SK Naturally Begins
In 1998, when we first thought a magazine about Saskatchewan was a good idea, there were those who thought we were crazy. Saskatchewan still had a reputation as a flat, mosquito-ridden wasteland that most were happy to have escaped. For us, we had found a land of plenty—a place of incredible subtle beauty—and our magazine was going to tell the world about it.
A few years earlier we had abandoned our little cabin in the woods near Courtenay, BC and were striving to find a way to make a living on the farm in Saskatchewan. Attempts at growing heritage grains and herbs netted one ice cream pail of kamut and roughly $60 in herb sales after a full summer of labour. We needed to find a better way.
Ever of the entrepreneurial mind, I one day casually pitched the idea of a provincial magazine to my husband, Lionel, who has a Bachelor of Journalism from Ryerson University. His 2/3-time job as Communications Officer at the local health district was not getting us anywhere, and we were expecting our second child. I was about to let go my job in town at the insurance agency to wait out the last days of my pregnancy. Lionel, who is decidedly NOT of the entrepreneurial mind, said he would think about it, which, in retrospect, I think meant, "No."
Of course, we didn't just discuss this idea once and make a decision. Many conversations took place where I continually emphasized the merits of my idea. "If you can build it, I can market it," I said, confident in my Bachelor of Finance from Ottawa University.
It would be just like Beautiful British Columbia Magazine, a staple that Lionel had grown up with as a kid. A letter from the BC magazine publisher gave us his blessing as we copied everything we could from their wonderful example. They knew we would eventually develop our own style.
We even went so far as to apply for financial assistance through the CARD fund (Canadian Adaptation and Rural Development) managed by the PFRA (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration). It was a long shot, we knew, but we thought that if we actually succeeded in obtaining funding for an initial run of a sample magazine—referred to as a "prototype" in our application—then that would be a sign for us to carry on.
One day, we got the call that our CARD application was accepted. The PRFA was giving us $18,000 to develop and market a prototype of Saskatchewan Naturally Magazine (our original title). We realized that this was serious! It was time to kick in the rest of our resources if this was going to fly. Oh yeah… what resources?
We didn't have the computer nor the software we needed, so we managed to find a company that would rent us both. The new equipment looked great set up on our kitchen table! By another miracle, the Royal Bank was in the mood to lend money to "technology" companies and we fit the bill. A non-secured credit line of $35,000 was extended to us thanks to Murray Young at the branch in Yorkton. Finally, we wouldn't be able to do the travel necessary to cover the province in our old jalopy—we needed a new family van. Days later, we drove a brand new Honda Odyssey off the showroom floor.
Even though we had done a lot of talking about the concept of the magazine and had made connections with virtually all the suppliers that Beautiful British Columbia Magazine was using at the time, it still remained for us to actually figure out how to desktop publish. QuarkXpress was completely new to us, as was the MacIntosh computer. We were starting at ground zero in magazine publishing.
Freelance contributors for stories and photos were sourced, news releases were sent, and the big launch date was set—October 9, 1998. We wanted to wow Saskatchewan with what we thought it deserved—the most beautiful presentation of the province ever printed in a magazine.
In my next blog, I'll relive the excitement of the launch of Saskatchewan Naturally Magazine at the Saskatoon Berry Barn outside Saskatoon.