From the May 1999 issue of Startups

Q: I've always wanted to start my own Asian fashion magazine. Where should I start? Should I leave my job for an entry-level position at a big fashion magazine like Glamour, or should I try my hand at a smaller magazine?

A: Your first step is to write a business plan that identifies your market. Determine who your target audience is, its size and the number of potential readers. The U.S. Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov) is a great source of statistical information.

Next, evaluate your competition. Find out which magazines your target audience already reads. "Put together an editorial plan that outlines how your magazine will give them something they can't get in other magazines," says Christy Haubegger, president of Latina, the first bilingual magazine for Latinas in the U.S. Your plan should include a clear editorial vision, with several mock tables of contents that demonstrate your idea is sustainable over a number of issues.

Start-up costs will depend on how many copies you want to print and how you want to distribute them. If you launch in a local area and handle distribution yourself, you could keep the cost as low as a few thousand dollars. If you want to start a national magazine, you can count on spending several million dollars.

The biggest source of revenue for most magazines is advertising. Determine which advertisers are interested in targeting your audience. One way is to find companies already advertising in similar magazines. When looking for investors, Haubegger recommends going to existing magazine companies that have the infrastructure to make your start-up more cost-effective.

Experience, whether at a large or small magazine, is a definite plus; it will help your start-up go smoothly. "If you can get an internship at a magazine and work in all the departments--editorial, circulation, production and advertising--you'll have a better picture [of what it takes] to start your own business," says Haubegger.

Resources include:

  • Starting and Running a Successful Newsletter or Magazine by Cheryl Woodard (Nolo Press, $24.94, 800-846-9455) offers comprehensive guidelines to starting your own magazine.
  • The Magazine Publishing Industry by Charles P. Daly, Patrick Henry and Ellen Ryder (Allyn & Bacon, $22, 800-666-9433) covers topics such as advertising, marketing, circulation principles, production and editorial techniques.
  • The Magazine Publishers of America is the industry association for consumer magazines. It provides information on advertising, government affairs and development. For more information, visit http://www.magazine.org
  • Folio (http://www.foliomag.com): This magazine contains information on the business of magazines, including current trends and industry news. Call (800) 775-3777 for subscription information.

Chain Reaction

What's the first thing you need to do to expand your business and make it available for franchising?

First, make sure your business can be franchised. Does it provide an adequate return on investment to franchisees? Can it be replicated? Does it have a competitive edge? "It's not enough to be profitable," says Donald Boroian, CEO of Francorp Inc., a management consulting firm that specializes in franchise development, and author of The Franchise Advantage (National Best Sellers, $30, 800-FRANCHISE). "In order to justify franchising, you must have accounting, marketing and operational elements in place."

Once you've made the decision to franchise, develop a strategic plan. According to Mark Siebert, president of Siebert & Associates in Homewood, Illinois, you should figure out whom you're going to hire and when, how much you'll pay them, and what levels of service and support you'll provide to franchisees so you can determine your costs.

Under federal franchise law, you need a franchise agreement and a Uniform Franchise Offering Circular (UFOC). In addition, 13 states have franchise regulations that require filing or registering with the state. You also need to put together operations manuals and marketing materials for franchisees that detail every aspect of operations, including technology, management, financial issues and marketing. Because franchising is complex, have an attorney experienced in franchise law assist you.

Here are some resources to help you:

  • Siebert & Associates is a franchise consulting firm that can be contacted at (708) 957-8875.
  • Francorp's consultants provide development programs, including feasibility studies, legal documents, operations manuals and marketing materials. You can obtain a free information booklet by calling (800) FRANCHISE.

Contact Sources

Francorp Inc., 20200 Governors Dr., Olympia Fields, IL 60461, (800) FRANCHISE

Latina, http://www.latina.com

Siebert & Associates, mcsiebert@aol.com