Friday Interview with High Life North founder Laura Kingston
On Sunday 1 November we celebrate the first birthday of High Life North.
On Sunday 1 November we celebrate the first birthday of High Life North. The first digital women’s magazine in the North East, High Life North has gone from strength to strength over the past year, interviewing some fantastic women in business in the region, working with amazing businesses and becoming integrated in the community of small business owners that work tirelessly to support one another. We have a chat with Laura Kingston, Editor-in-Chief and founder of HLN, to get a feeling for how it all started, and where she sees it going in the next year.
1. High Life North is coming up to its first birthday, so tell us how you felt this time a year ago, about to launch this brand-new business?
It’s weird thinking about it to be honest! I had the idea and started to develop it in the August of 2019. Initially I had plans to do a daily email and run my own website – completely naïve to the amount of work that would entail. I had just set up the social media accounts to do the countdown to launch and I remember being so excited and celebrating when we reached 100 followers. I still get that feeling now when we reach any new milestone – it still all feels so new and exciting.
2. Where did your inspiration come from to create a magazine to celebrate women in the North East?
I’ve followed a few digital magazines for years and I love the fact that I can dip in and out of them and find fresh content whenever I want it. Unfortunately, they are all London-centric so whilst I loved the lifestyle content, the bars, restaurant and things to do recommendations were all about London. I really felt that there was a gap in the market in the North East for a publication that was specifically for women and focused on all areas of a woman’s life – from fashion to lifestyle, careers to mental health and relationships.
From the start I’ve been really careful to have varied contributors as I want the magazine to have the feel that there is something for all women, and also have the trust and credibility of having experts provide information for the content. That’s why we’ve got a wide network of freelance writers and also our Experts in Residence who we call on for specific information and advice.
3. What would you say have been the most difficult things you have encountered as a small business owner over the past year?
So many things! Starting and running a business is so much harder than you expect. I’ve read this answer in so many interviews and always passed it off as a bit fluffy, but it really is down to consistency and pushing through the bad days, weeks and months. There have been about five times in the past year where I’ve really been close to giving up and walking away. But I pushed through it, got the next issue out and I’m so glad I did. I couldn’t imagine not having High Life North now.
4. Are there any people you would say have been instrumental in helping you create High Life North
A lot of people! I started off attending an event called Mastery Marvels run by Lucy Patterson and Hollie Ellis which helped give me a good grounding and instant network of women running their own business. At that event, I met Nickie Kilkenny who took me under her wing and introduced me to the NatWest Accelerator programme and a lot of other contacts like my trusted accountant who I’ve found invaluable. Nickie was able to recommend Andy at Abacus Jack who specialises in start-ups, so he was happy to answer all of my daft questions as I get my head around everything. Rosie Harrison joined us as Head of Sales a couple of months ago and has already had a huge impact, allowing us to take on two further direct hires which is a huge deal for us and I just know that they will make a big difference to the business. Then lastly, it’s corny but my family as they’ve really helped on the down days with tea and sympathy and pep-talks to help me push through.
5. COVID-19 was obviously an unexpected turn to this year, how did it affect your plans?
It’s been so difficult to see how it has affected businesses this year. We’re lucky in that as a digital magazine it hasn’t affected our day-to-day running at all, but obviously it has had a knock-on effect with our advertisers. I’ve certainly tightened our belt – I’ve always been careful to watch every penny but now it’s more important to me than ever that we remain stable financially to weather the next couple of years. I hope that we can all work together to support each other and I’m glad HLN can provide a platform for North East businesses to get more exposure.
6. What do you see on the horizon for High Life North in the next year?
We’re taking it step-by-step; we’ve just moved into a new office in September and we’re already having to move into a bigger one as we’ve expanded so quickly. I’m looking at really refining our offering in the next year to make sure it’s everything I want it to be. I’m a perfectionist so I can always see things that I want to improve. Head down and hard work is what I’ve got planned and I’m really looking forward to reflecting again next year.
We are building a community and consider ourselves a magazine for the readers. All we can say now is keep reading and sharing our love of the North East and the inspirational women in our region. Keep letting us know what you like and what you’d like to see more of so we can build this magazine together.