Rachel Southwood launched Giraffe Media in 2004

Seven years ago in the back bedroom of my home in Taunton, Giraffe Media was incorporated to launch Wedding Ideas – the UK’s first monthly, A5-sized newsstand bridal title. In a market that was previously dominated by bi-monthly, glossy, coffee-table-style magazines, Wedding Ideas took the industry by storm and was soon recognised as an essential purchase by brides to be who were crying out for a practical, friendly and budget-aware magazine. From such humble beginnings, Wedding Ideas has risen to the dizzy heights of being the number one bridal title in most of the major UK supermarkets.

I set Giraffe up with the support of my late husband – who died in 2004 when our son was 18 months old – and a former business partner who the shareholders bought out in June 2008. I led this buyout process and remain a 60% shareholder.

With an editorial background, having launched and worked on around 20 magazines during my career at some of the biggest publishing companies, I didn’t have the first clue about publishing magazines or indeed running a business. After the buyout, my first phone call was to a publishing friend and it went along the lines of: “Erm, how do I know that the next issue is going to hit the shelves…?”

Of course, a crash course in publishing followed and soon I began to understand the intricacies of magazine publishing, as well as life as a managing director. Not satisfied with the service received by many of my (then) suppliers, I have subsequently brought in new printers, accountants, lawyers and even changed my distribution company – a move that was advised against by many, but has seen our copy sales grow by around 8% over three years. Indeed, in the recent ABC figures released in February, we saw a 6% rise in newsstand copies sold, when all other UK bridal titles saw a decline.

After the buyout I also made a number of changes to the management structure within Giraffe, weeding out those who didn’t share my vision for the business and appointing a senior management team, who I still rely on, consult with and delegate to on a regular basis.

So close are the team here at Giraffe (and so passionate about what they do), that we call ourselves ‘the herd’, and one of our wall slogans – we have many – says “I love you, though, don’t I?” a phrase we use when things go wrong! Those of us who have children also childcare share in the school holidays to lighten the load. Being in the back and beyond in Somerset means that I can cherry pick my staff, often from un-traditional places. For example, our editorial assistant was my son’s nursery teacher, and our deputy editor managed the local pub. This translates into a team with much to bring to the company, with different interests and backgrounds. With the magazine experience we have within, training is always a joy and the empty book nature of their experience translates into an incredible enthusiasm and passion.

At the National Wedding Show at Olympia

The Wedding Ideas brand has grown to be much more than just a magazine. We have a busy and popular website – www.weddingideasmag.com, an online shop – www.weddingideasshop.com, one of the best populated online communities in the industry – www.weddingideasmag.com/forum/ and we host the UK’s only consumer wedding awards – www.weddingideasawards.com every year, playing host to 500 of the leading names in the industry. We also have a huge following on facebook, our blog and just short of 13,500 followers on Twitter (@wimagazine).

www.twitter.com/wimagazine

Often the Wedding Ideas Awards are hailed as ‘the event of the year’ coming, as they do, in January – a lull time in the wedding industry. With a celebrity presenter, we match-make tables, provide a fantastic networking opportunity to our guests and we have a whole lot of fun.

What I believe makes us unique (apart from the brilliance of our product, and the passion with which we create it) is our location, our independence and my leadership style. I try very hard to empower the team to make decisions, to shape the company’s future and to be involved in its success. I feel that happy staff makes for a better product and we care about each other. We pride ourselves on our customer service and our understanding of magazines, our readers’ and our clients’ needs. I have surrounded myself with people who share my work ethic and business aspirations, and who want to have fun along the way. In fact, our motto is: “If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing…”

Rachel with ad manager Pippa Ward