I'm the owner and Publisher of 110° Magazine, which has been in business for 15 years this month. In March we published our 150th issue. 110° Magazine has launched three other publications including 65° in Monterey, 86° in Walnut Creek, and 17° in Scotland. People sometimes ask me about my story of how this came about, so I thought it was time to share it.
I came into publishing through a roundabout course. Following college, my background for many years was in real estate. During that time, I met my husband, we got married, and his family became my family, which included his son James and daughter Ashley.
I eventually became a fairly successful Realtor earning an income of well over six figures a year. I followed the Mike Ferry System, and did everything I was told to do to become successful. My husband and I upgraded from my condo to our first home purchase, then purchased a rental property and invested in land.
Real Estate was hard work with a steady learning curve. It often felt like a roller coaster ride, with high summits and low valleys. However, the ride always moved in an upward direction.
Things changed when a good friend of mine, who said she loved selling new homes, offered me the opportunity to work for a local builder. I decided to give it a try. I thought it would be fun to work with her and have a set schedule. That job eventually brought me to the Brentwood area, where I joined a new home development project.
Brentwood seemed far from the central Bay region, but the affordable and beautiful new homes made it an attractive area to live and raise a family. I stumbled upon a new home community called Montelena and told my husband, “Guess what! We’re moving to Brentwood!”
The house we wanted was listed in the $400,000 price range. However, by the time we secured it, not only had the price gone up, but we installed every upgrade. We also contracted for backyard landscaping that included my dream swimming pool. By the time it was finished, we had spent more than double the initial quoted price. However, we were glad to have a beautiful new home in a new community and with great neighbors. Not only that, the builder Centex offered me a job selling the remaining homes in the neighborhood. My commute was reduced to zero, and we were living in a family-friendly community that was an ideal place to raise our growing family.
Everything seemed wonderful until tragedy struck. My 62-year-old dad died suddenly in a freak accident. My half-brother Anthony was only 16, and I became his caretaker because his mother was deceased. The horrible experience changed my perspective on life. Things I had thought to be important, no longer seemed to matter as much.
A subsequent event in my life was the crash of the real estate market. My husband and I, who both had commission-only real estate jobs, were hanging on for dear life not knowing what the future had in store for us. We began to research into purchasing a franchise business, but quickly learned that they were expensive and offered no income guarantees. A light suddenly dawned when a message came through the Mothers of Brentwood email distribution informing me that 110° Magazine was for sale. I actually had loved 110° Magazine ever since I began receiving it. I would read each issue from cover to cover. I always looked forward to it and would share it with anyone from out of the area. So I immediately responded to the email and said that I wanted to meet.
I learned that two men had been publishing the magazine for four years. Richie Koscher was publisher and designer; Don Huntington was the editor. Neither of them had much training or experience in running a business, so when the economy plummeted, they no longer had revenue to keep the magazine going.
The interview went well. I reviewed the data, and did some due diligence by going around to many of the advertisers and asking them if they would continue advertising in the magazine if I took over. Every one of them said yes.
However, it was a risky decision for me. I knew nothing about being a publisher. A mentor/friend advised me to walk away and I might have done so, but my gut told me to go for it. I was inspired by a number of episodes on Oprah to follow my dream. My mom especially gave me strong encouragement. “Whatever you do you will be successful at.” Those words meant everything to me. Then I thought about my dad and asked God for a sign. I met with the founders and told them they would have to stay on board and teach me the business. Don agreed to be a business partner with me. He and his wife Rae, who is our copy editor, taught me the business.
My fledging efforts to become a magazine publisher got a big boost when Don told me about a former sales rep named Caroline Robertson. Caroline and I hit it off at our first meeting and together the two of us became a dynamic duo.
In the very first issue we published an article about Shepherd’s Gate, which was the new Brentwood shelter for women and children. The article had special meaning to me because my cousin, who had been a drug addict, had turned her life around thanks to the original Livermore Shepherd’s Gate. That article was the confirmation I had been looking for; we were doing something good for the community. After six months under my direction, the magazine began turning a profit.
In the ten years that elapsed since that initial issue, we’ve covered a number of amazing people, events, businesses, and non-profit institutions. It is no trivial thing for our relatively small team of professionals to continue putting out such a high-quality issue every month. I am continually impressed as our photographers, designers, and writers work together to create a finished product that I am always grateful for and proud to be a part of it. Our team of talented staff members has become my extended family. Turnover has been very low and most of us have been together for years. During times of need, we have each other’s back. For example, when our designer Michelle’s shy four-year-old son Colton was diagnosed with cancer, he transformed into a fierce little warrior named Hulken. We all circled the wagons and joined with Michelle in waging battle for four years against the terrible disease. And we won!
"AT THE BEGINNING, PEOPLE TOLD ME I WAS CRAZY TO BUY A MAGAZINE AND RUN A BUSINESS THAT I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT. BUT WHAT'S CRAZY IS NOT FOLLOWING YOUR DREAM; NOT DOING SOMETHING YOU CAN BE PASSIONATE ABOUT"
The next tragedy did not have a happy ending. Caroline’s husband became ill, and after battling for a year, she endured her worst nightmare, his untimely death. Our team rallied behind her and her daughters. I will never forget when she told me how important working for the magazine is in her life, even during her darkest times. She remains an integral part of our sales team.
Our sales managers, Caroline and Theresa, are resources in assisting businesses to achieve their goals and their dreams. Our sales managers and I have been meeting with business owners, managers, and decision makers for more than 10 years, sharing new ideas, creating campaigns, and referring them to our marketing business partners we believe they can trust to also help them succeed.
The magazine plays an important role in satisfying my goal of becoming a life-long learner and also in wanting to help anyone who needs a voice or has a desire to succeed here in East County. The magazine gives me the privilege of meeting some wonderful people and sharing their stories with our local community. We all learn from each other’s stories. The greater our understanding of each other grows, the deeper and richer our lives become. It has also helped me learn how important it is to give back. I’ve been influenced by so many others who have given back, especially those that don’t do it for recognition. 110° Magazine supports the Brentwood Rotary, the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce, A Place of Learning, and the Community Action Agency for Contra Costa County Community Services Bureau. We also support almost every non-profit we come across by spotlighting them in our magazine.
I thank God on a regular basis for 110° Magazine! It’s hard to imagine how many years have passed! It’s good to be part of something that has been good for so long. It is particularly great when people ask me what I do and I tell them that I’m the publisher of 110° Magazine to watch their faces light up and to hear them say, “I love your magazine!” And then they often tell me about some story or article that touched them in particular.
At the beginning, people told me I was crazy to buy a magazine and run a business that I knew nothing about. But what’s crazy is not following your dream; not doing something you can be passionate about.