Well can you believe it? It’s that’ time of year again – another 6 months of Intrepid Magazine’s existence has gone by. We’re now 1.5 years old and at the time of writing we’re pulling together Issue 10.
I think I’m going to keep doing these reviews for a while. It makes a really interesting tracker of how a startup grows and evolves. Plus it’s a really insight into what it’s like to build something from nothing. If you’re reading this, thinking of starting a business, then take heed! I knew that starting a business would be tough. I’ve read all the books. I bet you have too. They all tell you how much hard work it is for so long. I went in to it aware. But actually physically living through that time and those struggles is quite something else.
Homing in on the Details
I have been reading a book recently that talks about detail. Detail is the thing we forget over time, yet it can be the most interesting and telling aspects of a story. So I’m going to approach this review a little differently to the last two. Sure, we’ll talk about the highs and the lows, the past, present and future. But the more specifics I can include, the better.
For example, here’s half a post I wrote right at the beginning of the magazine. I didn’t share it because I was scared people would think I was failing or unreliable or… I don’t know. Here it is anyway.
[Emily: I wrote this in December 207 and the second deadline I refer to is the second I’d set myself for printing the first ever issue of the magazine]
I was running late for my second print deadline. Literally. I’d missed the first a few days ago and was now jogging across town to catch the next. It was already dark as I ran through the slightly icy park, past groups of loitering teenagers playing loud music.
In the industrial estate, I found the right building. There was a blue “Closed” sign hanging in the door window, but the lights were on. I tried the door and it was open.
“Hello!” I called.
“WOOF WOOF WOOF…”
“WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF!” The barking got louder and louder as the dog sprinted from one end of the warehouse to the other. Luckily, there was a baby gate across the doorway into the office. I’m okay with dogs, significantly better since looking after a friend’s. Now I don’t impulsively wash my hands every time I’ve touched one. Although, having helped on SARDA training once, I’d rather not have a dog charging headlong into me.
“WOOF WOOF WOOF…”
After the manic fluff-ball had been yapping at the child gate for a while, a man appeared. This was Chris, the chap I’d been emailing over the past couple of months. We’d never met before.
I’m always worried about how surprised people will be when they meet me. In business, it seems that everyone assumes you’re at least 30. I’m 24 but I have the kind of face that gets asked if I’m sure I want an adult bus ticket every now and again. In life I find it entertaining (except when I was 19 and got ID-ed for PVA glue) but I worry in a business situation that people are looking at me thinking, “Who is this kid?”
Anyway, luckily Chris took it completely in his stride. We set to taking a look at the magazine pdf and talking about bleeds and margins.
“How long have you been thinking about doing this?” he asked.
I’m honestly not very sure. It can’t have been much earlier than September. The idea hadn’t even occurred to me at the start of August. But I thought I’d better pick something long-ish.
“About 6 months.”
He raised his eyebrows, “You don’t hang about.”
Well, maybe I don’t. Carpe Diem and all that…
What’s Happened in the Last 6 Months?
Okay, so what’s been going on since the last time I wrote one of these reviews? Well, let’s start with a list and then I’ll talk:
- We changed our printer and some of the paper spec
- We changed our fulfilment process
- Rosie came on board to pioneer the blog
- Rosie’s now left us to go on adventures and Eve has taken over from her
- I went on the first “official” press trip that Intrepid Magazine has been invited to
- The test team has been getting better and more slick
- A bunch of us went camping on Dartmoor!
- Thanks to enough people asking, digital issues are now downloadable
- The emails I receive have generally changed in tone…
Right, let me explain that last one first. I used to avoid opening my Intrepid Magazine email account for fear of what I’d find in there. It was ridiculous, I know. But every time I opened it, I’d feel like I’d walked into a room of people shouting at me to do things. This (thank heavens) has now subsided.
Why is it less bad now? Well a few things have really helped. I’ve set up automatic induction emails that answer the biggest questions people have when they subscribe. It sets expectations on both sides. Updating the contributor guidelines regularly has helped to answer most of the questions I used to get. Not everyone reads them, but progress has been made! Also streamlining and improving processes has really helped too.
What’s even nicer is every now and again, someone sends an email saying how the magazine has done something good for them. It’s inspired them to do something, or given them the courage to apply for something. I’ve actually started a special folder called “Thank you Emily”, so I can read through them when I feel like quitting.
The Print Process
Losing money is stressful. It is particularly stressful when you’re living with your parents and supposed to be saving up for a house or something. Instead you’re pouring your salary into something that’s eating time and cash. On the flip side, very few businesses make a profit in their first year. Never mind their second. But with things afoot in my personal circumstances, I needed some sort of security. We had to at least have a chance of breaking even.
So, I did the very unpleasant task of sitting down with a spreadsheet and seeing how much of a loss we were making. Then set out to find a cheaper solution, without compromising too much on the high quality style of the magazine. The solution did two things. It took control of printing back directly into my hands and actually made the magazine easier to read with a matt interior finish.
For why getting that control back was so important read what happened in: 3 Adventure Festivals in One Weekend?
The first time we switched was a stab in the dark. There were printing issues because it was the run up to Christmas. The interior print quality was different, so it might have come as a bit of a shock to readers (although they knew we were doing it). And – on the subject of detail – the planned fulfilment solution for that issue fell through. I ended up hand addressing 150 envelopes and then taking them down the post office myself. The ladies behind the counter knew me very well by the end of that afternoon (and hoped never to see me again!).
The second issue of 2019 was fulfilled properly. It’s taken us until now to get that ironed out and slick. There were problems with the way data was transferred, so the process was really slow. Now, we seem to have got it – although I have a sneaking suspicion that the envelopes still aren’t right for fitting through everyone’s door.
Online vs Digital
At the start we labelled the “not-print” version of the magazine as Online. This is mostly because you had to log in to an account to read it. But this was becoming rapidly confusing with the invention and expansion of the Intrepid Magazine blog. So, in the last 6 months, I changed over everything from “online” to “digital”. This digital library is still available to view online if you log in, but you can download copies now too. I was a bit scared to do this, but so many people emailed me asking if why they couldn’t take the digital version on an adventure with them that I capitulated. I like the idea of someone reading the digital version in a tent far from civilisation.
The blog is still a bit of a work in progress. I think we need to be careful not to overlap content between the magazine and the blog too much. My vision is to have is as a place for time-sensitive content, adventure announcements and opinion pieces. Basically things that are worth talking about, but don’t fit into the long-form slow process of a print magazine.
Where are we right now?
Okay, so that’s what’s changed. Now let’s have a snapshot of where Intrepid Magazine is right now that I can look back at and compare.
- 752 people on mailing list
- 185 subscribers (139 of these are Print subscribers)
- 10 issues have gone to print so far
- 96 pages in each magazine – or as close as we can
- 1044 followers on Twitter
- 161 followers on Facebook (805 people in the Group)
- 472 followers on Instagram
That’s probably enough numbers for now! The social media accounts are very new, except Twitter and the Facebook Group. No one on the team has the time to dedicate to doing it properly. It’s on my to do list!
In terms of details, our email list (the Adventure Bulletin) has grown really well. Remember that started from zero less than a year ago. I distinctly remember thinking that there is absolutely no way I have enough time to produce a weekly email newsletter… then doing it anyway. Some things you just have to make happen.
We lost a lot of original print subscribers at the beginning of 2019. The original subscribers were on a yearly renewal. When we switched to monthly, I said I’d honour the subscription to the end of the year. Then I sent out an email warning about cancellation in January and how to resubscribe. Most people probably didn’t see the email. We lost about half of our then subscribers.
It was a big blow at the time, but it dramatically simplified finding addresses to send the magazines to – only one type of subscription means only one export! The numbers have been creeping back up again, so I hope we’ve recovered.
What does life look and feel like behind the magazine? Well here are some very normal occurrences. Commissioning the magazine from wherever I happen to be: like a hotel room in Ireland. I had to get up an hour early on the press trip to finish the job after staying up late the night before. So I guess it was sometime between a day of hiking and a day of watersports.
Forgetting about the test team commissioning and then having to do it on a train. It’s been much better this year now that I have a scheduled calendar made up for the whole year, but dates do still creep up on me still. I feel like I do a lot of things on the way somewhere – on trains and buses. But then I suppose that is how the first issue of Intrepid Magazine was pulled together mostly: on a dark winter commute by bus.
Where are you going?
I get asked this quite a bit and I still don’t have a measurable goal for the magazine. Sure I’d love it to become the go-to place for women in adventure. But that’s not measurable really. I could get all serious about targets and maybe I will. The only key target I have right now is to make it sustainable in terms of finance.
Beside that, I have lots of ideas I’m exploring. Growing the free online content is already happening. The main body of the website is in iteration 2 since we started. I think it’s time for iteration 3. Tightening up on our social media would be great. I guess that’s always an ongoing process for any small business. Smooth things out, tighten up the processes, make everything slick and wonderful.
In terms of new things, I would dearly love to make some t-shirts. We did some for the magazine launch and – although I tried unsuccessfully to do buffs fairly early on – I think it’s time to try again. They will have to be drop shipped though because I just don’t have the capacity for posting things on time!
The other little idea I have (which is actually quite exciting and secret) is to do with helping people get a leg up in the world of freelance writing. Maybe even in other creative industries too – as long as they tie in to the adventure industry. Watch this space for the Intrepid Magazine Creator Programme…
Entrepreneurship can be a lonely business. If you’re also starting something up, feel free to share your experiences in the comments.