Note: This is a summary of some tips for starting a business - excerpted from an interview the Behance team conducted last year. While ReadyMade has since been taken over, the challenges encountered during start-up are applicable to all businesses. Some users have commented that, ultimately, ReadyMade was “unsuccessful,” and I would make the point that every start-up experience is personally defining and fruitful of lessons - even if the industry changes or the concept ultimately fails. That being said, consider some of the best practices around practicing what you preach in a start-up business, perspiring when necessary, and generating ideas with restraint…
Shoshana Berger came up with the idea for ReadyMade magazine in 2000 and has since served as its editor in chief. Launching a new magazine required discipline, productivity, and some defiance of conventional wisdom. Shoshana is an established author and, over the course of her career, has worked for Wired Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Spin, Salon, The San Francisco Chronicle, Business 2.0, Travel and Leisure, and many other periodicals.
When launching a DIY (Do It Yourself) brand, you’ve got to practice what you preach. ReadyMade took this seriously. As Shoshana explains it, “we did EVERYTHING ourselves in the first two years, from conceiving and proofing every document that went out the door, to stuffing mail bags full of early issues and taking them to the Post Office, to taking out the trash. Nothing that was done by the interns wasn’t done by the founders.”
Shoshana goes on to explain the merits of rolling up your sleeves and making ideas happen. “In the early stages of a startup, or getting any idea off the ground, relaying a consistent message is really important. If you’re going to be a magazine about making stuff, really make stuff! Have your office be a big workshop full of materials and tools that encourage people to tinker and reuse in creative ways. There’s nothing like breaking a problem down into its constituent parts to solve it, and the physical activity of making something (off the computer) is a great way to get your team thinking about how a bunch of parts make a whole.”
Like most creative new companies, ReadyMade never had a shortage of ideas. With creativity comes the struggle to stay focused and sustainable. Shoshana recalls that the team “…wanted to extend ReadyMade magazine’s do-it-yourself content and ethos into so many different channels, from a book publishing arm, to a branch that focused on education, to retail outlets, to producing film and television. From the start we saw no limits and had big, unwieldy ambition. All of those avenues are open to us now, but it took years to get to this stage. A house with many rooms requires a strong foundation. So we focused largely on the magazine and making its vital signs stable (read: profitable). That took far longer than anyone expected. After year three we started exploring all of the aforementioned avenues, but our expectations and timelines are more measured. So that’s the moral: Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
ReadyMade defied conventional wisdom upon start-up. “We pretty well defied every rule of magazine making. …(We started with) no infrastructure, no idea about the real engineering of a magazine, and very little media business experience. Very few people start national magazines with less than 5 million in their pocket, these days. My cofounder Grace Hawthorne and I didn’t pay our selves for two years. We survived on very little and worked other jobs. Other notable examples of defiance: Creating a magazine about making things rather than buying them (not a great pitch to advertisers); Doing our own fulfillment (using a gaggle of interns to help on everything from customer service to shipping); Printing on recycled paper even when it was cost-prohibitive to do so; not moving to New York.”
The ReadyMade team is motivated by a well-defined and noble mission “to get people to think differently about the built world.” Shoshana elaborates on the team’s mission: “(We want) to reinvent the stuff of everyday life and find utility in everything. ReadyMade is more than a magazine. It’s a cultural touchstone for an age in which too much too fast has created the desire for a hands-on approach to life. The magazine shows how to transform everyday objects into bold design through do-it-yourself projects, profiles of creative mavericks, and inspirational features on self-made homes, careers, and projects that inspire and amaze. The magazine encourages the garage tinkerer, the amateur artist, the home hacker… Our mini manifesto? Rethink, recreate, and reconnect with the process of making stuff.”
Behance articles and tips are adapted from the writing and research of Scott Belsky and the Behance team. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network , the Creative Jobs List, and develops knowledge, products, and services that help creative professionals make ideas happen.All information (c) Scott Belsky, Behance LLC.