Steven Griffin took a non-direct route to his career as a publisher. His first passion was architecture, and he was successfully building his practice when a medical scare triggered a reflection on his life and what he really wanted to do. “People always say to think outside the box. As an architect, I always thought that outside of the box is just a bigger box,” says Steven. “I like to think as if there is no box. I imagine a blank piece of paper, and I start from there.”
That thinking led Steven to launch a start-up direct mail business that supplied home building and home improvement-focused information to people who had recently purchased vacant land. That direct mail list quickly evolved into Homes and Cottages Magazine with Steven taking on the role of Publisher.
Today, Homes and Cottages Magazine boasts a circulation of 80,000, with a readership of more than a half million people and has grown into Canada’s largest home improvement magazine. Published six times a year, the magazine focuses on building, renovating, decorating and landscaping and offers readers a glimpse inside the homes of some of Canada’s most unique and beautiful homes. “Our magazine is not focused on the lifestyle of living in these homes, it’s focused on the homes themselves,” says Steven.
Over the years, they’ve wowed readers with features on multi-million dollar homes in some extremely unique places. “No one wants to read about a 1,200 square-foot raised bungalow in a subdivision,” Steven jokes. The magazine has featured underground homes, off-grid homes, floating homes, and skinny homes. They’ve shown houses made out of tires, straw bales, and other interesting materials. “Every once in a while we will get a reader that writes in and says, ‘These homes are not realistic!’ And our response is always the same – “They are not meant to be realistic!’ These are homes that you can take away a piece of – an idea or two – the color of a wall even. It’s a bit of voyeurism. We’re offering a peek into someone else’s house. You can take what you want from it and leave the rest behind,” says Steven.
The publishing world has changed significantly since launching the magazine in 1986, and Steven credits his and his staff’s ability to adapt to those changes as their secret to publishing success. “All these years later, we are still in print and still growing,” says Steven. “We have wonderful people who have worked with me for decades. We have great editorial content, a unique mailing list, and we have wonderful sales partners and advertisers,” he says.
For the past 15 years or so, Steven has also relied on the professionals at Sloan Group for his accounting and other business management needs. “Sloan Group is a valuable resource for me,” states Steven. “I don’t see them as just accountants; I see them as a kind of partner. You can get compliance accounting anywhere – these guys are more like advisors to me.” Steven recalls a time when he and his staff were panicking over a filing deadline for a government grant. “One of Sloan’s accountants came in and worked all night for us to be able to meet the 9 a.m. deadline the next day. That’s dedication,” says Steven. And, he says, he relies on Sloan for more than just accounting issues. “They also have an impressive network of related-industry professionals that they put have put me in touch with over the years.”
That medical scare 30 years ago (thankfully a false alarm), steered Steven into a new career path, and he has never looked back. “This has been a great little business for me, and I am thrilled with the success of the magazine and the business.”
To check out some of the unique homes featured in Homes and Cottages magazines or to subscribe to the publication, logon to www.homesandcottages.com.