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Business Ideas: Nicola Wade
Business Ideas: The French Paper
Business Ideas: Nicola Wade
Business Ideas: Living Poitou-Charentes

The French Paper

Nicola Wade

Five years ago, Nicki and her family left London for rural France. Prior to the move, Nicki worked for Emap - one of the UK's largest consumer magazine publishers - for nine years as a Publishing Director and in the overall magazine publishing industry for over 20 years.

A self-confessed magazine addict, Nicki enjoys the variety and pace of publishing and now runs her own publishing company in France. Agence Idìe specialize in the creation of English-language media for Francophiles and also offers a publishing consultancy service.

Since it's creation in 2008, Agence Idìe publishes and edits bi-monthly glossy regional lifestyle magazine Living Poitou-Charentes (10,000+ readers), a series of tourist guides and more recently theFrenchPaper (35,000+ readers) - a monthly English-language newspaper covering all of France. Nicki says she works harder now than she has ever done, which is ironic given her decision to move to France to "slow down".

Nicki lives near Cognac in South West France with her two children and three dogs.

Expat Women's Interview with Nicola

Expat Women: Nicki, running a burgeoning publishing empire in rural France is a far cry from your original vision of retiring early. What happened?

Nicki: When I moved to France in 2004, the idea was to retire early, be a stay at home mum, grow vegetables, rescue dogs and keep chickens - which was in stark contrast to the London life I was giving up. After two years of living the 'good life' I still found myself critiquing everything I read and was disappointed that there was not a decent local magazine about the region I lived in - neither in French nor in English. So, it was not long before I developed the idea for Living Poitou-Charentes (launched in April 2008) - whichis essentially a lifestyle magazine that celebrates everything great about the region - the people, the places, the food and the rural lifestyle.

Expat Women: What do you enjoy about publishing Living Poitou-Charentes?

Nicki: Living Poitou-Charentes is a positive magazine which helps promote local people and businesses and bring them to the attention of the English-speaking community and those holidaying here. Although it is in English, we have lots of French readers who love the magazine for the beautiful photography and the quality. Content is a broad mix of people, places, food, gardening and country living.

It is a good feeling to produce something that does some good. For most of the people and places we write about it generates lots of extra business for them and this is well deserved. France has so many talented artisans and producers who often need a helping hand in getting known and we are in a position to be able to help.
Expat Women: Busy with Living Poitou-Charentes, how and why did you start theFrenchPaper?
Nicki: Launching something on a much bigger scale seemed the obvious next step. The expat and English-speaking community in France is pretty big, and with a large number of companies offering products and services targeted towards this market, the business rationale stacked up.

On an emotional level I felt passionately that the expat population in France needed and deserved a decent newspaper about France.

Moving to a foreign country can be an exciting but daunting experience and I believe the more you understand what makes a country tick, the more rewarding and enriching your life here can become. theFrenchPaper provides our readers with an essential mix of information and inspiration to enable them to get the most out of life in France. It combines broadsheet sensibilities with magazine values and gives readers great information and entertaining reads. We include features about people, politics, food, wine, property, work, kids, business, country and city living, art, community, history, places, money, building, bureaucracy, jobs, gardening, lifestyle, shopping and education - in an engaging and above all, clear style. The result is the look and feel of a British weekend paper and so far, the feedback has been terrific!
Expat Women:How did you find the 'right' people to work with you on theFrenchPaper?
Nicki: Having had the idea to launch a newspaper I was then lucky enough to find brilliant people - right on my doorstep - who could make it happen. My entire team have a vast amount of experience in publishing across all different disciplines and luckily we all share the same values. We all work from home and have had to embrace this new style of working - using Skype, email and rotating monthly meetings in one another's homes. It is slightly dysfunctional, but it works!
Expat Women: Launching any business in a global economic downturn can be risky. What have been some of the challenges that your publishing company has faced and how have you overcome these challenges?
Nicki: The biggest challenge was the advertising market: as a new, unproven publication it is hard in any market and in the middle of a massive global downturn we certainly set ourselves a huge challenge. It was important to come into the market in a bold and confident way, knowing that if the product was right we would sell copies and once we sell copies, the advertising follows. We were lucky to have advertisers on board before we launched, based on the quality of the dummy layouts and the caliber of the team.

Having said that, the market was tougher than we expected once we launched so we have had to be much more creative in our approach and work really hard at creating strategic partnerships. As a small organization, we are able to make decisions quickly and adapt our approach accordingly when needed. Our competition reacted more aggressively than we thought as the downturn was also affecting them and that has made the advertising market tougher for us - but if you can build a business in a recession then happy days are to follow!
Expat Women: Finally Nicki, what myths can you bust for us about the publishing industry and what advice would you give to anyone interested in starting their own media publication abroad?
Nicki: The only myth to bust is that publishing is not all champagne and Manolos - and this devil does not wear Prada! I work 12-hour days, 7 days a week and earn a fraction of what I did doing it for someone else. Launching a publication is relatively straightforward - it is making it financially viable that is the trick. My advice to anyone considering it is:

Absolutely understand your target market and their needs.
Make sure what you create is relevant, well-targeted and has a unique point of difference.
Never underestimate your competition.
Remember that first impressions count - the benefits of having a professional media pack and polished marketing material are huge and get you off to a good start with the advertising community.
People always pay less than you want them to, so make sure your budget can cope with 5-20 percent worse scenarios, and finally...
If you are not passionate about publishing, reading magazines, papers and so on - do not do it - you need to be obsessed with detail, have more ideas than you can deal with, be totally committed to and respectful of your readers, have an inherent understanding of what people want... and forget holidays!
Expat Women: Nicki, it was wonderful to talk to you. Thank you for sharing your valuable experience with us and we wish your publications all the very best in 2010!
February 2010
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