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.