I’m sitting across from Amy Hafen, Owner and President of MediaFast, in the company’s conference room.
It’s June 1, 2023, and she has just completed an unexpected phone call from one of her clients. Based on what I could hear, they’ve had a bigger response to their video mailers sooner than they expected, and they’ve asked her for advice on how to manage it all without letting the hot leads cool off. Sounds like a great problem to have… And a Zoom call with her and their team has been scheduled.
Anyway, in this interview, my hope is to get some nuggets from her that will shed some light on why MediaFast is so successful. Getting to know her better should be fun as well.
John’s Question: Reflecting back to when you were a kid, can you think of anything that planted a seed to help you achieve such great success in your adult worklife—being Owner and President of MediaFast?
Amy’s answer: First off, thank you. I appreciate the compliment. And to answer your question, probably lots of things, but one that stands out is when my dad, who’s an entrepreneur, said to me, “Amy, you can be anything you want if you’re willing to work hard enough.” And as a little girl, I believed him.
John’s Question: Can you share a little more about your childhood?
Amy’s answer: Okay, yes. I was the oldest of six kids. I was a rule-following, straight-A student who struggled with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder—just had a hard time focusing—and I really enjoyed talking to people. Understanding big concepts was something I liked as well, and I was always really good at math. I also did theater and choir, and I was Mrs. Highland and first runner-up in the Junior Miss Utah Pageant.
John’s Question: That’s awesome! Clearly you’re driven, and I’m thinking not many people know those things about you. So, what about education? Did you go to college?
Amy’s answer: Yes, but I dropped out 3 years in because I felt like my professors were dumb—not to be harsh—but they were using ledgers instead of QuickBooks back in the 90s and I was like You guys are teaching an old fashioned way. I was also working full-time to put myself through college. So, I was frustrated and I dropped out 3 years into a business degree and decided to go to work and pave my own way in life.
John’s Question: Looking back, since you didn’t know how things were going to go, what happened during the next several months after you dropped out of college?
Amy’s answer: Yeah, that was an interesting time. Okay, so not long after I decided college wasn’t the right path for me to stay on, Bart Howell contacted me. I already knew him because he was a customer at one of the companies I’d worked for and he had offered me a job once. I turned him down, though, because I’m loyal and was happy where I was at. But this time, my circumstances were different—the company I was working for had gone out of business and I found myself working part-time for the owner of that company, basically being a personal assistant, but I needed more. So, one day when I came home, I saw Bart’s name on the caller ID and I thought Oh my gosh. Bart’s going to offer me a job again.
Then I called him back and Bart was like, “Amy, how are you?”
Just a little more backstory: Bart is old enough to be my dad. In fact, his son, Scott, took me to prom when I was 16 and we graduated together, so it was like…really easy for us to talk. Anyway, after he asked me why I was calling, I said something like, “Well, I saw you called and I was hoping you were calling to offer me a job again.”
And he said, “Oh, actually… No. Scott is getting married and he was calling to get your address to send you a wedding invitation.”
And I was like, “Oh… Well, I’ll give you the address, but that’s too bad (about the job part).”
And he goes, “Well, you know what… I’ll find something for you.”
Then Bart hired me to work part-time on the Billy Blanks Tae Bo video cassette campaign that his company was managing. They tracked logistics and stuff for all the trucks that were delivering to Target stores all over the country, and I believe that was in April of 1999.
Then, before long, Bart promoted me from being a part-time assistant project manager to being a full-time project manager. And not long after that, he had me managing all of his accounts and moved me into management.
John’s Question: Nice! Climbing the ladder… It sounds like you made it into management fairly quickly, but how long was it until you bought the company from him?
Amy’s answer: Something like 14 years, but we had talked about it for a long time. How it went was that Bart invested in another company that required his day-to-day attention, so he would spend his days there. Coincidentally, MediaFast was a customer of that other company so we had daily interaction, but the day-to-day business at MediaFast at that time was run by me. He put me in charge when he stepped away.
Then, when that venture kind of petered out and he came back, that’s when we discussed his retirement that would eventually happen and he really wanted me to take over and buy the company from him. It went something like… One day Bart said to me, “You know, I think when I retire… Would you be interested in buying the company?” And I said, “Yeah… Yeah, I think I would.”
It was something that I was excited about, and it just felt natural and right, but we weren’t in a hurry. I loved working with him. We made a great team, and so it just evolved over time… And then at some point years later, Bart said to me, “Amy, it’s time.” And it was time.
Then we drafted legal agreements, which was a process in and of itself—when there’s a buy/sell with two parties who really care for each other—and I bought the company in January of 2013. That was just a formality though. It had been talked about for years, and we knew that that was the plan.
Honestly, it was a bitter-sweet experience for me. Bart and I still get together and have lunch often and discuss MediaFast and other adventures in our lives. He’s at our annual Christmas parties and other parties, and sometimes he comes to meetings with associates as well. His retirement is full of grandchildren and Harley riding, and he’s still the heart and soul of this company. The foundation he built is strong. It’s something that I feel like we continue to build up and build on every day.
John’s Question: I bet that was exciting, especially at such a young age. I’m guessing you were in your mid-thirties… So, can you elaborate on how that felt?
Amy’s answer: Oh yeah… I was excited, to put it mildly. And by the way, during all of this, I had adopted two children because I have polycystic ovary syndrome, which is PCOS, so the doctors told me I probably wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. I was also on the national adoption board—I have a passion for adoption—and then when our second adopted child was 8 months old, I found out I was 3 months pregnant. That was an aerobic shock! Then a couple years later, I found out I was pregnant again, which means I have four children after only expecting to adopt two and never actually be pregnant myself. Four kids in six years, and that was a crazy, wild ride—working here through all of that.
John’s Question: I’d say. Sounds like it. That’s a lot! So, how did the transition go?
Amy’s answer: Well, when my youngest was in school somewhere around 2013, that’s when Bart retired and I bought the company. He was excited to do other things, and it just seemed like the right time for both of us.
Seriously, that 14 year stretch was a huge adventure. And turning it into a global company over the next 11 years has been a huge adventure as well.
John’s Question: I think a huge adventure is an understatement. And turning MediaFast into a global company is amazing! I know you’re not one to take all the credit though. Can you share some things with us that helped you do it?
Amy’s answer: Oh, definitely. And no, I can’t take all the credit.
If anything, I’ve heard lots of advice through the years. Like one thing someone said that really stuck with me is that you don’t have to know everything. You just need to have people in the room smarter than you to ask questions to, and I feel like that’s been very important to our success—to make sure I have people in the room who want to be there and who are smarter than me, and it’s paid off big-time.
Also, watching and trying to move with the market has been important.
John’s Question: Without a doubt, I’m sure both of those things have contributed greatly to your and MediaFast’s success. I think you do get credit, though, because without you, who’s to say any of this would have happened… Can you share some things about the team you’ve created here?
Amy’s answer: Definitely, we have a great team. I think the key here is to really value the MediaFast family. We all know that if we take care of our people and prioritize our suppliers who help us provide the products and services we offer, the customers will come because we have this culture of kindness and caring. Service is obviously important to us, and we really care about the results that our clients get.
And about our leadership team, we don’t have time for me to go on like I could, but they’re amazing…absolutely wonderful…and I’m so grateful for them. I could also go on and on about how great everyone else is who works here, but like I said, we just don’t have time. They’re all amazing though.
John’s Question: Wonderful, and I know that’s true. Can you elaborate a little more? I can tell looking at you there’s more in there.
Amy’s answer: Oh yeah, there’s definitely more… I’m just so grateful.
Okay, so here’s something that seems to be wired in all of us: Here, it’s not just about the mighty dollar. Really, it seems like it’s magic that comes when you have something you care about more than money.
Yes, money facilitates a lot of things and I definitely know how to read a profit and loss statement and balance sheets. But I think more than anything the pulse of the people making sure our clients, our team, and our partners—our suppliers and manufacturers—are happy is huge. That’s more important than a balance sheet. They obviously have to all do good work and get along, but that perspective has been really rewarding.
John’s Question: Agreed… Great stuff! Okay, so what about you personally? How does it feel when you get a chance to step back and reflect a little?
Amy’s answer: Honestly, sometimes I have to pinch myself because I still feel like I’m this little girl who feels like someday…maybe I’ll do something big.
And now, to be certified as Women Owned with a successful company and a family… I just think…just…just…Wow! I’m so grateful, and it’s really amazing!
I also believe leadership is a service, not a crown. When you have that attitude, people rise up to help you. Taking the credit isn’t something I’m comfortable with because I feel like the only reason I’m here is because of the hands that have reached down to help me learn and progress… They’re still here, and I want to do the same thing for other people. I just believe it’s important for me to support people who are supporting themselves.
John’s Question: Love that! Okay, I feel like I should ask about the COVID 19 years since it seems like we’ve only recently gotten past them. How did all of that impact MediaFast?
Amy’s answer: Well, if there’s something positive that COVID brought, it’s that I’ve seen so many women become more comfortable with being mothers while working, and Zoom calls where it’s okay to say just a second, my child needs to ask me a question or something while not losing their credibility. Instead, they’re able to still feel like they’re experts in their field while being mothers at the same time, and it doesn’t take away from their brilliance in their field. They can intertwine both worlds, and it’s accepted. I couldn’t do that 25 years ago.
In fact, I remember taking a phone call from one of my biggest customers when my three-year-old was being loud because he wanted a popsicle or something and I ran out the front door of my little house with a cordless phone and headset on because I needed to be somewhere quiet. I just needed to be outside, far enough away from the screaming little boy so my customer couldn’t hear him… It’s comical now, but that was real and I was really trying to keep an office persona. Back then, that’s just what you did. Now, that’s been kind of shattered and there’s like a work-from-home-COVID-Zoom-call kind of culture, which is a really good thing in my opinion.
John’s Question: Great points, and I remember those days. Okay, as for MediaFast, most of the people who work here work from home. Can you elaborate on that a little more?
Amy’s answer: Definitely… There’s over 20 of us at MediaFast now and we do have an office, but there’s only four of us who work regularly in it. We also have a big warehouse. The rest work from home mostly, and that was a pre-COVID thing that I’m proud of.
John’s Question: So, COVID did not turn MediaFast into a work-from-home company?
Amy’s answer: Correct, it did not. We were already that. In fact, MediaFast didn’t get an office until I bought it because I hired sales guys who wanted to come to an office. We also needed a place to store some of the product because one of our suppliers was no longer able to help us with that. So, we got an office when I bought the company and have had it ever since, but before that we were all just working from home.
We were faxing stuff back and forth like people did during those days, with one person entering everything into QuickBooks because there wasn’t a web version that everybody could access. We were also entering stuff into spreadsheets and sending them to her so she could enter data into this elaborate system we’d created so she could send invoices and receive payments and do accounting… It’s crazy now that we have so much software that connects us all.
John’s Question: Okay, that’s very interesting…and different. So, how long would you say MediaFast has been primarily a work-from-home company?
Amy’s answer: My team has worked from home for pretty much over 30 years now, since 1991, because Bart set it up that way. I’m proud of that, and it has meant that we’ve been able to go to a lot of school assemblies, breakfasts, and a lot of nap-times while providing some really great products and services. We’ve also provided a white-glove, Ritz-Carlton experience for our clients because that’s the commitment we have here.
John’s Question: Nice! Okay, you spoke a bit ago about the MediaFast attitude regarding clients. Can you elaborate on that and customer service?
Amy’s answer: Yes, I’m glad you asked about that… Regarding customer service, we have a foundation that was started by Bart. We try really hard to make sure our clients are taken care of completely. The philosophy here is that we care about results, and we care about making sure that we don’t just deliver a product or service but that we create a great experience from each client’s very first interaction with us to when their products ship. Everyone here has a role in making that experience positive.
Also, one of the phrases we use here often is warm and fuzzy because I feel like for me, warm and fuzzy encompasses how we feel when we’re comfortable and happy… Like if you love your grandma and you go to her house, nothing feels as warm and fuzzy as your grandma’s hug or the smells like when you walk into her kitchen. Or maybe it’s your dad, or maybe it’s your best friend or your partner, but that warm and fuzzy feeling is something everybody recognizes, and we want to give those feelings to our clients in a professional way.
John’s Question: That’s awesome, and I’ve definitely seen it and felt it too. What can you tell us about the MediaFast products other than what they are?
Amy’s answer: Okay… So, the products we sell are an extension of what we believe. I don’t want to sell something that I don’t believe works, and I believe that our products are something that can change the landscape of our client’s success when used appropriately. I feel this way because I think that when we believe that, the warm and fuzzy oozes through the whole experience.
Something else we like to say is that we’re not order takers here. Instead, we’re strategy-building experience-crafting partners with our customers, and that sets us apart from our competitors.
And you know, we have a lot of people who have been here for 10 to 15 years because they want to be, and I’m proud of that.
John’s Question: Gotcha. Okay, when you say you believe that MediaFast products are something that can change the landscape of your client’s success when used appropriately, can you explain that a little more?
Amy’s answer: Yes, definitely. We work with so many clients who just really want to package what they sell in a beautiful way. There’s so many pieces that we can create, and the fact that our products work so well for them is pretty amazing…and fulfilling.
In fact, we haven’t found a client yet that our products don’t work for…and they’re extremely versatile. For instance, from cosmetics and software to movies and Super Bowls, our products are sales tools that nothing works better than.
They’re also great training and educational tools for industries like pharmaceutical, medical, legal, financial…and so many others. It’s amazing all of the things they can do, and it’s fulfilling to sell products that are so useful!
John’s Question: Can you remember your first video brochure sale?
Amy’s answer: Yes, it was a company who sold uniform services. They were celebrating 100 years in business and video brochures just seemed like the perfect sales tool to help them get more clients… And it worked. So grateful for those guys.
John’s Question: And last but not least, what’s something you do for work now that you probably never thought you’d do when you were just starting out? And please don’t say work with computers or cell phones because that’s just too easy—haha!
Amy’s answer: Gotcha—haha. Okay… Well, now I travel to China regularly for work and I can honestly say that’s not something I ever expected. We go there often to visit our suppliers because obviously these pieces are made overseas in the world’s Factory of Asia, and it’s helped us as we’ve created our reach to be global while having partnerships and clients all over. We get a lot of work done on those long flights too…
Having owned Villager Magazine in Utah, I’ve worked in marketing for over twenty years.
I started writing for MediaFast in 2014, and the first time I held a Video Brochure, I instantly thought something like, “This blows away our magazine…and any other print advertising I’ve ever known. It’s like I’m holding a TV commercial in my hands. These things are amazing!”
Since then, Video Brochures, Video Mailers and Video Boxes have become marketing superstars. Writing about them is definitely a privilege, and with regards to MediaFast—with its industry-leading product quality, outstanding customer service, and phenomenal associates—I feel like I couldn’t have picked a better group of people to work with.