What’s Brewing? with Andy Tellijohn

It’s not exact­ly break­ing news that the past two years have been tough on the media. And in Min­neso­ta, prob­a­bly no out­let has faced stronger head­winds recent­ly than Upsize Mag­a­zine. When the region­al busi­ness magazine’s co-founder and pub­lish­er Wes Bergstrom died in Spring 2020, the pub­li­ca­tion went on hia­tus, fac­ing an uncer­tain future.

Enter Andy Tel­li­john. Upsize’s long­time man­ag­ing edi­tor is part of the group that ulti­mate­ly acquired the mag­a­zine and began pub­lish­ing again a year after it went on pause. Now edi­tor and pub­lish­er, the long­time busi­ness jour­nal­ist has assem­bled a team to relaunch Upsize and roll out new action­able how-to advice, prod­ucts, events and oppor­tu­ni­ties to engage with its core audi­ence: own­ers and high-rank­ing exec­u­tives at grow­ing com­pa­nies with 100 or few­er employees.

We talked with Andy about the chal­lenges of the past few years, and what’s in store for the future.

Upsize has expe­ri­enced a lot of change since Wes passed away. Can you give a brief sum­ma­ry of what’s been going on, and where the mag­a­zine is headed?

Wes passed away in March 2020 just as the pan­dem­ic hit. We stopped pub­lish­ing after our March/April issue that year.

Our group acquired the mag­a­zine in Feb­ru­ary of 2021. It includes Jonathan Han­kin, our design­er and one of the orig­i­nal minor­i­ty part­ners, and Dan O’ Con­nell, a friend of mine from our high school days who has brought a cre­ative busi­ness sense and a dis­ci­plined finan­cial approach to the com­pa­ny. Found­ing Edi­tor Beth Ewen, an orig­i­nal co-founder and a friend and men­tor to me going back near­ly two decades, opt­ed not to con­tin­ue in an equi­ty role. But she has rejoined as a colum­nist and copy edi­tor. And Tom Dunn has con­tin­ued shoot­ing some great pho­tos for us.

As far as the mag­a­zine goes, not much will change. We’re con­tin­u­ing to pro­vide how-to con­tent for busi­ness own­ers that we hope helps them grow. What will change soon is an increased focus on get­ting con­tent out in dif­fer­ent ways. We’ll be start­ing a cou­ple mul­ti­me­dia prod­ucts soon. We’ll also be intro­duc­ing a new web­site, which will pro­vide new ways of pre­sent­ing infor­ma­tion to busi­ness own­ers and greater vis­i­bil­i­ty and out­reach to adver­tis­ers and spon­sors, as well.

What has it been like sit­ting in your seat the last 18+ months? What have been some of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions chal­lenges or shifts you’ve had to make, and what have you learned?

It’s def­i­nite­ly been a wild cou­ple of years. Since we were in hia­tus, we missed the ear­ly part of the pan­dem­ic – which might have been help­ful from a busi­ness stand­point, but also was a missed oppor­tu­ni­ty to be able to pro­vide help­ful con­tent for busi­ness owners.

Anoth­er chal­lenge in get­ting start­ed back up was the tim­ing. Acquir­ing the pub­li­ca­tion in Feb­ru­ary – we pub­lished our first issue as an own­er­ship group in March – meant we were get­ting start­ed after most com­pa­nies had allo­cat­ed a large per­cent­age of their mar­ket­ing bud­gets. We’ve released our mate­ri­als for 2022, and we’re look­ing for­ward to being able to tell our sto­ry and com­pete for adver­tis­ing dol­lars on equal foot­ing with oth­ers head­ing into next year.

Why are small busi­ness­es so impor­tant to Min­neso­ta, and what is your vision for how Upsize can report on, con­nect with and sup­port them?

Each of us grew up with ties to fam­i­lies involved in small busi­ness­es. Small busi­ness­es, it’s often said, are the heart of the com­mu­ni­ty, the heart of the econ­o­my. The SBA had some sta­tis­tics a cou­ple years ago about how small busi­ness­es are respon­si­ble for two of three new jobs in the pri­vate sec­tor, about how more than half the country’s work­force either work for or own a small busi­ness. That res­onates with me.

I often describe Upsize as a mag­a­zine that helps small busi­ness own­ers learn from oth­er people’s mis­takes, suc­cess­es and chal­lenges so they don’t have to recre­ate the wheel them­selves. I see our role being much as you described it – as being a con­duit toward con­nect­ing small busi­ness own­ers with the resources avail­able to them, the bankers, the accoun­tants, the lawyers, the con­sul­tants who work specif­i­cal­ly with small busi­ness­es to help them grow.

How has it been work­ing with PR pro­fes­sion­als in MN, and what do they need to know to work with Upsize?

It’s been great get­ting back in touch with some folks that I’d worked with back in my days as a reporter at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Busi­ness Jour­nal, and I’ve also enjoyed get­ting to know some folks new to the scene since I’d been a reporter reg­u­lar­ly cov­er­ing this market.

The folks in town here are gen­er­al­ly friend­ly and great to work with. The thing to remem­ber about Upsize is the “how-to” focus. We pub­lish every oth­er month, so we’re not break­ing news. Every­thing we do aims to answer some “how-to” ques­tion. So, if you can pon­der that a bit before you pitch me, that’s extreme­ly help­ful. That said, feel free to reach out any­time. It’s not uncom­mon for me to pass on an ini­tial angle but cir­cle back to use that com­pa­ny or that entre­pre­neur as an exam­ple in a lat­er “how-to” sto­ry down the line.

What do you love most about your job?

I love meet­ing peo­ple and hear­ing the sto­ries they tell about how they came up with the idea for their busi­ness­es, how they over­came chal­lenges, etc. I love the idea of being a con­duit between a busi­ness own­er and some­one or some­thing that helps them solve a prob­lem they’ve been try­ing to overcome.

And, in this new role as pub­lish­er, I am enjoy­ing the chal­lenge of telling the sto­ry of what Upsize is, what it has been and what we believe it can be. I’m not a sales­man by nature, so this has been com­plete­ly new and a lot more fun than I expected.

Final­ly, What’s Brew­ing for you? What morn­ing and/or evening drinks keep you fueled or relaxed these days? 

These days it’s Diet Dew in the morn­ing, water in the after­noon and a bour­bon or two on many evenings.

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