I’ve been a magazine addict for a long time now, soaking up everything from the recipes in Delicious to the beautiful travel destinations in Afar to the inspirational pages of Kinfolk and many others. There’s something satisfying about reading off-screen, having something tangible to sit down with and absorb with a cup of tea – true relaxation and a way of switching off from the digital world.
So I was thrilled to discover an unexpected favourite at Jorge’s recent RHS Urban Garden show: a newcomer with only two issues released to date, rakesprogress. They’ve settled nicely into a niche – a publication with thick matt pages, dedicated to those of us who appreciate plants, flowers and gardening but maybe aren’t exactly the most green-thumbed of the bunch or even care much about the real technical side of it all. This is more about people, stories, art and photography. And it’s a beautiful creation.
Below, meet the brains behind the pages: Tom Loxley and Victoria Gaiger. This, for them, is a side hustle put together with love while they both continue to work full time jobs in publishing.
Little Observationist: Give us your tweet-sized elevator pitch. What’s your business all about?
Tom Loxley & Victoria Gaiger: Rakesprogress is a new magazine showcasing stunning photography and original stories about gardens, plants, flowers and people.
LO: Now tell us more: What sets you apart from your competition?
TL & VG: Rakesprogress is no ordinary gardening magazine. In fact, it isn’t really a gardening magazine and you certainly don’t need a garden to read it. We look at gardens, plants and flowers through new eyes, with photography from some of the biggest names in fashion and art, and original writing from a surprising bunch of varied voices, including best-selling authors, newspaper columnists, war correspondents, bloggers and some of the biggest names in journalism. It’s contemporary and high end without being exclusive.
We started it as a response to the snowballing interest in growing stuff – whether air plants in a bedsit, herbs on a windowsill, pots on a balcony, veg in an allotment, or flowers in a garden.
But rakesprogress is also part of that movement.
In modern life, people are becoming so dragged down by the daily distractions of the digital whirl that we are increasingly seeking refuge from being on-line and on alert at all times. A magazine – although think of it as more of a journal that you keep and collect – like rakesprogress can provide that refuge, because it allows readers to loose themselves in something tangible and beautiful, that inspires, informs and entertains. It makes them stop, stare and appreciate the natural world.
Printed on heavy matt paper, it is designed to sit on readers’ coffee tables for months and on their bookshelves for years. We hope readers see the passion and work that goes into crafting every page. And we also hope it makes them think in a slightly different way. Putting it together has certainly has had that effect on us.
LO: Share a bit of background on yourselves and rakesprogress.
TL & VG: We are based in London and both of us still work for other publications whilst putting together the magazine. Between us, we have worked in magazines for 20 years so have a wealth of experience in commissioning writers and photographers. Tom is an editor and journalist and Victoria is a fashion director and stylist.
We started the magazine after talking about it for three years. Then we finally took the plunge. We wanted a magazine that we would read and that covered topics we were interested in and couldn’t believe that we couldn’t find one.
The name was the first name we called it and it stuck. We did try others on dummy covers but we think our approach is a little rakish and rakesprogress seemed to resonate thanks to the play on words and the link to the art world (although we are not planning on going the way of Hogarth’s rake and ending up drunk, dissolute and dead!).
LO: Which social media platforms do you use for your business? Has this been time well invested? Any tips for newcomers?
TL & VG: We are a paper magazine, so social media is a tool for helping us market the magazine but not the be all and end all. We have a working website that works as a platform to sell the magazine and we try our best to keep up with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook but as a company of just two employees, we have to find the time between our day jobs and publishing the magazine to keep this side up. You must know better than most – social media is a full-time job! Hopefully in the future we will employ someone to help.
LO: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve been given that still resonates with you today?
TL & VG: If you can Google it, don’t publish it. But also, be true to yourself, trust your gut instinct, always look at things from another perspective and if you want to read something, others probably will too. And if the big boys say you’re mad, it probably means that you’re right.
LO: What have been your biggest challenges as a small business owner?
TL & VG: Biggest challenge is making the financial model work for an independent magazine. The costs are so high from paper, production, printing and then distributing that it’s hard to make any money on small circulations.
LO: What are your hopes for your business going forward: what would you most love to achieve as a short-term goal? And long term?
TL & VG: Short term, we want to gain readers and subscribers which means printing more which means finding more investment – whether that’s sponsorship, advertising, investors or crowdfunding.
Long term we hope that rakesprogress becomes our full-time job. We want it to grow but to remain true to its original spirit and its already loyal readers. We have other ideas for more magazines, but they will have to wait until rakesprogress has put down firm roots.
LO: Little Observationist is all about appreciating life’s little luxuries. Name three you’ve enjoyed recently.
TL & VG: A good night’s sleep, a holiday with our three boys and a, er, spring-tine rake.
Thanks Tom & Victoria!