It was time for Anita Malik to do a gut check. After another meeting with her newspaper employer in which her ideas were shook off a shoulder, Anita sat at her desk and looked at her gifts.
She had three college degrees, including the masters in journalism she had gone back to get at USC, along with finance and information technology degrees she had received at Arizona State. She had a desire to write about the stuff that she wanted to write about, but her thoughtful ideas were being neglected at meetings like the one that transpired a few moments ago.
Anita looked at her heritage. As an Indian-American woman, Anita had grown up in a gap between the Eastern Asian culture and American understanding. She began to think about that gap, and how she could bridge it.
Soon thereafter, the idea for East West Magazine was born. Anita decided that she would create an Asian-American magazine that tackles controversial issues while also discussing the newest beauty trends…but all in her own style.
She created a website to see if there was a market for her idea. While still working at her newspaper employer, she wrote content that addressed her needs and others like her. She began to watch as her site began to gain popularity. After getting a substantial amount of visitors to her site, she decided that it was time to transition her words to print.
Today East West Magazine thrives in a time where print media struggles. Anita continues to get recognition for her passion in publishing, recently named to Folio’s 40 list.
What I took away:
If you look at your gifts and gaps in the marketplace, you can find your niche and create something profitable and useful to people previously suffering from that gap.
I’m someone who has done something completely different.
I worked in IT for 2 ½ years. Along the way I was trying to figure it out. I was selling real estate on the weekends. I was always good at math and the computer stuff and it fit. But I never really found it exciting. I couldn’t imagine doing it for the rest of my life. I was never the person who was interested in learning about what was coming up. If you don’t care about what’s going to happen in five years, it’s not a good sign.
So I went and got my master’s in journalism from USC. I started exploring from there. Did some radio, worked for the paper, and one day the idea for this happened while at the paper. Which I hate to say because it was on the job or whatever.
I had this idea. We started as a website. I still wasn’t sure about it, so I tried it on a website. Luckily I had to techie skills so I did the whole thing by myself. And people loved it so we got to print.
I started this because there wasn’t anything like it. I’m Asian-American so I thought that there needed to be something for this market. So I researched and there was nothing. I hate to use the word naïve, because in one way I think it’s great to take risks, and when you’re younger you can do that. But I was also not sure. I woke up one day and told my parents I was going to start a magazine. They just laughed at me because I had done all kinds of crazy things. They didn’t say anything bad, but they were like, ‘Ok, that’s nice.’
Part of the reason, other than producing something for Asian Americans.
I used to work at the Arizona Republic. I was working on a style section for them, but I never really got to write. It was a shopping and fashion thing, which you would think is every girl’s dream, but after awhile it just doesn’t fulfill you if you want to be a writer. I started a magazine for a selfish reason- I wanted to write long stories on whatever I wanted to talk about. Every writer has that. I thought the magazine was going to be my tool to do that.
Three years later it’s not. It’s more of a business now.
The idea stemmed from a meeting we had at work. I felt like I couldn’t contribute my take on this project. So I went back to my desk and was so frustrated with the fact that they weren’t listening to the interesting things I was saying. I started researching that night. As I progressed, I realized that this finally might be the thing that puts all my small pieces of background together. The business background, the journalism background, the IT background.
Over the years, what’s kept the excitement is that we’ve figured out who we are as a magazine. And people respond well. Of course when you get the response and they’re happy about something, it makes you happy. That keeps me going. There are bad days.
I don’t know if I’ve had a big highlight yet. I’m waiting for something big. But really, it’s just the emails we get. It’s great when people really like something that you’re doing. When we produce a story that has an impact, or whatever it is, that always keeps me going when I’m having a bad day.
On the other side, when we get a big advertiser. That means those people are paying attention to this niche market, which is really a new thing for the Asian American market.
Have no fear. Really listen to my own voice or my own self. I’ve taken many detours to get here. It’s partly because everyone means well when they give you advice, but you need to also see where that fits into what you believe instead of just saying I’m supposed to do this and I’m supposed to do that. I’ve done that. I would have just listened to myself a little more and been confident in decision versus being uncertain. Because you look back and you wish maybe you did.
One thing I’d like to say about our product is that it’s a little ahead of it’s time. Especially when it started. If you have an idea, whatever your idea is, and people don’t get it, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. It just means that they don’t get it. And give them time.
There are two types of people in this world. There are those that are leaders and forethinkers, and there are those who go with what’s happening with society and how it moves. That world moves slower, and you might be ahead of it. But just keep persisting. But be practical. Don’t risk your entire life on something, but don’t listen to every negative comment you hear because it’s very crazy to do that. It’s harder to stick with it, but if you do you’ll be happy.