Staff Writer

July 8, 2024 (Updated )

Kate and Jack Lennie haven’t had a traditional route into magazine publishing. They did not set out to start a magazine but instead to fill a gap in the industry. They wanted to create a platform for makers, artists, and craftspeople to tell their stories. Prior to starting their magazine, We Are Makers, Kate designed and made furniture for children and Jack worked in film design.

After hearing them talk at The Grub Street Journal‘s Magazine Mayday, Journo Resources caught up with Kate and Jack to hear about a day in the life at We Are Makers, the joys and difficulties of niche magazine publishing, and building a community.

How does your day start?

Jack: I’m an early riser, so I’m up at 5:30am and Kate usually gets up at 7am. Kate usually works later so we work a slightly staggered day, which works really well when dealing with international clients.

What does a typical day at We Are Makers look like?

Jack: We typically look at our socials first thing. Because we do a lot of things in-house, we check all of our DMs, emails, and orders. People do the posting for us, but we manage orders and get those out to the companies.

My first job is checking our analytics. I look at what’s worked well the day before and track everything to see if we’re pointing in the right direction.

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Journo Resources

Kate and Jack Lennie with the We Are Makers magazine (L) and in their creative workshop (R)

Is this something you expected to do?

Kate: Absolutely not, publishing was never in my future plans. I was always into art and making, so I thought that was what I was going to do. I did become a furniture maker, but magazines were never part of the plan. It was the mission that prompted me to start a magazine.

Jack: We never set out to start a magazine, we set out to solve a problem.

What surprises you most about your job?

Jack: The amount of people that have just been so amazing and welcomed us into their homes. We’ve done some big tours and we rarely have had to pay for accommodation or food, ultimately that’s what allows us to do what we do. It gives us an extra day to focus on and feature another maker.

Kate: [What surprises me is] how welcoming of a community that we’ve built, purely because of the work that we’ve done to get here. This We Are Makers community group is spread all over the world, which isn’t ideal if you want to have a barbecue on a Saturday, but it’s ideal if you want to travel the world.

What are you most proud of?

Jake: Making it this far. Five years in, our magazine costs us triple the amount we first started with. It’s the hardest thing we’ve ever done, it’s difficult to get traction, especially in this flooded online space. But it’s been so rewarding for the people we’ve met and the people who’ve helped. We get messages every so often from people who read our magazine and are now pursuing full-time careers as creatives.

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"Whatever your niche is, just tell [others] what you’re doing. Be very upfront about it – I think a lot of people miss a lot of huge opportunities by being worried, but just speak very openly and candidly with people."
Jack Lennie, founder of We Are Makers

What kind of experience did you have?

Jack: Kate was a maker, so she understands the makers’ plights and stories. Obviously, there’s no cost to the makers to advertise and tell their story through us. We understand this space as well as any of the makers, arguably more because we see different crafts. My personal experience is I managed projects for the likes of Netflix, Marvel, and Disney in my film career. I had no magazine experience, but we just brought all our experience to the table.

Kate: I love researching how things can be done. I bought the book So You Want to Publish a Magazine and that basically guided me into starting a magazine and making it successful. That was a really huge part of starting the magazine and it gave me the sort to be like “we can do this”.

What would you say to those hoping to follow in your footsteps?

Jack: We weren’t welcomed in or didn’t find the right people to welcome us when we first started. Find people, whether they’re in the magazine or business space or whatever your niche is, and just tell them what you’re doing. Be very upfront about it. I think a lot of people miss a lot of huge opportunities by being worried, but just speak very openly and candidly with people.

Kate: It’s just about growing and sticking with it. Nothing happens overnight. Just keep going one more day!

Is there anything you’d like to change about the industry?

Jack: Loads of things. We all need to be very transparent about what we do, how much it costs, and how much first goes into it. People think magazines are just throwaway things, but independent magazines are not that. They aren’t coffee table books. We need to talk about them not as magazines, but as products.

There is a weird stigma around magazines. It’s like: “Oh, when I read this I’m going to chuck it away.” But you would never buy a book and think that. You either hand it to someone that might get use out of it or keep it. Some people keep them as a memento and that’s the category our magazines fall into.

If you were to go back in time, is there anything you would change or do differently?

Jack: Subscriptions. When we started, we didn’t have subscriptions because we were biannual. The only reason why we didn’t want to [have subscriptions] was because we were new and didn’t really understand the industry. We didn’t know if we’d be there for the second edition, so we didn’t want to jump the gun when we didn’t know what the future looked like. We would definitely recommend to anyone starting out to look into subscriptions first.

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"We never set out to start a magazine, we set out to solve a problem."
Jack Lennie, founder of We Are Makers

You mentioned at Magazine Mayday about the difficulty of separating your emotions from the business, is there anything more you’d like to say on that?

Jack: When you do receive criticism or someone cancels a subscription, you do take it personally. What you need to do is disconnect from that because there may be a million and one reasons for that.

I read something about keeping 100 key super fans happy at all times which means you always have a business because they love what you do. We’ve actually got customers that used to buy from us when we were a leather belt company, but they still buy from us because they’re invested in us. Connecting with customers helps us as a magazine.

What’s on your agenda after a long day of work?

Jack: Go to bed!

Kate: We like to go to the gym and switch off. When we’re not travelling, we’re sitting down at the desk a lot. We keep moving. That’s where we hang out and see our friends.

Sundus Abdi
Sundus Abdi

Part of the Journo Resources fellowship class of 2022, Sundus Abdi began her journey into journalism after completing a degree in political science and international relations. She now works for Journo Resources as a contributing writer, writing a range of features and interviews.

She has previously written for student publications and a migrant-centred charity. Sundus’s work reflects her passions of migration, politics, Islam, race, and intersectional feminism.

Header image courtesy of We Are Makers