I didn’t mean to launch a business. I just wanted to solve a problem that I saw - a problem that, if I’m honest, felt mostly applicable to myself and made me feel a little hopeless. Like the sky wasn’t the limit. I suppose when I decided to do it, it was through a type of selfish self-indulgence. But I knew that I wasn’t unique enough to be the only one with this problem; in fact, I know a lot of women who faced the same problem as me.
They were all emerging female writers, most of them at the very start of their writing journey, and none of them felt they could get their work published.
I want my work to be published, I said to myself. I want my fellow female writers’ work to be published. I want to build their and my confidence so that Salomé is on the start of their journey. I want to improve their and my writing. I want to be paid for my work. I want to see more women getting their work published. Absurdly, about 25% of published authors are female currently.
So I did it.
I don’t mean I did it over time. I don’t mean I stewed over the idea for months, making minuscule tweaks. I just did it. This was the timeline in the first ten weeks, from February to April this year:
Week 1: I had the idea for an online literary magazine for emerging female writers.
Week 2: I called it Salomé (because she’s fierce), I assembled a steering committee of 12 female writers, I built the website and we put the word out for submissions.
Week 3: We opened submissions.
Week 7: We closed submissions.
Week 9: Myself and a reading panel chose the pieces we were to publish, we designed and created the magazine and I decided to expand to print; I made a limited print run of 50 copies (which soon ran out!).
Week 10: We released our first issue and marked it with a packed launch party.
From concept to go-live in 10 weeks. From a project to a profit-making business in 10 weeks.
So, how did I achieve something which makes people’s jaws drop open in awe a little when I tell them eight weeks after we began to exist I could hold our first issue magazine in print? Is it because I’m a fantastic entrepreneur? I am a good entrepreneur; Salomé has taught me this valuable lesson (and this is my second business, not my first).
But our early success is not something that isn’t replicable. My key action points to rapidly move from concept to profit-making business are:
Know your values. I am a social entrepreneur. I created Salomé to solve a social problem and meet a social need. I made sure I wrote these down and vowed to never diverge from them. That is why we pay our writers but wouldn’t change for submissions (a classic magazine business model). That is why we write feedback. Our magazine, unlike most, exists for the writers first and foremost. But is is what it is today because of both the readers and the writers.
Lead with your revenue model. I’ve never written a business case or a business model in my life. Many would say this is a cardinal sin as all good entrepreneurs lead with a business model. The first thing I did, after having the idea and defining our values and goals, was to create a revenue model and forecasts, independent of a business model. Both of these have changed over time but this doesn’t matter. A company that doesn’t make a profit won’t last; I wanted Salomé to last. Your revenue model can drive the way you run your business and the decisions you make.
Gather people who care. My steering committee are my everything. I didn’t know, and hadn’t met, 90% of them when we started working together. I only met all of them last week, three months in. We communicate via WhatsApp and email. We never meet as a steering committee, unless it’s to go for a drink or to the theatre and then it’s not about the magazine. Yet, Salomé would not be as successful without them. They are twelve women who care deeply and contribute with their passion and their hearts first. If something happened to me, I would trust them to run the business.
Be impatient. Yes, you could take your time and release the first issue after six months. Or you could get impatient and put your best product out there as soon as possible; your MVP. There is no room for perfectionism in the early stages of startup life. Impatience isn’t always a bad thing, though I do say that as a highly impatient person. But, for a while, challenge yourself not to give yourself a break. You might surprise yourself with what you can achieve.
Be different to everyone else. Know your differences. If there’s aren’t any, create some. Success doesn’t tend to come via replication, unless you’re lucky enough to steal back market share. Know your USP and then guard it and promote it with your life. Tell the world why you’re special.
“Few things make me as happy as my magazine“
Lastly, please just have fun with it. Luckily for me, the stakes are low when it comes to Salomé. It was a mini brainwave that I had one day and I decided to take a punt on it. I wanted it to work but I didn’t intend for it to be my livelihood and I had a salary otherwise. Now there is more pressure because I am emotionally attached and sometimes I do dream of it becoming my career. But if Salomé ended tomorrow, I’d come away with quite a few quid in my pocket and three and a half months of fond memories. However, few things make me as happy as my magazine, my Salomé. Few things satisfy me quite so. Few things keep me as stimulated. And, hand on my beating heart, I love it. And sometimes, Salomé feels just like my heartbeat.
Jacquelyn Guderley is the Founder of Salomé. She’s an ardent social entrepreneur, this being her second business (she cofounded Stemettes, an award-winning social enterprise, inspiring girls into STEM careers). She also took part in the OnPurpose leadership programme, which creates new leaders in the social enterprise space. In her spare time she likes to write and play sport a lot.