Along with my husband, David, I am co-publisher of the monthly publication you’re holding in your hands right now, Insight Magazine. Our baby. Our pride and joy.
To us, the magazine represents much more than just a smattering of articles. You see, Insight is designed to be more than just a collection of issues and advertisements. More than just a coffee table read. Really, it’s more than a magazine in our eyes. Insight represents an ideal. A way of thinking.
In the dictionary, the term “insight” is commonly defined as “an instance of apprehending the true nature of a thing” or “an understanding of relationships that sheds light on or helps solve a problem.” That’s what we try to do each month.
Our goal is to offer you, our readers, a unique, unbiased perspective on the issues that affect our community of East Orlando in the hope that it will give you a greater understanding of what’s going on around us. But more than that, our hope is that it will help cultivate a heightened sense of community to make this a better place to live, work and play.
The fact is, tighter knit communities lead to better, stronger communities. We’d like to think that insight is one of the vehicles we can all use to get there.
A Brief History
Being so connected to the community doesn’t happen by mistake, or even coincidence. David and I are always out, always meeting new faces that make up the patchwork we like to call home. Some of the more common questions we’re asked is, “How did Insight Magazine get off the ground?” or “Why did you guys want to do this?” In case you’ve ever wondered why we decided to leave our comfy corporate jobs, venture out onto our own and tackle the beast that is entrepreneurship, the answer is a few paragraphs away.
Essentially, Insight Magazine got its start from a visioning study to, believe it or not, offer insight to local leaders and business owners. In 2003 while I was volunteering as president of the East Orlando Chamber of Commerce (EOCC), our community conducted a 10 month visioning study to find out what was needed to make our businesses, our neighborhoods and our communities stronger.
Each month we went out and discussed an issue – be it education, transportation, the environment, public safety and even architecture – with members of the community. We always made sure to talk about where we were then, where we wanted to be in 25 years and how we were going to get there.
The end result was writing a 74 page document, with my good friend Jim Spaeth, that became known as the East Orlando Visioning Report. The report was a huge success and it created a lot of buzz among the business community and residents on this side of town. So much so in fact, that in 2005, Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty announced his vision for a high-tech corridor called Innovation Way that would link UCF to the Orlando International Airport. This report was extremely similar to the document we produced a short time earlier.
I remember it like it was yesterday. A very good friend of mine and a former Stoneybrook resident, Linda Shroll, saw that there was a need and an opportunity to create a community-based magazine that built upon our original visioning study to provide us with access to the news, views and issues that meant the most to us – the things that were going on right in our backyard.
So, one night about 25 of us, including local elected officials and grass roots advocates, met for dinner at one of our favorite Italian restaurants. Two hours later we emerged with full bellies and a concept for starting a new business. Partnered with the EOCC in the first year, we gave away free advertising to chamber members who would then promote the new publication to their member base.
That’s how the publication itself got started in 2004. Insight Magazine was created as a continuation to the efforts by this community to create a dialogue about the issues that are important to us. That’s why each month, Insight is focused on a particular topic. This month it is construction and growth. Last month it was our local economy. Next month we will focus on education.
Meanwhile, David and I were still at our corporate jobs. Fast forward to 2005 – I was beginning my efforts to get elected as our next Orange County Commissioner for District 4, the region we all live in. Linda was looking to move onto her next challenge and raise a family. David and I both were looking to move into a more flexible environment that would allow us to grow professionally and personally as the campaign revved up. We were already heavily involved in nonprofits and community events, but taking over the magazine seemed like the next logical step to become further invested into the community and really make a difference.
The stars aligned and we purchased the magazine in mid-2005. It was a whirlwind of excitement. Anticipation. Independence. We took the leap and became small business owners.
It’s a decision that has shaped just about every aspect of our lives to this day. We wake up, eat breathe and sleep this community. It’s a move that neither of us regret and it has allowed us to meet hundreds of extraordinary people and experience some of the area’s most incredible experiences.
It seems like the past years have been a blur. When we started, we relied on a lot of interns and a lot of very late nights. Our time was scarce and those first few months were more of a learning process rather than anything else.
Since purchasing the magazine, we’ve been fortunate to more than quadruple our distribution list, have sponsored dozens of community events and have grown into the area’s leading community magazine.
But at the end of the day, it all goes back to one thing: providing you, our readers and our community with insight in the hope that we can better our community for the future generations.
What Will Tomorrow Bring?
What does the road ahead hold? That’s a good question and one that I cannot answer for certain. The magazine is doing well and it continues to turn heads and profits, despite a less than stellar economy. It finds a way to survive, much like you and I do.
We are directly affected by the ups and downs in the economy. David and I take our commitment to our community very serious and we pride ourselves on getting out there and getting to know the people that make our region such a great place to live.
I look back on the things we’ve done since we’ve been publishers of the magazine and one of our prouder moments was starting Coffee Club in January of 2007. Since then we have welcomed more than 3,000 Central Florida businesses to our weekly free networking event. We call them our Coffee Clubbers. Their will to grow, learn and take on the world with, sometimes, little more than a passionate ideal inspires us every day.
In our very near future, it’s my belief that our community must make progress towards diversifying itself and bringing real jobs and real opportunities here so that people just like us have the chance to start a business or offer better career choices for the next generation. My insight on the issue is this: we must recognize and gain a clear understanding of the environment that the business community needs in order to recruit and retain workers.
In business, one must always be moving forward. Just because the economy is slow does not mean that we can slow down. Small business owners must think outside the box when finding solutions. The ability to find those solutions is what makes us unique. It’s what makes us entrepreneurs.
Insight is what you make it, both in terms of the magazine and, on a grander scale, your career and your day-to-day life. Insight can give you understanding, but it’s up to you to determine what to do with it, where to put your efforts and, ultimately, how to determine and support the choices you make.
We thank you for your tremendous support throughout the past five years. Without you, your family and your efforts – there would be no community here to call home. Hopefully, we’ve been a small to help to your family in because you’ve become such a big part of ours.
Here’s to an insightful tomorrow!
Article by Jennifer Thompson