I’ll always remember driving through San Luis Obispo with Hayley early in our rekindled relationship in 2009, and we talked about our community and what we aspired to do. We were in our early 30s at the time, myself working in sales management and my wife working in medical administration. The idea of a local magazine became the topic of our conversation, and the idea has proved a lasting one.
In 2017, Hayley and I bought Paso Robles Magazine from Bob Chute and expanded it to include a local magazine in Atascadero, then launched Central Coast TRVLR in 2019. Hayley was still working as a regional director for a radiation oncology company, managing corporate governance, budgeting and Human Resources when the local newspapers’ owners called and made us an offer we could not refuse.
The acquisition of the newspapers made it possible for Hayley to join the company full-time in September 2019. She reorganized the company, merged the operations and cleaned up the accounting during the first six months of the merger. Then the world was hit by SARS-CoV-2.
In March 2020, when the economy and life as we knew it came to a screeching halt, we didn’t know if we would make it 30 days. We were not really certain of anything at the time.
“We were gaining momentum, coming into March ,” Hayley said. “We were excited, expanding and then everything came to a halt. My husband and I came up with a plan and implemented it right away. We were very transparent with our team and had to furlough some. We evaluated our systems, our roles and our growth plans.”
Hayley and I had to let go of half of our newly acquired staff and take on most of the work ourselves. We did what we could to ensure our print products continued while our bank was too big to care about us when PPP came around.
“People asked us if we were nervous, with all our eggs in one basket,” she said. “We were never nervous, and we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did without each other and our team. Between just five of us, we didn’t miss a single publication.”
We did what we could with the actual economy without taking out loans, and Hayley began shifting from the operations side of the company to taking on more of the publishing responsibilities.
“The 20 years that I was in healthcare management prepared me,” she said. “For the first eight years, I was in medical retail, training teams and understanding customers’ needs. I created training guides, protocols and systems to organize between 10 and 100 employees to carry the mission of the company in handling patients. The last 10 years taught me to manage large budgets, build teams and manage deadlines.”
Over the year of 2020, we retooled the company, optimized for survival and continued printing despite doubts. It was a rollercoaster—with the opening and shutting of business sectors, waves of COVID-19 and a wild presidential election season. It made us stronger as individuals, as husband and wife, as parents and as business owners.
“Going through COVID really stripped everything away,” she said. “It allowed us to dive into our strengths. Nic is visionary and really looks ahead at developing the company, and I’m very good at implementing the operations. In order for the partnership to flourish and allow our company to grow, I had to evaluate myself—sit back and trust—and he did the same with me.”
As parents of then seven- and five-year-olds, we juggled the struggle of parenthood with the struggle of owning and operating our own business, working long hours and sacrificing what we had to.
“We took our boys out of their [Montessori] school and gave them a very stable and positive environment,” Hayley said. “Nic created a homeschool curriculum, and we hired a full-time mentor to help. The boys were very supportive. They understood, and they trust us. We are positive. We are positive about our community and the greater good. There is so much good in our community; we didn’t need to focus on the negative. Our whole family thrives on that. They are just the neatest kids.”
Hayley continued to polish her skills as a publisher, bringing decades of experience in team-building, empathy and corporate management. We saw the trends around the country in media, and we sought to make a bigger difference. We began talking to publishers in California and Texas about their future and found a handful that fit our model well, where we could duplicate our platform and continue our mission of “Making Communities Better Through Print.(tm).”
“We looked at expanding because the systems we put into place created a great platform,” she said. “Trusting in my husband and the business we were growing together, we looked at the numbers and our team and believed in what we have.”
We heard the owners of The Malibu Times were thinking of retiring and selling their company, so we contacted them about that interest.
“My first conversation with Karen was full of excitement,” Hayley said. “After visiting, we fell in love with it. We knew we wanted to be here. When California shut down again, I was hesitant. I was cautious. But Nic and I knew what we had and put one foot in front of the other. We are just thrilled to be here.”
As lifelong residents of the Central Coast of California, we treasure our coast and take special consideration of the space between Malibu and Monterey Bay. Traveling up and down US-101 and CA-1, we appreciate the slow lane.
“The Central Coast is a beautiful place to live and be part of,” Hayley said. “Owning a media company is not always thought of as a small business, but we are an active part of our business community as peers working together. We engage with our local chambers of commerce to build local business networks and strengthen our local business community.”
Hayley spent countless hours volunteering for her community in San Luis Obispo County on boards as chair of the Committee for Atascadero Public Schools, vice-chair of the Wellness Kitchen and Support Center, and current member of the board of the Cancer Support Community of the Central Coast.
“For me, being a resident is something I learned over the years,” Hayley said. “Nic and I work to lead by example. Being a resident of a community means getting involved. We would make a date night at the local city council just to stay in touch with what was going on—and that was before we owned the newspapers! If there is an issue, we choose not just to complain about it but to get involved. We want citizens to be aware, informed and engaged. Being a resident means being an active part of the community.”
Hayley is our family matriarch—the daughter of 1968 Olympic gold medalist Charles Buchanan Hickcox and the mother of three beautiful children—and she is the matriarch of our family of publications. Her care and guidance continues to develop our company’s team around our mission, our company manifesto, and our core values. Her position at the helm of The Malibu Times is a symbol of our trust and faith in her leadership and a promise to the community of Malibu to serve in its best interest as the steward of the local news.
“My role as the publisher of our publications is to make sure the voice of our community is in the newspapers we publish,” Hayley said, “My role in Malibu will be to discover what is important to our community, lead and empower our editorial team, and share the stories of the community. My favorite thing about being a publisher is to create a team that the community knows, connects with and trusts.”
Hayley looks to continue all the good things that make The Malibu Times a great publication and produce great content for the next generation of readers.
“We look to bring youth and more life to the publication,” Hayley said, “with trusted information that is fact-based. My role as the publisher is to open that door and facilitate a discussion—it is that engagement that is important for a community. We also want to be a publication that advertisers want to be in—that local residents know is important to their children’s future and looks great.”
Newsprint is part of what is known as “legacy media,” and Hayley noted her respect for the previous owners and the legacy involved in The Malibu Times.
“We appreciate how hard [Karen and Arnold] worked to keep The Times going through all these years,” Hayley said. “Through the Great Recession, fires, floods and the loss of their son, keeping the passion and love alive for the print of the newspaper and the magazine, pulling the community together. We thank them for keeping something so valuable alive. We know how hard it is. We print millions of pages of print every year, and all the effort that goes behind that—it takes a village. It encompasses a huge partnership between everyone who touches the publication. It is something to be proud of. We get to look back and watch our lives in print, because we are part of it. We are printing the history of our communities, the public record, that will outlast all social media and digital platforms. For Karen and Arnold to feel passionate enough to keep that going—we are beyond grateful and honored to keep it going for the next 30-plus years.”