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The Joyful Life: A New Magazine That Provides “Heart & Home Inspiration For Christian Women” – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Sandi Sutton, Founder, Editor, & Creative Director…

August 21, 2019

“I think there is so much. One of the criteria for things that we use and put into the magazine is whether or not it’s timeless. And I really believe that our readers are intentionally looking for more deliberate, inspiring, and engaging content. I have at different times compared it to a fast food meal versus a feast. A fast food meal will nourish your body and you can take it in small bites and it will give you the fuel that you need momentarily, but when you sit down to a feast it’s an experience and it’s something you share with people. It’s relational. I see our publication as something that’s truly feeding women’s hearts and souls and it will have a measureable impact on, not just their lives, but their families’ lives too.” Sandi Sutton (On what print provides that digital can’t)…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

In today’s world of chaos and mayhem, The Joyful Life is a new publication that seeks to inspire Christian women to rekindle their relationship with God and find the pure joy and peace that reconnection can bring in their everyday lives. Sandi Sutton is the founder, editor and creative director of the magazine and cherishes the mission of the ink on paper title, while understanding the sometimes-overwhelming job creating a new magazine can be.

I spoke with Sandi recently and we talked about The Joyful Life and the God-inspired path she believes her magazine is on. Sandi describes having an ink on paper magazine versus just a digital entity as comparing a feast to a fast food meal, and Mr. Magazine™ would have to agree. Sitting down to The Joyful Life in its print form is an experience that looking at a website just can’t compete with. The magazine is beautifully done and a “joy” to hold and read.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who has answered her own calling in life and strives to give all Christian women that same “Joyful” experience. And now Mr. Magazine™ talks to Sandi Sutton, founder, editor & creative director, The Joyful Life magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the story behind The Joyful Life: It was about two years in the making, as far as research and considering whether or not it was something I was actually going to do. I had been a photographer for 12 years prior to that and I had always had a dream of starting a magazine. I had initially planned to start a photography magazine, because I was so immersed in that industry. So my initial research and planning was leaning in that direction, but then about a year into that process…and I hadn’t pulled anything together, it was more just the research phase, but about a year into that I just felt this really strong calling from God that it needed to be a Christian magazine. It was about two years in the making, as far as research and considering whether or not it was something I was actually going to do. I had been a photographer for 12 years prior to that and I had always had a dream of starting a magazine. I had initially planned to start a photography magazine, because I was so immersed in that industry. So my initial research and planning was leaning in that direction, but then about a year into that process…and I hadn’t pulled anything together, it was more just the research phase, but about a year into that I just felt this really strong calling from God that it needed to be a Christian magazine.

On where the name “The Joyful Life” came from: Once I decided that it was going to be a Christian magazine, which took about a year, it was going to be called Joy in the Daily. So, for that first year of planning it was going to be called Joy in the Daily. And I had done all of the branding for it and I had acquired all of the social media. It was not until less than a week before I launched on social media that I changed the name to The Joyful Life. And I was literally sitting in my bathroom and getting ready, putting my makeup on, when I had this total epiphany that the magazine needed to be called The Joyful Life. I would say that it came from God because that wasn’t even on my radar.

On the elevator pitch for the magazine: Overall, the magazine is to remind women of their worth in Christ; to remind women of the joy that is found only in Him. We have so many magazines that we can turn to for just inspiration for our homes or our lives. There seemed to be this very missing piece, a void in magazines. One that brought really solid content that was going to be convicting and encouraging at the same time, but also mixed with something that was really beautiful and inspiring for their everyday lives. I think part of what women need to be reminded of is that a relationship with God affects every area of our lives. It’s not just this compartmentalized thing.

 On what she hopes to accomplish a year from now: I decided early on that we needed to build a really strong community around the magazine and I think being a faith-based publication, that has been something women have been longing for in their lives. So, we have built a really amazing community and our plans, not necessarily for 2020, but sometime in the next few years, we plan to extend to having an annual conference where we’ll bring in speakers. The conference will be heart and home inspiration as well. We’ll have speakers and workshops. So, we do plan on going in that direction, but as far as just the magazine itself, for 2020 we are going to make just a few changes to the magazine, more in design than anything.

On what she can do in print that digital can’t provide: I think there is so much. One of the criteria for things that we use and put into the magazine is whether or not it’s timeless. And I really believe that our readers are intentionally looking for more deliberate, inspiring, and engaging content. I have at different times compared it to a fast food meal versus a feast. A fast food meal will nourish your body and you can take it in small bites and it will give you the fuel that you need momentarily, but when you sit down to a feast it’s an experience and it’s something you share with people. It’s relational. I see our publication as something that’s truly feeding women’s hearts and souls and it will have a measureable impact on, not just their lives, but their families’ lives too.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Definitely cooking. (Laughs) I love to cook and it’s something that relaxes me. It’s just life-giving to me. So, cooking for my family is something that I try to be really intentional about. I have five kids and three of them are grown and out of the house, but cooking is something that I do often. And for me, I love my work so much, and obviously I’m blessed to be able to work from home, my office is at home. So, a lot of times in the evening I’m still just pouring into the business in one way or another, but the relaxation side of the work is more just engaging with our community in the evenings. I don’t see that side as work; it’s just a joy to me.

On the biggest misconception she thinks people have about her: Probably that I am very organized and have it all together. (Laughs) I think there’s probably some truth to that. You have to be somewhat organized and kind of have things together a bit to be able to run a business that is this busy and deadline-focused, but at the same time it’s not something that comes naturally to me at all. And so I have to be very intentional about it.

On what keeps her up at night: Nothing keeps me up at night these days. (Laughs) And that is the honest truth. I spent many years just really experiencing anxiety at night and stress, particularly when I was doing my photography business. And I feel like I probably hung onto that longer than I should have. It was a very busy business and I was blessed and thankful for it, but it was stressful. The first year of the magazine was certainly a lot of work that I always felt was left undone, like I had way too much to do, but I hired three new employees in January 2019 and I have told them many times, to me they represent, one of them is the project manager and I feel like she represents my brain; the managing editor, she is my writer and editor heart; and then my community manager is such a representation of my heart toward our community.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Sandi Sutton, founder, editor & creative director, The Joyful Life.

Samir Husni: Tell me the story behind The Joyful Life. Why did you decide to come up with this beautiful print product in this digital age?

Sandi Sutton: It was about two years in the making, as far as research and considering whether or not it was something I was actually going to do. I had been a photographer for 12 years prior to that and I had always had a dream of starting a magazine. I had initially planned to start a photography magazine, because I was so immersed in that industry. So my initial research and planning was leaning in that direction, but then about a year into that process…and I hadn’t pulled anything together, it was more just the research phase, but about a year into that I just felt this really strong calling from God that it needed to be a Christian magazine.

.So, I spent several months just wrestling with that, and whether or not I felt there was going to be a market for it, but stepping away from my photography business and moving into this, I knew that was the direction that I needed to go.

I’ve always been a writer and I’ve always loved photography, so I knew that I wanted to create something that was going to be very visually appealing. Initially I had thought it would be something that I would do on my own, I really wasn’t prepared from the beginning to have teams of people working on it. And it just became something from really early on that made me realize if I was going to do this well and if I was going to do it with the standards that I wanted it to be done with, I was going to need help from a lot of people. And it just kind of came together in what I feel were miraculous ways.

Samir Husni: I was going to add, you probably needed help from above plus all those people.

Sandi Sutton: Oh yes, it’s been a huge faith walk. Had I known in the early stages even a fraction of the work involved, I may have been far too fearful, but it was something that I felt God was leading me to do. We have about 50 volunteers that work with us in addition to my staff. It has really become an amazing community effort.

Samir Husni: As you solidified your plans and put that first issue together, where did the name come from “The Joyful Life?” And the tagline: Heart & Home, inspiration for Christian women? How did all of the pieces of the puzzle come together?

Sandi Sutton: Once I decided that it was going to be a Christian magazine, which took about a year, it was going to be called Joy in the Daily. So, for that first year of planning it was going to be called Joy in the Daily. And I had done all of the branding for it and I had acquired all of the social media. It was not until less than a week before I launched on social media that I changed the name to The Joyful Life. And I was literally sitting in my bathroom and getting ready, putting my makeup on, when I had this total epiphany that the magazine needed to be called The Joyful Life. I would say that it came from God because that wasn’t even on my radar.

I was a little bit overwhelmed at the prospect of having to change everything, I knew I would need a different logo – all of it was going to have to change. The launch was already planned. But I did it, I just knew that The Joyful Life was what it needed to be. And in hindsight I feel like that was such a good decision because the name really does encompass everything that we are trying to promote through our publication. So, it was a good move.

The tagline kind of evolved over time as well. Initially, we had a longer tagline that was more descriptive of the overall premise of the magazine. And it was probably about four or five months in that I decided to condense it when we were in the process of designing the cover for the first issue. We initially launched our social media several months in advance of the first issue coming out. So, that first issue was a little bit more raw. (Laughs) It was put together a little differently than what we do now. There were a lot of things in that first issue that we were just trying out. And our tagline was a last minute decision, but again I just felt at peace about it and that it encompassed everything we were trying to promote and the mission behind what we’re doing.

Samir Husni: So, the magazine is out and the Summer issue is the first one on the newsstands; if someone came up to you somewhere and asked you to give them the elevator pitch for The Joyful Life, what would you tell them? What is the magazine?

Sandi Sutton: For me, the whole purpose of starting this magazine is because I feel like within Christianity, in the last couple of decades, there has been a slow disconnect from God with Christian women. When I look back on the trajectory of my life and the friends I’ve had for years, I think that we’ve just become so inundated with destructions. And in all the ways that we’re more connected as a society, we’re disconnected in our relationships. And that extends to our relationship with God as well.

Being in my forties with older kids as well as younger kids, their ages run the gamut, I just felt like women needed a reminder of their worth in Christ. And that we needed to just make that relationship with him a priority again.

Overall, the magazine is to remind women of their worth in Christ; to remind women of the joy that is found only in Him. We have so many magazines that we can turn to for inspiration for our homes and lives. There just seemed to be this very missing piece, a void in magazines. One that brought really solid content that was going to be convicting and encouraging at the same time, but also mixed with something that was really beautiful and inspiring for their everyday lives. I think part of what women need to be reminded of is that a relationship with God affects every area of our lives. It’s not just this compartmentalized thing.

I just felt there was a real void in the market for that and some of the other Christian magazines are either focused on lighter content or go much deeper theologically. I felt really strongly that it needed to be a beautiful combination of the two. That’s not my elevator pitch, that’s a really long response. (Laughs) The tagline is representative of that. We want their hearts to be inspired to rekindle their relationship with Christ and we want them to take that relationship with Him and allow it to permeate every area of their lives, including their homes. It really is heart and home inspiration.

Samir Husni: Two years after the planning, a year after you have four issues under your belt, if you and I are talking about The Joyful Life one year from now, what would you hope to tell me you had accomplished?

Sandi Sutton: My team is flying out here next month so that we can do some planning for 2020. One of the things that we’ve done with the magazine is we decided not to do traditional distribution in the way that most magazines do. Our magazine is too high-end of a publication cost-wise to make it reasonable ($24 cover price). It just wasn’t going to work to do traditional distribution. We do have one distributor and that is probably where you picked it up. We have it in a few retail places, and we have relationships with some wholesalers, so we have it out there a bit, but it’s not a magazine that I felt like people were going to just see on a shelf and pick up, especially when it’s considerably higher priced than other magazines.

I decided early on that we needed to build a really strong community around the magazine and I think being a faith-based publication, that has been something women have been longing for in their lives. So, we have built a really amazing community and our plans, not necessarily for 2020, but sometime in the next few years, we plan to extend to having an annual conference where we’ll bring in speakers. The conference will be heart and home inspiration as well. We’ll have speakers and workshops. So, we do plan on going in that direction, but as far as just the magazine itself, for 2020 we are going to make just a few changes to the magazine, more in design than anything.

And we’re promoting it through somewhat untraditional ways and we just hope to continue to see it grow. Our communities are growing and they’re thriving, and we do quarterly Bible studies as well. We have just a really great community of women that are investing in this; on the reader side and with our volunteers. It’s just a beautiful thing that God is doing with all of it.

Samir Husni: Being a writer, photographer and now a magazine publisher, what do you think that you can do in print that you cannot do in digital or social media?

Sandi Sutton: I think there is so much. One of the criteria for things that we use and put into the magazine is whether or not it’s timeless. And I really believe that our readers are intentionally looking for more deliberate, inspiring, and engaging content. I have at different times compared it to a fast food meal versus a feast. A fast food meal will nourish your body and you can take it in small bites and it will give you the fuel that you need momentarily, but when you sit down to a feast it’s an experience and it’s something you share with people. It’s relational. I see our publication as something that’s truly feeding women’s hearts and souls and it will have a measureable impact on, not just their lives, but their families’ lives too.

The content that we put into the publication is really timeless, even from quarter to quarter. There is certainly content in the magazine that is seasonally focused, but you could pick up any one of our issues at any time of the year and you will find things that apply to you. And I believe that will be true 10 years from now.

We also publish on our blog once a week, sometimes twice a week. And we post devotions every day on Instagram. A lot of our blog content has a timeless feel to it as well, but any time something is more currently relevant we would put it on the blog.

But I just believe that if women aren’t seeking it out right now, they still feel the pull of getting away from screens and seeing the value in just stepping away from their computer, stepping away from their phones; it’s like we’re bouncing back. We went the direction of everything being digital and everything being on our screens, but now we’re breaking the consequences of doing that. We’re seeing the repercussions of that being such a major factor in our lives, and now I feel that women are wanting to step back. I remember what life felt like when I used to make the time for just sitting down and reading. To just sit and be.

We are very intentional about making sure our publication is something that women will be able to spend time reading and walk away feeling like they’re full and nourished, and like they just had a reprieve and a chance to pause from the busyness of life going on around them.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Sandi Sutton: Definitely cooking. (Laughs) I love to cook and it’s something that relaxes me. It’s just life-giving to me. So, cooking for my family is something that I try to be really intentional about. I have five kids and three of them are grown and out of the house, but cooking is something that I do often. And for me, I love my work so much, and obviously I’m blessed to be able to work from home, my office is at home. So, a lot of times in the evening I’m still just pouring into the business in one way or another, but the relaxation side of the work is more just engaging with our community in the evenings. I don’t see that side as work; it’s just a joy to me.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?

Sandi Sutton: Probably that I am very organized and have it all together. (Laughs) I think there’s probably some truth to that. You have to be somewhat organized and kind of have things together a bit to be able to run a business that is this busy and deadline-focused, but at the same time it’s not something that comes naturally to me at all. And so I have to be very intentional about it.

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

Sandi Sutton: Nothing keeps me up at night these days. (Laughs) And that is the honest truth. I spent many years just really experiencing anxiety at night and stress, particularly when I was doing my photography business. And I feel like I probably hung onto that longer than I should have. It was a very busy business and I was blessed and thankful for it, but it was stressful. The first year of the magazine was certainly a lot of work that I always felt was left undone, like I had way too much to do, but I hired three new employees in January 2019 and I have told them many times, to me they represent, one of them is the project manager and I feel like she represents my brain; the managing editor, she is my writer and editor heart; and then my community manager is such a representation of my heart toward our community.

I feel like all of these women have come into my life and have invested so much in the business alongside me that I just don’t have that same kind of feeling of things not being done. And I just feel like we’re at a place right now that is so peaceful. I am so in awe of everything God has done with this publication in such a short time. I am experiencing, at this point right now, the peace and the joy that comes from so many months and years of hard work. It’s just a blessing.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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