Giving a Voice to the Voiceless. Meet Hélène Biandudi Hofer, Journalist and Owner of HBH Enterprises

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
I’m Hélène Biandudi Hofer, and I am a journalist and an entrepreneur. I own the media group HBH Enterprises, LLC, and I’m also the host and producer of WXXI-TV’s weekly newsmagazine show, Need to Know.

I launched my media group, HBH Enterprises, LLC, in 2014 to create and produce series, documentaries and human interest content about unique topics and stories that for the most part often go untold or remain under the radar. I’m currently launching a pilot for a documentary series about the fascinating, misunderstood, perplexing, and often overlooked meanings and influence of dress and clothing on all aspects of our society. I’ve always believed that clothing impacts our lives, and after my extensive research and interviews for this doc series - I have no doubt that it does!

Reporting and producing for Need to Know allows me to travel through the world of education, politics, the economy, arts and entertainment, healthcare, disability issues and more. There is certainly no shortage of important and interesting issues to explore, investigate and highlight. I love that WXXI utilizes this show to cover the issues affecting the under-served and to connect cultures and communities in the Rochester region through the power of story.  

What are you passionate about? What makes you tick?
I love people and I love hearing and sharing their stories. I have to admit that this will sound cliché, but the job of a journalist (and something I think about with every story, documentary and show I work on) is to genuinely give voice to the voiceless. 

What makes me tick, you ask? As a journalist and an entrepreneur in the media field, I’m challenged by the recent assertions by our nation’s leadership that the media “is the enemy of the American people.” Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. But I do believe, for the most part, that those working in this field genuinely want to make a positive impact on our society and do so by pursuing the truth, even when it puts them in harm’s way.

How did you get started? What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting?
True story: I got started in my version of the media world when I was in the 4th grade. My parents had one of those 15 pound video cameras you had to rest on your shoulder. I used to borrow it and run around my neighborhood interviewing neighbors, creating news stories and filming fashion shows using vintage clothing pieces from my dress-up trunk. I actually still have those VHS tapes!

It was in 2004 when I got my “official” start in news. After graduating from NYU I moved back to my hometown (Columbus, Ohio) and worked as an associate producer for WBNS-10TV (a CBS affiliate). I later moved to New York City and worked for the CBS program 48 Hours Mystery. I credit a lot of my passion for storytelling and news to the Executive Producer of 48, Susan Zirinsky (aka Z), and the incredible team at the show. Z let me be a sponge and soak up as much of the production process as I wanted from a major network show plus the varied documentary specials on which we worked. From NYC I moved to Rochester in 2010 to report and produce for WXXI radio (host for All Things Considered) and television (a highlight in my career). The ever-changing and advancing world of news and multimedia & the desire to cover stories around the globe is what really opened the doors to HBH Enterprises. 

The greatest challenge with each new opportunity (from Day 1 at WBNS to launching my media group) has always been about finding balance and fighting the urge for perfectionism.  I have a tendency to get so deep into the work that I forget to just stop, sit back, and enjoy the moment. 

What is your biggest regret?
This is a hard one because I think “regrets” come down to perspective. I generally try to view what some might see as a regret, as a learning experience and an opportunity to grow. What can I say, I’m a hopeful or hopeless optimist! 

What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had said to you?
Make it a priority to have fun doing what you love, trust your instincts and be quick to forgive yourself when you experience hiccups or things don’t work out as you expected they would. 

A friend recently said to me: “There may be others doing what you’re doing, but who’s going to do it like you will? Girl, no one!” I wish I would have heard that when I first started out as a journalist and an entrepreneur.

Lettering by Joanna Stacy of JOANNASTACY.COM

How do you find balance?
I have a morning routine I try to follow religiously: 
Drink coffee
Spend time with God doing devotions/prayer
If I miss out on my morning routine, I’m out of whack! 

I also find balance through my husband. He knows when I need to unplug, relax, have a good laugh and enjoy some vino!

What is the most challenging part of running your business?
About 50% of my work is developing content and projects that require money that doesn’t exist from the outset. I may come up with an idea for a series or a documentary that I think is an engaging topic with opportunities for strong audience engagement, advertiser and/or sponsor benefits, societal impact, and with multiple corresponding business opportunities associated with the project, but not have the needed funding. The challenge: convincing people (broadcast networks, agents, online streaming services, foundations, advertisers, etc.) that what I’m creating IS both worthy and worthwhile and a great business investment opportunity for them (i.e. funding the entire operation). I’m at the beginning stages of this process and it’s the source of a great deal of work and stress. However, as I’ve told my team, giving up is never an option.

What is your favorite part of what you do?
Meeting new people every day and hearing their stories.

Name some local creatives/business owners that you really admire.
Local Artist, Sarah Rutherford:  She’s a powerhouse of an artist and a woman changing our world for the better.

Editor of BreakThru Magazine, Juanita Washington: She is actively empowering women throughout the Rochester region through her publication.

Photographer & Designer, Hannah Betts of Lives Styled: I recently met Hannah & was inspired by her photographs and her work.

Owner of Peppermint Boutique, Tanvi Asher: She’s a genius businesswoman in the world of apparel. Her store never disappoints.