Women is...

Join Trade Organizations

We found our national trade organization soon after we published our first issue. At the annual conference, we met people like us, who didn't mind that we jumped in with questions before we said hello. We subscribed to several trade publications that proved helpful; they gave us ideas and showed us what things other publications were doing that worked (sometimes we followed up with a phone call to the publisher who'd been written about). The library reference desk is a good place to start looking for trade organizations and publications.

Agree on How to Disagree

Many entrepreneurs start off with more than an idea; they have a partner or two. At the urging of our accountant, we drafted a simple agreement about when to call a halt if things didn't work out and how to divide the assets or the debts. When my partner's job responsibilities grew and she had to bow out after three years, the split was amicable.

Homegrown Business
The magazine has grown slowly; it only moved off my dining room table and into an office after three years. Another lesson learned: If you work at home, your business needs its own room. Otherwise, your life and your business will spill over into each other. For most of the time it's been a labor of love -- or a headache that won't go away -- depending on the day. But this year I will finally be able to take out a nice salary and even consider starting a second publication.

Lunch a Bunch

For the price of lunch, we hired many private consultants. For example, over soup and salad with an ad agency media buyer we set our rates for ads. During lunch with the owner of a business weekly we learned how to hire and pay advertising salesmen. (Note: We generally treated our consultants to restaurants with white tablecloths.)

Write a Marketing Plan

After we published our first issue, we put together a marketing plan. For demographics, we called schools for enrollment figures, got birthrate statistics from the state health department and census figures from the regional economic-development agency. A survey in the magazine generated a profile of our typical reader.

We worried about putting it all down in the proper format, but we found that the most important thing is to get it on paper -- unless, of course, you are presenting it to a bank or other lender. (Although we never actually did it, the exercise of writing a business plan would have helped us clarify our ideas, pinpoint our weaknesses and generally would have saved us time.)

Define the Business

Shock set in when we realized that those enthusiastic readers were not the first market we needed to tap. Prototype in hand, we found ourselves in the business of selling advertising. That's when we discovered that both of us loved producing the product and neither of us knew anything about sales or liked doing it. Lesson learned: If you've got a partner, make sure at least one of you knows how to bring in the money month after month.

Jessica Yu, Independent Filmmaker

profession: Producer, director, writer. "Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien" received an Oscar for best documentary short.

born: Feb. 14, 1966, in Los Altos Hills, Calif.

education: BA, English, Yale University. "I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I just knew I liked studying English. And they had a really good fencing program."

the basic story: Fell into film production because she needed a job with flexible hours in order to compete in fencing -- a sport she has since given up. Worked on commercials in San Francisco before moving to Los Angeles, where she learned the ropes of documentary work. Entered the national spotlight with her film portrait of Berkeley, Calif., writer and poet Mark O'Brien and his life in an iron lung, as well as her humorous and poignant Academy Awards acceptance speech. She currently lives in Glendale, Ariz., with writer/husband Mark Salzman.

inauspicious beginnings: "My very first job was on a pasta commercial, arranging frozen noodles on a plastic fork for six hours. It was incredibly humbling."
true confession: Threatened to fold up her director's chair. "I credit the experience of making 'Breathing Lessons' with re-igniting my faith in the idea of making films. I remember telling all my friends, stupidly, that this was the last film I was going to make. The process of fundraising was just so enervating. Then, of course, making the film was so rewarding -- and I was so happy with it and happy that Mark liked it -- that the drama went out the window."

current project: "The Living Museum," a documentary of New York's Creedmoor Psychiatric Center. "There's such a strong feeling of community and goodness coming out of this place. I think the film will explore that area between art and healing; not art as therapy, but as a way to find some meaning and beauty in what seems like the most traumatic and terrible experiences."

past projects: At 31, she's made six films, including "Breathing Lessons"; "Men of Reenaction," a feature documentary about Civil War buffs; "Better Late," a short about an elderly man preparing to propose marriage; and the humorous short, "Sour Death Balls."

on diversity in the film world: "I haven't encountered any situation where I felt I was denied something solely because I was an Asian and a woman. In independent films, there's not a lot of money, and it's really your own motivation, your own hard work that determines how far you go." Still, she says, it was "startling" to be one of only three minorities at the Academy Awards nominee luncheon.
how the Oscar changed her life: Helped launch other projects. Oliver Stone is talking with her about a feature film on Mark O'Brien. "There are so many opportunities, and it's slightly jarring for someone who came out of the independent world. I find that as much as we like to bitch about not having help along the way, there's something very strengthening about working in your own little circle and making your own decisions."

film tastes: Eclectic. She admires Ang Lee for his "realistic" Asian-American characters. "Sick," a documentary on the life and death of a super masochist, also impressed her. "It's so memorable because it exceeds your expectations, it really surprises you. That's what I look for in films."

tech savviness: "I don't really cruise the web a lot. If I have a specific research need, I'll run some sort of search." And she can finally afford digital film editing equipment.

Ruth Vitale, Hollywood Powerbroker

profession: President of Fine Line Features, a division of New Line Cinema.

basic story: One of the handful of high-ranking women in Hollywood. Since 1995 she's been responsible for acquisitions, development and production of all films for Fine Line.

education: BA in literature from Tufts University; MS in journalism, Boston University.

claim to fame: Nabbed "Shine" at Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival. This year the movie received seven Oscar nominations, and lead actor Geoffrey Rush walked away with an Academy Award for best actor.

the way up: Before she landed her first film job -- buying flicks for the Movie Channel -- she worked in advertising and media. Made her mark at Vestron Pictures as a senior VP on the hit sleeper "Dirty Dancing."
then what: After a stint at United Artists, where she was involved in the making of "Child's Play" and "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka," she hopped over to New Line as an EVP of Worldwide Acquisitions, where she oversaw all New Line/Fine Line theatrical, video and international distribution outlets. Some of the films she brought to the studio before "Shine" were "Corrina, Corrina," "Widows' Peak" and "Don Juan DeMarco."

industry salute: Named one of the Top 50 Women in Entertainment by Hollywood Reporter magazine in 1996.

on picking movies, projects, scripts: "You try to decide what you think is going to touch people's hearts or be controversial, interesting or evoke a response. But ultimately all you have are your instincts to go by, and that makes it a horse race."

biggest moment so far: "I would have to say 'Shine': How many times do you get to go to the Academy Awards with seven nominations? That happens to people only once at best and sometimes never. It was really a celebratory day when we heard the news."

"Shine"'s underlying appeal: "It's the little engine that could. In the end the pianist [played by Geoffrey Rush] finally makes it, and that's what's so great about the movie."
women and the biz: "There are certainly more women now than when I started. But I've never been one of those people who say it's tough for women to be in this business. I'm not so sure this business divides itself by sexism. It divides itself by talent, aggression and intelligence. And you can succeed if you have a sane head on your shoulders, you're smart and hard-working.

advice for breaking into Hollywood: "First you have to decide what part of the business you want to be in. You can start as an assistant out of college and work for someone in production if you think you like production. Or there is the mailroom/assistant talent agency route at an ICM, William Morris or CAA. I've always believed that working in an agency gives you a really good overview of the business, and you can decide from there."

on balance: "You have to realize that no matter how many hours in the day you work, there will always be more work the next day. To keep a sanity level, you have to say, I'm going to have a professional and a personal life, and I'm going to keep them in balance. Sometimes you can and sometimes you can't."

current & upcoming projects: "A wide range of films." David Cronenberg's "Crash"; "The Quiet Room" by an Australian director, Rolf Deheer -- "a wonderful, simple, elegant movie about a little girl whose parents don't get along, and as a result she stops speaking"; "Love! Valour! Compassion!" with Jason Alexander based on the Terrence McNally Broadway play; "For Roseanna" with Mercedes Ruhl, directed by Paul Weiland, and "Gummo" by Harmony Korine -- "a very startling -- almost documentary -- view of what kids without love do in the suburbs."

tech savviness: "I don't personally use the Internet but Fine Line has a site."

Radio host, Dr. Laura Schlessinger

born: In Brooklyn, to a Jewish father and an Italian mother, in 1947.

education: Ph.D., physiology, from Columbia. Post-doc work in marriage and family therapy at USC.

her formula: She gained ratings and market share by sidestepping the typical "nice" shtick of other hosts and taking a tough look at personal issues. Says hers is not one of those "pure shrink shows, which tend to be exceptionally liberal and exceptionally men-bashing -- I bash everyone." Combines non-discriminating advice, with traditional morals and ethics. "My views are extremely healthy," she says.

what else: Has written two books -- the first, "Ten Stupid Things Women Do," crept slowly up the best-seller list as her show expanded into new markets. Her new book, "How Could You Do That?!" (left), debuted at No. 3.
the next step: More of the same. She's been approached by TV producers, but has decided against the tube. "I love radio. I like the immediacy, the intimacy and the power of the three hours, just people and me, without any foo-fah or necessity for visuals, garbage. To me, that all detracts."

web site: None, but many stations brag about her.

the competition: "Mostly I hear yelling and screaming, very little content, the host usually has very little knowledge. They're just there to get ratings by ranting and raving and stirring the pot and getting people's emotions revved. And they call that radio. I call that an abuse of airwaves."

making it as a broadcaster: She may be a role model for some, but Dr. Laura doesn't advise trying to follow in her footsteps. "You can't use my career as a blueprint, because this is bizarre. My life is bizarre. A woman talkin' tough? And a shrink? Shrink shows have failed nationally. So, you gonna put on another shrink show? That fails! You gonna put on a woman, and she's not sounding so maternal and sweetsy? Never. It's been the story of my life. There's always a set of rules, and then there's me. I like that."
household: Husband and manager Lew Bishop, and son, Deryk, 10.

balancing career and family: While most broadcasters move around, from station to station, from morning to night shows, Dr. Laura held out for breaks in LA. Broadcasts from home. "I was not willing to move. I was not willing to take a different time slot. I never put my career ahead of everything else. I still don't. My career is not ahead of my family."

raising kids: "I yell at both moms and dads. I don't care, flip a coin, but somebody ought to be home (with the kids)."

if she weren't on the air: In her pre-radio days, she taught at the university level, but she wouldn't go back: "The way universities are being run now, there's no place for somebody like me...No, I'd be in rabbinical school."

Windham Hill's Anne Robinson

profession:President and CEO of Windham Hill Records.

company's annual revenue:Around $30 million.

the basic story: In 1976, William Ackerman, Anne Robinson and 60 friends each pitched in $5 and Windham Hill Records was born. Today, Robinson is one of the few women heading a major independent record company and is considered the grand dame of New Age music. (She prefers to call it "acoustic instrumental.") In 1992, Ackerman sold his part of the business to German-owned Bertelsmann Music Group (owners of Arista, RCA Records, Zoo Entertainment, etc.) The Windham Hill label is as well known as some of its artists: George Winston, Alex de Grassi, Liz Story.
born: January 31, 1948.

educated: BA in history and fine arts from Stanford.

household members: Her husband, "a rabid reader who challenges my mind daily;" Makai, a golden retriever/Australian sheep dog mix; and Swimmer, her "15-year-old sweetheart" cat.

favorite music: "I'm crazy about the French ambient group Deep Forest, and the jazz pianist Bill Evans." (There's a baby grand in the office lobby, for artists and employees.) " Lenny Kravitz is overrated and I couldn't sell rap or grunge to save my soul."

favorite places to hear live music: "Wetlands in New York, way, way, way downtown and a real dive. Fez, a trendoid place for contemporary rock and roll, also in NY."

her hot artists in 1996: "subdudes: a rock and roll group from New Orleans and their new album Primitive Streak; master American Indian flautist Douglas Spotted Eagle; and Hawaiian slack key guitar music (artists include Ray Kane and Keola Beamer)."
favorite pastime: "Looking at art. Using my etching press to make monotypes. Collecting antique quilts."

mentor: "Figurative artist Nate Olivera. I studied with him at Stanford."

life goal: "Spend more time in my garden, getting hands in the dirt. When the days are short, I garden at night with a miner's headlamp."

life philosophy: "There is no such thing as a stupid question."

on managing stress: "Remember that no one knows everything. Don't be like men; often they take themselves too seriously in business.

how life might be different if she were a man:"I wouldn't laugh as much. I wouldn't get away with as much stuff. Women don't realize how much power they have; they should take more advantage of it, and I don't mean in the obvious traditional way."
tech-savviness: "I rate myself an eight out of ten. We've been on the cutting-edge for years -- Apple used our music for the advertising launch of the Mac."

future plans: "Double the company's size in five years and have more time in my own life. I have a burning need to make more art for myself."