Heidi Gross has always been a creative person with the goal of ultimately using her artistic abilities in her career. She attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. After college, she began working in the corporate world until deciding to become an independent designer/freelancer when she had her two children, a switch she made so she would have time for her family while also pursuing her passion.
She describes her design style as structured, clean and simple. Communication is important to her, and she wants this to reflect in her style. Heidi’s design work spans a wide range of uses, including corporate, non-profit and retail design work in which she has created her own logos and signage.
“Anything that came my way, I approached with fresh eyes and just went with it,” she says.
Heidi is a friendly, positive force in her community, going out of her way to make connections with her neighbors. When her design work began to scale back, she began spending time with an elderly gentleman in her neighborhood who lived alone. Heidi enjoyed keeping him company and helping him out with things around the house, and she learned a lot from him by listening to his life stories and perspectives.
One day while she was helping him clean, she noticed that he received tons of magazines in the mail, only to throw them away. He told Heidi there was nothing of interest in those magazines for him to read. At that point, Heidi noticed that there were no publications in her area that catered to senior living, and she wanted to change that.
Using her knowledge of design and print publications, she went on to create her own magazine titled “Autumn Years Magazine,” which highlights the 60+ population in her community. Heidi describes the magazine as “an information publication as well as an inspiration magazine.” Inspired by her neighbor, she aims to create a place for the elderly community in her area to share their stories and find a place of belonging. The first edition of the magazine featured Heidi’s neighbor, the man who inspired the magazine, and it included a ten-page feature about his life and stories. For the past nine years, the magazine has successfully highlighted many other seniors with interesting and inspiring stories to tell.
“As we age, it is so important that we keep learning and growing as a person,” Heidi says.
Heidi feels that the senior community is often forgotten, and she wants to give them a chance to shine. Her magazine also serves as an outlet for her own creativity, as she is in charge of all design aspects. She loves being able to photograph and connect with the people she features in the magazine.
Heidi’s most challenging obstacle has been stepping out of her comfort zone in order to obtain advertising for the magazine. It was difficult at first to present the magazine to different companies, not knowing what they would think about it or if they would be willing to give their support.
“But I think that if you go through life and everything is so easy, then you’re missing out on challenges that make you grow as a person,” Heidi says. “I’ve grown a lot over the past nine years with this magazine.”
The biggest highlight of Heidi’s journey is hearing how her magazine has had a positive impact on people in her community.
“A woman wrote me a letter telling me she saw someone she knew in the magazine and was able to reconnect with them after many years,” Heidi says. “She thanked me for that.”
Heidi plans to keep her magazine going for as long as she can with the support she has.
As she moves forward, she hopes to continue to be creative.
“First and foremost, I am an artist,” Heidi says. “I love to draw and create. I’m always looking for ways to create interesting pieces. The magazine goes hand-in-hand with the overall nature of who I am.”
For other women who are thinking about stepping out of their comfort zones and creating something new, Heidi says, “Just do it! If you have an idea, don’t let anyone hold you back. Let your dreams grow with you.”
Heidi has lived in Allendale, New Jersey for 21 years with her husband. She has two kids who have now graduated college. She prides herself on her positivity and her close relationships with her family members.
“‘She can be both’ is a great slogan,” Heidi says. “I think women have struggled for so long, and we’ve come a long way. We can do both, and we have been both for forever. Now, we are being recognized more for it.”