It was a decision I made eight years ago after I finished my MBA and Publisher’s course in London. I was a young mother at the time and, I was looking for a new job. Confident in my professional qualifications and in my previous experience of a few years work for a non-profit magazine in Belgium, I wondered whether I could start my own business.
Even though I had a small start-up budget and my revenues were only advertising sales based, I was fortunate to start the publication with a very professional team, who, as everyone knows, is the key to a successful business.
(A)WAY is a bimonthly lifestyle magazine in English for international families, it is produced by expats for expats away from home: I was inspired to create the (A)WAYmagazine after noticing that there were a lot of expatriate families in Belgium who were struggling to find information in English, written in a simple way for people like me, whose native language was not English.
My initial business idea was to offer interesting and current information to a readership composed of expatriate families, well-educated, willing to explore their new country, curious to familiarise themselves with the local culture, be informed on cultural events and where to visit. I wanted to create a virtual community of like-minded people. My aim was also to “package” all this with a human touch as these people were living far from their home country. The area I did not wish to deal with was news and politics, as they were not in my field of expertise.
PWI - Do you feel that your readership and their interests have changed since you started editing (A)WAYmagazine? Which are the most difficult professional challenges?
One of the main challenges for the (A)WAY Magazine is keeping its content always innovative, useful and interesting for the expatriate
community. It is continuously changing, not only because people are constantly moving in and out of Belgium, but also because it needs to reflect the changes in society. For example, we have observed an increasing number of singles with different interests from families. In other words, it is necessary to be creative at all times and understand your readership. For this reason we organize focus groups every year to get feedback and input from our readership.
When (A)WAY Magazine was created, there was a lack of information in English for expatriate families. Now with the internet and social media expansion and with a vast quantity of sources the effort is, on the contrary, to help the readership easily find what relevant for them. Internet should# not to be considered an enemy of the paper magazine and, therefore, we have created an on-line version (http://www.awaymagazine.be/magazine/current-issue
) and a Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/awaymagazinebelgium
An e-newsletter to update our readers on ‘not to miss’ community events and the most interesting events in Belgium is also available.
As for many magazines nowadays, another challenge is to keep the right balance between the content and advertising. We follow a traditional 40 (advertising) to 60 (editorial) percent ratio, including free pages for non-profit organizations to support good causes and give our readers a sense of community.
Last but not least, is our attention to nature: the format of the (A)WAY Magazine is ecologically friendly.
Its size allows us to utilize the entire sheet used for printing with no paper wasted. This format also makes the (A)WAY Magazine very handy and reader-friendly.
PWI – Elena, what do you like most about your profession?
I feel very fortunate to do a job I enjoy. I am the founder and the owner of this publishing house specializing in expatriate media, which involves my editor and a team of around 30 freelance journalists, a graphics studio, a web designer, an agency who sells advertising space and many supporters of the publication.
I love the incredible feeling of creating something, even with the added anxiety of delivering something that people might question. I love the creativity and the diversity of my job, the possibility to meet and communicate with people.
PWI – Have you noticed different competencies between women and men in your type of job?
I think that there is no gender difference in professionalism and I completely disagree about fixing women quotas in management positions: the people who are most capable should be fairly chosen and appointed.
PWI - How do you cope with the workload of your profession and your family?
Combining work with family is not easy for women and also might not be easy for children too, but it is possible. You can have different scenarios, but I honestly think the “children should be interviewed” about how they feel about their mothers working crazy hours… We need to respect them.
I explained to my children that my life is as important as their life. I have chosen to have my three children in specific periods of my life when I was ready, because having children is very demanding. I have a 22-year-old daughter who is studying medicine in London, a 9 year old daughter and a 2 year old son. I also strongly believe that an unhappy mother cannot bring up a happy child.
PWI – What would you recommend, Elena, to a woman that would like to start a business like yours?
My three main pieces of advice are:
• Get support - This is a very demanding business and therefore it is necessary that your spouse and family understand this and are behind you.
• Make a clear business plan – In this sector it is easy to fail: 5 out of 6 magazines usually don’t survive more than one year. It is critical to build a solid business plan for the short, intermediate and long term.
• Be aware of the technology evolution – We are facing a revolution in publishing, papers struggle and will need to evolve to fit the needs of readers. Advertisers are not yet totally convinced to use publications which are only online, but the new generation is becoming increasingly used to digital support, which is becoming more and more powerful.
| Short Biography
Elena Bucciero, born in Russia, has gained a degree in Russian literature and Russian from the University of Moscow and a degree in French literature and French from the Free University of Brussels.
She has completed the MBA from the International Management Institute in Brussels and a Publisher’s course in London.
Elena’s areas of expertise are public relations and publishing. Elena founded (A)WAY magazine in 2005.
She is married and is the proud mother of three children.
Elena Bucciero, publisher
(A)WAY Publishing House, Avenue des Saisons 100-102, b.30, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: + 32 (0)477 787 125, Fax: + 32 (0)2 639 39 50
Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of (A)WAY Publishing House, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.