h1

Spoonful Magazine: When Passionate Entrepreneurship Is The Prescription For Launching A Magazine, A “Spoonful” Is Definitely The Right Dose – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Kristina Pines, Founder/Publisher, Spoonful Magazine…

June 15, 2017

“The truth is, we didn’t have much time to reflect quietly on the magazine because, as soon as it got printed, we actually had a launch party. I think that I hadn’t even had a chance to read through the entire physical copy of the magazine until after the launch party. At that point, everyone had a copy and everyone was just feeling it. They were feeling that it had a soft-touch glaze and they would smell the pages—there’s something really wonderful about freshly-printed magazines. So they were sniffing it, they were feeling it. There was such a tactile sense to the product that they were literally petting it during the launch party.” Kristina Pines…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

In 2016, Spoonful Magazine was one of Mr. Magazine’s™ picks for the 30 Hottest Magazine Launches of the year. The passion that radiated from the pages of the unique food magazine was palpable. After talking at length with its founder/publisher, Kristina Pines, I now see where the magazine gets its intense warmth and zeal from.

Kristina started the magazine with a group of friends who had one thing in common: they were creatives who had a strong belief and love for the subject matter they were about to launch into the magazine marketplace. While the business side of publishing wasn’t exactly their forte, the entrepreneurial spirit was certainly something they were riding high on. And when you flip through the pages of Spoonful Magazine, you can see and feel the result of Kristina’s dream.

Having grown up in Saudi Arabia, watching her parents open their home to other immigrants that were living and working in the country, home entertaining became second nature to Kristina and the experience has overflowed into the pages of Spoonful. It’s a unique magazine that uses food and home cooking to bring people together. And isn’t that what magazines do best? Bring people into the circle of communities where they can experience joy and comfort?

I spoke with Kristina recently and we talked about Spoonful and her hopes for its continued production. And while nothing is assured in this crazy world that we live in today, one thing is absolute when it comes to her passion and love for the magazine: a “Spoonful” is definitely the right dose for her dream’s prescription.

And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Kristina Pines, Founder/Publisher, Spoonful Magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

On how she used her own passion for the subject matter to create the magazine: This was a passion project between friends that kind of took over and became its own thing, and became this magazine. We’re hoping that with this magazine we’re giving the modern-home cook—those who don’t have the same luxury of time as in years past—to entertain again in their home by giving them recipes that other home cooks have trusted for years in their own family, giving them time management tips, and giving them other resources that would make it a successful event for them.

On how she took her passionate idea and actually turned it into a magazine: I was always a writer, and I wanted a platform to bring this message out there. I’ve had a blog for a long time. My other friends that have worked in various publications helped me start this. But, we were all freelancers. We had never done this full time. So, we just started researching, asking, “What are the practical measures?” and “How much do we need to raise?” We knew that the concept of the magazine was interesting enough. It was a niche in the food industry that hadn’t been covered yet.

On her most pleasant surprise after holding the finished magazine in her hands for the first time: To be able to kind of step back and watch everyone else who was seeing it for the first time fall in love with it, and to just understand what we’re trying to get… When we say that we’re about celebrating home cooking, it’s such a vague concept, you know? There are a lot of other publications that talk about home cooking and, you know, the different niches that are in home cooking; whether it’s gluten-free or paleo or easy recipes under thirty minutes and that type of thing. But we [Spoonful] are talking about specifically entertaining, and when all of these people who have thrown parties and who have opened their doors for us to take photos of them and show other people how they gather and then they see it all put together, they’re like, “Oh, this is what it is! I understand now.”

On the biggest challenge that she’s had to face: The problem is that we are not as widely circulated. Our distribution is still pretty minimal, compared to a lot of the other publications, so we’re not able to attract the same advertisers. And we kind of held off too long. So, I think the honeymoon started dwindling when we were trying to make this a financially viable project, and it was no longer just a passion project. But it’s all still about passion and just doing it for fun. You know, you kind of throw caution to the wind and say, “Okay, whatever happens happens.”

On the magazine’s current circulation: We have just over 1,000 subscribers, and we have 14,000 circulating as single copies throughout stores. About 500 single-issue purchasers per issue, at least, and then the rest are through our distribution point.

On whether she has any regrets about the magazine’s $20 cover price: I wish that we’d been more pragmatic and immediately dove into trying to get those ad sales. We were hoping, to be quite honest, that we would survive just through subscribers, you know? We were kind of like a “Field of Dreams” philosophy, “If you build it, they will come,” that type of thing. And they are coming, but it’s not as fast as we were hoping it would be, and it’s not as widely distributed as we would want it to be.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening to her home: At the end of the day, I cook. I mean, I cook every single day for my family. Friday nights are my only night off; I’ve decided that’s when we order in stuff. But for every other day, every meal, I cook. That’s what I do, and I find joy in that.

On what keeps her up at night: I think the sense of uncertainty that is in the publishing industry, but specifically for Spoonful; I want this to be stable for the people that are working for me. I want them to continue with that sense of joy and pride, without feeling vulnerable because our product feels vulnerable to the tides of time.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Kristina Pines, Founder/Publisher, Spoonful Magazine.

Samir Husni: I know for a lot of people who publish new magazines these days, it’s more of a passion rather than a business. So, tell me, how did you combine that passion of yours for this specific subject matter, Spoonful, and create the magazine?

Kristina Pines: You’re right, this was a passion project between friends that kind of took over and became its own thing, and became this magazine.

I personally grew up in Saudi Arabia. When my parents moved there, met each other there, and got married, they didn’t really know the people that lived in the area. So, to combat that loneliness, they started inviting people to their home – as a potluck party. Through that, they started building a community in Saudi. That community became their family. And they kept up the tradition.

Soon, they became known as the people that would invite you over if you were new in town. So, if you were a fresh, new immigrant to Saudi Arabia; if you were working there; if you didn’t know anything about the city, and didn’t know anyone else, you were typically invited to my parents’ home. That’s where all of these other immigrants, from all over the world, would come together and they would have weekend potluck parties. That was my childhood.

When I came to America and moved to Chicago, I first experienced that sense of separation—there’s so much space in America, more than I’ve experienced in any other country that I’ve lived. In the Philippines, certainly, everyone lives side by side. So, there you didn’t really have that sense of separation or isolation.

So, when we moved to Chicago my parents did the same thing—they decided to open their doors, invite in strangers, and soon our immediate neighborhood became our community, our family, and our friends. When I moved to Philadelphia, I did the exact same thing. I had moved away from my family, I didn’t know anyone in the Philadelphia area, and I knew the power food had over building communities. I wanted to show that.

So, Spoonful is really the vehicle for me to send that message out there, and it makes sure that people continue inviting people over. Because, these days, you don’t hear people saying, “Come on over for dinner!” They say, “Let’s go out for pizza.” Or, “Let’s go eat somewhere at a restaurant.” Which does build a relationship, but it’s not the same sense of intimacy.

And so, we’re hoping that with this magazine we’re giving the modern-home cook—those who don’t have the same luxury of time as in years past—to entertain again in their home by giving them recipes that other home cooks have trusted for years in their own family, giving them time management tips, and giving them other resources that would make it a successful event for them.

Samir Husni: Besides the family upbringing and all the travels, what gave you the idea to do a magazine? Just thinking: ‘Oh, I know nothing about this magazine business, but I know a lot about how I grew up.’ How did you put the two together?

Kristina Pines: (Laughs) I was always a writer, and I wanted a platform to bring this message out there. I’ve had a blog for a long time. My other friends that have worked in various publications helped me start this. But, we were all freelancers. We had never done this full time.

It really began when we started reading books on how to launch a magazine. We used Lorraine Phillips’ “Publish Your First Magazine” as a guide. That book had very practical tips in it. We also used James B. Kobak’s “How to Start a Magazine: And Publish It Profitably.”

So, we just started researching, asking, “What are the practical measures?” and “How much do we need to raise?” We knew that the concept of the magazine was interesting enough. It was a niche in the food industry that hadn’t been covered yet. So much of the food magazine industry currently is focused on celebrity chefs and how they cook at home. And there are other magazines that don’t have that same angle, but we’re really all about entertaining. We knew that at the heart of the concept of the publication, it would work and, at least be attractive to people.

We knew what we wanted—visually. We decided to hunt around for a printer that would partner with us, and we were lucky enough to find Standard Group Analytics that was able to handle our small run. At first, we were looking at larger printers, but they had a minimum of 50,000 and we just couldn’t commit to that.

So, having gotten the numbers and having gotten a practical understanding of what we needed to start it, we began putting together a pitch for investors. Our immediate funders were private investors—people that we knew, family, friends. And, as you put it in that entrepreneur article that I read; we were “Family, friends, and fools.” (Laughs) But, most of them were family and friends. I hope that they weren’t fooled, anyway. They were very supportive of the concept, and that’s how we got our first seed funding. From there, we started building our first issue, which was the ‘Love Affairs’ issue, Spring 2016, and we are now on our 6th issue. We just released our ‘Salt’ issue, with Carla Hall as the feature story.

Samir Husni: What was the most pleasant surprise that you can recall when the issue came back from the printer and you were flipping through the pages? What was the most pleasant moment for you when you finally held your baby in your hands for the first time?

Kristina Pines: The truth is, we didn’t have much time to reflect quietly on the magazine because, as soon as it got printed, we actually had a launch party. I think that I hadn’t even had a chance to read through the entire physical copy of the magazine until after the launch party. At that point, everyone had a copy and everyone was just feeling it. They were feeling that it had a soft-touch glaze and they would smell the pages—there’s something really wonderful about freshly-printed magazines. So they were sniffing it, they were feeling it. There was such a tactile sense to the product that they were literally petting it during the launch party.

I think the most pleasant surprise was being able to step back that evening and watch their reaction to this thing we’d been working on for a year. We had a year lead time to prep the Spring 2016, so, for me, it was old material. We were already at that point working on our third issue, at least content-wise. So, mentally, I was no longer really attached to the subject of the first issue.

But to be able to kind of step back and watch everyone else who was seeing it for the first time fall in love with it, and to just understand what we’re trying to get… When we say that we’re about celebrating home cooking, it’s such a vague concept, you know? There are a lot of other publications that talk about home cooking and, you know, the different niches that are in home cooking; whether it’s gluten-free or paleo or easy recipes under thirty minutes and that type of thing.

But we [Spoonful] are talking about specifically entertaining, and when all of these people who have thrown parties and who have opened their doors for us to take photos of them and show other people how they gather and then they see it all put together, they’re like, “Oh, this is what it is! I understand now.” And that type of understanding that they had on the concept of the magazine, the support that they’d already given us, plus having that double, even triple that evening was really a pleasant surprise and a pleasant experience.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest challenge with the magazine? Is the honeymoon phase still going on, or have you had your first fight?

Kristina Pines: (Laughs) I think the first fight happens when you start feeling like it’s not as profitable as you’d hoped it would be. We also didn’t have as much experience with publishing. First of all, we didn’t have 100,000 in circulation. We couldn’t attract the same advertisers that we wanted to at the beginning—at least not the big, national brands. So, we were hoping to build more of a portfolio to attract them, to show them how we are unique, and who all our subscribers are.

Now we’re in our second year and we have a 90% re-subscribe rate, which is amazing. So the people that have signed on with us in the first year, have then actually recruited their friends to subscribe. It’s amazing, really, the reception to the magazine. Once you understand and see the magazine, you fall in love with the magazine.

The problem is that we are not as widely circulated. Our distribution is still pretty minimal, compared to a lot of the other publications, so we’re not able to attract the same advertisers. And we kind of held off too long. So, I think the honeymoon started dwindling when we were trying to make this a financially viable project, and it was no longer just a passion project. But it’s all still about passion and just doing it for fun. You know, you kind of throw caution to the wind and say, “Okay, whatever happens happens.”

But when you start relying on it as a source of income, as a source of stability, your relationship with it becomes tenuous, because it’s now laden with other responsibilities. You’re making it responsible for your livelihood. So, that makes it a little bit more of a difficult relationship. We still love what we’re doing, we still love the product that we’re producing. I think we have a really beautiful product, and with the launch of our summer issue, I think we’ve really hit our stride, in terms of the look and the writing and the aesthetic that we’re trying to put out there. But, at the same time, there is a lot more strain in making this profitable.

Samir Husni: What is your current circulation; how many subscribers do you have now?

Kristina Pines: We have just over 1,000 subscribers, and we have 14,000 circulating as single copies throughout stores. About 500 single-issue purchasers per issue, at least, and then the rest are through our distribution point.

Samir Husni: And, if I may add, your cover price is $20?

Kristina Pines: Yes, it is.

Samir Husni: And what’s your subscription price now?

Kristina Pines: We usually have a 10%-20% off discount, depending on the season. It’s $80 a year standard, but it’s usually around $64 to $72, depending on what promotion we’re putting out there.

Samir Husni: You’re one of the many, what they like to call in the United Kingdom, boutique magazines, where you need to find your cult audience and get them to pay that high cover price, because for the price of one issue of Spoonful, you can buy two years of other food magazines on the marketplace. But, yours is more like the “Kinfolk,” more like the “Jarry” magazines—I mean all of these boutique magazines that have the very high cover price, yet, once the honeymoon is over and you start thinking about the business model, that’s where the rubber meets the road. So, as you look toward the future, do you have any regrets? I mean is there ever a time that that you’ve said, “I wish that I had done this, rather than that?”

Kristina Pines: If we could start over, knowing what I know now, we would have started looking for advertisers as soon as our first issue hit the shelves, and for our second, third, and other issues. We wouldn’t have waited until we’d perfected our writing style or really found our voice.

But, we were hoping that once we kind of put together the perfect package, what we thought was the best work that we could really put out there, that it would just come; that other people would agree; that advertisers would see what we’re trying to do and say, “Yes, I believe in what you’re doing. Here’s some advertising money.”

I wish that we’d been more pragmatic and immediately dove into trying to get those ad sales. We were hoping, to be quite honest, that we would survive just through subscribers, you know? We were kind of like a “Field of Dreams” philosophy, “If you build it, they will come,” that type of thing. And they are coming, but it’s not as fast as we were hoping it would be, and it’s not as widely distributed as we would want it to be.

Samir Husni: If I show up at your house unexpectedly one evening after work, what do I find you doing; sitting on your couch, having a glass of wine; cooking; reading a book or a magazine; watching TV; or something else?

Kristina Pines: At the end of the day, I cook. I mean, I cook every single day for my family. Friday nights are my only night off; I’ve decided that’s when we order in stuff. But for every other day, every meal, I cook. That’s what I do, and I find joy in that. My family would much prefer to eat in than they would eating out. That’s how I relax. After business hours are over, I step away from my phone—I literally turn it off and put it away—because I devote all of my focus on my family at that time.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Kristina Pines: I think the sense of uncertainty that is in the publishing industry, but specifically for Spoonful; I want this to be stable for the people that are working for me. I want them to continue with that sense of joy and pride, without feeling vulnerable because our product feels vulnerable to the tides of time. We don’t know if it’s going to survive the test of time. So, we’ll see.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: