This is part of a series on West Chester entrepreneurs. Know someone that’s taking an innovative approach to the mantra, “Follow your dream?” I’d love to share their story. Thank you to Benchmark Federal Credit Union for making this expanded content possible.
For about six months now, maybe more, I have been profiling West Chester entrepreneurs. Individuals that have taken a leap – doubled down in pursuit of a dream. So far what has emerged have been stories of side-passions that grew up. Individuals following a path unforeseen – queen of the facepaint, boss of bruschetta, sommelier of cider – but not all are knocked sideways by their passions. A lucky few know what they want early in life and work with laser focus to get there.
That was the case with West Chester native Amy Schneider who knew from an early age she wanted to be a tv newscaster. “When I was about ten years old my grandparents took me to tour The Comcast Network: CN8. We had a family friend who was an anchor there and she let me sit in the studio while they did a live broadcast. I was hooked!” said Amy.
After graduating from Henderson she attended Penn State in pursuit of a journalism degree. While there she worked as a reporter with the Penn State TV Network, served as an on-air host for the Penn State THON fundraiser, and led as President of the Penn State Chapter of the Radio, Television Digital News Association. She was a woman with a mission. After college, she anchored that drive and worked her way up from small market to larger – Macon, GA, to Richmond, VA, to Baltimore, MD until she did it – general assignment desk, substitute anchor for ABC7 in Washington D.C., the ninth largest media market in the United States.
“I was hyper-focused on the TV goal,” Amy says of her early broadcast career. “I was proud of myself for achieving that dream.”
Her responsibilities at ABC7 included covering the news of the day. Sometimes that meant heading out at a moment’s notice to chase down a breaking story. Other times it was incumbent on her to bring the news to her producers. That meant she was always on the lookout for that hidden story to tell. She scrolled social posts for trending topics, chatted with strangers on the streets, and followed up on leads – constantly asking why, who – how?
Each morning she would bring her three best stories to the morning editorial meeting and give her best pitch. Once a topic was selected it was go. “I was essentially a one-man band,” said Amy. She would contact the subject, conduct the interview, shoot the story, gather the B-roll that would give context, write the website and social copy and edit it together – all before the 5 p.m. news.
And so her days went on for 10 years. The schedule was grueling (“Time management was huge,” said Amy) but the work was fulfilling, the stories inspiring, and the reward near instantaneous. During that packed decade she also managed to squeeze in a marriage and the birth of two babies.
“It’s a really great job for a certain chapter in your life,” she said in reflection.
It’s Hard to Settle for Less Than Love
Then COVID-19 hit and things changed. A difficult pregnancy coupled with lockdowns and rising death tolls have a way of making you reaccess things.
“I was always on call. I was so caught up in other people’s stories I was missing my own,” said Amy.
So with a new baby at home, Amy and her husband made a call. They would return home to West Chester to be closer to family. Amy would leave reporting behind and take a job that was a little less demanding. She found a position in the marketing department for a local school. A place where she could put her video storytelling skills to use. Still, it wasn’t easy.
“It was tough in the beginning. I hadn’t lived in West Chester since I left in high school,” she said with a laugh. “Everything I had done was TV news.”
Amy also found it’s not easy after years of doing something you love to settle for something less. She had given up her high-profile TV job for one that was ok. She was closer to family but she still did not have the work-life balance she wanted and her story-telling skills honed from years of digging, pitching, interviewing, and refining were often left laying in wait.
Finding a Way Back on a Path All Your Own
“What am I doing? I had a baby at home. The hours weren’t better. I was doing some of the storytelling but there were so many stories not being told. I wanted to do a deeper dive into telling people stories,” Amy said.
And she knew there was a need, especially among local businesses that often lack the budgets or in-house support to create high-quality compelling videos. “I think people know they need to share their story but there is always this question of how do you do it?” says Amy. So she started looking at another route – one that she would have to carve out herself.
“I am not going to lie,” she says about taking that leap to business owner. “It’s definitely scary. No matter how many spreadsheets I made it was ultimately a leap of faith.”
Today Amy is the founder of Inspire Lens, a media company that helps local businesses share their stories. And while, it may sound cliche, yes, Amy assured me, everyone does in fact have a story to tell. It sometimes just takes a little work to find it.
“Too often we try to just show only the surface level,” she said but a polished social media presence isn’t what breaks through. “Those struggles are what connects us all.”
It’s a lesson that is not lost on Amy who recently brought her third child home from the neonatal intensive care unit after the little miracle arrived at just 28 weeks. “I was going to the NICU every day. My clients were calling – to see how they could help. Where they could bring food. No one asked when they would get their videos. I am so grateful.”
“At the end of the day, no one has a crystal ball. You just have to try to make it happen,” she said. “If you fall down, there are a million other jobs out there. Knowing that I tried. That’s everything.”
The only federal credit union to exclusively serve Chester County, Benchmark FCU provides commercial lending products for local businesses. Clients can count on personalized service, local decision-making, and quick loan turnaround time. Benchmark FCU not only understands your business, but also has the ability to provide a wide range of financial solutions, including term loans and commercial real estate secured lines of credit. We’re ready to be your trusted business banking partner. To learn more about our business banking solutions, visit www.benchmarkfcu.org.
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