Cincinnati Profile July / August 2010 : Page 20

20 cincinnatiprofile.com

She’ll Sleep When She’s Dead

Sarah Knott

Have you ever turned off your phone, your GPS, your radio and gone on a long drive to think about nothing other than what you want to do next? That’s how Amy Storer-Scalia, a Cincinnati West Side native and founder/ publisher of CincyChic.com, brainstormed her latest success. $ After working a long Friday in Philadelphia in 2006, just a nine-hour road trip stood between Storer-Scalia and friends and family in Cincinnati. It was a rare chance for quiet, so she took advantage of the time and space to think deeply. Was she truly happy in her job at an online health-care trade publication? Although she was working in the digital space, was she doing something that would allow her to leave her mark? “To be honest, I was finding it difficult to get excited [about work],” she says, referencing her daily gig posting and editing articles, links, and headlines about knee replacements and hamstring pulls. While it was helpful information to many of her readers, she felt she couldn’t get quite as excited about the content as maybe she should have been; not to mention her loved ones in Cincinnati felt too far away. Then, she remembered a lyric from her favorite recording artist, Jewel.<br /> <br /> “Don’t matter what side it lands on/if it’s someone else’s dime,” quotes the avid fan from the song “Down So Long.” “I took that to heart. I knew I needed to find something that was mine,” she says.<br /> <br /> So there it was, she said. She had plotted the direction of her next steps, and she used the rest of the long drive from Pennsylvania to Ohio to chart the course for CincyChic.com, a digital and networking resource for Cincinnati women 25-59. Information on health, beauty, fashion, social life and career, not to mention a few good inspirational stories, were to become the cornerstones of the idea; she felt more inspiration with each build.<br /> <br /> “It seemed like a no-brainer,” says Storer-Scalia of her a-ha moment.<br /> <br /> “I remembered my frustration with there being no online resource for women in Cincinnati at the time, and my specialty was online publications, so why not start an online publication for women in Greater Cincinnati?” she says. It was the perfect project to pursue and “make her own.” Or at least in her mind, since Storer-Scalia’s ambition was met with some resistance Work—sometimes all night—on story leads, event ideas, and content development. Four months after the inspired drive from Philadelphia to Cincinnati, the site went live. In June 2007, Storer-Scalia moved back to Cincinnati to take on her endeavor full-time.<br /> <br /> Any number of articles could be written about what has happened between 2006 and now—the addition of iPhones in everyone’s pockets, iPads on everyone’s horizons, Twitter accounts, social media, the recession. But anymore, “fast” supercedes “the past,” and the interesting business stories are usually in the moment. Today, CincyChic.com has grown to serve approximately 18,000 opt-in subscribers, support a full-time staff of five, and employs a slew of freelancers. Its products include a weekly editorial email newsletter, spin-off blogs, podcasts, and weekly networking and philanthropic events (a recent newsletter listed 10 CincyChic events between May 18 and May 22). The whole thing survived a recession, to boot. How? Storer-Scalia, whose husband is Pete Scalia, ABC Dayton’s morning anchor, says make no mistake. She feels CincyChic is still surviving it, and she’s going with the flow of the upswing patiently.<br /> <br /> “Cash flow and commitments are limited. People are still a little slow to pay,” she says. Of course, payment eventually happens, referencing the good news that CincyChic recorded 148% of their sales goals in the first quarter of 2010. But despite some light at the end of the tunnel, she keeps lessons from the recession close to her heart.<br /> <br /> “I’m glad that I started in downturn because I learned what our core moneymakers of the business were,” she says. “I started out lean and sometimes had to be even leaner. With no parent company, it was difficult to get sponsors on board. They didn’t want to sign on for a 12-month marketing deal if they weren’t sure we’d be here next month. There was no parent company to go after if something happened, and no proven track record with launching other successful publications.” But even with a rocky start, CincyChic has emerged with a threeyear track record and a partnership with Cincinnati.com, which includes media sponsorship digital endeavors, as well as support for a variety of events. The high-energy, women-friendly get-togethers range from “Handbag Heaven” to a sportswear fashion show to accessory focused “Jewel Up Your June.” The varied soirees also help weave CincyChic into the community fabric, as they helped sponsor Cincinnati’s first ever Fashion Week last March and donated $15,000 to local charities last year. All thanks to trusting her own intuition, she says.<br /> <br /> “I remember pulling several all-nighters a week and not even feeling tired. I remember not being able to focus when people talked to me because my wheels were turning about some facet of the site. I would get lost in thought for hours working on the site layout. I remember having to carry a notepad in my purse so I could write down ideas or to-do items for the site. I just couldn’t turn it off. And although things have calmed down considerably since that time, I still feel like I can’t turn it off,” she says.<br /> <br /> So with any number of events, narratives, stories, features, and products in the future, what is just around the corner for CincyChic?<br /> <br /> Storer-Scalia says she’s investigating other mid-sized markets that are small enough to not be saturated by women’s publications and examining whether a franchise or licensing out to a publishing partner is worth pursuit (think LouisvilleChic or StLouisChic, although Storer- Scalia is tight-lipped about what markets she’s looking at). But whether her latest path continues forward, forks, or comes to an abrupt halt, Storer-Scalia says she will take it and advises those who dream of chasing their own ideas to begin today.<br /> <br /> “Our world has so many distractions,” she says. “We have to be the ones doing the exploration, not watching someone else doing it.” CP “An investor friend of mine told me I shouldn’t do it because the economy was slumping. My friends in Philadelphia didn’t want me to do it and leave them.” And her mom even tried to keep her from jumping into something so risky. She laughs: “She always told me I needed to find a good job right out of college and stay there until I got wrinkly and worn-out enough to retire.” It was all thoughtful advice, and Storer-Scalia listened. But her “super human focus” had kicked in, and there was no turning back.<br /> <br /> “I can’t explain what came over me after my idea sparked for CincyChic. Nothing, not even a basic need like sleep, could stop me.” Once her idea’s anchors were in place and testing got underway, she worked at her job in Philadelphia during the day then went home to

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