By Alyssa Martuch
On a Technical Level
Victoria Upton is the current owner and publisher of the Women’s Lifestyle Magazine in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She started the magazine back in 1998 and has been keeping it going ever since. She was able to start the magazine because of research she conducted while attending classes through Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW), an organization “committed to helping pursue an anti-poverty strategy.” She was also inspired by family and friends to go forward with her idea.
Victoria remembers her time attending classes through GROW. “We presented our business plans to the group for critique,” she said. “After I presented my plan to start a women’s magazine, a classmate said ‘You’ll never do that, that’s impossible.’ I knew then I was going forward because I knew if you can envision the improbable, you’re halfway there.”
As the owner and publisher of her own magazine, her regular day schedule consists of “lots of email answering.” She also researches topics that may be of interest in future editions, sets up the layout and design of the magazine, has frequent meetings and informal chats with editorial and sales staff daily, and does networking and planning.
Owning a magazine is a tedious, but rewarding, job. Victoria said her magazine has three types of clients: readers, advertisers, and syndicators. She occasionally speaks with advertising clients about promotions and works on understanding their message and how to present it. Her sales people generally have that responsibility, but when she needs more clarification or doesn’t agree with what’s presented, she talks directly to the advertising clients.
Readers are always the biggest—and most important—client to communicate with. Those who sign up for updates are those she keeps constant contact with to keep them wanting her magazine. She rarely communicates, except by email, with syndication clients.
To keep her busy, she has lots of projects and stories that come in to be published in her magazine. Stories are pitched to Women’s Lifestyle Magazine by Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) non-stop. Victoria personally receives 20 stories a day, on average, and the editor receives even more.
“We have established writers for topics like health, fashion, and beauty who are very experienced in their fields. We communicate in person and by email. We share visuals, photography, ideas, and products,” said Victoria. They also receive product samples, such as Clinique beauty samples, which go to their beauty editor, or Michael Kors or Intimates, which are all distributed to the writers for inspiration, Victoria mentioned.
Educational and Career Path
Victoria attended a total of three colleges: Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan University, and Michigan State University. She originally started out interested in Commercial Art but changed her mind and went on to become a counselor. She went back to school to receive a major in Commercial Art, as publishing involves much artwork.
While going to school, she completed an internship at a computer center, working on the mainframe computers. Victoria continued to attend classes for everything from Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) through graphic design. She recently completed classes in Final Cut Pro and Video Camera operations.
She had some major conflicts early in her career and still does today. “My major obstacles are related to the fact that I have to work real hard at being ‘conservative.’ I struggled with English classes— hated them actually. I enjoyed creative writing over ‘perfect writing,’” she said. “I love page design. Words escape me as a writer. I tend to write in a conversational manner rather than technical. However, I read like a scholar,” she added jokingly.
Not only that, she said that very few of her peers had any awareness of computers when in college. “We had a little group of us who would get together and talk about strange possibilities like using a plastic card to conduct financial transactions in the future. We’d get excited by clip art and simple computer games. There was no Internet. I think I was one of the first people on earth to get an email account.”
If she could go back to school, she’d like to have more time to explore technology.
She does have a little piece of advice for us all: “pay attention to tenses and be sure your work is reader friendly.”