The F-Suite founder and editor Anna Gelbman Edmonds offers insight into overcoming adversity as the magazine celebrates a SUITE anniversary
By Haley Kellner
It starts with a challenge. Someone laughing in your face. In the case of Anna Gelbman Edmonds, it was a man, her former boss at a local magazine. “It just wasn’t going in the direction that I wanted… and he wouldn’t listen to my suggestions,” Edmonds told me. “I think over the months he got tired of me.” What Anna saw as ways to improve the magazine, her boss saw as complaining. One day, out of frustration, he asked her what she would do with the magazine were it hers, and when she offered up her idea for a women’s business magazine, he laughed. It was game over from there. “Nobody laughs at Anna Edmonds, unless she’s telling a joke,” she told me. “That was a gauntlet, as far as I was concerned.” Edmonds would part ways with the magazine not long after that conversation, taking her silly, pestering ideas with.
The F-Suite has been releasing quarterly issues for a year now–vibrant, glossy covers filled with tales of female strength and blossomed from the brain of editor Anna Gelbman Edmonds. Regardless of what her former boss might think two years removed from that fateful conversation, whenever Edmonds holds a new copy in her hands, she knows she’s had the last laugh. A strong and boisterous laugh, filled with the same confidence she herself exudes. It fills the space as we sit on her back porch one warm evening this past April, and I feel infused with a touch of that confidence even as it emanates from six feet away.
The F-Suite was born out of adversity
Understanding Edmonds’ story is to understand where that confidence comes from. The short answer is hardship. The longer one involves an unwanted divorce, a young son’s recovery through rehab, a crippling recession, and a slow, powerful reinvention. In 2004, Edmonds’ divorce left her feeling helpless. “I had to suddenly navigate the world in a way that I had never imagined,” she told me–completely on her own, with two kids at home to support, and after so many years as a stay-at-home mom, not much of a resume to help her do it. It was then that Edmonds began to develop the course of action she swears by today, forged in various fires over the last 16 years.
“When you see things going bad, you don’t cower down in fear. You get five minutes to be afraid, but then you gotta start thinking,” she told me. “You look at the problem squarely. You find the people who can help you or give you advice. And you either pivot or plow forward.” At the time, this meant finding whatever job she could, building her skillset, and working toward a career with the pay to support her family. In 2008, laid off during the recession and discovering her 15-year-old son’s drug addiction, it meant getting him through rehab while putting herself through college. And in 2018, when she wasn’t content with the magazine she worked for or the person running it, it meant striking out on her own to create The F-Suite.
A group effort for the benefit of the business community
“I literally break out in tears every time it comes off the printing press,” she told me. “It’s like birthing a baby,” not just because of the joy it brings, but the hard work it requires. And as they say with a baby, it takes a village, starting with the first issue. “I had a meeting one day with a bunch of my writer friends, and said, you know I don’t have any money to do this with. If everybody will contribute one story, one picture, something… we can get the first issue off the ground.” Less than a year after the magazine’s conception, copies of The F-Suite flooded the streets of Columbia to be met with resounding excitement for more to come.
With every issue that’s followed since, Edmonds seeks to honor the success of that first issue in two ways. The first is by allowing the magazine to reflect the difficulties that come with producing it. “I feel like I owe it to my readers,” she told me. “If you’re out there struggling, I’m going to show you that I am, too.” The second is by celebrating the community that made it possible for The F-Suite to be where it is today. It is the magazine’s overall mission to highlight the strength of local businesswomen, while working as a resource to help their businesses survive any storm.
Lessons learned serve as springboards
Telling this story now is Edmonds’ way of once again providing a helpful resource to local businesses, especially those losing faith amidst the COVID-19 crisis. “I wanted to be able to tell them this too shall pass and it’s not necessarily going to be the same afterwards,” Edmonds said. Having learned she only has control over her own reactions, Edmonds sees times like this as an opportunity to grow and change in order to uncover whatever blessings lie ahead. “It takes real stamina and real courage, and only the people who are willing to dig deep are going to make it,” she told me. No matter what happens, whatever businesses disappear from our Columbia skyline, the people able to tough it out are the ones we’ll inevitably see again, even if it means walking through a different storefront or opening up a new magazine.
This issue marks The F-Suite’s one-year anniversary, a huge landmark positioned in a moment of uncertainty. It seems right in such a time to honor the success of a magazine built on a foundation of seeing crises through to the other side. Even at this current crossroad, Edmonds chuckles from her back porch. “Am I rich? Am I well-known?” she says to me. “Am I any of those things? No, but I’m so happy. I’m having a ball.” Content with how far she’s made it, prepared to brave whatever’s to come, Edmonds is a reminder that those who stand tall in the face of adversity while looking forward to the future will always have the last laugh.