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?
What would you say you need to be better at?
I'm really bad at sharing the feedback we get, so much positive feedback comes in, you wouldn’t believe. It’s hard to get my head around how many people read the magazine and how it influences readers. And I hope it encourages them to buy products and services locally and keep money in the immediate economy.
After 10 years in print how do you stay motivated, what gets you out of bed in a morning and you can’t say your kids?
My alarm? I have a job to do and one that I'm lucky to say, I enjoy. Businesses trust me with their adverts and have faith in me that when they advertise with us, they will see a return, which they do. Before I started S40 Local my ideal job was one where I could go to work in a t-shirt and shorts, and I am very much there now!
What has been your greatest achievement to date?
It has to be reaching 10 years in business as S40 Local and sharing all the positive stories from our community. I’ve supported over 600 businesses and made some great friends along the way.
I was hoping you would say that, it’s kind of why I asked the question!
What sets S40 apart from other local publications?
Well if I tell you that they will all do it!
Fair point mate!
No, I feel S40 has a sense of community. Many have said to me that they feel it’s written for them and I think that's a really important thing. I'm part of the community and it matters to me.
I also have people around me who believe in the same sense of community. Although we don't have an S40 team as such, there are loads of people involved who help make it work. I have designers, photographers, gardeners, friends who write articles, people suggest things and give me very honest feedback, proof-readers, finance support, deliverers, many do a few hours here and there and help make it work.
What does the future hold for S40 and Paul Chapman?
Another 10 years would be nice. We've now got S41 Local running and as a collective have some great ideas. S41 Local is due to expand in the next few editions, which will make us one of the largest combined publications in Chesterfield, delivering 17,000 copies! Our ideas are all about supporting local independent business and Chesterfield as a whole.
How do you wind down after a long day in the office?
I cycle home, well, some of the time anyway, and family time is important.
Last question. You can invite four guests to a dinner party, past or present, dead or alive, who do you invite?
One has to Valentino Rossi, the Moto GP champion, Julius Caesar perhaps for some leadership tips, Caeser Manrique, the Spanish artist, sculptor, architect and activist from Lanzarote, and last but not least, Ben Elton for a bit of humour!