Being the boss of an up-and-coming women's lifestyle magazine in Lincoln often means editing an article on plastic surgery, to closing an advertising deal with a local business, all while meeting demanding deadlines. As editor-in-chief, Cassidy Pflanz had the perfect preparation to run her own publication.
For five years, the North Platte native worked for the Nicole Miller label in New York's Garment District, where she sometimes thrived, sometimes cried, but came out of that experience ready to be a business success back home, thanks to a little SBA help.
Pflanz’s publication, Women’s Edition, is a glossy free monthly publication offering content that’s upbeat on fashion, cultural trends, beauty tips, and personal finance guidance. For small business owners looking for ways to stretch scarce ad dollars, the magazine also provides an affordable way to reach middle- to upper-income women, who often make and influence buying decisions.
The magazine is part of franchise founded in 1986 and is headquartered in Omaha. Women’s Edition is currently published in Omaha, Lincoln, Denver, Colorado Springs and the Quad Cities.
“For the December issue we have editorial pieces on a cosmetic surgery business and a breast cancer care center here in Lincoln,” said Pflanz. She’s a fitness buff who hopes to provide more on healthy lifestyles, and is organizing free yoga classes as part of a campaign to grow the publication’s presence in the Lincoln community.
Getting a start creating her own fashions
Pflanz has owned the magazine only a short time, but already is leveraging social media to grow page “likes” organically by 300 percent with a goal to diversify and widen the appeal for potential advertisers.
“This is my launching pad,” she added. “I don't know my future plans or where we go from here, but this business is preparing me to take on more things.”
That’s how Pflanz has been since freshman year in high school, when she made her own clothes and would tear pages from Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar for inspiration. Her grandmother taught her to sew, and she was an active member of 4-H.
An anchor from the local TV station was so impressed with her work, she asked the young Pflanz to sew a dress for her.
“Got paid for it, too,” Pflanz remembers.
While studying fashion at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she took a study trip to Paris, Lyon, Milan and Florence, and snagged an internship in New York City with a designer who, like Pflanz, grew up in Nebraska.
But then came the break of a lifetime. Pflanz edged many other hungry applicants for the job with Nicole Miller. Her secret? An email that charmed the hiring staff into hiring her on the spot.
The experience of meeting the demands of a high-level brand with a nationwide presence turned Pflanz into a woman of poise and confidence. What she took away from those years, besides the perk of free designer clothes every month, has stayed with her since. “I’m constantly struck in this business how many of those skills I picked up then overlap,” she said.
Using the SBA's resources and partners to put it together
After returning to Nebraska, her husband suggested starting a business of her own. A pitch from a local business broker connected her with Women’s Edition.
She worked with her husband on a business plan, thanks to a template found on SCORE’s web site; then they turned to securing financing through the SBA to buy the Lincoln franchise. First, the SBA would have to examine the franchise agreement to make sure she’d have the room to be independent enough to meet the needs of her unique market. Then, there wasn’t much for physical collateral, a couple of scuffed desks, bookshelves, computers—but there was the intangible value of the name of the magazine around Lincoln, and its potential revenue.
That was enough. Her business, Pflanz Publications, LLC, was approved for a $150,000 loan through Wells Fargo in October 2014 under the Lender Advantage program. She also capitalized on the SBA’s up-front fee waiver, which was extended through Fiscal 2015, saving her more than $3,000 in first-year loan guarantee fees.
Pflanz already has ideas to expand incentives for local businesses to run a year-long ad, with a picture and paragraph mention on social media to help them go viral.
“As being a woman and a first-time business owner,” Pflanz said of her relationship with Women’s Edition, “owning a franchise provides framework and guidance. It's in their best interest, too, to help me succeed and that helps a lot.”
She’s got the ability in the agreement to put two local editorial pieces together and write an editor's note each month with the help of a part-time production coordinator, and can call on a stable of free-lance writers, from a school teacher to a stay-at-home mom, to write articles.
“This is a light little magazine,” Pflanz said. “We want people to walk away after reading it to feel good.”