Angelia Stone remembers when she first had the idea to start a women’s magazine.
It was 20 years ago, and the idea was so scary, she talked herself out of it.
Then, in 2005, Stone’s grandmother and father died within months of each other.
“I felt like I owed it to them to pursue this dream I had, even if it still scared me,” Stone said. “I had no clue what I was doing, but one thing my mom always told me was, ‘They’re either going to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”
Stone encountered plenty of rejection on her path to launching her publication — from bankers who didn’t value her business plan to skeptics who told her she needed a journalism degree to pull off what she wanted to accomplish. But the Muncie native who grew up with her nose stuck in the pages of Essence, Ebony, and Jet remained undeterred.
The first issue of Hope magazine debuted in Spring 2006, featuring gospel singer CeCe Winans, the best-selling gospel artist of all time, on the cover. Stone recalls the dream-come-true moment when she held in her hands “something I had literally created from nothing.”
Today, she continues to dream big on behalf of Hope, which, in its first 15 years of publication, has attracted more than 30,000 subscribers to its quarterly print and digital issues and 50,000-plus followers to its social media outlets. And while 2020 was hard for a majority of Americans, including Stone, the year held several bright spots for her: a rebrand of her magazine, the publication of her first book, and the celebration of her 50th birthday.
Return to Ball State
“I’ve had a lot of firsts happen for me since I started Hope,” she said. “But I also feel like, in so many ways, I’m just getting started.”
One of Stone’s “bucket list” goals upon turning 50 was returning to the post-secondary education she put on hold when she dropped out of Ball State in 1991.
As a publisher, CEO, and single mother of three children, Stone wasn’t sure she had the capacity to return to college. Then, she connected with an admissions representative at Ivy Tech — someone who answered all her questions and helped her secure scholarship money.
“Something I’ve always told my kids” — daughter, Chantel, 27; son, Jaylen, 25; and son Jordan, 17 — “is to learn who the people are who can help you in school. Because the first time I was at Ball State, I didn’t know about all the resources that were available to me — resources that could have helped me finish.”
Stone graduated from Ivy Tech with her associate’s degree last August, not long after her daughter completed her master’s degree in social work from IUPUI. As of this Fall semester, Stone is back at Ball State, where she’s resumed her coursework to finish her bachelor of general studies degree.
Never too old to learn
Now that she’s on campus again as a student, Stone is determined to make the most of her second chance at being a Cardinal. “I tell people who are nontraditional students like me that it’s not too late to try something again. You’re never too old to learn.”
After she graduates from Ball State, Stone wants to continue her lifetime educational journey. “I want to keep going, because I really want to teach.”
Stone also wants to grow Hope’s mission of empowering women, a mission captured in the title of her first book, Yes Sisters: Surrounding Yourself with Women Who Affirm, Encourage, and Challenge You, which debuted in March. The book chronicles the lessons Stone has learned over the course of her publishing career and the influence of the strong and courageous women — her Yes Sisters — who have inspired her along the way.
In return, Stone has inspired many more women who have come to know her and to work with her thanks to her magazine.
“What I do for Hope is out of my admiration for Angelia,” said Eldred Jones, ’93, a Muncie resident who volunteers as an executive assistant for the publication. “Knowing all that she goes through to get an issue out in print and digital puts me in awe of her.”
Hope’s senior editor, NataLeigh Mosley, said of Stone: “From the moment you meet her, it’s clear Angelia isn’t afraid to put in the work necessary to make her dreams a reality.”
Stone is confident in the diverse team she has in place to help her publish Hope — a team that includes supportive women like Jones and Mosley, as well as interns, including Ball State students, who help her manage the content that populates the pages of the magazine and its accompanying website.
Finding people she can trust
As she has learned, finding people she can trust is one of the many challenges she has faced in an industry that is tough on female entrepreneurs — especially women of color.
“There have been a lot of microaggressions over the years,” Stone explained with a sigh.
She recalls the person who advised her “not to include a photo of myself on the editorial page, so my readers wouldn’t know I was Black.” Before that was a consultant who criticized her editorial decision-making, calling her an “Uncle Tom” for wanting to reach a readership beyond Black women.
She’s also experienced what she believes is her fair share of gendered and racial biases when seeking ad revenue for Hope. “Some of these advertisers, I see their ads in other magazines with a readership like mine, but when I reach out, I hear ‘We don’t have the budget’ or ‘What’s your demographic again?’”
Stone looks up to Black female publishers who have come before her, like Bea Moten-Foster, a pioneering radio journalist who was founder and publisher of the Muncie Times, an African-American newspaper that served east central Indiana in the 1990s and 2000s. “Ms. Foster was a trailblazer,” Stone said. “She knocked down doors for women like me.”
In the years to come, Stone wants to see Hope magazine become a household name in the homes of women across the state. She’d also like to see the quarterly brunch meetings that Hope sponsors to promote networking in communities across the region expand into an annual event large enough to fill an arena in Indiana.
Stone said, “I want to support women of color, women who’ve been stuck, and help them realize, ‘You can be free. You can evolve. You can live your dreams, no matter your age.”
With Hope, she’s accomplishing that goal, one issue at a time.