Selling Magazines Online: The Frab's Story
In this article we talk about the behind the scenes of Frab's Magazines, how we managed to build a company that sells independent limited edition magazines in Italy. Not of those found on newsstands, but products with an artistic and cultural research at the very highest base, produced in small runs and from all over the world. Why are we telling you these things? Because in a while we will be one year old, and taking stock by finding the awareness of who we are helps us to give ourselves a boost for the future. So, let's get started.
Publishing, in Italy and beyond, has very low profit margins. If in fashion you can easily earn over 100% compared to the price at which it was purchased from the manufacturer, in the publishing world it is difficult to reach 30%.
And with this very low margin, that is what remains between the cost of the product and the proceeds from resale, you have to pay: VAT to small publishers, taxes, accountant, payment transaction costs, advertising, shipping costs (yes, ours shipping to 3 Euro in Italy costs us another 3 Euro), site costs, travel costs to attend events, printer cartridge and so on.
A difficult challenge, but there is a solution and it is that of our history. Before starting to tell it, however, it is good to keep in mind two mandatory concepts: love for what you make available to others on your online store and a lot courage. Without these it is not worth starting, because without putting your heart into something, no one will recognize the care you have in choosing every single magazine (in our case), nor will they understand that very slight sense of abandonment that is felt in seeing her leave with the courier. , even if they still have many copies in stock. Passion is the thing that makes you feel like "yours" every issue you sell, courage is what makes you invest so much time and make so many sacrifices in order to carry out a project that does not give you any profit. Yes, you got it right.
Okay, what about the somewhat romantic concepts of passion and courage? For us after these there is one big guideline that the most technical and cool people call "bootstrapping". That is, if you are a bit familiar with the network, do not borrow money from anyone, do everything with your energy by investing only a part of your savings. Growth will be slow, moderate and steady, measured by the strength you continue to put into the project or not.
Thanks to some online platforms (ours, highly recommended, is Shopify) you will find at a low price a valid ally that takes care of a lot of headaches such as payment management or the basic creation of the software structure, without the need to contact agencies specialized and very expensive.
Opening an online shop in bootstrapping means investing a lot of time in this activity in cataloging each magazine, finding photographs or taking them, writing descriptions, organically ordering the catalog, managing suppliers, the administrative and logistics part. Our preparatory work, once the project was defined, lasted over 4 months. And even today Frab's has remained an all-encompassing commitment for us to which we dedicate time and energy after our extra-Frab's working day.
Post-work evenings and entire weekends spent curating the content of the site, attending events, building our community on social networks. Many little things that at first seem insurmountable and difficult, then become with a little training a healthy habit that is still with us today.
A detail for everyone: the breakfast at the bar that we allow ourselves at the weekend is the real strategic pivot of Frab's. It is the moment in which we decide what to do, what to publish, what to select for the shop and the fundamental choices for this activity.
Starting in bootstrapping, of course, means starting slowly and growing progressively, without large outbursts of customers or exorbitant turnover. It also means being humble and never stopping learning.
The concept is simple: invest only what you can afford and grow (slowly) by reinvesting every minimum gain, or invest if there is money, otherwise it is likely that something will not work and it makes no sense to invest.
If the project conveys your love for what you make available to others and the first sales arrive, you have enough economic strength to buy more products to put in the shop and then, at a later time, also to make yourself known in some physical event or on the web.
Someone will tell you that to launch a site you need to spend at least 30-50% of the revenue in sponsored on social channels and with google ads. True, but it is an investment that not all sectors can afford and, as we said before, absolutely unrealistic in publishing.
Creating true and useful collaborations is what it takes to be able to make a specific project known. From the Wave Market in Rome, in Sottotraccia, Innesto and Garage Sale in Ravenna, Colpi di Fulime in Forlì, at the Bar Lento in Rimini, to reach those who have trusted us most of all, Lab 606 in Rome, the physical network between realities active in the world of culture is undoubtedly the greatest resource for the existence of projects like ours.
And the earnings? No, there is no gain. Carrying out a cultural activity online as we do it also means knowing that you are not earning anything. The real challenge is to do everything gradually to make sure you don't have to economically repair any damage. But whenever some cash comes in, reinvest it to grow your project.
We have thought a lot: how do we open an online business? Taken from the thousand formulas that the variegated bureaucratic panorama offers, we have deliberately chosen to make it a company. Certainly not for profit reasons, but rather for the ethical value of a real company: a company is something that is born and manages to grow simply by satisfying human needs. We think there is a need for culture and, by contributing as much as possible to paying any type of tax to which it is subject, we have decided to be born and continue to be in all respects a company that develops as much as it is able to develop. the world of culture. If everything goes well, we are sure, one day something will remain to repay us for the work done.
Almost a year later we have seen Frab's grow moderately but steadily. We are proud of the people who write to us for advice or sometimes just to chat, we are also proud of the double-digit number of people who return to choose Frab's a second, third or fourth time. We are proud of our subscribers to the Secreto Mag Club who truly trust us, month after month.
So behind the Frab's there is a room in the house that has become an office, another warehouse, excellent couriers, an understanding accountant, Anna who guides and directs everything and Dario who supports and lends her a hand when he can. There is courage and, after a year, the awareness that our path is possible.
The world of print media has long been in great difficulty. Bootstrapping is possible today, and perhaps the only way to start writing a new story for independent publishers.
Just as we write this post we are working on a surprise that will make it even easier for you to stay with us. The goal that we have set ourselves is to present it to you by May 15th which is Frab's birthday and we want to celebrate in a big way, continuing a cultural project that still has a long road ahead and a mission that cannot be stopped.