Jo Packham is something of a wonder woman. She has had a fantastic career in publishing, has reinvented herself several times over, and through her gorgeous magazines and books has helped celebrate and promote creative women. I have been lucky enough to be featured in her flagship magazine Where Women Create, and with Kelly Rae Roberts I co-write a column in her brilliant Where Women Create Business magazine. Today I am thrilled to share this interview to give you an insight into what makes this amazing lady tick – and what keeps her inspired. – Beth
This is how Jo describes herself: “I am Creator/Editor in Chief of, and partner with Stampington & Company to publish, Where Women Create, Where Women Cook, and Where Women Create Business magazines. I also partner with Quarry Books to publish books under the imprint of WWC Press. Where Women Create consults with Create-ologie, an on-line shopping site established on the concept of a creative community supporting each other through social media and retail sales. I believe that everyone has a story to tell, that women are creative in all that they do, and that they should be given an opportunity to tell their story in their own words and from their own perspective … and I make it possible for them to do that.”
1. How are you leading a life ‘doing what you love’?
I created my own publishing business 35 years ago. I think I was more of an entrepreneur at the time than a publisher. Publishing just presented an opportunity and I took it. Over the years we have re-invented ourselves from self-publishing soft bound needlework books, then to packaging hard bound how-to publications for major publishers, now to magazines and back to books. I love publishing because it gives me the enviable position of working with the most talented artisans in the world today. Through the magazines and books I am able to give these women the opportunity to tell their story, in their words, from their perspective. They can, for a minute, act as if they have their own magazine to tell their readers what they would most like them to know.
2. Why did you choose to you do what you do?
Because I could. Because it was an opportunity to do something new, to work with creative women, to tell their stories and share their talents with a world that was bigger than any of us realized.
3. You have reinvented yourself several times over during your career, most recently with the launch of an exciting new project at www.create-ologie.com. Can you talk us through the main stages from concept to launch, and what has been the most challenging thing along the way?
I had an idea for an online retail site based on community involvement incorporating several categories of retail and design. I was presenting my concept to a variety of companies when the presentation was made to the company behind Create-ologie. They believed that my concept was the direction that they wanted to pursue to establish a brand and create an online sales site and so we began the process.
The site is designed to sell product through the creation of a community that consists of artisan entrepreneurs who are bloggers, designers, as well as brick-and-mortar retailers. The manufacturer behind Create-ologie recognizes the importance of independent retailers and the limited resources that they have available to do “everything”, from running their retail business, to overseeing all financial aspects, to being in charge of employees, as well as creating advertising and PR concepts and materials, promoting themselves through social media, and more. The idea behind the site is for each artisan entrepreneur involved to promote the site through their own social media channels then for the manufacturer to drive sales to the brick-and-mortar through the artisan entrepreneurs. The designers and bloggers are given the opportunity to be involved with the product, use it, talk about it, and give their followers a code that allows them to purchase product for a discount.
On Create-ologie a designer/blogger and an independent retailer will be featured twice weekly with direct links to their social media sites.
The initial obstacles are for us what they are for any new online business. Creating a massive online site, establishing a retail and shipping department, and building a community. There are tens of thousands of online retail sites and so much traffic on social media, the of any new sites is diluted. But as far as we know Create-ologie is the first large retail site whose primary goal is to support the independent brick-and-mortar entrepreneur.
4. With an online retail business like Create-ologie, how did you go about defining your target customer, and attracting them with your branding etc? What kind of questions did you ask yourself?
Our target customer is predominately a female consumer who has disposable income, who is design-oriented, and who ranges in age from about 30 to 70.
To attract them to the brand we introduced the Where Women Create community to this new concept. We also enlisted the help of the most popular designers and mommy bloggers on-line.
The questions that I asked myself were simple: As an on-line shopper what do I want a site to do? What do I want to shop for? Is there a purpose behind the site more than just the selling of merchandise? How do we most effectively help the customer to understand this very new concept for online sales and community building?
5. What did you do before this? How have you made the transition between different industries/roles/ideas each time your career has progressed?
I was in publishing and I am still in publishing. My main intent of all that I become involved with is to sell more magazines. I believe that the reach of the magazines can do more than any other medium, save TV, to help the independent artisan and artisan entrepreneur. And when you analyze it they are all so intertwined. The artisan creates, we feature her in the magazine, she is involved with Create-ologie and promotes the site and the magazine, Create-ologie promotes her, the circle continues, and everyone prospers.
6. What is it about business that motivates you?
The inspiration that is so evident in those that create with their hands – whether it be the arts, food, writing, whatever. Their stories are life-changing, their passion contagious, their goodness evident – they do it because they love it not because they will get rich from it.
7. What is it about business that scares you? And how do you deal with that?
Jeez, just about everything, these days. The pace at which business changes today is difficult to understand and even more difficult to keep up with. At some time in our careers each designer or artisan entrepreneur becomes involved with a big corporation and today’s attitude of big business is more about the bottom line than the passion and this often results in decision making that is not in the best interest of the small independent. The competition is now worldwide and ever growing. We are at the mercy of an unstable economy. Compared to big business our resources are limited. I often wonder what kind of determination and bravery instills within each of us the audacity, the perseverence, and the belief that we, as independents, can succeed.
I think we all deal with it in just about the same way – by hiding our fears someplace where we are seldom confronted with them and just moving forward one step at a time, one day at a time, one idea at a time.
8. What aspect of your business are you most proud of?
That we produce a product everyone involved with can be completely proud of. That we are honest, passionate, inspiring, dedicated, hard working, and willing to share all that we have and all that we do.
9. What does success mean to you?
Success to me means wearing my defeats as a badge of honor and a symbol of courage.
10. Where would you like to you see your business in five years time?
I say it over and over again, “My goal is to sell a million magazines per issue”. If I can sell a million magazines then I can offer that much more of “everything” to those who are featured on the pages of our publications. I want us all to be a little bit more successful, to have a business that is a little bit more stable, and to continue to love what I do as much then as I do now.
Jo can be found everywhere!
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