A cuppa & a Custard Cream with....CAROLINE ROWLAND of 91 Magazine

1.       Who are you and where do you come from?!

I'm Caroline Rowland and I'm the founding editor of 91 Magazine, an independent interiors and lifestyle magazine. I grew up in Northern Ireland, but moved to London to study in 2000. I met my husband at university so I ended up staying here and we now live in Surrey with our six year old daughter and a cat called Claude.

2.       What do you do and why?

I decided to publish my own magazine while working full time as a picture editor at the Financial Times. It will actually be 10 years since I launched 91 next year! I learnt a lot about publishing while I worked for the FT. I had a passion for interiors but had started to fall out of love with the commercial interiors magazine I used to read, so back in 2011 I decided to try my hand at producing my own. Initially it was online, and I worked on it in my spare time, but it started to gain a decent readership, so eventually I took voluntary redundancy and decided to have a go at making it into more of a business. In 2016 I published the first print issue, and we are now just about to publish the 10th! I absolutely love it and sometimes still have to pinch myself that I publish a magazine that gets sold in shops! ;)

3.       What are the biggest challenges you've faced in your career?

I had a huge wobble about the magazine back in 2014. It was still online at that point, but I'd made the decision to take it from being a free-to-read publication to paid, and it turned out to be a really bad decision. People didn't seem to be keen on paying for online content and even though I thought I had a loyal readership, the sales didn't go well. I'd also had my daughter in 2014 too, so I was still adjusting to that, so I took a year off from the magazine in 2015. I spent that time working out what to do and thankfully independent magazines were really starting to take off, with dedicated magazine stores opening across the country too, so that prompted me to take the leap and make it a print publication. It turns out print is definitely not dead! :)

4.       What have been your biggest HURRAH moments so far?

If I'm honest, I have a hurrah moment every time I see the magazine in a lovely shop or a reader posts a picture of it on social media, or someone writes me a lovely email to tell me how much they enjoy it. For me, it's those small moments that add up to making me feel hugely proud of what I've created.

5.       If you could give 3 pieces of advice to yourself when you started out, what would it be?

- be prepared to learn from your failures. Not everything will always work well, but rather than dwelling on it, I believe there is always a lesson to be learnt, even if it doesn't become clear to you for months or even years later. 

- look at all the options before diving into something. I often get excited and just go for something without really considering all the options, and I've made bad decisions because of that. Take your time & don't rush important choices. 

- always get hard copy proofs! On the first print issue I didn't and it caused all kinds of problems!

6.       What are your long-term hopes and aims?

I'm not one for setting goals or things like that, I tend to go with the flow and see where it takes me. Currently I am hoping to expand our international distribution to more independent shops around the world. It's quite a tricky thing to do for various reasons, but it's something I hope to pursue in 2021.

7.       Which 3 books would you recommend for: a long hour train journey (with no kids!) / a mood-lift. er / a fact-finding mission (ie, non-fiction)?

- Earlier this year I read Educated by Tara Westover, which is a true story about the author's upbringing in rural America under the teachings of the Mormon faith. Fascinating, shocking and heart-warming all rolled into one. 

- I really enjoyed This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay about life as a junior doctor. I definitely prefer reading real life stories and so much of this book literally had me laughing out loud. 

- I love a non-fiction book and have them everywhere! At the moment I am diving into my Neals Yard Essential Oils book as I am a little obsessed and even took one of their courses recently. I also love houseplant and gardening books, so I'm always delving into those to find out what to do with certain plants.

8.       What are the most common misconceptions you've found from having your own business?

That overnight success is a very rare thing! I think people often start their own business hoping they'll be making mega bucks within three years or less, but the reality is you'll be lucky if you are even able to pay yourself a small salary in that time. It is a slog and you have to be prepared to stick at it, but if you truly love what you do then this shouldn't be a problem.

9.       You’re granted 1 wish (for you / your career) – what would it be?

Well, I'm planning to enter the British Society of Magazine Editors awards this year, and I'm not gonna lie - I would LOVE to win something! I think receiving recognition from your peers is a huge achievement so that would be amazing, but I'm not holding out too much hope that it'll actually happen! :)

10.      What’s your favourite biscuit?

It's a little strange, but I was telling my family today how as a kid I used to love eating Rich Tea biscuits with chocolate spread on them! So my husband went and bought some and now I'm really looking forward to a few of those later! It's way better than a normal chocolate biscuit - trust me! :)

Find 91 Magazine here

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