Cleveland-based copywriter Maggie Sullivan’s bookshelves are lined with biographies of impactful women like Nora Ephron and Tiffany Haddish. As a non-fiction aficionado, Sullivan has found the books chock-full of useful advice and insights, but while making her way through her collection, she noticed one glaring commonality.
“Most of the books I've read position moving to LA or New York as the first step [for finding success], and that felt misguided,” shares Sullivan. “When I went looking for inspiring stories about local women in Cleveland, I realized there weren’t many.”
Sullivan decided to do something about it, and the recently released Boss Ladies of CLE anthology is the result. Sized appropriately at 216 pages, the new book features 20 Cleveland career women ranging in age from 23 to 64 years old — from Salt+ restaurateur Jill Vedaa to GrooveRyde co-owner Anjua Maximo to Cleveland councilwoman Jasmin Santana. (See the full list of featured Clevelanders here.)
"I wanted to highlight women who’ve succeeded in tech without moving to the hotspot of San Francisco, or women like Valerie Mayen who’ve succeeded in fashion without moving to New York,” says Sullivan, who calls the book equal parts inspirational and aspirational. “I wanted to show what those career paths look like here, and what I learned is that there is no shortage of boss ladies here in this area.”
Though Sullivan initially shopped the book to traditional publishers, she ended up self-publishing through her own nascent imprint, Media Lady Press. The entire process took around one year from concept to completion, and Sullivan handled much of the work herself — from writing to editing to photography to marketing. Sullivan also paired up with local graphic Monica Farag to bring the layout to life.
“I work in communications, so I’m familiar with how to put together printed collateral and materials,” says Sullivan, who works full-time at BrandMuscle. “Having that background gave me the confidence that I would be able to market the project and pull together a printed document that was clean, accurate, meaningful, and felt like a work of art.”
Locally, the book is available at Mac’s Backs-Books on Coventry; Fireside Book Shop in Chagrin Falls; Lion & Blue in Lakewood; and Apricot Lane at Crocker Park, as well as online and available for checkout at Lakewood Public Library.
Looking back on the project, Sullivan is grateful to the 20 “boss ladies” for their participation—which was the product of entirely cold outreach on her part.
"I had no connections to these women, and I have no clout or recognition with them," says Sullivan. "I just kind of went for it, and I don't think I could have done something like this anywhere else but in Cleveland."