Print magazine puts company on fast track

As far as entrepreneurial opportunities go, launching a new print magazine seems a few years behind the times. Launching it from a dorm room while you’re still in college makes the odds of success even longer. Which is why I love stories like this so much.

simsLast weekend at Digital Journalism Camp Portland, I had the pleasure of meeting Bryan Sims, CEO of Brass Media, a Corvallis-based company that is in its 6th year of operation and is succeeding with an interesting and innovation revenue model.

In 2007, Businessweek named Sims to its “Best Entrepreneurs Under 25” list. Sims’ hometown of Corvallis presented him with the 2006 “Entrepreneur of the Year” award, making him the award’s youngest recipient, at age 22.

brassSims told me he started Brass Media while a student at Oregon State, using his dorm room and his parents’ garage for an office, but dropped out to drive the business forward. He has kept his foot on the gas pedal ever since. Brass is one of the fastest growing companies in Oregon and found a place on the Inc. 500 fastest growing companies last year, too.

What’s the secret? How does a 20-something launch and grow a magazine publishing business during this period of decline for print media and an overall economic downturn?

By opening up to new ideas and expanding into new markets. A financial planning resource for young people (18-25) written by young people, Brass made its way into the classroom when a teacher in New York state requested some copies to use in a class. This led Sims to a new sales and distribution channel, and new revenue. Now the quarterly magazine circulates 350,000-400,000 copies (down from a high of 500,000) and is popular with financial institutions who want to reach this highly desirable target market.

Now Sims is diversifying again, growing a suite of multimedia and digital tools that engage his audience and build brand awareness for advertisers. He has more than two dozen employees and a national network of contributors. Leveraging that distributed resource with more digital offerings is a smart play, and one that will likely keep Brass Media on the fast track of profitable publishing .

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