Thanks to Facebook, I was reminded of my first business, MIX IT UP magazine this morning. Not that I could forget my first business. It’s just been so many years & having a reminder from Facebook showing me a photo of my first issue in my newsfeed is pretty awesome!
The timing couldn’t be more perfect as I continuously reflect on the things that I’ve done and the things that I am building for my current business. I’ll start at the beginning and walk you through the challenges I faced in my first business – showing you my journey in hopes it will motivate and inspire you to pursue your next business idea.
Back in 2008, a year before graduating college, I had been working on the school newspaper “The Star” as the Photo Editor. While I love Sonoma County and the amazing life I have here, at the time I had been dreaming about moving to New York and working for Men’s Health. Aw! That was the dream! Who hasn’t fantasized about moving to the big city and living the dream?
The only problem with this is that I live in reality, watching my expenses, and had everything set up here. So, at the time I decided…why not create my own magazine here at home? It all started with my idea and this book “Starting & Running a successful Newsletter or Magazine. I read the book, and before I knew it, I was taking my first big risk and started my own business.
Remember this was 2008 and print was slowly “dying” however, one of my requirements was to print my magazine. I didn’t care what it took I wanted to print my magazine. There’s something about having a magazine in your hand – flipping the pages, marking them, ripping them out and pinning them to a bulletin board or filing them away into a binder. Sure it would be easier to throw it up online, but I felt that wasn’t going to give me the full experience. That’s how much I wanted it in my hands, not just on a device.
As I continued to pursue this business idea of starting a magazine, I was still working two part-time jobs during the day while attending school. I would work on the magazine between my breaks and late into the evenings. Then one Thanksgiving at a family friend’s house, I ran into somebody who happened to be a graphic designer and had wanted to start his own magazine but hadn’t yet. We teamed up and I was able to hire him as my designer. Everything continued to fall into place so I knew I had to continue and see where this would take me.
I did my research on all the different magazines that appealed to young adults (which I consider 18 to 35). I would go into Barnes & Noble and look at all the different magazines that caught my eye looking at what kind of layouts they had and what I preferred. I made a binder full of examples and sections that I wanted for my magazine. I met with business advisors from SCORE (a free service that allows you to meet with professionals to discuss moving forward in your business ideas). I met with some college teachers who I had good relationships with and who knew about marketing and advertising. I was advised not to do print because it cost too much and people are all going online. I was, however, determined to experience the full process.
I did everything from picking the stock (the paper) the magazine would be printed on to finding writers and photographers I could feature in exchange for using their images to laying the magazine out to hiring the designer, local printer and distributor. Believe it or not, after getting things in order I even started to design T-shirts and line up a couple concerts. Amazingly, for my first issue (featured above), I was able to connect via MySpace (told you it was awhile back) with the band manager for Thriving Ivory. At that time, the band was VH1’s #1 artist for “You Oughta Know.”
Everything came together and I ran the magazine for 2 years during which I published four issues. Two of those issues were printed and all four are online here. I created apparel, connected with amazing people, made cold calls to advertisers on my breaks (almost got Adidas & Buckle), put on a concert at my college featuring Thriving Ivory, hosted 2 release parties without having to pay for the space and made it happens all while finishing school and working 2 part-time jobs. If I can do it, you certainly can too!
How did I do this? Here are a few of my secrets:
- Be passionate about your idea
- Do your research
- Give value
- Teamwork = SUCCESS
- Think outside the box
- Be aware
- Take advantage of the opportunities around you.
- When I was in school, I took advantage of checking in with students, using the magazine as my senior project, getting others to help me and use it for their senior project. Once out of school I went back and pitched my business to a marketing class and was able to get a group of students to help as they worked on their project. I was able to network and think outside the box in order to get space for my release parties at 2 different downtown locations without having to pay for the rented space.
By now you are probably wondering if I made any money off of the magazine? The simple answer is no. The whole set up from the start was to offer a free magazine that would be supported by ads. Since I did not get enough advertising I did not make enough money. The experience was by far more than I could’ve ever asked for though. The skills, knowledge, and product proved that I can do this. I can be an entrepreneur. I have it in my blood and I just have to take the risk knowing it will work out. I have no regrets whatsoever.
How much did I spend? I would estimate it was about $20,000 in the two-year period. It was my first big expense and I knew that I wanted to pay it off as quickly as possible. I spent the next two years working hard to pay off the debt and I did! I was debt-free after 2 years but I worked my butt off!
It all worked out the way it was supposed to and lead me to the next project. That next project allowed me to travel to New York a few times a year. It was fantastic! I only had one client at the time while working a few part-time jobs who would fly me out for a week at a time to help with the business. Sure they could have hired anyone to help out especially someone in the city close to them, but they didn’t. They felt comfortable with me and knew I would get the job done. You see it’s not always about the expense. It’s about the quality of work that you do and what you bring to the table that makes you stand out. My clients know that I work hard to get the results they need. My job is to help keep them on top of things – making sure they stick to their goals and daily tasks.