When Dean and Darlene Jacobson moved from Philadelphia, PA, to Charlottesville, VA, they were anxious to become involved in Virginia's horse community. They searched for a local horse publication that included information about upcoming events, classified ads and horse news. When they couldn't find such a publication, the Jacobson's set out to create it themselves.
Motivated by their love of horses, they began to write the Virginia Horse Journal, a pamphlet-sized publication of about 20 pages, from their home. Without prior publishing experience, they struggled to produce two issues and then reevaluated their enterprise. Darlene thought that there must be someone with experience who would be willing to help them avoid the common pitfalls. A friend suggested SCORE.
In just three years, Virginia Horse Journal has grown to 80 pages of content. The Journal's 30,000 readers find it informative, as well as personable and entertaining. It is available for free in more than 500 locations throughout Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania and over 1,000 loyal readers subscribe to the publication. This year's revenue is expected to top $100,000. The Jacobsons have also developed a Web site that posts current horse news, events and classified ads (www.virginiahorse.com). The site has gotten 58,000 hits since February.
Experiencing great success today, the Jacobson's have not had much time to rest lately. Last year, they were named the Official Horse Publication of the Virginia Horse Council and the Virginia Horse Industry Board. They still meet with their SCORE mentors frequently, about every six weeks or when a problem arises. "They keep us in line. Sometimes we are scared to move forward and make a decision, but we are more scared to not listen to them…they are always right about everything!"
Virginia Horse Journal continues to gallop along, having gone from a bimonthly to monthly publication, which means more income for the Jacobsens. "We've also added a Web site and received a grant to do a directory of the state horse industry," adds Darlene. "Things couldn't be going better."
There have been a few changes, such as a move to Northern Virginia. But the Jacobsens have already made contact with the local SCORE chapter. "There are a lot of things that we want to talk about, such as adding new products, making our Web site more productive and dealing with potential competition," says Darlene.
Specific industry expertise made SCORE a valuable resource to the Jacobsons. Both Reg and Arlene were able to assist the budding publishers with developing rate schedules, ad sales strategies and plans for how to balance the volume of editorial and advertising content in the publication. As a niche publication, the Jacobsons' SCORE mentors provided solid information on how to make a very targeted publication a profitable business venture.
Darlene and Dean met with SCORE mentors Reg Hubley and Arlene Anns, both former McGraw-Hill publishing executives. "It was like an angel was watching out for us. We knew nothing about publishing—we couldn't have found two more perfect people." They met with Arlene and Reg frequently to work on editorial improvements and format and layout changes. They would also speak on the phone whenever something important came up. Twice a month, when the issues were ready to go to the printer, the Jacobsons would invite Arlene and Reg to their house for lunch and they would spend the entire afternoon going over the proof and revising the layout for the magazine.
Reg and Arlene also offered advice on circulation and advertising sales. To develop a circulation base, the Jacobsons began delivering copies of the journal to local retail horse businesses, such as tack and feed stores. Dean sent more than 100 letters to advertisers and received an overwhelming response. The Journal offered an ideal forum for retail horse businesses and horse owners to exchange information about the trade.