Hello again and thanks for tuning in. We made it, it's Friday! Hooray!
Now alarmingly, I thought I had covered this topic before, I was so sure I had written a blog post about this but looking back it appears I haven't. I know it is a question I am constantly asked and a talking point that frequently gets covered when I attend events or meet new people but it must have slipped the net when it comes to blogging. When I started writing this post, I thought I would just jot it all down from start to finish but as I got into it, I realised there is so much more to this journey that I wanted to share with you and so I have split this post into three parts. Part one I am posting tonight and I am aiming for part two to follow tomorrow, followed by part three on Sunday.
For those of you who are new to my blog and even those of you who have been following me for a while and haven't yet heard the full story, sit back and let me tell you.
I started what you now recognise as In The Country almost three years ago now, although back then it was known as It's A Country Life. I had recently returned from working and travelling in New Zealand and at just turned 20, I was still pretty unsure on what I wanted to do.
With no degree to my name, (I do have some good GCSEs and AS Qualifications) little work experience, other than working with horses or on a farm, getting a career style job was proving tricky.
No office based job was willing to take me
due to my lack of experience, which I found hugely frustrating. A common response from interviews was; 'in a six months to a year, once I had gained some office based experience, you'd be perfect for this role.' My argument was always, well how did they expect me to gain experience without first giving me the opportunity to gain it?!
After a few frustrating weeks of practically getting nowhere and becoming really quite disheartened by the whole experience, I decided to stick at what I was good at; working with horses. A few more weeks down the line, I had almost forgotten about the whole job search fiasco and was back doing what I enjoyed surrounded by the smell of manure... and horses, until one day I got a phone call out of the blue from Horse & Rider Magazine inviting me in for an interview. I had totally forgotten I had applied for the job weeks back. I gratefully accepted and deciding that this was the FINAL interview I would do, purely because they had phoned me up, I went along and was offered the job shortly after, much to my amazement.
The role was working within the Advertising Sales team on both Horse & Rider and PONY Magazine. Two magazines I had lovingly read throughout my childhood and teenage years, so working for them was completely surreal. The team within the office are fantastic and some of them are still good friends of mine even now. I spent approximately six months working in the office, selling advertising space to small and large businesses - a huge learning experience and one I'll be forever grateful for as they gave me the chance and the opportunity I was so in need of.
I started the job in July and around the same time, I decided to launch my own blog, purely for my own pleasure. I wanted to share my adventures, my thoughts and my dreams with anyone who wanted to listen. I knew it wouldn't be an overnight hit but I was more interested in the journey it'd take me on. I remember sitting down one night, opening a free account with Wix, choosing a template I liked the look of and designing the rest of my website. I think I wrote two or three back posts to get me going so that it looked like I at least had some kind of content on there. I chose the name; It's A Country Life which I thought was very apt and described the blog perfectly. It was easy to remember and had a great ring to it. Once I had finished, I pressed publish and it was as simple as that. I had a blog and it was live.
Side note: I wish I had taken more images at the time so that I could look back now and reflect upon how the business has evolved since then. The blog and website look VERY different now I can tell you.
I began writing about topics I enjoyed, things I had experienced or even news I thought might be interesting. I began blogging under the name Hollie-Ella as I was so nervous about my friends and family discovering my blog and thinking it was awful! I was terrified people might catch on and laugh or mock me for becoming a 'blogger. ' I remember one of my earliest posts going viral on Facebook, thanks to the NZ Farming page, it was all about what it is like to date a farmer, you can read it here. All of our friends were tagging each other in it, myself and my partner at the time were even tagged in it, obviously none of them knew it was me who'd written it. Despite my then partner urging me to come forward and say it was me, I was more than happy to keep it that way.
It seems silly now, looking back on it. I am so immensely proud of what I have achieved. However, the name stuck and I continue to blog under Hollie-Ella as this is how my followers know me. I use my full name when it comes to business in most cases as I feel it is a little more professional but as blogger Hollie-Ella is my identity.
As I began creating more content, my following on social media began to grow too, my posts were slowly getting more likes and I was beginning to build up relationships with brands and other bloggers in the industry. I remember one of the first brand/business profile posts I created was with Catherine Orpin and her partner James who are behind the emerging country/coastal lifestyle brand, Touch of Tweed. I remember calling Catherine up to discuss my ideas for the post and how I'd love to feature them and their brand which, at that point hadn't been created yet. From then, Catherine and I have been great friends and have supported each other's growing businesses as much as we can. You might recognise Catherine and ToT from the Spring 2017 issue of In The Country Magazine where they featured as our Business In The Spotlight.
As I was progressing with the blog, I was still working 9-5, Monday to Friday at H&R Magazine, we would regularly look at the other magazines in the industry for new client leads and exciting products from businesses we might not have come across yet. In doing so, I would flick through each issue's content (inevitably, you can't have a gorgeous looking equestrian magazine in front of you and not have a quick read!). I would often suggest look at some of the country magazines for inspiration too as being an equestrian, I too enjoyed the country lifestyle and pursuits that come with that. In studying the publications from the equestrian, country, shooting, farming and lifestyle sectors, I struck upon a
I believed I had identified gap in the market. I felt that there wasn't a publication that covered all aspects of life in the country, that was targeted specifically at women who were of a younger generation. By younger, I mean ages approximately 20-44, not your teenage student readers (although we do have many of those, which I love to see), nor your elderly female readers living at home in their grande country estate. No, I saw a gap for a magazine aimed at US, you and me. Genuine country bumpkins who love shooting, love horses, love a spot of shooting and love farming. We're all round country gals.
So, with that in mind, I began to think well why couldn't I set out to fill that gap myself? Why couldn't I be the one to create that new magazine that the ladies within the countryside so dearly deserve. Once I that idea had become planted in my head, there was no way it was going to leave.
If you've been following me from the beginning, you might remember I had posted a number of polls on Twitter, asking my followers whether they'd welcome a new magazine of that nature and if they thought there was a demand for it. The response each time was resoundingly positive and that spurred me on even more. I began to think up plans for the magazine and started to research how I might achieve this.
As my ideas came into fruition and the magazine became more of a possibility and less of a pipe dream, I decided to avoid a conflict of interest, I ought to leave Horse & Rider and PONY Magazine, and so in April of 2016, I left my full time job to attempt to pursue the magazine and the business that accompanied it.
I wanted to create something unique and something different, I was adamant that the magazine had to look and feel like a proper magazine. That meant it had to be a standard A4 size, it had to have a substantial number of pages and above all it HAD to have a thick, glossy cover, be perfect bound and most definitely NOT stapled together. At first my father didn't understand why I would commit myself to these additional costs, however now I think he'd admit he is pleased I did.
For those of you who didn't see the first issue (we printed a limited amount and completely sold out), I had some great support from some fabulous and iconic lifestyle brands whilst curating the first issue; Marcus and Felix of Fairfax & Favor who very kindly donated our first ever Golden Ticket prize - a pair of gorgeous Regina boots, were just one of those brands mentioned. I also interviewed them both and they featured in our first Behind The Brand piece, with this image.
You might recognise the cover image below taken by Nick Rosendale from Events Through A Lens. Nick has been a huge support to both me and the business ever since I met him in the lion's den at Badminton Horse Trials, where he offered to shoot our first cover. Nick and I have worked together since then, along with some of his incredibly talented models, to create some fantastic front covers and I am delighted to say that we will be working together again to create our upcoming Spring cover too which I cannot wait for you all to see!
After leaving my full time job, it was full steam ahead to produce the first issue of the magazine and release it to the world. I remember Googling 'how to make a magazine' and initially so many suggestions came up and I started playing around with designs in Word and PowerPoint (a suggestion from Caroline Constable, editor of Style Reins) but I just felt that I wasn't achieving the desired affect. I had recalled some girls in the office at H&R using a programme called InDesign and so I researched that and decided that this would be the most professional (albeit confusing!) software for me to create the magazine on. I wanted to create the best possible first impression after all. And so, I downloaded the software, bought the licensing and began to teach myself - via YouTube tutorials - how to navigate the software and design a magazine.
Again, to those of you who do have the first magazine or were lucky enough to see a friends, I think you'll agree that the design and layout has evolved since then as I have become more skilled and experienced with the software.
By this point, my social media following (mainly on Instagram) was steadily increasing and I had begun to tease my audience with promotional posts about the magazine's launch. A few months beforehand, I opened the magazine up for pre-orders which came flooding in almost immediately. Having finished the magazine, all that was left to do was send it to the printers and wait for it to arrive. That certainly wasn't as straight forward as it might seem but I am conscious I have kept you here for quite a while now and so will let you go and I will pick up where we left off tomorrow.
Thank you for reading and I hope you have found it an interesting story so far, I am sure I have missed bits out but if I hadn't we'd both be here for hours!
Lots of love,