reveal itself. And so, you know, really, really sat down and think about one, what is it that I’m trying to achieve? Right, everybody says, oh man, I’m going to get in business because I’m really great at this. Well, is what you’re really great at what everybody really needs right now, right. Like, you know, like it is great that you want to bottle the next lotion.

Well, how many bottles of lotion already exists and is it a sustainable market by which when yours comes down to it, that you’re going to be able to make just as much money, if not more. Right, and so, you know, like granted do what you love, do what you’re passionate about, but also to some degree, do what might kind of make you a little bit of money, right.

If you’re getting into it for business, if there’s a nonprofit, by all means go serve the world, right so, I just say that you got to first and foremost, like really map out, like what am I trying to achieve when I start this thing? Right because it is indeed going to be hard work.

Like I consider myself a part-time entrepreneur, right. I have always tried to make 28 hours out of a 24-hour day and I find it to be exhausting, but yet it is also very rewarding when you can do that, and as you say it, somebody is willing to pay you for it. You go, it was nothing that somebody else created the infrastructure for.

It was nothing that there was 70 other employees that had to make it work. It was me; it was the team I brought in. It was the product, the brand, the service that we created, right. And so that to me is first and foremost, like, make sure that if you’re going to do this, you know, the, you know, the risks, the rewards, the sacrifice.

Right, because I’ve got two little girls that care less, that daddy’s Substantial, or the president and CEO or the professor, or the chief communications officer. They just know that when daddy’s not with them playing with doll baby or going to the pool, that whatever that thing was that he was doing at that point was a little more important than they were. And if I’m going to do that, if I’m going to make that sacrifice, it’s got to be worth it. Right, it’s got to bear some type of fruit in the end. 

The other part for me is, you know, that age old Maya Angelou saying. People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel. And so, in anything that you do, in anything that you create, there is a firm understanding that while you believe you run your brand, it is not you, it is the consumer, it is the person that will be the end result of your success so you guys built all of those wonderful brands and companies, and if no one ever actually purchased anything what have you done? 

Courtney: Right, 

Greg H: When you did it, they didn’t feel a certain way after having bought it, spent time with you, right. Then they’re not coming back or they’re not going to refer, right. Wise man told me down in Boca and I promise you I’ll be brief. He said you want to do any tasks, whether it’s large or small, well enough to be referred, referenced, recommended, well, welcome back. 

And that was amazing to me. And I was like, man, everything I do, I’m hopeful that I did it well enough that they will refer me to someone else. They will reference where they got it from, right in just conversation. Oh man. I went out and I was doing this thing and man, it was this really cool guy, man.

He talked with his hands. He was from Halifax County. He was a man animated. Right? Like I remember that guy, look him up. Or, you know, like recommended it. Yo, I recommend you go see the guy that I went and, and dealt with, or, you know, just welcome back, man, over and over again. Hey, if we can do anything to help, let us do anything to help. So that’s my two pieces. That’s my two pennies. I don’t know how much they’re worth.

Dana: Wow. I feel like there were so many nuggets in there. One being a parent, I think you saying like your kids recognizing that when you’re not there you’re doing, it has to be more important, or they, not even that I think that’s more important, but it has to be worth it. It has to bear fruit, and I think that’s I mean, there’s lots of times I felt like I wasn’t bearing fruit and I didn’t feel like it was, and I would rather be home and I would rather be pouring into my family.

But you know, those are moments where that business is hard and struggling and whatnot, but I think that’s a really great perspective to have on it too. Like, cause I think too, and we talked about this often, like owning multiple brands and businesses there’s times that you have to look at it and say, is it worth it?

You know, is this something that is bringing, not just bringing us joy, not like Marie Kondo. 

Courtney: Yeah. It’s not sparking joy, right. 

Dana: But at the same time, is it it’s serving us? Is it serving our families? Is it giving us that, I don’t know? 

Courtney: And I, I think, I personally feel like life’s a journey and entrepreneurship is a journey and it doesn’t always have to look the same from year to year.

I think that’s why, you know, you look back and what’s working, what’s working, what’s not working, is not working. And sometimes letting things go, I loved your metaphor, getting back to your tree, like sometimes you got to prune the branch so another branch flourishes more, and you’re only as you can only carry so much, right. So sometimes you got to prune. So, I get where it is and you didn’t know you’re going for topiary, but that’s what you to at,

Greg H: I love it. I love I’m stealing that. I was like, you know how sometimes the branches get so heavy. You got to prune them got 

Courtney: you got to; they get heavy. It gets to be a lot. But yeah, I know I totally like, I, I love that refer. Reference, recommend, or welcome back, no matter how big or how small that you’re. I love that. So, what has, been the most rewarding part of your entrepreneurship part of your journey? 

Greg H: It has been the people, right. Again, going back to that, it has been the overwhelming response to the things, the content we create, the awards that we win. The people, right. As I mentioned, it was never a question of if what we were doing, wasn’t the right thing to do.

It was just a matter if it was the right time and just being where we are right now in the nation, as it relates to diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice, you know, BIPOC and the stories that are being told, we’re in the right space and I get to go and meet so many amazing, substantial people.

 So that’s been the most rewarding for me in the value that others place on that. Hat storytelling, that influence that market, those people, that’s been it.  And if I could share another, it would be just training that next generation of multicultural leader. That’s going to come in and help tell that story and shine a bit more light than I’m even able to, you know, we’ve got an internship program, and we run it through our historically black colleges and universities, our HBCUs.

And every time one of those students goes on to write for another newspaper or an even more influential publication or, you know, land at ABC 11 or Capitol Broadcast Company gig, I’m like, you don’t forget your roots, you know where you started now, you know, so it’s just so cool to see them, kind of build their networks and, and, and self-worth.

Dana: So, you kind of touched on it. I mean, 2020 was a rough year, obviously, pandemic.  I think everyone like had a social justice reckoning in a lot of ways. And try it. I know for our industry, there was a lot of conversations and there was a lot of initiative to have that happen to help us kind of build up those black businesses and, and just recognize how we can be allies and more support and not just bystanders.

 How does your magazine really tackle that? Cause I feel like that is, that hadn’t been tough to go through in general, but like, how did they really tackle that to kind of relate to bridging the gap of sorts? 

Greg H: One of the things that we prided ourselves on was, was being a decentralized space. this trusted voice, this neutral platform, I’m using all of these terms because they mean something, I promise you. To kind of help stand in the gap, not bridge it, but stand in it and allow whoever is willing to walk across either side to do so.

Right. You know, for us, it’s like the bridge. Sometimes it’s always been there. It just takes somebody pointing toward it, and so that’s who we want it to be. You know, I remember when we, our break out publication, we were in collaboration with Walk West, Vidant Health, and a number of other, small nonprofits in the Eastern North Carolina area.

And we tackle it, what we call the two deadlines viruses that were killing Black America, right, and it was COVID-19 and, racism, and that issue was our, again, our rebirth, our relaunch, our coming out, and it has won us, two ADDYs, a local media innovation award. Not so much. I don’t think because of, you know, the story, like the stories were the stories, right.

And the imagery was the imagery, but it was the timing and the context. Not the content, the context by which we did. And so, for us, one of the things that we just again rely on is just standing in the gap. Just being that, you know, hey, if it’s, you know, talking across differences, how do we spool up a racial equity talk series?

And we’re bringing people from both aisles, or from both spectrums of a subject and we’re having real conversations, how are we, you know, let no good crisis, go to waste, take advantage of every, you know, ill moment. How are we now able to say in a time where you’re either on one end of the spectrum or not, we serve as a platform to just simply hear you out.

Not to not to argue with you and try to pull you to either, in either direction, but just as simply exists to say you and you, right. And that’s what media is supposed to be to some degree it’s like, let us just put it out there and you form your own opinion of it, you know? So, I think we’re losing that as a nation, right.

As a world, really, you know, it’s like, you’re either on my side or you’re against me. And it’s like, well, what happens to the folks that’s just really seeking truth?

Dana: Yeah. That’s so powerful. I feel like, the pandemic was so hard too, because you didn’t have the ability to go get coffee with somebody or go have a meal, which I think anytime you have a shared experience, it is helpful in general, but like, you know, my, my parents think very differently from me when it comes to politics and I can villainize them in my head all day long.

And I can say like, they don’t understand. They don’t, they don’t think this way such and such, and I can paint a picture. But when I’m with them, we don’t talk about politics, just a family rule because we don’t right. And they’re very respectful of that but like I realized they’re people. They still love me so much.

They still love my kids so much. They are still good humans. Like they are not these awful people that you, that the media, when you hear, because they think differently of me, they want me to villainize them as such. And so, and I think what happened with 2020 was super hard because now you couldn’t even get together with people.

You couldn’t have those shared experiences. You couldn’t have those same conversations in person, which is always easier than on the phone or what not, but I think that’s so true. And I agree with you. I think we’re losing it. We’re losing the ability to, for everyone else to stand in the gap, right?

Like, cause I think that’s who we should be, as people is saying, like, let me understand where you’re coming from in your perspective and how can I help you get to this other side? But 

Greg H: Absolutely. 

Dana: it’s super, super powerful. 

Greg H: Real quickly, one of the things that if I didn’t have enough hats to wear, I also serve as a reserve law enforcement officer, right. And I find myself often in conversations with members of my own community about defunding the police, where we need to, you know, reside as it relates to, you know, law enforcement misconduct, police brutality, and what have you.

And I always hold that particular nugget of myself tight to the cuffs because. It’s always interesting when it comes out, how you begin to be looked at differently or how you’re the, you’re the undercover in the room right, or whatever. And I remember being in a recent conversation in community and I told them, right.

 And I think it was like that. I think Thomas Jefferson said it, it was, you know, not every difference of opinion is a difference of principle. 

Courtney: Right. So true. 

Greg H:  It’s really easy for us to say you owe that you’re different than me, so you don’t believe. And it’s like, ah, it’s like, we ain’t got to exactly agree on something, but there’s some fundamental truth that hold dear, right?

Yeah. And let’s figure out what those are and create some of those commonalities. We tend to hark so often on the negative that we don’t really look at the positive until it’s too late. 

Courtney:  So, I know we’ve been, we’ve been here for a while here, but how can our listeners support substantial magazine? Like any community events or new things that are coming down the pipeline? How can we support you and getting those stories out there and like, what are some ways? 

Greg H: Oh, my goodness. First and foremost, go to, or and subscribe, subscribe, subscribe.  I would say like, share, retweet, repost, all those things that you do socially, right? Like do all of those things. Yeah. You know, for me, it’s about help us build that sphere build that influence in such a way that, you know, we can either sell a scale. Right that end of the day that’s what I’m in business for I’m in business to either sell or scale. so, so that’s first and foremost, if the listeners that are out there are investors, I am willing to do both of those. Like other part.  

The other part, which thank you for this moment in this platform, we’re going to be working with a town bank, to offer a series around financial literacy, business development, business structure., investing 101 in some of those things and that, is going to be happening. The start of that series is June 11th. And so, for the next four Fridays, we will be convening virtually, through a series of webinars with industry experts sponsored through Town Bank to house a what we call Excel: a Substantial Financial Literacy Series. So, always, always, always, welcome in that, that is open to the public, it’s free of charge. So, join us, me and let’s get engaged, get involved, share

Dana: Awesome. Yeah. Thanks so much. This has been like, so, so great talking to you. I love your energy. I love all your stories for us. 

Courtney:  Thanks everyone for gathering with us today to talk about the hustle. To learn more about Greg and his magazine, visit or follow them on Instagram @substancemagz

Dana: And to learn more about our hustles visit,, and or follow us on Instagram at canddevents, at thebradfordnc, and at hustlingandgather. If you liked the show, be sure to subscribe and leave us a rating and a review.

Courtney:  this podcast is a production of ear fluence I’m Courtney

Dana: and I’m Dana 

Courtney: And we’ll talk to you next time on Hustle and Gather

Full Episode Transcript

Hustle and Gather is hosted by Courtney Hopper and Dana Kadwell, and is produced by Earfluence.  Courtney and Dana’s hustles include C&D Events, Hustle and Gather, and The Bradford Wedding Venue.

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