Time for bubbly.

Interview by Simon Paterson (S41 Local)

Image: Hannah Blueish Illustration

Paul Chapman celebrates 10 years of S40 Local.

S40 Local is ten years old this month so to reflect on the past 101 editions I turned to Simon Paterson from sister magazine S41 Local to interview me. What follows is that conversion.

Did you always want to work in media, and if not, what was your dream job when you were growing up?

Well, I suppose there are three answers to this. At one point, I wanted to drive an articulated truck around Europe, although it would have to be a Peterbilt. I then wanted to be the guy that changes the wheels on a Formula 1 car, and both of those things led me to want to work in vehicle design. I’ve always had a love of design and spent far too much of my time doodling cars when I should have been looking at the blackboard!

What was the most valuable lesson you learned, from the worst job you ever had, and what was that job?

I don’t think I have ever had any bad jobs.

Well it’s alright for some!

Biggest lesson was when I was working in WH Smiths and I stopped a lad I thought had been stealing. Fortunately, he hadn’t nicked anything, and I had falsely accused him, but it was the 80’s and people just shrugged and walked away!

Nice work mate. Why did you decide to create and produce a community magazine?

I worked in IT for over 22 years, taking redundancy in 2006, and kind of fell into painting and decorating. Then in 2009, we had a recession. My diary had always been full for around 6-8 weeks. The recession hit, people stopped spending money and I was down to just a two-week list of work - I thought, I need to advertise. At the time, I looked around at the publications available and there were two choices, neither of which I felt was right for me. I had seen other A5 publications in other cities which looked great. Nicola (Ed: Paul's wife) also commented “we need one of those A5 magazines like my mum gets in Leeds!" So, that was it, I opened the laptop up and fired up publisher. I started pressing some buttons to see if I could make it work and it did, eventually!

You obviously had many transferable skills from working in IT.

Yes, I spent a lot of time on spreadsheets, creating and designing Powerpoint presentations. Sticking a magazine together just seemed…sensible! I would say that ‘what I do now feels right for me’, where as perhaps the old jobs just weren’t quite me.

So, you found your calling?

Yes, I work in design. Ok, I’m not designing cars, but when I put Autoselect’s advert together, I am looking at his stock and thinking, I’ll take the Porsche GT3 and the Focus RS for nipping to the shops and back. We can all dream!

What's been your greatest challenge to date, other than working with me?

Probably having confidence to walk into a business and say, "Hello, I’m Paul Chapman, a local painter and decorator. I am setting up a local A5 magazine which I am hoping to deliver for free to the local area, would you like to buy an advert from me?" I struggled with that because I expected to be chucked out on my ear by every business. On the first day, Robert and Phil in Newbold Bedrooms offered me coffee. I then went around the corner to Nonsolovino and was offered a glass of wine. I had a chat with both companies, and both later became advertisers and supporters of S40 Local. I was amazed at just how well received and how open they were to my ideas. It was Libby who said to me "you weren’t doing it because you wanted to sell adverts, you were doing it because you wanted to advertise your business, that was the difference."

So, your biggest challenge was having the confidence to walk in to a business and say, 'I’m Paul Chapman, please buy into me and my magazine.'

Exactly, because I didn’t have a product, I could actually show people at this point! I remember the first day of phone calls. My wife and I created a list of businesses to call, and the first business she phoned up had a full-page advert! That was a major breakthrough. This early win and the way I was received by the businesses gave me confidence to go for it. Today, I am so proud to say we do not have a sales team and don't make any sales calls whatsoever! People come to us because they love the magazine and they know it works for other businesses. I am sure if I said that to other people, they wouldn’t believe me!

Because what you have done is create a desirable product that markets itself, so you don’t need to sell. Not an easy thing to do by any means!

At what point did you think, yes, I can do this, this is going to work?

The first two editions didn’t make any money but covered the print costs. The cost was my time, but quickly the magazine became profitable, I was able reduce my time painting and spend more time on the magazine. Eventually, I was able to make the switch to full-time publisher. Being self employed allows me flexibilty with my working hours. This is important to me, as I have a young family and want to spend as much time with them as possible.

What is the one skill you wished you learned before becoming an editor?