Somehow, AHHH-MAZING single Melbourne mother of 2, Sarah Cavalier succeeds in publishing AND managing distribution of her lovely bi-monthly magazine MamaMag available to the Melbourne public, covering the Bayside, Northside, Eastside and Westside areas (whilst being heavily involved in the content and design…). MamaMag is a free publication choc full of local news, upcoming events, inspiring stories and food and fashion inspiration. Now open to all, MamaMag can also be found online, ensuring that no-one misses out on the news!
Leigh: Your background is in Graphic Design. What brought you to creating your own printed bi-monthly magazine?
Sarah Cavalier: I’ve run my own design business, Grizzle Design, for about 13 years. Before the kids were born I had a fabulous shared studio in Richmond and commuted every day from my home in the Macedon Ranges. Once I had kids I moved the business back home and worked on it part time in between changing nappies. But working from home, looking after two kids under 3 that never slept and playing the happy house wife in a country town took its toll on me. I was miserable and and ultimately my marriage fell apart because of it. So four years ago I moved back to Bayside Melbourne, to be near to my mum who was a crucial support in me rebuilding my life in Melbourne as a single mum. I hadn’t worked full time in nearly 4 years and you can’t just rebuild your business overnight. I needed an income to support my kids on my own and I needed it NOW. Through an old advertising contact I managed to score myself some freelance design work in a South Yarra ad agency. I’d never worked in a big agency before. Terrific I thought, until 18 months later their work started drying up and I was back where I was when I first came home with only a part time income again. I still hadn’t been building up my own business because I had their work to keep me busy. And the struggle didn’t end there. Personally I’d also spent the last 18 months fudging my way through being a new mum in Melbourne. I had no mother’s group for support, having left mine in the country, I hardly knew any local families with kids and I just felt there was no support for mums on a local level. There were plenty of big Melbourne based blogs and magazines, but nothing local in my area. That was it. The hole in the market I needed to help rebuild my life and my career in the one go!
LV: Does your experience in Graphic Design help with the visual aspect of your magazine esthetic? Do you do the design?
SC: It’s funny. Most people think I must have a background in publishing, or writing, editing, that kind of thing. But when I tell them I’m actually a graphic designer I’m always met with the same comment “Oh, no wonder the mag looks so good!” Of course over my years as a creative I’ve worked on plenty of wonderful publications, dealt with printers, copywriters etc, so it’s not all entirely new to me, I’m just taking the entire job right from start to finish now. I do 100% of the design. There simply isn’t a budget to outsource any of that. I also designed our new website which I am super proud of. My first crack at WordPress and I think I did pretty well! I’m also pretty handy behind the camera lense and photograph the recipes most months among other things.
LV: You have certainly made some big decisions in the past 4 years. What has your journey taught you about yourself?
SC: I was unhappy in my marriage for a long time. But I’d committed to a life with my partner, in a country town, with 2 gorgeous kids. I honestly couldn’t see a way to escape that. So I just plodded along and became progressively unhappier and miserable, battling depression and telling myself it would all be ok. Then one day my husband looked at me and simply said “I can’t do this anymore, you are just too unhappy and I can’t help change that”. I cried for 10 minutes then got up, walked outside and realised I had just been set free. It was like my ‘Get out of jail free card’. I was instantly happy. We hadn’t broken up because we hated each other, we were just different people and we knew neither of use would be happy together as we wanted different things in life. If I had been stronger, I would have left that marriage a lot earlier. So my journey has taught me to be strong and to put myself first. It’s ok to be selfish and put yourself first. You can’t just sit around hoping something will change, you have to change it yourself. If I’m not happy and living life by my terms, then what message am I sending for my kids and what life am I going to provide for my kids if I’m sad and miserable?
LV: Being a single mother and running your own business must be EXHAUSTING!!! How do you make sure that you get time to re-fuel your soul and remain focused on your goals?
SC: Look I’m not going to pretend it’s not hard! And financially it’s a massive struggle trying to support a family on a single income, especially when the mag is in a growth phase and rarely making a profit. Luckily for me I actually thrive when I’m working. I know MamaMag has so much potential to grow still and that excites and motivates me. Yes I’m exhausted, but I love it. Looking back I laugh and think no wonder my marriage failed. My career had practically dissolved away. I didn’t realise at the time that that was what was killing me. So now, yes I work a lot. 9-5 every day, often weekends when the kids are at their dads. But I love it. And I have flexibility. I can go to school excursions; I do the school drop off and pick up every day. But I also make sure I find me time. As the kids Dad is still in the country they can only see him on weekends, but this means I get 2-3 weekends a month all to myself. Granted I work a some of this time, but it also gives me time to go for a run along the beach, or sit on the couch and watch back to back Game of Thrones if I want. Not many mums get that break, but hey, I deserve it!
LV: I imagine that you have some help keeping the MamaMag dream going. I picture you surrounded by other amazing mums. Is this right?
SC: Absolutely. It’s one of my favourite parts, employing other awesome mamas. I run local mags, but I can’t pretend to be a local expert for all areas of Melbourne. So I have a local editor in each of the 4 areas, me in Bayside, Bec (who is also my sister) in Westside, Kara in Eastside and my now gorgeous friend Kirsty runs Northside. Kirsty came on board when I launched my second mag and MamaMag wouldn’t be here without the passion and encouragement she constantly provides me. These girls have set local tasks, which they can complete whenever they like, so it’s the most flexible job in the world. I have a local sales manager in each of the 4 areas that manage the advertising as well as a key account manager working on bigger picture stuff. As it’s a free mag, without advertising there would be no money and no magazine, so they are integral team members as well. I also use a team of 12 people each month to help distribute the magazine. Never a dull moment!
LV: You have featured some amazing women in MamaMag. What have been some of your favourites and why?
SC: Oh so many. I started our monthly Mama of the Month article in the early days because I was just meeting so many inspiring mums doing fabulous things and I just needed to share their stories.
Doctor Justine Tuffley was a stand out. A bayside mum and GP with 2 sets of twins who then, after a difficult pregnancy gave birth to a beautiful son who was missing his oesophagus. Little Hugo required 5 months in intensive care and years of tube feeding and Justine juggled all of this with 4 other kids under 5. This life changing experience made her re-look at her own career (which had most definitely been put on hold) and how she could help others better. She now has her own business helping women, particularly those feeling overwhelmed, like she was in those first few years of Hugo’s life, take control of their health through diet, exercise, sleep and stress management. She truly is amazing. Her story practically broke our Facebook account. We’d never had so many likes and comments when we posted her story!
LV: Where do you hope to see MamaMag in 5 years time?
SC: Like I mentioned early, I have to put myself first more and right now, as much as I love it, I’m working far too hard for little to no return. But I love what I do. Creating something free, fun and helpful for other mothers is so rewarding. The countless Facebook messages, emails and comments I get from mums about how much they love the mag keeps me pushing forward. I’ve recently made the big decision to change the mag to a bi-monthly publication in 2017 (yes you heard it here first!). It’s incredibly expensive to produce with print and distribution and to reduce those two costs by half means not only can we make the magazine more profitable, it means I will have more time to ensure we are creating the best quality publication we can. Once we have this running perfectly I might look at expanding the magazine into some regional areas or even interstate. The possibilities are endless. I can’t wait for 5 years time so I can look back and think ‘wow, I can’t believe we got here‘ (where ever that may be, I’m sure it will be fabulous!). Two years ago I had one magazine with 5,000 in one council area of Melbourne. Today I have 40,000 mags across four areas covering the whole of inner Melbourne plus our growing website. 5 Years. Wow, I can’t wait to find out!
Photography: Kelly Jordan Photography.