The Ascent talks to Rena Reiser, owner and publisher of New Mexico MarketPlace and New Mexico Woman on the challenges and rewards of being a business owner.
If you live in the Albuquerque metro area, chances are you’re familiar with New Mexico MarketPlace, New Mexico’s oldest and largest monthly shopper publication. A monthly printed magazine, New Mexico Marketplace is sent by mail to approximately two-thirds of the homes in the Albuquerque metro area. The magazine was founded in 1986 and serves as a resource guide primarily for home improvement products and services.
Launched in late 2019, New Mexico Woman is a bimonthly lifestyle magazine, inspired by everyday women making a difference in Albuquerque and beyond. New Mexico Woman is available for free online and in various locations in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
Today, we’ll talk with Rena Reiser, owner and publisher of New Mexico MarketPlace and New Mexico Woman, who takes us through her journey from freelance writer to business owner.
Q&A with Rena Reiser
The Ascent: You worked at New Mexico MarketPlace for years. What made you decide to purchase it?
Rena Reiser: Having been an employee for almost 20 years, I knew the business very well. I was vice president of the company, so the staff, customers, and vendors all knew me. The magazine was over 30 years old at the time and had a large group of steady, loyal customers who had grown their own businesses with the help of New Mexico MarketPlace. I was confident that I could run the business successfully.
The Ascent: Having just purchased New Mexico MarketPlace, what inspired you to start a new publication?
Reiser: When I purchased New Mexico MarketPlace in 2018, it was a successful business already in operation. I wanted to make my own mark and create something new of my own. In the fall of 2018, I was visiting my oldest daughter in South Dakota. She was expecting her second child and had been put on bed rest. When she was finally able to get out of the house, she wanted to do some shopping for the new baby, so we went to a children’s boutique.
At the store, I saw a free local women’s magazine at the register. I took it, and the idea of starting a new magazine began to form. As a native New Mexican, I’ve met some of the most amazing, strong women — women with grace and grit who all have a story to tell. I envisioned a more “general interest” women’s magazine that would feature everyday women who were making a difference in their communities, with inspirational stories that would encourage readers to do the same.
The Ascent: What are some of the greatest challenges you have faced as a small business owner? How did you overcome these challenges, or what is your plan moving forward?
Reiser: We have faced challenges that are common to many small businesses, like acquiring new customers and hiring good people. When I purchased New Mexico MarketPlace, one of the first challenges I dealt with was breaking out of a rut of “the way things have always been done.”
Right away I went to work redefining our options, personally reaching out to all of our clients about the changes. It was a lot to manage all at once, but the economies of the business are better now for it. And we only lost a couple of customers because of the changes.
Another challenge is trying not to get sucked into the “shiny object” syndrome. When we see competitors that are offering a new service that we don’t, or they have customers we’d like but can’t persuade, we have to remind ourselves to be the best at what we are able to do.
The Ascent: What tools have you used in your business that have made your team more productive?
Reiser: For our salespeople, we use cloud-based email, call forwarding, and digital tablets — anything that can help them do their jobs easier in the field and away from the office. I also highly recommend using some type of customer relationship management database. No matter how large or small your company, having one source to log all communication with clients and prospects, and to track their sales history with you is critical.
The Ascent: Do you ever see expanding outside of New Mexico?
Reiser: Not at this point. Both of the magazines that we publish are targeted to our local community. But I do think there is potential for expanding inside our state. New Mexico is a very large state geographically and a very diverse state culturally.
It would be premature of me to think that we’ve done all there is to do here and begin to look beyond our borders. Even with our flagship publication, New Mexico MarketPlace, we haven’t accomplished all we want to here in our own state.
The Ascent: How has the pandemic affected your business?
Reiser: New Mexico has been under pretty strict closures during the pandemic. New Mexico Woman magazine — which launched in fall 2019 — has been dramatically affected. Many of our advertisers were deemed “nonessential” and had to close, which made it impossible to continue their advertising. So, after publishing three issues, New Mexico Woman had to suspend printing.
Luckily, New Mexico MarketPlace fared better. Most of that magazine’s advertisers are home improvement/construction businesses, which were deemed “essential” from the start. We did lose a few advertisers, some of which closed and some due to economic uncertainty. Overall, we ended the year with revenue down about 15%.
The Ascent: What one piece of advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs and leaders in your field?
Reiser: There is room for all of us at the table. Don’t envision every woman in your field as competition, and be willing to share your knowledge. For years, our company has been a member of an international association of publishers of free magazines and newspapers. That network of publishers outside of my geographic area is always willing to help with struggles and come up with new ideas.
When I was researching the idea of starting New Mexico Woman magazine, I reached out to other women publishers across the country. Everyone that I spoke with was willing to answer my questions about the good and bad of starting a new women’s magazine. I’m someone who knows that I don’t know it all — and I’m grateful for those who are willing to share.
The Ascent: What advice would you give young women or girls hoping to start their own business?
Reiser: My first piece of advice is to find your niche and know your audience. As much as you’d like, you can’t be all things to all people. If you don’t have a clear grasp on your niche and your audience, you can waste a lot of time and money chasing the wrong ideas or the wrong clients.
My second piece of advice is that no education is wasted — whether that’s schooling or on-the-job training. I began college pursuing a business degree. I was over halfway through my college education when I decided to change to journalism.
My first adult job out of college was in the communications department for the university I attended. During those years of writing, I never would have thought that my business education would become so essential. Now that I’m running my own business, it’s those accounting, management, and marketing skills that I’m able to draw upon to help support and grow my business.
My final piece of advice is nothing happens until you sell something. Every business is a sales business, and every business owner is a salesperson. No matter what product or service you’re offering, you’re selling yourself, your ideas, your solutions. So add some sales training to your education plans!
The Ascent: Is there anything you would do differently if you had the chance?
Reiser: I would invest in the computer technology to make working remotely simpler — opting for cloud-based solutions for all our software, equipping all staff to be able to work from home, searching for collaborative ways to keep a remote workforce engaged.
In the bigger picture, I would have done it all sooner! I would have purchased New Mexico MarketPlace sooner, and launched New Mexico Woman sooner, giving it more time to grow so that it would be on solid ground before the pandemic hit.
The Ascent: What can our readers learn from your journey?
Reiser: When I started working for the company I now own, I wasn’t even an employee, I was a freelance writer. Doing well in that job allowed me to come on board as a part-time editor. From there, I took on the full-time duties of office manager, then sales manager, and finally publisher. By knowing all of the moving parts of the business I was better able to take over as owner.
It’s also important to realize that not all successful business owners have to be the founders of the business. Some people have the skills to be serial startup entrepreneurs, while others are better at growing and expanding on what’s already been started. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one where they sprang up.”
Business ownership takes all forms
For Rena Reiser, successful business ownership meant purchasing an existing business as well as starting a new publication.
For women looking to join the entrepreneurial world, it’s important to remember that no knowledge is ever wasted and that you have a stronger support network than you may think. Rena Reiser certainly thinks so.
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