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

16 COMMENTS

  1. Great to hear about the story behind the herd…and very very inspiring! What a great team you all make, I love receiving my WIM each month 🙂 xx

  2. Well despite having worked in this incredible industry and being very familiar with WImagazine I now feel I know & have a much a deeper insight into what makes you all tick and why the ethos is so successful. My background from long ago & far away was in marketing and I have always believed the most effective way to promote & keep loyal clients is to let them know the real you something this blog does so very well.
    From one happy family here at Eclipse Weddings to the ‘Herd’, don’t ever change or stop doing what you do cos we love you all just the way you are. xx

  3. Truly inspirational Rachel! You have done amazingly well and your team are fantastic. Love your ethos and the fact that you have helped some of us suppliers achieve our dreams too! xxxx

  4. So lovely to hear your inside story, from humble beginings to the dizzy heights of the top of the wedding industry though I feel you still have your feet firmly planted on the ground. Thank you for sharing & inspiring us all to aspire to greater things, from small acorns grow mighty oaks.

  5. Being part of such a successful magazine has boosted our business by miles, the giraffes are truly an inspiration to the wedding industry, they are always extremely helpful. encouraging and very thoughtful.
    From the time we met the giraffes in harrogate they have been fun. Rachel always makes us feel extremely special, i know we are just a small part of such an amazing magazine,but, its truly wonderful to have them on board with us.
    This magazine is adored by many brides, they use it as there bible, and what a fabulous bible it is, every month full of new ideas, well done giraffes heres to the 100.xx

  6. Happy 100th Issue Birthday Wedding Ideas. ~ and thank you for sharing your story.
    x
    While being a huge fan, part of the reason I love Wedding Ideas is when you deal with all the wonderful members of the Giraffe team you really feel how special a magazine it is. Unlike many magazines who have lost their soul, this publication is so alive in every way it is at the forefront of bringing the best of the industry into the handbags and hearts of all the lovely people who read her and I have always been honoured and proud to be in it.
    I raise a toast to all the wonderful people who make and made this Magazine so great!
    Here’s to the next 100 issues xx we all can’t wait
    x

  7. I think I speak for the whole herd when I say we are very blessed to be part of such an amazing company and an amazing team. Thank you for creating an environment that allows everyone to shine and enjoy what they do. Where would the world of weddings be without this pocket size bit of wedding magic!!

    Your an inspiration and we love you very much xxx

  8. Since meeting you and the lovely Herd, I can honestly say I’ve found where I belong. You make the difference to me and my business that I never expected, but always dreamt of. I feel so welcome, proud to be your friend and thrilled.. to the core with the support you continue to show me.
    This blog post, with your honesty and capacity for sharing and affection is why I love you.

  9. An inspirational tale! Thank you for sharing your story- I love the way you have cherry-picked your team and taken charge of your own destiny – it is little wonder the magazine has had, and continues to be such a success. Congratulations on your 100th issue and here’s to the next 100 issues ahead.

  10. You truly have achieved inspirational magazine not only for its content and style but also in your staff too. They reflect the ethos of being your best friend (like the magazine). Wedding Ideas is the wedding bible and a must have for every couple getting married. I always feels proud to see it in prime position on the stockists shelves.

    Here’s to the next 100 issues, and the much loved Herd …… Your suppliers love you as much as the readers.” We love you though, don’t we”

  11. What an inspirational read. I LOVE how your ethos for the Herd and your ‘baby’ stands for everything that a marriage does too; trust, growth, passion, love and fun! I am very proud to have been included as a real life bride, a revisted bride, a blogger and a planner! It really is brilliant to read how the magazine evolved from hard work and passion. I so get a buzz from researching weddings and more so writing about it so Wedding Ideas, I applaud you! Keep us smiling xxx

  12. Rachel, I LOVE YOU HOMEGIRL!You are a living, breathing tale of why gutsy, down-to-earth and nice woman DO get ahead and how hard work and big dreams pay off. Love to The Herd, Wersha xxxxx

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