Taking Rochester by Storm, One Hashtag at a Time. Meet Leah Stacy

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(photography by Caitlin McGrath of The Merry Thought)

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

My name is Leah Stacy and I’m a professor of professional practice in communication and media at Nazareth College (yeah, say THAT title ten times fast). “What I do” is always a little bit difficult to explain – I guess it really depends on the day. I was an arts & culture journalist and magazine editor throughout most of my twenties. Now, part of my job at Naz includes continued freelance work and entrepreneurial ventures. I cofounded Boomtown Table and Upstate Social Sessions in 2015 and I’ve done freelance work with CITY Newspaper, POST Magazine and several other outlets. I also freelance PR/social media work and direct college theatre productions. In April 2016. I’m co-chairing an arts symposium based around women in theatre (more on that soon).

What are your passions? What makes you tick?

I quickly realized a 9-5 job was never going to work for me, and since then I’ve built my career trajectory around jobs that not only give me a flexible schedule, but also the freedom to change up what I do each day. A day-to-day that constantly changes is ideal for my personality type (ENFP, for those who speak Myers-Briggs).

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How did you get started? What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting?

The biggest challenge we face with Boomtown Table is visibility and saturation of the “food media” market right now. People often confuse us with a food blog, which isn’t what we’re about at all. (Food blogs tend to rely on a cheers and/or jeers system, whereas we don’t review restaurants and we aren’t just posting food photos.) Our team is made up of trained writers, photographers, illustrators, multimedia producers, and industry professionals. We’re going in-depth by publishing things like investigative articles, food memoirs, and insider expertise. Think along the lines of Lucky Peach, Eater, Civil Eats, Grub Street. Another challenge is that we are not producing a print product of any sort (yet), so our primary audience right now is folks who are willing to read our work online.  

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What is your biggest regret?

My biggest regret is holding back because I was afraid I didn’t have all the skills I needed, and the dream/article/project might fail. I still have to remind myself every day that life is too short to hold back when you have a dream!

What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had given you?

Trust your gut, stand up for yourself, and find a mentor (or two, or three). I have a circle of trusted mentors I go to for advice. Some are older, some are wiser, some are just really good listeners. Don’t burn bridges, especially in a small city – I give my students that advice daily – and keep a good heart through all the hustle. Be a person. Make time for the people you love, even when your career is demanding all of your energy. Also, don’t forget to sleep. Four hours per night is insane, not a badge of honor. And marry well! My husband, Pete, is my biggest supporter. Without him, I wouldn’t/couldn’t do all of this. (I definitely wouldn’t eat delicious dinners most nights…)

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(lettering by Joanna Stacy*(also Stacy’s sister), see her portfolio HERE)

What is your favorite part of what you do?

All of it, really. I’ve never been happier in my career than I am right now. It still kind of amazes me that my professor role and my creative roles allow me to earn money for things I love to do: create, mentor, pass along my love for media, meet new people, work with talented collaborators, and make Rochester an even more awesome place to live and work. I always had a lot of dreams that weren’t guaranteed to “pay the bills,” but my parents encouraged me to pursue them anyway. Now, I get to encourage others to do that and give other young dreamers opportunities. It’s such a cool, full circle feeling.

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Name some of your favorite local creatives/small business owners.

Can I say Sarah Knight!? This project is pretty amazing! Honestly though, I admire the many young professionals who are running their own businesses in town, especially when I see them partner with a good cause or organization and give back to the community. I think the millennial generation is vastly underestimated when it comes to both our smarts and our hearts.

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