Cheers to 7 years: Celebrating Simply Family Magazine

from the August 2015 issue of Simply Family Magazine. Check out the digital edition, here!

photos of kim and jenny by jana graham photography

In August 2008, local mompreneur’s Jenny Barriger and Kim Nelson launched the first issue of Simply Family Magazine, a local family resource that has become Billings’ leading family publication.  What began as a desire to fulfill the need for a community resource providing up-to-date local family information including a calendar of monthly events has transformed into a sought after monthly publication and successful business venture.

Beginning with a vision and mission to support family life in the community, Simply Family Magazine has grown to be the largest lifestyle magazine in the area, with hundreds of distribution locations around central and eastern Montana.  Month after month, 13 issues per year, SFM includes the first and most comprehensive family events calendar in the community and has grown to 18,000 issues published monthly.

Celebrating 7 years of SFM this month, Jenny and Kim are proud of how far they’ve come and even prouder of how the magazine is able to help families in the community grow and thrive.  “When we started out on this path, we wanted to help families live locally and in turn create generations of families that knew how to live locally,” says Jenny.  And after 7 years and counting, Jenny and Kim continue to do just that.

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes of publishing a monthly magazine.  Here we get an up close and personal look at the women who started it all…Kim Nelson and Jenny Barriger.

The business of magazine publication was new territory for you both.  Did you meet any resistance along the way?

K: When we first started, we would present the idea to others and there were some who asked, “Why would you do that?”  There was the idea that families don’t have money, they weren’t a viable market.

J: The idea of a family magazine had been explored before by others; we were told it wouldn’t work.

What made you move forward with it anyway?

K: Because we were moms and we knew there was a void for this type of resource in the community.  I am an older mom; when Jenny and I met at a local MOMS Club chapter meeting, she became my lifeline.  She was my resource…if she didn’t tell me about something going on, I missed out.

J: We were frustrated with the lack of a community resource providing local family information.  That was part of our driving force behind Simply Family Magazine.

K: And even though there were a few critics, the positive feedback from friends, the community and businesses willing to give us a chance was huge.  We found enough people and businesses that believed in us.

J: We are so grateful for our magazine, for our supporters, the community, the businesses who have helped make it all possible.

What was it like publishing the magazine in its early stages?

J: (laughing) It really was a labor of love.  We put out the best product we could pay for, sometimes even more than that.  We weren’t worried about making a profit at that point.  Our agreement at the beginning was if we couldn’t pay for the next issue, then we didn’t print it.  It was issue to issue in the beginning.  And now here we are, 7 years later (smiling).

You were friends before you became business partners.   How did you decide roles in the beginning?

K: It just happened; it was natural.  We each have our own strengths and weaknesses, and they somehow naturally balance each other out.  Like walking into a meeting, I’m the one who opens the meeting, visiting about general things and then Jenny moves forward with the details.  Jenny is great with the details, she’s the gal who handles the magazine layout and so forth. I’m really great at making people feel comfortable.  It’s just how it’s always worked.

J: We work really well together.  Our personalities offset each other really well.

Has it always been easy to work together?

J:  We’ve had our fair share of battles, nothing horrible, but we’ve been through some tough times. We have also supported each other through some tough times.

K: But the bottom line is that our focus, our core values, our foundation is solid.

J: You have to go into business together and look at it like a second marriage.  For better or worse, we will figure this out.

K: Absolutely.

J: And at the end of the day, you have to be rational.  You have to be willing to listen to each other.  We both have different versions of perfect, and we are open to listening to each other’s opinions.

What do you love the most about the magazine?

J & K: The staff.  We love our staff!  They are fun, enthusiastic.

J: We love our girls, our crew!  They are what make the magazine.

K: Without our staff we wouldn’t enjoy our job as much as we do.

In your opinion, is there such a thing as balance?

K: There is no such thing as balance.  We’ve tried to find balance for 7 years and it just doesn’t happen.  I don’t believe in it.  I’ve tried it, it doesn’t exist.

J: You never get to coast.  Priorities, not balance.

K: And it’s about learning to say no.  Learning to get rid of the little stuff because the little stuff adds up.  Sometimes that means I have to say “no” to things I would really like to do, but I just can’t do it at that moment.

A lot of women in the community look up to you.  What advice do you have for women, either in life or in business?

J: If you don’t know what you’re doing, keep going with confidence and integrity and work toward figuring out the best solution.  No one has all of the answers right away.  Don’t doubt yourself, never doubt what you do know.  Business is about overcoming the hurdles you are faced with by staying positive and making sound decisions.

K: As a woman, make sure your reputation is upheld.  Women in business, it’s very important to establish a good solid foundation, you need to uphold a good reputation.

J & K: And no matter how hard it may be you have to stand by your word, follow through.

J: And in the end it will pay off. sfm