Issue 41's cover, animated by Lucie Duclos!


The cover of our new issue is by UPPERCASE subscriber Lucie Duclos, whose colourful and patterned collages caught my eye on Instagram.


I liked the idea of creating a cover with found patterns (plus a few from past UPPERCASE covers). It's abstract with a nod to mid-Century shapes, and the dimensional shadows make you think that the elements are still at play. (Don't sneeze!)

lucie in progress.jpeg

"I have always been interested in pattern design on textiles," says Lucie. "My grandmother was an avid and talented seamstress and would bring me along on Rue St-Hubert in Montreal where all the little fabric shops were lined up for several blocks. She would head straight for the remnant bin in search of the perfect little “coupon de tissu” as she called them in French. I was in awe of her skills and was fascinated by her considerable fabric stash and how quickly she could transform a piece of fabric into a stylish and fashionable garment. Everyone in the family had something made for them by grand-maman Lucile. I was named after her and she remains a powerful source of inspiration in my life."


Lucie lives in Victoria now, where she teaches design workshops such as an intro to fabric design. She also offers many online courses.

Decisions, decisions....

Should I or Shouldn’t I?

In the days leading up to my enrollment in B-School, I felt like I was in a sort of decision-making trance. Yes or No? Should I or shouldn't I? How will I pay for it? What will I actually learn? Am I just succumbing to some sort of hype? How come I never heard of B-School before and now I see it everywhere?

I watched Marie's videos, pored over testimonials, reviewed affiliates' various offerings and bonuses, watched Marie's videos again, went back to the course description... it was intense. Since B-School registration is only open once a year for a short time, you are forced to make a decision that will impact, at the very least, the next couple months of your life. (And at best, the upward trajectory of your business!)

If you find yourself in that intense loop of "should I or shouldn't I?" that's a good thing.

You're at a place in your life and career when you're consciously and purposely examining the path before you.

Most often, we're just going with the flow, sticking to what we've always done, staying with what we know.

When I finally said yes to myself and then yes to B-School, it knew that—one way or another—this was a very important moment in my personal history. This was the point where I was turning away from the incredible stress and financial burden that my business had become. Instead of running myself ragged trying to support my business to keep it going, I would build a business that would support me and my family! I would get rid of that vibrating ball of stress and anxiety that lived in my chest.

B-School worked.

It was hard. It was revelatory. It was exhilarating. It empowered me to take on some really difficult decisions. (Honestly, at times it made me feel dumb. I had been doing so many things wrong! How could I have not known some of this stuff before? But you go to school to learn things you don't know, right? Besides, I only have an art college diploma and no business or marketing degrees.)

Anyway, I really hope that your business isn't currently perched on a precipice like mine was back in 2014!!!

Fortunately, you don't need to be in a dire situation like mine to benefit from B-School. What you learn in the program can be applied to all stages of a business. (With lifetime access, that's why I keep taking the program year after year.) Perhaps you've been in business for a number of years and things are sort of stagnating. B-School can inject some new perspectives and techniques into growing your products and services.

If you're in the inkling stages of building a business or thinking about launching a new venture, B-School will be of tremendous value. There's a bonus course that you can take immediately upon enrollment called Start the Right Business. It helps you focus your ideas and intentions so that you can create a business that works for you. How much better off will your business or creative career be if you have the foundation and training of B-School right from the get-go? I wish I had known all of this sooner.

I watch the Start the Right Business videos yearly it to make sure that I still have clarity in my own intentions for UPPERCASE. I also think Marie's Follow-Through Formula is genius. If you struggle with having too many unfinished projects and don't understand how to get things DONE, this is a crash course on a productivity mindset.


Tip: If you enroll in B-School before the deadline of March 1, you will have time to take these bonus courses prior to the launch of Module 1 on March 4. B-School has a lot of content in it, so if you can get a head start, all the better!

B-School registration closes this Friday afternoon.*

* If you decide to enroll, please use my registration link so that I'll earn your referral. B-School affiliate referrals are awarded to the "last click," meaning that the tracking link a customer clicked on LAST (and that drove them to purchase B-School) will get credit for the sale. Thank you!

B-School Bonuses

UPPERCASE magazine issues and book projects that featured B-Schoolers from 2018.

UPPERCASE magazine issues and book projects that featured B-Schoolers from 2018.

When you use my affiliate link to register, you'll also receive these UPPERCASE B-School Bonuses:

  • A one-year subscription/renewal to UPPERCASE, the quarterly print magazine.

  • Jot down your a-ha moments in a custom planner created by 2018 B-School alumnus Crystal Ink for UPPERCASE.

  • Complimentary membership to the UPPERCASE Circle, a gathering place for the creative & curious subscribers of UPPERCASE magazine.

  • Access to the private UPPERCASE + B-School community and discussion board for focussed conversation and support from Janine and your fellow B-Schoolers and Alumni.

  • Online group video calls and weekly B-School chats with Janine to ask questions and share your progress with the encouraging UPPERCASE B-School community.

  • The opportunity to pitch your ideas or business concept to be published in UPPERCASE magazine and books.

  • Access to UPPERCASE e-courses to be released in 2019.

UPPERCASE + B-School private discussion and learning space.

UPPERCASE + B-School private discussion and learning space.

Get an UPPERCASE subscription or renewal when you sign up for B-School through my  affiliate link !

Get an UPPERCASE subscription or renewal when you sign up for B-School through my affiliate link!

By the numbers

Proof that B-School worked for me—and how returning to my roots as a solo entrepreneur was the best decision I could have made.

Since taking B-School in 2014, I've taken a personal approach to my communications and marketing and I've embraced a forthright and honest style in my writing. I share quite a bit with my readers and go into detail about how and why I make decisions (like this: "When You're Supposed to Say Yes"). I've talked about the struggles I've faced in my business. This is an approach that Marie Forleo teaches in B-School: communicating with one's customers should be a service to them. And so I offer my own perspectives, realizations, trials and errors with you so that you might also benefit from my failures and join me in celebrating the successes. I'm transparent with my business.

But I don’t often share the numbers.

I’ve generated a sales graph from Shopify, from when I started selling online (October 2007) until the end of last year (December 2018). From the very early days of e-commerce, selling artwork, greeting cards and handmade paper goods online, to the release of the first issue, the birth of my son... the graph tells the story of UPPERCASE's growth as a company and me as an entrepreneur.

You can see that there was an immediate positive effect on sales once I started taking B-School. Click the image to enlarge. (To view even more annotations and detail, click here.)

The magazine had modest growth in the early years. I had help in my retail space for a number of years, and with being a new mom and trying to grow my publishing company, I assumed the logical thing would be to hire more help for the magazine. As online sales were steadily increasing month over month and I was closing the retail location to concentrate on publishing, I brought on some employees specifically to manage orders and subscriptions. In 2012, I had a marketing manager, too. We were a nice little team for a while, but as you can see on the graph, there was no growth. Monthly sales were stagnating and the team and I weren't meeting the minimum monthly sales quota required to keep the ship afloat.

Desperate for a solution to keep my beloved publishing business alive, I used my credit card and enrolled in B-School. I started implementing what I was learning right away. I was scraping the bottom of my line of credit and faced running out of funds to pay my considerable print bills. As the sole earner in the family, UPPERCASE was the only thing supporting my family. I had to lay everyone off and forego my salary. I call it my big "reboot." I pulled the plug on my expectations of what a "real" publishing company looked like and returned to my roots: just me. (A few years later, with our son in school, my husband Glen took on customer support part time.)

Regular readers will know I'm a hard worker, but I never worked harder than that year following the reboot. The spikes in the graph are a testament to the extreme effort I put into kicking UPPERCASE into a profitable company. Without the burden of other people's salaries, plus monthly growth in online sales, I was very quickly out of the financial hole. And soon, UPPERCASE was turning a profit. And it continues to do so.

Taking B-School—and more importantly, taking B-School to heart—was the catalyst that I needed to put my company on the path to profitability.

Making a profit has never been my primary business goal. My goal all along has been to create a business that can sustain itself, that can fund my creative ideas and contribute to a global community of kindred spirit creatives while supporting me and my family. 


When the stress of basic survival is gone, there is space for joyful creating and innovating within your business.

B-School encourages an approach to business that is big-hearted and socially conscious. You can see that exemplified in UPPERCASE. Since B-School, I've given away hundreds of free subscriptions to folks who need a creative boost and can't otherwise afford to subscribe. I’m donating 10% of proceeds from sales of Little U magazine to UNICEF ($4,800 was donated in 2018) and with every subscription or renewal, I plant a tree. (We're at 4,766 saplings and counting!)

How B-School saved my business.

In 2014, I was having the toughest time I'd ever had in business. I had employees and big print bills, but I never seemed to be able to get out of barely getting by—a line of credit was the only thing that kept things going, issue after issue, but I wasn’t able to get to the plus side of zero. I was tired of working so hard to barely break even.

I desperately needed a mentor: someone to help me figure out what to do next. I couldn't find that sort of guidance locally and so I began looking for it online.

Before I signed up for B-School, I had a gut feeling that I'd need to make some big changes to my business. I wasn't sure what they would be, but as I went through the course, it became ever more clear that I would have to take back the control of EVERY aspect of my business. Including, in particular, the marketing and voice of my company.

With the help of Marie Forleo's amazing course and excellent advice, I decided to reboot my company—even though it meant facing some unpleasant realities. I was $50,000 in debt with the line of credit and wouldn’t have enough funds for the next print bill, let alone paying myself a salary (and I was the sole earner in my family.) Letting go of my employees was particularly painful. But I returned to a company of one to start over.

After taking a week to settle into the feelings of sadness and failure, I began to rebuild. Long-term readers might remember my very first newsletter. From that vulnerable spot, I began again.

I became more productive, my stress level went way down and I was inspired and happy to grow personally and in the business.

Taking B-School was a turning point. It let me discover the joy of business and the potential for living generously.

B-School has made such a difference in my life that I would like to share this with my community. I'm thrilled that Marie's team accepted my application of being an affiliate for a second time this year!

My readers are creative entrepreneurs like me—graphic designers, craftspeople, artisans, illustrators, makers... and like me, you've probably no official higher education in business or marketing. We've been learning by doing. Wouldn't it be nice to have someone help you through it?

Though on first impression some of the content seems geared at more of the coaching or mentoring type business, I've found that it is all applicable in one way or another and I've been able to use what I've learned in UPPERCASE as product-based business very successfully. And in the years since I took B-School, Marie Forleo and team have been adding to the course content and have built up many resources for product-based business models. I've truly benefited from the knowledge and tools that B-School offers and I revisit the course year after year to gain more insight and find new ways of connecting with my readership.

I invite you to sign up for Marie's free 3-video workshop series. Each video is around 30 minutes and full of good, actionable content.

I'm an affiliate for B-School, so I will earn a generous portion of every registration that results because of promotional efforts. I applied to be an affiliate because B-School had such a tremendously positive effect on my business and I value what I've learned.

Print/Maker coming soon!

The next volume in the Encyclopedia of Inspiration series, Print/Maker, is at the printer! It lives up the encyclopedia name with 48 profiles, 368 pages and over 660 images. Here are some mockups showing the various dust jackets and bellyband — the "signature look" of all the books in this series. (Images from Angie Lewin, Starshaped Press, Katharine Watson and Clawhammer Press.)

Print/Maker will be ready to mail in October. You can order it as part of the next 4 volumes of the Encyclopedia and save on the per-book cost and get free shipping. Print/Maker can also be pre-ordered on its own, too. ($50 CAD in North America, $60 mailed internationally.)

Thank you so much for your support of my printed endeavours!

Summer Sale on Back issues and older projects!

We use a fulfillment warehouse to store and ship UPPERCASE magazine and books where we dutifully pay the monthly storage fees and associated handling costs. However, starting in September, that company is implementing storage surcharges. In addition to monthly rent, they will be charging another $10.25 USD per cubic foot for products in inventory that are 6-12 months old and $20.50 USD per cubic foot for products that are older than one year. This additional cost will be incurred every six months. As you can imagine, boxes of books and magazines take up considerable space.

Selling back issues slowly and steadily has always been a sustainable part of the UPPERCASE business. We publish for the long term, with inspiring and beautiful content that stands the test of time. However, this new pricing structure at the fulfillment company is all about fast e-commerce and quick selling. While we examine our options on how to proceed, we have to greatly reduce our older inventory.

Please tell your friends and colleagues about the sale! Thank you.

Encyclopedia Update


Print / Maker is in the writing and design phase and will be heading to print by late summer. Here's a preview of the page design:

Support this project by pre-ordering the next four volumes in the UPPERCASE Encyclopedia of Inspiration. Individual copies of each book will be available for pre-order closer to their publication dates. Also planned for publication this year is volume E, Ephemera. Here's a mockup of the cover, featuring collections from Michelle Geller (Hold Dear) and illustrator Maria Carluccio.

Ephemera cover mockup.jpg

Clever and well-designed

As one can see from UPPERCASE magazine and the books that I publish, I'm a very visual person. I love colour and typography and enjoy creating an experience with these elements. I was a freelance graphic designer for a dozen years before I transitioned into using those skills into my own products.

I’m definitely someone who judges a book by its cover—but also what’s inside! How content is presented, designed and arranged is also very important.

If you’ve been mulling over the possibility of taking B-School, I thought it might be helpful to know that the actual course environment is top notch with excellent navigation, nice typography and clear communication. There is a lot of information packed into the site, through videos, instruction, downloads and bonuses. It’s really clever how the course is sequenced. Through the interface, copy writing and fun little surprises, the B-School site excels at engaging the student—which is great, because you’ll be spending a lot of time there!


There is a lot of content on the site, but the B-School designers manage to keep it well-organized through tabs, navigation and visual cues that show you where you are within a module and within the course overall.

In addition to the modules, there are more resources available on specific areas of building your business. After 9 years and 40,000 students, the Answer Vault really will have the most common questions answered handily.

As you can see from their launch website graphics and materials (plus check out Marie Forleo’s Stories on Instagram) B-School is very well-designed. The learning environment is unique to B-School and that is certainly one of its strengths. 

What's all this stuff about B-School? I took the course and it changed my business for the better so this year I'm an affiliate. Read my B-School story on this page.

3 things that helped me to decide about B-School

Looking back to my own decision-making process 4 years ago, here are the 3 things that helped me decide:

1. Testimonials from other B-Schoolers Reading the personal stories of other B-Schoolers was how I first was introduced to Marie Forleo and B-School. I heard about it via an email from Beth Kempton from Do What You Love, whom I had featured in a previous issue of the magazine. Once I got onto the B-School site, I went down the rabbit hole of testimonials, videos and reviews. I spent hours pouring through everything. I'd never taken such a course before and was a little wary so I read everything thoroughly and searched the web for other reviews.

2. Free Training Videos Once I was signed up to Marie's email list, the quality of information of the free training videos was really convincing. There was actionable good advice that I found really inspiring and motivating.

3. The Expense B-School is expensive ($1999 USD). This is likely the biggest obstacle to taking the course. For me, I signed up precisely when money was super tight and used my Visa to pay in full (you save a bit this way, rather than the monthly payment option). I had a new office space with big rent to pay plus employees to support. I really didn't have any extra money to spare, but I was also feeling so stressed about my business that I needed some sort of lifeline. In my mind, the investment into the course was equivalent to the seriousness in which I viewed my business. By spending that sort of money, I demonstrated my faith in the quality of what I would be taught but also that I would follow through on making it worthwhile.

So those are the things that were weighing on my mind as I was trying to decide. I'm really glad that I took that leap. I'm sure you have lots to consider, too. It's a big decision!

B-School registration is open... but just for a short time! The cart closes on March 1. After that date, you'll have to wait another calendar year before the chance to take B-School comes around again.

(IMPORTANT: if you've been looking at other affiliates' offers, please note that referrals are tracked by last click. So if you want to receive my bonus offers and for me to be credited for the referral, use my link to the registration page. Thanks!)

Something extra when you sign up for B-School through me...


When you use my affiliate link to register, you'll also receive these UPPERCASE B-School Bonuses:

  • A complimentary one-year subscription/renewal to UPPERCASE magazine.
  • A pair of Everyday notebooks to jot down your B-School a-ha moments.
  • Access to a private UPPERCASE + B-School community and discussion board.
  • Online conference call with Janine to ask questions and share your progress with the encouraging UPPERCASE B-School community.
  • The opportunity to pitch your ideas or business concept to be published in issue 40 of UPPERCASE magazine (3 profiles available)
  • Access to creative entrepreneur productivity e-course to be released by Janine Vangool / UPPERCASE

If you'd like access to these perks, make sure that you click on my link to sign up for B-School (they track on the "last click" and attribute the sale to whichever site or link referred the sale.) Thank you, I appreciate it!

Integrity Rainbows (B-School registration is open now!)

B-School registration is open today and will remain open until March 1 at 6pm EST. Registration happens only once a year! (But once you've registered, you can take B-School every year or as often as you like. I'll be taking it for a third time this year and each time I learn something new.)

Registration includes instant access to some training videos:

#1. Start The Right Business Program

Marie calls herself a multi-passionate entrepreneur. Sometimes you have so many ideas that you're not sure where to start. This program will show you "step-by-step, how to strategically and intelligently vet your ideas to see which will have the best chance of success." It is really great to start of B-School with this sort of focus.

#2. The Follow-Through Formula Productivity Program

Marie talks you through some habits and techniques to help you succeed in B-School and in your own business and life. Following through is the only way to get things done!

If you register through my link, I will receive an affiliate commission. And you'll get some bonuses from me, too!


  • A complimentary one-year subscription/renewal to UPPERCASE magazine.

  • A pair of Everyday notebooks to jot down your B-School a-ha moments.

  • Access to a private UPPERCASE + B-School community and discussion board.

  • Online conference call with Janine to ask questions and share your progress with the encouraging UPPERCASE B-School community.

  • The opportunity to pitch your ideas or business concept to be published in issue 40 of UPPERCASE magazine (3 profiles available)

  • Access to creative entrepreneur productivity e-course to be released by Janine Vangool / UPPERCASE

Need more information about B-School? Take a tour of the program here to see what's included in the course. If you have questions about payment plans, refunds and if B-School is right for you, please visit this page. And to read about my B-School experience and why I'm an affiliate, please visit my dedicated page. Thanks!

Entrepreneurship Q+A with Janine Vangool

Earlier this month, I was contacted by Catrina Auger, a fourth-year student at the Ontario College of Art and Design University. She's working on her Bachelor of Design and is taking a class called Creative Practice and Change. Catrina writes, "We are learning about how to better our selves for our possible future entrepreneurship. For the assignment that I am currently working on, our task is to interview entrepreneurs that we believe are great role models. UPPERCASE has been a large source of inspiration for myself during the past four years—my mother and I share a subscription and just adore all of the work you create."

Here's our conversation:


How did you know that you were ready to take on and start your own business? 

After graduating from the Alberta College of Art in 1995, I had a “real” job working for a design company in Calgary for about 9 months. Just long enough to realize that that particular firm was not a good fit for me! I had a few freelance opportunities and left that day job to pursue my own path. I wasn’t particularly ready to start my own business, but I was ready to leave an environment where I wasn’t valued or treated respectfully. I’ve been my own boss ever since.

Do you feel that freelancing gave you enough experience to create your own business?

I was fortunate that my first freelance contract was a long-term one, and one that introduced me to lots of really nice people who continued to hire me for other projects. So my first business, Vangool Design + Typography, started off immediately with my first freelance gig.

Did you have any prior knowledge of business before starting? Such as taking a course in business and or finance.

Zero training! It was learn by doing, trial and error.

When did you realize and or discover what type of business you wanted to create?

I had always thought I’d have my own design firm—I just didn’t imagine it would happen so soon. I was only 22 or 23 when I started my company. I thought I’d work for someone else (my dream job was to work for a publisher like Chronicle Books) for a few years to gain experience before setting off on my own. I loved having my own design firm (company of one!) and I had excellent clients in the arts, culture and publishing fields. I was fortunate to work with nice people and good companies.

I did freelance for a dozen years before starting to yearn for different challenges. In 2005, I opened a space downtown called UPPERCASE gallery, books & papergoods in Art Central. It was a 3-storey complex with artist studios, galleries and creative companies. I continued to do freelance design from that space, but the front-facing and public aspect was that of a gallery and bookstore. It was a fun and exciting challenge to fill the retail aspect and I began to design and make products to sell. I dabbled in greeting card designs that were available wholesale across Canada, handmade notebooks, sewn objects, vintage type packages, workshops… I tried lots of things.

In 2007, I organized a funny gallery show about William Shatner featuring 76 illustrations of him. To accompany the show, I published my first book. A hardcover tome featuring the artwork plus commentary. Through that project, I realized my dream of becoming a publisher. From then, I experimented with other ways to publish books and, eventually, UPPERCASE magazine.

By 2010, UPPERCASE magazine was a year old and I had a baby, too. So I decided to close up the gallery and retail, officially retire from design for clients, and focus solely on publishing. (And being a mom, too!)

What are some key points that you believe a future entrepreneur should make sure to complete before starting their own business?

I don’t know if there’s anything that you need to “complete” necessarily, but creative entrepreneurs should have organizations skills, be good with scheduling and have a disciplined work ethic. You can be creative with the work that you do, but having structure to how you do the work is important.

Having your husband help and support you and your business, do you feel that it would be better for a new entrepreneur to have family and or friends to help them start off?

My husband has always been encouraging of my many ventures and helped out a great deal back in the gallery days, but it hasn’t been until just a couple years ago that he officially began working within UPPERCASE, handling customer support. In the earlier days of the magazine, his contribution was looking after our son during the day so that I could go to the studio to concentrate on getting things done. It is definitely nice to have a support system and encouragement, but not a requirement. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Through all of the projects that you have worked on, how do you find time for all of them? Are there any time management strategies that you use?

In publishing a quarterly magazine, I have to be very disciplined when it comes to timelines and schedules. My readers expect each issue to arrive at a certain time. Being committed to that schedule is one of the reasons I think UPPERCASE magazine is still around 9 years later. My readers can trust that I will deliver.

Over time—and 36 issues in—I have developed systems of organization that help me through the cycle of publishing. I don’t need to reinvent things time and again, I do things a certain way that works for me. I’ve also become a better editor and curator. So as I’ve honed my skills, I’ve create more time to explore additional projects like publishing more books in addition to the magazine.

With running your own business, is it hard to juggle your work and your personal life?

I don’t see it as a juggle. My business is part of my life, it is very personal to me. My family sees how UPPERCASE supports us and benefits us. My schedule is flexible in some of the day-to-day aspects, so I can spend time at home with my child or we can go on trips together. It’s integrated with our lives. There’s balance.

After having a period of time where the popularity of the magazine was low, and having to make the hard decision to lay off a team member; how did you accomplish to recover and grow your brand to where it is today?

It wasn’t that the popularity of the magazine was low, actually, but that having numerous employees was costing a lot of money. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to harness the time and investment of the team to grow the company large enough to keep up with their salaries. I thought more people would equal more productivity would equal more growth. It turns out that equation was wrong. 

It was an excruciating decision to lay people off, but it had reached a point where I wouldn’t be able to pay all the bills. During that time, I had invested in the first business training I’d ever had—I enrolled in Marie Forleo’s B-School. It’s an 8-week course that teaches marketing and connects you to your ideal customers and business model. The course gave me some practical and applicable skills while validating a lot of things I had been feeling I should be doing in my business but hadn’t been due to the burden of employee management and salaries. Because of that course, I had the courage to reboot my company, lay people off (which was unfortunate but necessary) and start with a fresh approach. Within months, I was out of the financial hole and my business was profitable again.

Full disclosure: this year I applied to be a B-School affiliate and was accepted! It was such a life and business-changing course that I want to help promote it. This year’s course starts in March and I’m sharing my experiences about it in my newsletter and on my blog.

Living in the digital age, did you find it necessary to market yourself and your brand through social media and the internet?

Yes, it is necessary to market oneself through social media. That’s just how it is. But having solid products and skills are the first order of business! I concentrate on making nice things and keeping my customers happy—and then positive testimonials from my readers is the best, natural form of promotion.

When starting your business, were there any goals that you set for yourself and your brand to achieve? Was there a point in the last nine years where you felt that UPPERCASE met and or surpassed your creative goals? 

I’ve set measurable goals over the years. When I launched the magazine, it was to reach 1,000 subscribers. Then it was to get to 3,000… 4,000. My subscriber base is at around 5,000 now, so I’m aiming for 6,000! I don’t necessarily have to reach that next milestone, but it is motivating to have a destination in mind. And I’ve always got multiple projects on the go. In the last two years, in addition to the magazine, I’ve published 3 books as part of the UPPERCASE Encylopedia of Inspiration. The reception for that project was great and I loved putting those books together. So I’m doing it again! The next 4 volumes of the Encyclopedia are in the works.

I’m also launching another magazine this year. Little U is the offspring of UPPERCASE, a smaller and cuter version for the young at heart. It will be published in April.

With having nearly 500 new subscriptions after partnering with Tree Era, do you find that it is necessary to keep up with public issues in order to keep growing and updating your business?

One of the benefits of having a financially stable business is that I can invest some funds into things that matter to me. So in addition to monthly donations to Unicef and Doctors without Borders, I am partnering with Calgary-based TreeEra. For every new subscription or renewal this year, a tree will be planted. So far, the equivalent of 477 trees have been purchased since the start of the year! I’m also factoring a donation to Unicef as part of my planning for Little U. Being a socially conscious human—and by extension business owner—is important to me. And I think it is important to my customers, too.

Catrina  sent me this lovely thank you note in the mail, a customized drawing of a vintage sign! Thanks, Catrina!

Catrina sent me this lovely thank you note in the mail, a customized drawing of a vintage sign! Thanks, Catrina!

Why I needed B-School—and how it helped me keep and grow my business.


When I enrolled in B-School in 2014, I was having the toughest time I'd ever had in business. I had employees and big print bills, but I never seemed to be able to get out of barely getting by—a line of credit was the only thing that kept things going, issue after issue. I was searching for a mentor, someone to help me figure out what to do next. I couldn't find that sort of guidance locally and so I began looking for it online.

Before I signed up for B-School, I had a gut feeling that I'd need to make some big changes to my business. I wasn't sure what they would be, but as I went through the course, it become more clear that I would have to take back the control of EVERY aspect of my business. Including, in particular, the marketing and voice of my company.

Thanks to Marie Forleo's amazing course and excellent advice, I was able to "reboot" my company. Even though it meant facing some painful realities such as letting go of employees and returning to a company of one.

Read more about my B-School story...

The next volumes in the UPPERCASE Encyclopedia of Inspiration are under way!

UPPERCASE encyclopedia next volumes.jpg

The next 4 volumes in the UPPERCASE Encyclopedia of Inspiration were announced on Sunday afternoon and I am so happy to say that the print production costs for one book have been funded within four days!

The Early Bird Pre-Order pricing continues until March 6. Use the code inspired25 for $25 off.

Read all about the book concepts and project details here.

When you're supposed to say yes...

Thank you for the incredible response to my reader survey last week—your comments and opinions were incredibly helpful. With thousands of participants, not only did it provide good data about who my readers are, but also what they think and feel.

Wondering what it was all about? Respondents from the United States were asked, "Do you think having UPPERCASE available at Barnes & Noble is a good idea? Why or why not?" 

As I mentioned, I was going in circles over an "opportunity." The distributor for Barnes & Noble had contacted me, expressing interest in UPPERCASE, initially for a few hundred to a thousand copies. At that quantity, I would lose money on every issue. I was prepared to say no and walk away, but coincidentally around that time an independent circulation consultant got in touch who was very generous with her knowledge and contacts. Samples were sent to the head newsstand buyer who was impressed with the quality of UPPERCASE magazine and the desired quantity was upped considerably: 4,000 to 5,000 copies.

Now that's certainly a flattering request! Particularly since I've been steadily working on UPPERCASE for nine years and have never received such an order. Not even for the year or so when Anthropologie stocked UPPERCASE some time ago. (That was a great opportunity, brief though it was—Anthropologie paid for all copies that went to their stores.)

And while this quantity certainly changed the figures in my calculations, an order of thousands would not automatically be profitable. The cost of an increased print run, freight costs, distribution fees (including reshipping fees based on the weight of my fairly hefty magazine) not to mention the percentage off the cover price that goes to the distributor and the retailer... And then you factor in the sell-through rate—even optimistically at 60% of all copies sent to the retailer would be sold... the profit margin diminishes and the risk goes up. Even at an above-average distribution rate that the circulation consultant was able to negotiate.

But aren't you supposed to say yes to opportunities like this?

Wouldn't it be good for exposure?

Don't you have to spend money to make money?

How does a business grow without taking risks?

You can see my dilemma.


It's not that I'm risk-averse. I would say the opposite, actually. I thrive on taking risks. But only the right ones. Situations in which I have a good amount of control. Situations where I know that my own hard work and guidance help reduce the risk.

"Yes, the question is "why not?" — I don't see any I missing something?"

It would typically take two cycles of magazines (and print bills!) before I would see payment for the first copies sold through the distributor. So I would have the burden of spending a lot more before seeing any funds recouped, if a profit. That is a financial strain that could potentially negatively affect the projects I want to pursue this year and the ongoing health of the magazine. It would definitely add stress on me personally, too.

The sell-through rates are of concern, too. 40% of what I would send (2000 copies) could potentially be destroyed. (I like doing things at 100%—it goes back to my nerdy, bookish days in school where I strived to get perfect scores.) I would have no control over the display of the magazine in their stores.

"I don’t know what the return rate is on unsold copies, and I believe returns on old issues are handled by destroying the copy/removing the cover, so there would be no resaleability / back issues available."

"Not really [a good idea], unless it is a slam dunk for you. I think there is a lot of waste, which you are obviously trying to avoid. UPPERCASE is a cut above the other mags offered there....more meat than the rest..."

The newsstand distribution model is wasteful. And with my pledge this year to plant a tree for every new subscriber and renewal, I can't stomach the waste. My babies!

And what would it mean for UPPERCASE, this magazine I have lovingly grown over the years, to be in a big box store? Respondents worried that it might change the community and family feel of the magazine. I can truthfully say that UPPERCASE's content and ethos would not change, nor would I start putting advertising in its pages. But the perception that UPPERCASE would change because of such a deal was of concern to me:

"If having UPPERCASE there would lead to compromises like inviting advertising, creating crazy deadlines for yourself, or changing the format, I'd say let it pass. It has to be enjoyable for You. I consider the mag to be the most down-to-earth, inspiring publication that I know of. I'd hate to see it change!"
"Possibly - UPPERCASE is wonderful and should be shared with others. At the same time, I'm worried it would change. There's something about the quiet exclusivity of UPPERCASE that is appealing. I love the community behind the magazine and all the amazing people that bring this magazine to life. As long as that never changes and the magazine remains true to its roots, I would 100% support the light being shone on UPPERCASE in a retail store like Barnes & Noble."

There was plenty of support for UPPERCASE to be in Barnes & Noble (48% percent of US-based respondents), but it was often tempered with words of caution.

"Lots of times I see these beautiful types of publications and they are leafed through, picked over and returned to the magazine rack that is bulging full. I love Barnes & Noble, but I am not sure it's the best place for UPPERCASE—at least in the magazine stacks. I see it more in high end paper and art stores. I am sure it's hard to find the right line between accessibility and profitability."
"Personally, I have been wishing B&N would carry UPPERCASE, since it would be in front of so many more people. (It seems somewhat like a hidden gem) I've found a few other very cool mags lately that I never would have seen otherwise and have not seen anywhere else to date.  Hopefully, wide distribution won't cause you to include ads in your mag. That's part of the beauty of UPPERCASE."   
"It seems to me that more people READ the magazines at Barnes & Noble than BUY them. I suppose that being at the store would give you more exposure."
"I do count on B&N to offer a large selection of boutique magazines from all over the world. Their variety of arts magazines has exploded over the last couple of years and I have welcomed it and I’ve purchased many. I would be concerned that UPPERCASE would not lose its handmade, artisanal quality, and continue to avoid advertising while nurturing its community of makers and promoting the ideals of design, and the creative life." 
"I would like to see the magazine at B & N but worry what it would mean for the contents.  Once the big boxes get their clutches on mags I have seen too often the content decline in quality and be replaced with ads and other nonsense.  One of the great things about UPPERCASE is that there are no ads and the content is original and I would hate to see that change. Sometimes bigger isn't better and more exposure can lead to unfortunate changes." 
"I really miss having good magazines available at "the newsstand" and today that means bigger chains. But I wish more people knew about UPPERCASE and this would bring it to a wide audience and make it more accessible if someone can't do the whole subscription price. I feel like I got lucky that I found a copy in a crafting space/retail store in Pasadena on a trip— otherwise I might still be in the dark! Your magazine has truly ignited my creativity during a time that I could easily have just let it wallow." 
"It's hard to answer this intelligently without knowing the cost involved to 'enter' B&N and obtain shelf space. That being said, it seems like a worthy experiment. UPPERCASE would be in the company of similar-yet-different publications that appeal to countless people who still prefer to support a bricks-and-mortar store versus shopping online. Such a consumer may be considered rare, but UPPERCASE is a rare kind of reading / inspiring / motivating / enjoyable / guilty-pleasure kind of read, which may lead to a match made in heaven. Here on earth. For you. For us. And for B&N." 
"As co-founder of a mag that closed down, newsstand is fickle. You might get good visibility, but not always guaranteed. We happened to sell well at most B & Ns, but it always irked me that the remainders at other chains were just trashed. Total waste of resources and killed a few trees. Sometimes newsstands will arbitrarily slap on surcharges for obscure reasons, and if you want to stay there, you have to pay them. B & N was the most effective for us but if we were back in print today with a no-ads book hybrid model, odds are we would not do any newsstand at all, or only B & N." 

The "exposure" we're talking about through distribution is actually access to potential subscribers and the hope that someone browsing would pick up an issue, purchase it, fall in love and subscribe. UPPERCASE has always been supported by subscriptions; that is the model I've stuck to since the very beginning and why UPPERCASE is still going strong all these years later.

"It would be good exposure, but I am worried that the magazine is not main stream enough. And the price point is high which would deter “non-industry” readers to buy it. I love uppercase just the way it is and wish there was a good way for others to discover the magazine."
"That is business decision... based on return policy not sales and placement in racks...loyal subscribers are better than point of sale purchase... exclusivity is often times better than exposure..."
"Very important for your business to reach as many people as possible."

The survey asked what customers might be willing to pay for a single issue. 74% said that $18 would be an acceptable price (but I didn't offer any prices lower than that in my survey and there were lots of comments saying that the cost of UPPERCASE is simply too high. But any cover price below $18 is impossible to offer.) I would have to charge at least $22 per issue sold at B&N for it to be worthwhile. The cover price everywhere else would not change, so the magazine would be the most expensive at B&N which doesn't seem sustainable either.

"Are B&N shoppers bargain-conscious, and unlikely to understand the value? Or would they find your magazine, like the treasure it is, and be delighted?"
"If I saw UPPERCASE for $18 or more I'd nick a subscription card and not buy the physical mag."
"Buying a single copy now and then feels more affordable than a commitment to annual subscription."
"$18 is pretty high. I know most global magazines cost around that much, and it's difficult to justify. I would probably just subscribe."
"Yes, wider visibility. But the price is still too high."

Subscribers also provided their opinions on the matter.

"I don't like the idea of having UPPERCASE in Barnes & Noble because one of the reasons that I subscribe to UPPERCASE is because I feel I'm supporting a small business like myself and feels like I'm a part a little family of subscribers."   
"I suppose that it is a good idea from a marketing standpoint. It would expose more potential readers to the magazine, not as good advertising as word of mouth, but still a broad audience. I personally would still buy a multiyear subscription for a number of reasons. 1: I try not to buy much of anything from chain book stores unless I absolutely have to. 2: I think that you will get more of the money I spend if I buy directly from you. 3: Even though the readership of UPPERCASE is fairly large, I still feel like I have a personal relationship with you when I buy it directly through a subscription." 
"I would rather subscribe directly from you. I imagine you profit more that way. Magazines tend to cost more when you purchase them individually."
"UPPERCASE is exquisite. People will love it anywhere they find it. Personally I love subscribing because I don't shop often."

I appreciated the genuine thought that many readers put into their responses:

"I think I am on my fourth year and have learned to thoroughly appreciate you and the whole philosophy behind this wonderful project called UPPERCASE. I think it would be hard to describe all that in one issue. Subscribing to it a bit like a relationship that has grown over the months of receiving the magazine and appreciating you and all the artists that contribute as well as being exposed to new forms of creativity. It's hard to get all that from one issue."
"I feel that special, meaningful things, inspiring things like UPPERCASE, are worth searching for, worth the hunt. Having Uppercase at Barnes & Noble would certainly expand its reach, exponentially, but I would fear for the integrity of what you've worked so hard to achieve. However, I'm not the one that has to round up funding each issue, and that certainly must be a burden, a constant stressor."

Further demonstrating that my readers are generous and thoughtful, a surprising number mentioned that they would like to be able to pop into a store in order to purchase the magazine as a gift but that they themselves prefer to subscribe.

"I'm always telling people about your wonderful magazine & it would be nice to have it more accessible." 
"When I answered YES to buying UPPERCASE at B&N, I wouldn't let go of my subscription, I meant that I would likely buy an additional copy on occasion as a gift.  It would be terrific to be in the big store so you could reach more people who don't yet know about this unique publication. I came across my first issue at Anthropologie and often wished I could still pick up a duplicate copy of an issue to send a friend (or two). I can imagine the increased work involved in going from "boutique" to "mainstream" is a risk so I would hope that the rewards outweigh the risk.  To be honest, so many bookstores have closed in my area that it getting to one is inconvenient and the habit of going has changed from a weekly visit, to a quarterly visit."

Many of you counselled that I should "follow my gut" and some of you gave me your gut reactions, too!

"I think the exposure could be great, but you’ve already built a platform online. My gut says it’s a risky move, especially if you have to put a lot of money into it."
"My instinct is no... there is a certain cache to subscribing to such a well respected magazine that is only available out of the main stream .. it feels kind of special." 
"My gut response is no because I think that the demands of dealing with the terms of the contract would be stressful and I would think the monetary return would not be worth it."  

This commenter said something that was really astute and can apply to so many instances of the "doing it for exposure" debate: 

"I don't think it's worth the time, money and effort. If the internal convo you're having with yourself is "but the exposure!" then walk away. That convo always ends up benefitting the seller far more than the maker (that's you!) I also think that your target audience would be far more likely to be found in local, independent bookshops rather than a behemoth like B&N. Just my 2 cents!!"

Many people expressed their love for independent booksellers and small boutiques (yes!) and I wholeheartedly agree that these are lovely places for UPPERCASE to be. Thank you for the many suggestions of potential stockists! And thank you to the couple of stockists who responded honestly to the survey. 

"Please stay true to who you are. That's the beauty of UPPERCASE."

And so, as surely you've guessed by now, I've decided not to pursue having UPPERCASE available through Barnes & Noble. I have no disrespect to that company, but rather that the current model of magazine distribution makes it unfeasible from financial, idealogical and ecological reasons. 

I've decided to continue US distribution on our own, simply and directly to independent stockists—and to concentrate our growth via subscriptions, the model that has sustained the magazine these many years.

And as the hundreds of considered comments from respondents attest, UPPERCASE really does have the best readers in the world.

YOU are the most valuable part of my business.

Thank you.