Meet Toni & Thea Neubauer, Cofounders of sisterMAG.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and the idea behind sisterMAG.
sisterMAG is the idea of Toni and Thea Neubauer. We are sisters, six and a half years apart, but we were always very close and liked working together on projects. Whereas Toni has been working in the Mobile Technology Business for almost six years now, I (Thea) just finished my studies in “Book and Media Production” at HTWK Leipzig. sisterMAG was my final dissertation project to showcase the development of consumer magazines in a digital world. However, I also had a look at the print publication market and analysed which topics were missing in these publications. Thus the idea behind our magazine is to combine traditional magazine categories like fashion, lifestyle or cooking with unusual modern ones like technology, startups and mobile developments.
What inspired you to realize this business idea?
The idea was born at DLDwomen, which Toni attended last year in Munich. After the presentation of a new Online Magazine we were a little bit disappointed about content, layout and implementation. That was the moment we thought: before we moan about it, we should start one ourselves!
What makes sisterMAG unique, how do you differ from other magazines and what can todays digital woman expect?
We try to create a unique mixture of aesthetically pleasing layouts, beautiful pictures and editorials with content which is more context focused and takes you behind the scenes. The uniqueness of sisterMAG is definitely its length – the first issue was 270 pages, the second one 290 pages. We specifically decided to create a publication comparable in size with high-end print magazines. However we are very keen on adding digital possibilities and layers: sound-snippets, more videos, fast navigation through fast forward buttons and hyperlinks to all products and contributors. Deceleration is a key word – you have enough time (two months) to come back to our issue and to read a long article without having to fear that there are more posts in your RSS feed any time.
Two sisters, one idea. Who is responsible for which part of the business?
Luckily we are very different regarding skills and fields of interest. Whereas Toni is in charge of strategy, building reach and advertising, my field of responsibility is the design and content for sisterMAG. We discuss all important decisions but each of us is dominant in her field of responsibilities and we trust each other.
What or who is the biggest source of inspiration and motivation for your daily work for sisterMAG?
The biggest source of motivation is the positive feedback of our readers. Each tweet or email from someone who enjoyed reading sisterMAG is new energy to go on. Inspiration comes from everything around us, a nice picture on Pinterest, a book we read or a conversation we had with someone.
How do you tell the world about sisterMAG? What are the most efficient channels and why?
We have three main routes. First, all kinds of online means. Online we use all the known platforms like Twitter (we love it!), Facebook, Pinterest and our own blog, where we share background stories and our activities. Secondly we use offline measures. We attend events of our main target group, such as blogger meetups, conferences or startup events. Thirdly, we use focused advertisement like booking ads in our target group through Facebook and Google.
What was most difficult during the startup phase?
We both feel like we are still in the startup phase. Of course, for Toni, juggling her full-time job and sisterMAG is quite strenuous and takes a lot of strength. Also, it was something really new and daunting to call up advertising clients.
What was the best moment so far?
The day when we launched our very first issue. Toni (sitting in Berlin) and I (sitting in Leipzig) were skyping all day long and finally announced the launch on Facebook and Twitter. The feedback and instant reactions were fabulous and really exciting.
Looking back, would you do something differently in the launch phase?
No big changes. It is more the little things like time management, organisation of workflows or the structure of our Indesign Master which could have been enhanced right from the beginning.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned in the last months while working on sisterMAG?
That you need to be proactive. You can definitely reach anybody you want, you just need to be brave and try to figure out the best way to get in contact with them. Secondly, we’ve learnt how important friends, contributors and our social network is. We’ve been really fortunate in getting to know wonderful people and without them sisterMAG wouldn’t have been possible.
Where do you see yourselves and sisterMAG in 3 years?
We dream big! That’s why our goal for the next few years is to build up a digital publishing house with different publications. Also, we would really like to see sisterMAG turning profitable in order to be able to pay our contributors a fair fee. We want to showcase that our model and idea of digital magazines can work in today’s time.
What advice can you give the Geekettes and other budding female entrepreneurs when founding a company?
Women tend to think small. When founding a company you should always think and dream big. You shouldn’t be afraid to tell advertisers, investors and businessmen what you want. Act professionally and use all tools that are normal in the business world, for example networking (but not just with women) and negotiating.
Which startup company would you like to listen in on?
Net-a-porter in the early days. And Twitter because we use it a lot.
If you had not become involved in entrepreneurship what would you do?
Toni: Working in the field of business development, corporate development, and strategy in a tech company.
Thea: Applying for a job in the digital sector of a publishing house or a fashion brand.