Leah Larson and YALDAH magazine win Wells Fargo's Someday Stories contest

Leah Larson and YALDAH magazine won the previous Idea Cafe grant back in September. Now, the magazine has won the Well Fargo's Someday Stories contest (and $100,000), after receiving more than 28,000 votes. Leah started working on YALDAH magazine when she was 12, targeting an audience of Jewish girls.

We at Idea Cafe are proud to have selected her as a winner for the Kent Capener grant, and hope her story will be an inspiration to entrepreneurs of all ages. Read below for an exclusive Q&A.

Idea Cafe: From where came the idea for YALDAH magazine? Did you have any outside influences, from family or other publications?
Leah Larson: I was simply looking for a magazine to read, and created YALDAH based on what I would like to see in a magazine for Jewish girls. I was going to school with my target audience, so they were able to share feedback and input as well. Much of YALDAH is inspired from the style of American Girl magazine, which I was a big fan of.

How was it like in the very beginning of your work with the magazine? What were your sources of support and inspiration?
I'm not sure how I was able to work for a full year without seeing results or getting feedback, but I guess when you are focusing on the goal you can do it. I was doing everything - writing the articles, doing interviews, the graphic design, getting printing quotes, sending press releases, creating a website... When I first had the idea to publish a magazine, I wrote to Yael Resnick, who also published her own magazine, Natural Jewish Parenting, so she was able to give me a lot of helpful tips and advice. My family and friends were a huge source of support, never doubting me, and always there to offer their thoughts, ideas, and opinions.

Can you please describe a typical day, during which you work on YALDAH magazine?
Gosh...a typical day. There's hardly ever a typical day! When I'm home in the summer, I can devote almost the whole day to YALDAH, but now that I'm in school I manage to fit in into my schedule. So here has been my schedule the past few weeks. I try to get up at 5 AM, to get some work done before I go to school. Depending on what stage of publication we're in (editing articles, finishing up the issue, brainstorming ideas etc). I'll work on the most urgent tasks until 7:30, when I leave to school. I get home from school at 4:45, and right away sit down to answer my e-mails from the day. It's so hard to stay on top of all the e-mails, but it saves time in the long run. I'm always working on something different. I might be editing photos, planning activities for our Jewish girls retreats, communication with staff, planning a marketing campaign, or brainstorming ideas for the next issue. I do all my homework in school, so then I'm free to work on YALDAH from 4:45 to 10:30 pm, when I start getting ready for bed (with a break for dinner of course!). So I usually manage to have a 7 hour work day, and go to school!

What business and technical skills do you find most important in the publishing business?
Well there are so many different aspects of the publishing business: the editing, graphics, publicity, marketing, getting ads...so each job has a unique set of skills. I think in any job, one of the most important skills is to be able to learn! Although I don't have a degree in publishing, whenever I have a question or want to know how to do something, I research it online. I've done research on how to write html, what makes a successful advertising campaign, how to use social media for business, and more. I'm constantly learning new skills. Another important skill is to always be looking ahead at how you will grow, what the next step will be. It's easy to just get caught up in the day-to-day keeping up with everything, and forget about new campaigns to expand, get more readers, etc. So I'm always thinking about what the next step is, where we want to be at this time next year. Actually, I think that's a really important skill in general in life. To always be looking up at how you can improve and grow in the future.

Is your target audience an active one, and do you get a lot of feedback?
Yes, they're very active. I'm constantly receiving feedback, and I've even established personal relationships with some of our readers. YALDAH itself is a very interactive magazine, because everything is written, edited, photographed, illustrated, and planned by girls - our target audience.

What was the best part of competing for and winning the Idea Cafe grant back in July?
Well, the $1000 was just the push I needed to launch an advertising campaign, and a goodness campaign, to help spread the word about YALDAH and bring us more subscribers. Sending in the monthly updates to IdeaCafe was also very beneficial. It helped me track my progress on paper, and identify my goals and plans.

You and YALDAH won the Wells Fargo's Someday Stories Contest with 28,880 votes. How does one mobilize such an impressive number of supporters?
Recently a friend asked me, "so, how does it feel to have 28,880 fans?!" I still can't believe how many votes we got. There are a number of factors that helped me get so many votes. The first is our active target audience. Since our readers really feel like they are a part of the magazine, they want to support it. Our readers and staff told their friends, and families, forwarded e-mails, etc. to spread the word about voting. I have to say that I think wordwide Jewish community really deserves the credit for the votes. Major Jewish news websites posted many reminders for people to vote, individuals who I don't know personally sent e-mails to hundreds of their contacts, posted on blogs, and sent to Synagogue's mailing lists. I'm humbled by the outpouring of support I received from Jews who just wanted to support this Jewish magazine. The internet is a powerful tool, giving people the opportunity to spread the word to thousands of people in seconds. We utilized social media, like creating a Facebook group, to help people spread the word. Every community I've been involved in put in their votes and support: my school, my old school, my hometown, the homeschooling community, the magazine publishing community...It was really amazing to see the votes constantly going up.

Finally, what are your plans for the future?
I plan to study in Israel for a year next year. This is a major step for me, because I'll be delegating almost all my roles to other girls, and just be managing everyone. After that, I definitely want to continue to expand YALDAH, especially with the books for girls we're planning to publish, and I'll see what the future brings!


Well done, Leah!

Well done, Leah!

Great to hear of your

Great to hear of your success! I'm interested in putting together a 3-page publication and using social media and the internet to do so. Are you able to efficiently focus me in the right direction for my research? For example point me directly to sites you've researched of good, vetted info & instruction on how to put together and online publication and blog etc. and to organize my lists of business an personal contacts?
Dotti Janes

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