By Sadie Maeda
Welcome to the latest installment of MAHFIA.tv’s interview segment, MAHFIA Spotlight! We interview different women in the industry, from athletes to photographers/filmers, industry leaders, influencers, and other rad people supporting women in action sports. More than just a celebration of their accomplishments, we take a deeper look into how they got to where they are, including life changing moments, fears, and inspiration. By shedding light on women who are pushing our community forward, we hope to inspire and empower you all to get out there and go for it.
With more than 15 years of experience in graphic design and branding in the outdoor industry, Margo Stoney has been working tirelessly to use her creative pursuits to make a mark in the outdoor industry. As a firm believer in sharing her passion for design with the world, it is only fitting that Margo Stoney pursues her passions in every aspect of her life. This is why you won’t find her sitting in a typical office because she’s been on the road, making the world her office.
Despite growing up in Michigan, a place not known for their mountains or snow, Margo figured out early on that she wanted to be in the snow and outdoor industry. She was a snowboard instructor for more than five years before she decided to pursue graphic design full time. In 2007, Margo started her own boutique creative studio called High Mountain Creative and she’s been able to work with some big names over the years, with clients including ski resorts, Heavenly and Northstar.
We caught up with Margo and had a chance to learn a little bit more about her journey into the outdoor industry, letting go of social norms and of course the time she met Shaun White!
What jobs have you worked in your life? How did you get into this industry?
I started working as a snowboard instructor when I was 16 at a little ski hill in Michigan called Mt. Brighton, that’s where I sort of got hooked on being on “the inside.” When I was a senior in high school, I took a graphic design class and from that point on, I knew I wanted to use design and snowboarding together as a way to build a career. In 2005, I was studying graphic design in college and working tirelessly to land an internship in the snowboard industry. I went through the Snowboarder Magazine Buyer’s Guide and pulled addresses of every snowboard company in there and sent them my resume until I finally got a response from Never Summer Snowboards in Denver. I was 19 and eager as heck, I started off vacuuming and taking trips to the post office until I finally got the nerve to show Jeremy, the art director, my portfolio. The next day, he gave me a t-shirt design to work on and I sort of transitioned from the coffee-fetching intern to a graphic design intern. I’m still so grateful for the opportunity because it gave me street credit on so many levels. After college, I spent nearly ten years doing design ski resorts, ski companies and resort publishing.
What are you most proud of in your career thus far?
All the risks I’ve taken and ultimately survived. I’ve quit a lot of steady, well-paying jobs and made a lot of iffy career moves and I’m somehow still alive and paying my bills.
What has been your favorite project you’ve worked on? In 2012, I was working for Heavenly Mountain in Lake Tahoe and was asked to create the branding and event creative for High Roller Hold ‘Em. It was a big poker-themed big air event hosted by SPT and Shaun White. I was so stoked, I designed custom playing cards, poker chips, the poker dealer’s jacket, everything. The highlight was seeing Shaun White sign the poster I designed for a little girl in the crowd. Totally geeked out.
Who is someone you would like to work with that you haven’t yet?
I feel like this is always changing for me. I’ve always wanted to do work for Patagonia, Dakine or Burton, to me, they’re iconic brands that would really make me feel like I was leaving my mark on the industry. I also really love the smaller brands like Coalition and Niche who are making big statements about women’s snowboarding and eco-friendly hardgoods respectively.
What’s something you wish someone had told you when you were just starting out?
Imagine how hard you think starting your own gig is going to be then multiply it by 100.
If you could skate/snow/surf/hang with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose and why?
I think Tara Dakides or Gretchen Bleiler, they were both huge idols when I was young. I even dyed my hair to look like Tara’s when I was in college (still looking for a photo…ha).
Favorite place you’ve been to? #1 place you want to go to but haven’t yet?
Charmant Ski Resort in Japan was probably the best day of my life. #1 place I’ve yet to visit is New Zealand. I want to ride on all 7 continents!
Who or what has influenced or inspired your career the most?
This is probably cliche, but my friends and family because they are always so encouraging and supportive of my art, career, travels and questionable life choices. It’s really empowering knowing that so many people, near and far, are cheering me on.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
I didn’t take my first trip abroad until I was 27
Describe the last time you laughed so hard you cried? What happened?
Hearing my friend Elisa in Bali talking about “mystic women,” food poisoning and Bintang with her thick Spanish accent. Probably had to be there?
The last time you cried?
Probably last week? I get really stressed out about work about every other week and crying seems to be part of my coping process. Working on it.
The last time you were scared?
Last month. Driving out of the Tetons towards Idaho on Highway 89 after 12” of snowfall towing a 25” trailer. I wasn’t even the one driving.
What do you tell yourself when you are feeling scared or intimidated?
“It’s probably not going to kill you.” I even told myself this before skydiving, because chances are, I’m going to make it through whatever it is and have an awesome story to tell.
Where did you grow up? Do you think there are any characteristics about your hometown or household that shaped who you are?
I grew up in Metro Detroit. I feel like having Midwestern roots set me up with a great foundation – especially the strong work ethic modest mindset. My folks taught me to stick with it (especially Girl Scouts and saxophone when I really wanted to quit) and that has helped me overcome the many many hardships with starting my own gig.
Can you tell us about a pivotal (or “a-ha”) moment in your life? ie) a life changing experience?
When I let go of feeling like I was supposed to accomplish certain things at certain points in my life; the “social norms” i.e. settling down, buying a house, making money. I threw away the mindset of comparing myself to what other people were doing and starting letting myself do what I felt was best for me.
Tell us about a time where you felt super humbled.
Last month at Outdoor Retailer I met a lot of super talented female artists & business owners who had so much passion and drive to make waves in the outdoor industry. I was equally humbled and inspired.
If you couldn’t do your current job, what would your dream job be?
Either a travel agent or environmental scientist.
What is something you would like to see change in your industry?
1) The outdoor and ski industries become less ruled by corporations.
2) Skiing and snowboarding more accessible to everyone. More affordable lift tickets, ski gear and lessons.
What is something you would like to see change in the world?
The way we treat our planet. I’ll leave it at that.
Tell us something you are working right now (can be, a hobby, life skill, etc).
I’ve been traveling full time for over a year. Right now, I’m roadtripping, snowboarding and working around North America in a Airstream Safari with my partner, Isaac. I’m also printing a stamp every day in February and just opened my first online store.
One piece of advice for a girl who is looking to pursue a career similar to yours?
Be different and take chances. Crazy, fun things don’t happen by playing it safe. Remember, you’re probably not going to die.
Any shout outs?
My mom and dad for playing along with all of my questionable life choices. My friends for keeping my going. And Isaac for driving the Airstream into the coldest and scariest roads in the Rockies.
We recently teamed up with Margo on an exclusive t-shirt design to support our friends at Skate Like a Girl, an organization whose mission is to create an inclusive community by promoting confidence, leadership and social justice through skateboarding. The proceeds from the tees went towards supporting the launch Skate Like a Girl’s newest chapter in the San Francisco Bay Area and they were sold exclusively at their skate clinics in the Bay Area. They are now available to purchase online, snag yours here but hurry because we only have a few left!)
If you want to see more of Margo’s work and follow along on her North American road trip, you can follow her on Instagram. To find out more about The High Mountain Creative studio, head over to their website and check out all the creative services they offer!