One of the most interesting things about business, to me, is exactly how it all works from a financial standpoint. Starting a business is not easy and it's certainly not cheap. When I first started Holl & Lane, I thought it would be a side hobby, something that would take up a few extra hours of my week and that was it. The magazine was going to be strictly digital and we weren't going to charge for it. So that's how it worked for the first four issues. But by the fourth issue, I was able to clearly see how much money was coming out of my personal pocket every single month and that meant I had one of two choices: charge for the magazine, or quit doing it.
Deciding to charge for it was REALLY hard for me. I was afraid to lose the momentum we had built up, and I wasn't confident that anyone would want to pay for what we were creating (that was more of a self-esteem thing than anything). But it came down to - do I want to keep doing this, and the answer was yes. I knew we still had amazing stories to tell and I wanted to keep doing it. So I set out to create a business, though at the time, my mind still hadn't gone to print.
As Holl & Lane picked up steam, I was being asked all the time where a reader could purchase a printed edition of the issues and my answer was always "you can't". I had spent months researching how much it costs to print a magazine and it just wasn't feasible. But then we got to the point where I couldn't ignore the rumblings of the questions anymore and decided that with our 7th issue, which also happened to be our one year issue, we would offer print copies.
Here's the thing with print - the more copies you order, the cheaper it is per copy. But because we were still a little baby business (and still are in the grand scheme of indie magazines), I wasn't going to be printing thousands right off the bat, nor could I afford to. So I started out small. SUPER SMALL. But that meant that each copy cost me about $8 each. Plus then you had to factor in shipping of $5.75. That meant that one single issue was costing me $13.75 to print and mail in the United States. I could've reduced the per copy price slightly by choosing less expensive materials to print with, but I wanted Holl & Lane to be a real experience, not just a grocery store throw away.
In addition to print issues, we also introduced subscriptions. And because we were growing, other systems had to be put into place to keep us chugging along without overwhelming us. Meaning, I had more expenses than I had started out with. And, I was putting the money to print the issues up front before they had sold which was a risk in itself. Needless to say, all of these factors lead into an expensive business. One I hadn't actually planned on starting. And my number one goal throughout it all was NOT to go into debt. I refused to look into a small business loan, I refused to take any money from my family savings account. I told my husband that if I was really going to do this, the minute that the magazine couldn't sustain itself, that is when I would quit.
So now, two years in, I'm still sticking to that. I have no debt from the magazine, and it completely sustains itself. Would things be easier with investors, or loans? Probably. For one thing, my team and I would probably get paid. But, I've built a magazine that is thriving, and it's even turning a very small profit each year.
Here's a glimpse into what the magazine costs me per quarterly issue (and keep in mind that I have managed to cut nearly all unnecessary expenses):
- $1800 - print costs
- $2000 - shipping costs
- $1365 - operating expenses
- Total: $5165 per quarter, or $20,660 per year
In case you're curious about the operating expenses that we have, we pay for things like: ActiveCampaign (for email), MoonClerk (for subscriptions), Squarespace (for our website and shop), Cognito Forms (for submissions), G Suite (for our email accounts and storage), Board Booster (to support Pinterest), Later (to support Instagram), InDesign (for designing the issues), and much more.
It has always been my goal to price the magazine as low as possible to cover all of my printing and shipping costs and also make a small profit to cover the operating expenses. These days, this is more what that looks like: $5.50 per print issue, $5.75 per issue to ship for a total of $11.75 in printing/shipping costs. At $17 per issue, that gives me a profit of $5.25 to put towards the operating expenses that we pay for. Because the magazine is the only profit we have coming in, literally everything that comes in as sales goes right back into the magazine, as well as being saved to foot the upfront bill of printing and shipping for the upcoming issue.
I hope that this gave you a small glimpse into how a small business runs. I know many of you are always wondering how to support small businesses. The best way to do that is to purchase the products. If you like what a business does, show them by purchasing. It not only reaffirms what they're doing, but it also helps them to physically keep their business going. Emails, comments, and engagement are all wonderful to a small business owner, but that isn't what a small business runs on. So help to keep your favorite businesses around by monetarily supporting what they do.
Here are a few products you can help to support H&L with: