This week’s small business star is Serena Guen, founder of SUITCASE magazine, an international travel and fashion magazine for the young and adventurous.
Nominated by the Evening Standard as one of the “top 25 under 25” most influential Londoners, Serena is currently the world’s youngest editor-in-chief and is the first in our two-part editorial entrepreneur series.
Serena explains the inspiration behind her now-global magazine. Not deterred by print media, she has embraced both online and offline forms of journalism, and gives us an insight into the importance of finding your own path within a crowded sector.
I’d always enjoyed reading as a form of discovery. Writing is one of the best ways to share these discoveries with other people.
Even though SUITCASE is now technically two years old, in some ways I’d say it is ten. I’d been thinking about starting a travel magazine for a very long time – I travelled a lot growing up and loved reading, and the two never seemed to be on a par.
I suppose the lightbulb moment came when I was living in a different city, Paris, for the second time and had many friends come visit me. Despite all the research they’d done on the city of light, I still managed to show them a different side to it; I managed to open their eyes to the real Paris.
I just decided, enough is enough – if I can do this for my friends, I can do it for a few more people too. I was determined that even if people couldn’t visit that they could still have an amazing view of the place and I achieved this through bringing in the fashion, creative element.
I think that while the fashion and travels sectors are notoriously difficult, the difficulty was that so many people were treading the same path – so my first step was to create a different path, which was easy enough, by bringing fashion and travel together.
I wanted SUITCASE to be the ultimate travel companion so I spent the longest time building our readers’ trust, making sure that the content was as good as it could be, so that the product could speak for itself.
Finally I made sure that I knew what my audience wanted – guides to gateway – and also created some demand by showing them some new places in interesting ways.
A challenge is being aware of local trends and tastes that do not always translate globally and trying not to offend local cultures but making them appealing to the global urban mind-set of our young professional readers. In terms of content, photoshoots are probably the hardest because to what extent can something be inspired by a culture without being culturally glib or insulting.
One of my most important recent successes was meeting one of my role models, Arianna Huffington. I introduced myself to her and not only did she know who I was, she said that she had been meaning to email because she wanted to congratulate me on what I was doing.
Be single-minded but adaptable – a lot of people will try to take you down on the way but take every criticism, make sure you can answer for it, and then turn it into another chink in your armour. Eventually you will be invincible.
Find out more about Serena and read her work by visiting SUITCASE Magazine at http://www.suitcasemag.com. Next week we’ll be talking to our second editorial entrepreneur, Angelica Malin.
For more advice and insight from business owners, visit our Small Business Stars hub.