I met Lizzy back in 2014 during a creative female’s conference in Los Angeles. Quiet and patiently sitting next to me for the next speaker, we started up a conversation. We connected right away as we spoke about living on the East Coast, our goals as entrepreneurs and what it’s like being a creative. I quickly found out she began a beautiful print publication and “guide for the daring creative” called Bunch Magazine. Even though Lizzy resides across the country, we quickly began a great digital friendship; I’ve come to admire her sense of business and invited her to speak at our recent Fearless Philly Conference. A perfect example of the fabulous femmes we highlight here at Femme & Fortune, it’s my pleasure to introduce you all to Lizzy Okoro of Bunch Magazine!
Femme & Fortune: With all this talk about print dying, why start a print magazine and not go the online route first? Tell us about your inspiration behind Bunch Magazine.
Lizzy: Honestly speaking, most of the decision was based on the fact that I have a (strange) obsession with print magazines. So much so that when I moved from LA to NY I shipped out my collection of magazines. When it was time to move from NY back to LA, I tearfully let them go. I’m a millennial but on the older end of this generation so most of my adolescence was spent reading magazines which was the only way I could peek into a life outside of my own and learn about the world. So a print magazine was a bit of nostalgia for me.
The other reason is because at the time BUNCH got started, the word “creatives” wasn’t the buzzword it is now. I knew that I wanted to establish a space where creative professionals would be taken seriously. The online market felt saturated and I needed to ensure that my voice didn’t get drowned out and the stories lost. I knew that with print people would stop and wonder what is so special about this community of people that someone would invest the time and money into printing their story. The message is in the medium. So far it looks like I made the right decision!
Femme & Fortune: I see the hashtag #OneOfTheBunch used all over for your brand. How did you come up with it, and what difference has it made within the community you’re building?
Lizzy: My original name for the magazine was “Communitas” which is obviously HORRIBLE. When I finally realized that name wouldn’t work, I kept thinking about the principles behind the brand and how it’s really to promote community, sharing, and to spotlight these cool creatives who are part of something unique. I remember saying out loud that the people we intended to interview were one of these bunch of inspiring creatives. ‘One of the BUNCH’ stuck and I instantly knew I had a hashtag there. It’s fun to see people use the hashtag, we often receive emails from people saying, “I’m #oneoftheBUNCH” which means people really get what we’re about.
Femme & Fortune: What makes a strong female entrepreneur to you?
Lizzy: I love this question so much!
A strong entrepreneur is committed, plain and simple. She is someone who feels that starting their business is a calling and a passion and will do whatever it takes to make that dream come true. Even if that means trying different businesses, failing and having to start again, or waiting years to see success.
They can’t not be an entrepreneur because that is what they are meant to do. I think there is a very strange trend of people wanting to start their own business because they think it would be fun to have that title but they’re unwilling to do the work that it takes because it’s simply not their calling.
Femme & Fortune: What has been the biggest personal struggle for you when you started Bunch Magazine? How/when did you figure out a solution and how are you dealing with that struggle now?
Lizzy: Oh boy, I’ve had so many struggles. Where do I begin? 🙂
Like so many people, I jumped right into this not knowing exactly what I was doing. I’m a huge advocate of pulling the trigger and learning on the fly. The difficult part was that I really knew nothing about the business aspect of running a magazine. It took way too long for me to figure that out. The longer I stuck with BUNCH the more people I was able to meet and learn from them.
On a personal level, my confidence started to wane at a certain point when business wasn’t booming the way I had anticipated. I questioned whether I had any right to call myself an Editor-in-Chief, I questioned if I was smart enough, I questioned everything. I am generally a very confident person, so it was strange for me to deal with this level of self doubt. I can’t point to a specific event that plucked me out of this phase but time heals everything. The longer I stayed committed to the journey, the less I worried about whether I was capable of the job and instead focused on getting the job done.
Femme & Fortune: Do you have a morning ritual? Tell us all about it!
Lizzy: I like to wake up early, some days 5am, never later than 7am. It’s usually, in this exact order:
– Instagram app on my phone
– Pinterest app on my phone
– Glance at my emails and freak out
– Bug my boyfriend to wake up
– Walk my dog Peter
– Coffee (more recently tea, trying to limit my caffeine intake)
– Then I say, “Let the 15th annual Email Games begin. May the odds be ever in your favor.” That’s a Hunger Games reference for anyone not in the know.
Femme & Fortune: There’s a ton of stress related to having your own business, but what makes you smile about running your own business? What makes it all worth it to you?
Lizzy: I feel great when someone says that they feel inspired by BUNCH and that it has had a significant impact on their life. Not too long ago a man thanked me for creating the magazine, he had his copy in his hand, it was dog eared and highlighted. He brought tears to my eyes telling me about the impact the stories had on him. I couldn’t believe that the magazine had impacted him in this way. It feels like I’m doing something bigger than myself and that makes it all worth it.
Femme & Fortune: What are some of your favorite resource(s) for creativity or inspiration on a daily basis?
Lizzy: I’m a huge business nerd so I love reading Forbes and Entrepreneur. God bless Pinterest, it is an endless source of inspiration. I’m lucky to have a very cool boyfriend who is also a creative. Watching him follow his dreams and being able to bounce ideas off of him is tons of fun.
Femme & Fortune: Who’s business role model and why?
Lizzy: Oprah hands down. It probably isn’t worth explaining but I’ll do so anyway: she is a self-made woman of color billionaire. She founded multiple businesses based on following her passion and letting each one evolve into another one. From a local talk show, to a syndicated talk show, to a network. A magazine, a production studio, a school. She shows that you can have it all.
Shane Smith of Vice. Same reasons as Oprah. Shane has made all the right decisions and look at him now.
Femme & Fortune: Why should someone read Bunch Magazine?
Lizzy: So you’re a photographer, what’s your real job?
You’re a dancer, what’s your plan B if this doesn’t work out?
Maybe you should quit and do something more secure.
That’s what you hear when you’re a creative. People spend most of their time pitying you or trying to talk you out of pursuing your career – that is until they see you reach a level of success.
The whole point of the magazine is to empower creatives because there are plenty of people discouraging us.
BUNCH delves into the pitfalls of being a creative and then shows you how to climb out. Most importantly, we inspire people to go after their dreams no matter what and that’s something everyone can relate to.
Femme & Fortune: Where do you see your career in the next year? Are you launching any other projects you’d like to share?
Lizzy: 2016 is my year! I know, how annoying. But really this is my year. I spent a lot of time planting seeds last year and this is the time to see things grow. BUNCH is about to explode: we’re adding a podcast, more digital media, and tons of offline events.
Personally, my goal is to publish another title before the end of the year. I’m also in the process of designing something with Adidas for their Adidas Neo collection which will debut early 2017.