#SYP101: Self-starters: Exhausting, but rewarding!

Going it alone may seem like a daunting, perhaps drastic, option. We heard from speakers from two start up companies who were happy to share their experiences of setting up brand new businesses in order to publish exciting, innovative content.

Heather McDaid, one half of 404 Ink, chaired the conversation, while Laura Jones, the other half, sat on the panel. They were joined by Hannah Taylor, founder of She is Fierce. An excellent panel to dive head-first into the world of going solo.

“You can make money on social media.”
She is Fierce is a magazine for creative girls. It stems from a gap in the magazine market, and inspiration from her daughter. She simply did not feel that there were good quality magazines for her daughter’s demographic, and found that frustrating. Frustration is often the trigger of innovation.

404 Ink is a new publisher, which, to date, is responsible for the eponymous literary magazine and Nasty Women, a collection of essays launched earlier this week. It came from her and Heather’s shared belief that marketing could be more exciting in the book world and that no publisher operated exactly how they felt they would.

The discussion then turned to social media, which has played an important role in sparking interest (and raising funds!) for both start ups. “You can make money on social media,” Laura told us emphatically. Hannah led us on a whistle-stop tour of the development of her online brand, stating that when she initially set up social media accounts for her project, she manufactured posts to fit with her brand. These posts gained limited traction; when she changed her approach, posting in a more personal, organic fashion, engagement increased.

So you’ve got a small audience on social media. You have an idea. But how do you make it ‘a thing’? According to Hannah and Laura, crowdfunding has been paramount in transforming both She is Fierce and 404 Ink from intangible plans into physical, paper products. Hannah admitted that she could have, and possibly should have, put more time into research prior to launching her Kickstarter campaign, in which she asked for funds to print and post 300 copies of the first issue. Laura discussed 404 Ink’s decision to launch anonymously, and their excitement as people began to back the concept rather than simply supporting them as friends. Crowdfunding and a good idea that the creators are passionate about are a perfect combination.

Exhausting but rewarding!
Though connections with others in publishing are highlighted as important to those seeking traditional employment, they are perhaps even more important to those looking to go it alone. Both panelists jumped at the opportunity to sing the praises of mentors and helpful contacts. Hannah noted that she had partnered with an old colleague to host an event at Edinburgh Castle, and sung the praises of Fraser Allen, who had provided advice and support. She confided that she still felt that she still had lots to learn about the business side of things. Laura highlighted the importance of collaboration to the 404 Ink brand, and, similarly to Hannah, commented that they had relied heavily on existing contacts for business tips.

Hannah told us that starting a magazine is, unsurprisingly, exhausting, and that advice about picking battles carefully has changed her relationship with working of She is Fierce. However, she also said that she’s glad she dived into creating She is Fierce after having the idea, while Laura pointed out that if you don’t carry your idea out, someone else probably will. Nasty Women is a prime example of this.

So if you have an idea for a publication, hopefully our panel was able to provide some inspiration and advice. Please let us know if you are starting out, as we would love to support new projects.

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