The new owners of City Magazine sit down to talk entrepreneurship, goal-setting, and the art of starting a business from the kitchen table.
As a writer, this story was perhaps one of the easiest and hardest to tell. Telling the story of co-workers, friends, and role models comes naturally, yet getting it right is a daunting task.
Here at 609 High St., in the large airy living room, the pale lavender walls, warm wood floors, succulents, and greenery are relaxing. Apple products litter the white kitchen table, adding the familiarity of work to the ambiance of friendship.
The partners of City Magazine are a balanced combination of personalities, with each of their specific strengths refined to razor sharp precision. Janelle Wilbers Haley’s quick, dry wit complements Kate Morrow’s thoughtful intelligence. Sarah Bohl is all outgoing enthusiasm with a slight Southern drawl. Missy Creed McFerron breathes experience and moves with assuredness. All four women are united by their passion for Jefferson City.
What does bringing City Magazine home mean to you?
KM: I’m not sure a lot of people knew that the magazine wasn’t locally owned before. Tami [Turner, former publisher] did a really good job of making the magazine a staple in the community.
JH: This is where the magazine should be. It should be owned locally because we know our people best, so getting to own and be a part of this whole thing — it just makes sense to me.
What changes is the new City Magazine leadership bringing to the magazine?
SB: We want to continue to bring the same great content and continue to involve the community and show how much Jefferson City has to offer. We’re extending what’s already been done and adding our own flair to it.
What does each team member bring to the table?
JH: I’ve been with City Magazine since 2015 selling advertising and helping with creative concepting. My role as sales director is not only to help grow the magazine financially, but also to partner with local businesses to help promote their products and services through advertising and content.
KM: I work with clients to define how we can best visualize what they have to offer. I design ads and layout of the magazine. I’ve been working with City Magazine since 2013, so it’s exciting to watch it grow in a new direction.
MC: I work out in our community, staying involved, knowing what’s going on, and tying all this together into ideas and concepts for the magazine.
SB: My biggest role is to plan the events, like Ones to Watch, Impact JCMO, and the launches, and also to be an advocate within the community for the magazine. My team and I are also going to bring back City’s Best.
You [Missy and Sarah] were both Ones to Watch in the past. Did you ever imagine that you would be a part of the ownership of City Magazine?
MC: Oh gosh, no! Life is wild, isn’t it?
SB: We knew it was out there and expressed interest, but it wasn’t the right time. We didn’t want to purchase the magazine without Kate and Janelle. When they were approached about the magazine as well, they also felt the same.
MC: We were all in the hot seat at different times and knew we didn’t want to do it without the others. Now we’re all partners, and that’s what’s so beautiful about the whole thing.
When did you know that you wanted to own your own business?
SB: I was always interested in owning my own business, but I never took the plunge. After I decided not to continue teaching and I started working with Missy, starting a couple businesses just fell into place. Missy has such a good head for business that it gave me confidence in our new adventures.
MC: I guess I always knew I was going to be my own boss. I started my first business in my junior year of college, making one-of-a-kind handbags, but Dogwood Social was my first legitimate business. It has a bank account, is registered with the Missouri Secretary of State, and has an operating agreement. I was working at my ‘big girl job,’ a.k.a. a job with benefits like insurance and vacation, and had to figure out a different path. I learned a lot, but I wasn’t exercising all my strengths.
KM: It’s funny you called your job your ‘big girl job’ because, for me, I see this as my ‘big girl job.’ When you’re working for someone else, you don’t have to make the hard decisions and have all the answers.
What’s the hardest part about becoming a new business owner?
KM: Deciding to do it.
JH: To jump or not jump.
KM: It was definitely a ‘you jump and I jump’ situation. Thinking of my family, wanting to be a good role model to my boys, showing them it’s OK to take a chance and go after your passion. I also knew if I didn’t do this, I’d miss it.
JH: I have a newfound respect for business owners. I always respected them, of course, but I never really understood what they go through day in and day out.
How did you first motivate yourself to take the entrepreneurial leap?
MC: I had one client I had found from messaging her on Facebook Messenger, and she agreed to hire me, so I knew I was going to make at least $500 a month. I saved up enough money to pay my bills for three months and my husband (boyfriend at the time) said he would feed me. And I said alright.
JH: I had a lot of fear, and so when I was going back and forth, I said to myself and my husband, if it doesn’t work out, it’s OK — but I have to try. So I decided to transform that fear into determination and took the leap.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a business owner?
SB: Specific to this? Learning the lingo! Every industry has its own words and phrases, but it’s fun to learn it all.
JH: In my case, switching gears from employee to owner. I learn new things just about every day, and we’re lucky to have such amazing local businesses that have helped us through this process.
KM: I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes person, and now that’s not always the case. I do have to put myself out there and have the answers to the questions people ask.
Are there any tools or technologies that you would recommend for business owners?
SB: We live by our Google Calendars. Missy and I gave a business presentation the other day and I was like, ‘What I’ve learned from my business partner is to share my Google Calendar with my husband!’
MC: I actually use my Google Calendar to set meetings with myself to allow me the time I need to work on things.
JH: Asana is a great project management system (which I’m still learning to use) to help with communication, efficiency, and deadlines.
What’s the best advice you can give to someone who is considering taking the plunge into entrepreneurship?
MC: Be very selective about who you listen to. There are so many opinions, and sometimes the people who love you and care about you the most aren’t the right people to take advice from.
SB: Find people who are better than you. Surround yourself with people who are better and you will be better.
KM: Remember why you wanted to go for it in the first place. It’s important to keep track of your goals so you know what you’re working toward.
MC: When I first started Dogwood, I had a little sign by my desk that said “Nothing will make you feel better except doing the work.”
JH: Plan your week and set daily goals. Make self-care a priority so you can be your best at home and at work.
About the illustration:
We’ve heard these words a lot in the past few months. When we sat down to plan this issue, we knew our priorities: community, subtle changes as we make it ours, art, and a magazine with meaningful partnerships. To us, these words define CITY at this moment in time. Adrienne Luther was the perfect local artist to make this come to life.