Are You Afraid of Heights?

25 Mar

march-coverJulia Beverly talks about taking risks to get to the top


Boy, February was a doozy.  There was so much fear all around.  Fear that your bank was going to be shut down and the stock market was going to zero.  February actually had a Friday the 13th, and Hollywood conveniently released a new Jason Movie.  I even watched the last Saw movie on the way back to Pittsburgh from a business meeting (did you know the Escalade is like a house on wheels?).  All of that got me to thinking about how afraid people are to take risks in life.  I don’t mean taking a risk like buying a house with an adjustable rate mortgage and praying that you’ll be able the make the payment when the rate adjusts higher.  No, that’s just, well…stupid.  I mean taking the type of calculated risks that can get you closer to living the type of life that you want to live.


A lot of us get paralyzed by what we don’t know.  I remember not wanting to play paintball for the first time the day before my friend’s wedding because I wasn’t sure how it was going to feel taking one of those pellets to my shoulder blade.  But once I took the first hit and got through it, suddenly I turned into Dick Cheney and I had a helluva time.  No, the point is not that it’s fun to shoot your friends (although it is, especially if they owe you money).  The point is that by not taking risks, you are actually taking a risk…that you might miss out on something big.


Picture this; you are a young white woman primarily skilled as a photographer.  You have no experience in publishing.  You wouldn’t describe yourself as a natural salesperson.  You don’t live in New York.  Does that sound like a resume built for starting a Hip Hop Magazine?  Nope.  But that didn’t stop Julia Beverly from starting Ozone Magazine.  I caught up with Julia in Hotlanta and I gathered a few nuggets that you could use to help you take that risk on your next (or first) venture.


The Art of the Start


picture11Ozone, self described as “Your Favorite Rapper’s Favorite Magazine”, is a monthly magazine that gained popularity by taking advantage of the lack of coverage of the hip hop scene below the Mason-Dixon line by New York based magazines such as The Source and XXL.  “When I started, there were more interesting things in hip hop than just Rick Ross vs. 50 Cent,” Beverly says about her start in the magazine business.  “We had something to fight for…the Southern movement.”


An opportunity alone does not start a magazine, though.  Beverly readily admits that she was a little unsure about the business building process, especially given her reluctance to cold call potential advertisers.  However, when push came to shove, she learned the way most other successful business owners do, trial and error.


“I figured that if we put the effort in and put out a good product, people would call us…and they did,” she says.  “But you may not want to quit your day job right away.”


Indeed.  There will definitely be many bumps and bruises along the path of extending yourself beyond your comfort zone.  But as Guy Kawasaki says in his terrific business book The Art of the Start, “You don’t have to be great to get started, but you do have to get started in order to be great.”


Different Medium, Same Hustle


So just how does a young white female become successful immersing herself in an industry dominated by black males (at least as far as the artists go) who tend to objectify women in many of their lyrics? Self confidence.


While not naming names, Beverly admits that some artists can be disrespectful.  She does, however, concede that her fellow female brethren must accept some of the blame for allowing themselves to be treated in that manner.  “I was never really fascinated by the artists themselves,” Beverly says about the way she handles being a player in the music industry.  “I am more interested in the art form, the energy of the moment, and how the artist is able to captivate the crowd.”


Beverly also says she has been able to garner respect amongst the artists she covers because she understands what they go through.  She notes that the process she goes through in building her magazine isn’t all that different than the process that artists go through building their careers.  She often sits in on studio sessions to get her creative juices flowing.  She has breakfast with DJs at 3am to get a feel for what her audience really wants.  She locks herself in her office to pump out her next issue just like an artist records night and day while putting together a new album.  Because of this, she can build relationships with the artists as peers. 


There is always a fine line to walk when you build relationships with your clients.  Beverly made sure she got permission to take pictures when her friend Pimp C from UGK was released from Prison in 2005 because she knew that her readers would want to read that story.  Out of respect for the family though, she didn’t cover the funeral after Pimp C’s sudden death in 2007.  “You have to understand and be respectful of them as people first, then artists.”


Next on the Menu


jb-largeAlthough Ozone has grown to something bigger than she would have imagined, she still enjoys the challenges of growing her business and is also looking to take advantage of other opportunities.  She has her eyes on putting together a real estate portfolio and is even looking to challenge herself by running a marathon this year.  “I have to keep switching it up,” Beverly says, confident that her experience building the magazine will serve her well in her other ventures.


Some of us don’t take risks because we are afraid of failure.  Others don’t take risks because they are afraid of success.  But how can you ever be “on top” if you are afraid of heights?


Just. Start. Climbing.


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