Spotlight On: Grace Neal, Coffee Yard Media

Welcome to my first post of 2016 and brand new "Spotlight On" Series!

So here we are, with a whole brand new year ahead of us! 2016 is already looking like a pretty exciting prospect, with lots of things planned for both my businesses and this blog.

I thought I would kick 2016 off with a little something I have been planning for a while, my Spotlight On Series!  This is going to be a weekly feature, going live every Friday with a new business story.

I decided to create this format, as I really wanted to find a way to introduce you to the stories of lots of different entrepreneurs, freelancers and more established business owners.

I am constantly inspired by the sheer variety of businesses out there and the multiple paths that people have taken when building something that delivers new experiences or added value to the world.

I want this series to reflect this and create a space in which people can showcase their unique story, whether that's one of overnight success, a long hard slog, or simply sheer determination. 

I'm going to try and give you a range of different experiences, from large and established ventures, to small start-ups. There also isn't going to be a focus on a specific sector or "type" of business owner, what I'm really looking for are the interesting journeys which readers can take something away from!

I thought I would start things off with someone that I know personally and have a huge amount of respect for, Grace Neal.

Grace is the ridiculously talented designer behind York on a Fork, a city specific food magazine which I am also proud to work on!

After working for several years in the industry, Grace took the brave decision in 2015 to strike out and create a design and publishing company of her own. 

Here is her story so far!

Grace Neal Coffee Yard Media

Name: Grace Neal

Business Name: Coffee Yard Media Ltd

Age of business: Six months

Coffee Yard Media Ltd. is a design and publishing company. Since the company started in August 2015, I am CEO and Tea Girl.  I design print and digital magazines and catalogues for traditional publishers and brands who want to begin publishing. The magazine publishing industry has changed completely over the last few years, now publishers are seeing the merits in hiring outside experts to bring them up-to-date knowledge, rather than sustaining an in-house team with limited resources. Working with many clients allows me to take the techniques I learn from one publisher and apply it to another, improving their their output. This is crucial in digital publishing, where there are many publishers wanting to create tablet editions, but don’t know where to begin. I recommend which digital output suits their product best, then design a magazine to partner the print edition.

So what's the inspiration behind Coffee Yard Media?

Since my first year at university, I knew I wanted to design magazines. It’s the most competitive design industry to be a part of though, so didn’t fancy my chances. I would sit in my student digs with a phone in my hand and call the offices of every magazine on my shelf. I was offered an internships at womens’ weekly More! and ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi. I declined them both as Singletrack mountain bike magazine offered me a full-time position. I learned every aspect of independent publishing there, so left after three years to go it alone. 

Have you had any setbacks? What have you learnt from them?

 I'm fortunate that so far I've not encountered any major setbacks so far. Copy, images and adverts do get handed to me late, but that's a universal trait of working to deadlines. Handling late contributors without freaking out is all part of the job. It requires patience. I've had the honour of working with some richly skilled high-profile journalists too, so swings and roundabouts. 

What is the single achievement that you are most proud of? 

Our in-house publication, York on a Fork. Just to hear that it’s a magazine people genuinely love to read is the most important thing. It’s my way of giving back to the beautiful city in which I live. We tried three digital issues then started printing. Printing is something many new publishers are scared to do because of the financial outlay, but having a physical presence pays dividends beyond the numbers in the bank account. 

If you could start again, what would you do differently?

 I’d certainly set aside a few more holiday days. The ‘quiet days’ at the beginning didn’t last! 

What would be your number one tip for someone thinking about starting their own venture? 

Ignore the books which say “you’ll need three month’s salary in the bank before you start”. That’s unrealistic for most of us- you’ll never get going. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and promote your strengths. If you love baking cakes, but your bread won't rise, show off your cakes and hide the bread. The wedding planners will come, while sandwich shops will find someone else. I’m passionate about editorial design, and know the nuts and bolts of how magazines are made, so do that. I know the kind of design work I’m less skilled at, and am happy to recommend another freelancer who will do a better job than myself at it.

Do you have any big projects or plans for 2016 that we should know about?

Yes! I’m working with Hive Mind, a new publisher made up of seasoned experts.  The guys there have a vision and passion which rubs off on me - which is the best type of client to have! I can’t say too much, other than it’s going to be a lot of fun. 

Do you have an exciting business story to share? Get in touch about being featured in my Spotlight On Series using the form below!

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