Pushing Business To The Next Level
By Alyssa Schoeneman, AEL Intern
In a world of ever-growing niche market media, 1984 College of Business alumna Sarah Beardsley has the right idea. Her company, Venus Holdings LLC, owns and publishes Venus Zine; the magazine bills itself as the leading source for coverage of women in music, art, film, fashion, and DIY culture both in print and online.
The 1995 brainchild of Michigan State student Amy Schroeder, Venus Zine (then titled Venus) was originally conceived as a once-yearly small 'zine: self-published and distributed. Schroeder was both owner/publisher and editor until she sold the business in 2006; the business changed hands once more before Beardsley bought it in early 2010.
Since its conception in 1995, Venus Zine has grown to be an internationally distributed quarterly print magazine and daily online newsmagazine with a small editorial, art direction and operations staff. A large network of freelancers, contributors and interns, Beardsley said, are the keys to the creation of content for the publication.
Venus Zine and venuszine.com feature interviews with legendary artists such as Yoko Ono, Patti Smith, and Kim Deal, in addition to edgy and up-and-coming musicians, designers, writers, actresses and DIY entrepreneurs.
In consulting large media and entertainment companies, Beardsley said she realized that few were taking advantage of technology to repurpose and reuse their content; she wanted to see if she could marry her sales and marketing skills with her understanding of mobile and digital technologies to drive business results. Thus, she initiated a phase of redesign for Venus Zine’s print and online mediums.
“Our audience is expanding as we do the redesign, as we are covering a broader array of musical genres and cultural touch-points,” Beardsley said.
Beardsley attributes her go-getter personality to her experience at the University of Illinois.
“The College of Business has a fine reputation for teaching critical thinking and creating successful business people,” Beardsley said. “That gives me confidence to forge new ground.”
She has gleaned additional confidence, she explained, by choosing highly-qualified, reliable business associates.
“Outside help and partners are critical to success,” she said. “[When I bought the company], I immediately identified people – friends, friends of friends, business resources – and organizations that we could partner with to gain expertise.”
When she was hiring new employees, Beardsley did so with the aim of filling gaps in her own knowledge; she looked for people with specialized skills. With that in mind, her best advice for young entrepreneurs is to figure out what they are really good at and what they need help doing.
“Also, think through your business plan carefully,” she said. “Create three versions of it: best case, worst case and most likely scenario. And then be more pessimistic, to see if you can really absorb the timing and the investment needed to be successful.”
The most difficult part of the job, according to Beardsley, is shouldering the entire responsibility for others.
“I bow down in front of my [entrepreneurial] friends who have done this successfully for years and made it look simple,” she said. “It certainly is not!”