Think of it as “The Sisterhood of the FACES Magazine.”
We have come to assume that after five years, most people know that the faces behind FACES Magazine belong to two sisters, Beth Swisher Palmer and Ann Swisher Henrichsen, also known as “the Swisher Sisters.” But an amazing number of people are still surprised by this, despite the fact that they have snuck into middle age still looking an awful lot alike and have kept up the tradition of answering to one another’s name (a practice they’ve been perfecting since childhood).
Catch Ann in a talkative mood (okay, Ann is always in a talkative mood . . . ) and she might share with you the story of the classic “deer in the headlights” look she gave Beth when the younger Swisher sister initially tried to sell her big sister on the idea of a sisterly partnership and a seemingly far-fetched magazine idea. Ann might even admit to alarming visions of a large printing press, industrial strength aprons and buckets of ink in Beth’s garage.
But to back up a bit . . . Ann and Beth, both born in Army base hospitals in Germany, were reared in the quintessential small South Dakota community of Kadoka, where they were active in sports and music and just about everything else the school and community had to offer. They both attended Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. Ann graduated with a biology degree, married her college sweetheart-turned-U.S. Marine and embarked on a twenty-year military career. Beth graduated a year later with an English major and then headed south to the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where she finished a master’s degree in English and taught freshman composition and literature.
Over the next several years, Ann had four kids and did the stay-at-home-mom gig on various military bases across the country while Beth moved back to the Black Hills and worked in public relations and marketing. Following in her sister’s footsteps, Beth also married, had four kids and became a committed stay-at-home mom. It was when she sent her youngest off to school that she started thinking about potential careers for the second half of her life.
Having written hundreds of press releases, speeches, newsletters, corporate magazine articles and the like, Beth knew her niche lay in writing that was less technical, promotional and repetitious. Ironically, it was in reflecting back on these types of writing projects that she found what she was looking for. As opposed to today, where a writer can research virtually anything on the Internet, back in the 80s you had to get your information from real people in face-to-face conversations. Beth realized she had been surrounded by fascinating folks of all ages and from all walks of life whose journeys had converged in the Black Hills of South Dakota. These life stories had collected inside her under-utilized creative mind. Intrigued by the idea of compiling biographical stories about seemingly ordinary people like these eventually brought her around to the idea of starting a magazine.
She started researching regional and national magazines. She liked the neighborly feel of city and regional magazines but had little time for most national magazines with their tendency to overexpose and over-glorify Hollywood celebrities. Having grown up in a small town, she knew that “real” people had more interesting life stories than remote mega-stars. Meanwhile Ann had moved back to the area with her family. She was excelling as a pharmaceutical sales rep but was becoming disillusioned with the days and nights spent away from her kids and the lack of flexibility. This coincided nicely with Beth’s realization that she would need a strong sales component to publish a magazine . . . and FACES was born!