Nine years ago, as of January 23, I got an email that changed my life.
The subject line was simple and straightforward: Call me.
The body of the email was also short and to-the-point: “I just read your column,” it said. “I have an idea for a new business that requires an editor.”
Within a week, I was sitting down for lunch with Greg James, a successful Seattle entrepreneur I knew of, but had never actually met.
I had been working as the managing editor of a small, twice-weekly newspaper in Eastern Washington, and I was burnt out beyond imagination. I had left the paper with little in the way of plans and nothing in the way of solid prospects, just a farewell column into the unknown. At the time, I didn’t really think I would return to print journalism. It was too much work, not enough pay, and a future about as bleak as that of a VCR repairman. Sitting at the teriyaki shop with Greg, who has now been my boss and publisher for nine years, I asked him why he wanted to launch a print magazine in a digital era; “Because I’m a capitalist,” he half-joked.
I accepted the job as editor, largely because I was compelled by the opportunity to launch my own publication … but also because I was unemployed and nobody else was actively pursuing my services.
Within a month, we were meeting with key stakeholders in Washington’s not-yet-existent recreational cannabis industry: lawyers, electricians, prospective licensees, ancillary companies like the Seattle-based extraction equipment manufacturer Eden Labs.
Within two months, we had published the first issue of Marijuana Venture, an eight-page, black-and-white newsletter that we mailed to a few thousand prospective business owners in Washington state. On March 14, 2014, I picked up a couple stacks of extra copies from the printer on Rainier Avenue in Seattle. The following day I attended a vendor fair in Seattle’s SODO District and passed out the debut issue of my “magazine” to the exhibitors and attendees. As I handed them a flimsy newsletter printed on two sheets of computer paper, held together by a pair of staples, you could tell by the looks on their faces that most of the people at the event obviously didn’t think we stood a chance in hell of surviving,
Honestly, I wasn’t sure we’d be successful either, but I was confident in my abilities and my ambition, and I was willing to follow Greg’s entrepreneurial vision to wherever it led. In the early days, it was basically a two-man team, with Greg handling sales, while I did the editorial and production. We had our first paying advertiser in issue No. 2. The following month, we ditched the budget computer paper and upgraded to a glossy magazine format, and with the fourth issue, we expanded our mailing list beyond Washington and have been growing ever since.
While our roles have changed considerably over the past nine years of working together, I can still hear Greg talking to advertisers, his voice emanating over the wall of my cubicle as I continue to write stories and scramble to keep up with deadlines.
This magazine marks our 108th issue, well over 10,000 pages of editorial and advertising content over the years and easily more than 200 million total pages printed in our history.
Every once in a while, I still run into somebody else who attended that little vendor fair in Seattle, and we reminisce about the years that have gone by and how we are “survivors” of an industry that has swallowed so many people’s hopes and investment dollars. Considering the challenges inherent in both the cannabis industry and magazine publishing, I’m incredibly proud to have survived nine years — and looking strong as we head toward year 10.