Timing means a lot when it comes to starting a business — striking when the iron is the perfect amount of hot tends to help things along. So in 2010, when print publications around the world were shedding staff and circulation, very little about the climate screamed “perfect time to start a magazine.”
As it happens, though, that was the year The East Nashvillian magazine published its first issue. And while 2016 (and the years in between) hasn’t been any more friendly to print journalism than 2010 was, the hyperlocal Nashville publication continues to thrive. Its annual issue celebrating East Nashville’s Tomato Art Festival is about to hit stands, and it includes expanded circulation — it’s slated to hit 45,000 eyeballs in print form alone, and considering the mag is focused on a small subsect of a mid-sized city, that’s mighty impressive.
So, there’s timing, but there’s also recognizing a need/want in the marketplace — which is exactly what magazine cofounders/longtime East Nashvillians Chuck Allen and Lisa McCauley did. Even in a complicated time for media, they saw a uniquely tight-knit community with a hunger for a community voice, and created — and sustained — that voice.
We’re big fans of the publication (and, as it happens, our team is made up of East Nashvillians, and one of our team members is an EN contributor), so we reached out to Chuck to get some of his thoughts on the complex path to entrepreneurship.
The Skillery: From your perspective, how do you know if entrepreneurship is a good fit for you?
Chuck Allen: “You must be a self-starter — no one's gonna do it for you. You must be willing to own your mistakes and learn from them. There's a lot of 'work is life' involved, so be realistic about the demands starting and owning a business will place on your life.”
Can you tell us about the process of making the decision — and ultimately taking action — to launch your own business?
“If I'd known what I was getting myself into, I probably wouldn't have done it.
“The decision wasn't complicated. My partner came in one day a said, ‘I want to start a magazine,’ and I said, ‘Sure! If you can sell enough advertising to print the first issue, we'll do it.’ She did, and we were off and running."
What do you feel like is the biggest challenge you face as an entrepreneur, and how do you work past it?
“People. People can be very difficult. You begin to appreciate the need to delegate things — to keep you at arm's length from people in certain situations. It's hard to be both the 'good cop and the 'bad cop.' A good example that my partner has faced would be sales and accounts receivables. Maintaining a positive relationship with a client can be tricky when she has to chase them down for payment.
“Be prepared for negative people and try not to take things personally. That might sound easy, but when it's your baby it can be really challenging."
If there’s one thing about the process of starting your business that you could go back and change, what would it be?
“The name, which puts too many constraints on growing our business; and the logo, which is long and horizontal, and is difficult to use in certain applications. At the time, we had no idea our business would take flight the way it did. The brand is important, so give it some thought and anticipate success."
Are there any resources you’d recommend — publications, writers, organizations, events, etc. — to help aspiring entrepreneurs get a handle on how (and if) to take the leap?
“First of all, trust your heart and your instincts, and do it out the passion you have for whatever it is you want to do. If it feels right, immerse yourself in any information available on what you want to do. Talk to people you respect about how they've done it, but don't go around telling everyone what you're ‘going’ to do — it takes the power out of it, in some weird way.
“Engage with the world in which you want to live and start your business. Success takes commitment, so you'd better like the neighborhood."
Big thanks to Chuck for sharing some entrepreneurial thoughts. Thinking about a Nashville entrepreneur we should talk to? We welcome suggestions. Hit us in the comments!