Kerry Smith was looking for something new so she moved from Texas to Illinois in order to be closer to her family and friends. Smith began working at a local newspaper but something was missing. “I realized that I was living in a six-county region with 30,000 companies that had no business journal. I was working at a small daily paper looking for a place to write business news, but none existed,” she says. Smith decided she would start her own Illinois Business Journal, but before launching, she did her research contacting chambers of commerce and SCORE. She and her SCORE mentor, Richard Rook, spent countless hours perfecting all aspects of her pending journal launch.
“These days, more newspapers fold than get started,” Kerry says. “Richard Rook and SCORE are the reason this publication continues to prosper. At no cost, I gained expertise that you cannot put a price on. And the caliber of SCORE’s volunteers is amazing. The local chapter has CEO’s, Ph.D.’s, and other experts who willingly give up the free time they’ve worked so hard for to help people like me get started in business.”
The Illinois Business Journal has a circulation of 20,000 and a survey revealed that an average of four people read each issue, which pegs their readership at closer to 80,000. Kerry is also actively moving to provide all of their articles online. Unlike other older papers that depend on subscriptions for much of their revenue, the Illinois Business Journal is more dependent on advertisers. She sees that as a major plus, as journalism begins to move away from traditional print media.
“I didn’t even know what a business plan was, but veteran Southwest Illinois SCORE mentor Richard Rook helped me develop one. He has been with me all along asking if there was anything that they can do to make my business even more successful. I would go in and ask, ‘How much will this cost?’ or ‘Is this a good idea?’ and they would tell me honestly,” she says. “They provided literally hundreds of hours of support, especially during the initial stages. They didn’t know much about newspapers, but they knew everything else.”
Through their weekly one-hour meetings and countless faxes, Richard led Kerry through the process of creating a business plan, including three-year cash flow projections, insurance, distribution and marketing. “Richard treated me so well, it was like he had adopted a family member,” Kerry says. “He was so helpful. It’s still hard to believe that I received all that advice and assistance for no charge.”