Last week, an individual representing a Baltimore-based organization called me to discuss Kol HaBirah. “Your paper is very interesting,” he said. “It doesn’t appear to lean to one side or the other. It appears broader than the other options … it includes content that relates to a diverse readership. I appreciate that and I’m an avid reader.”
“It’s great to hear that,” I told him. “In fact, that was our intention for Kol HaBirah: to relate to a diverse readership as part of our mission to connect the broader Jewish community.”
This kind of feedback has been consistently provided to us by observant, secular, and traditional Jews of varying ages living across the Greater Baltimore and Greater Washington communities. Our community impact has resulted in us being invited to speak at Berman Hebrew Academy and Ner Tamid (Orthodox), Beth El and Congregation B’nai Tzedek (Conservative), and we are currently in discussions to arrange lectures at a few pluralistic organizations as well as at a Reform temple.
We have also begun our foray into the business networking world by conducting a female leadership roundtable last month, which you can read about in this issue.
To top it all off, we ended 2017 with a net profit. This, all within a year of Kol HaBirah’s existence.
I am so thankful to so many for helping us reach this milestone. I will start off with thanking G-d for putting me in the position to start Kol HaBirah and for removing normal reasoning and inhibitions, which allowed me to jump into this tremendous responsibility without considering how crazy an idea it really was. Print media? In 2017? Outside of the tri-state area? On a shoestring budget with no financial backing? With other existing publications in the market for decades?
Somehow we reached year one and are still intact.
I must thank our hardworking team: our editor in chief, Rachel Kohn, who works tirelessly to manage our writers and content; Bari Perlmutter, who was instrumental in getting us off the ground and put in really hard work to make sure the process on almost all aspects of the paper is done properly; Kami Troy, who has an other-worldly eye for detail and catching errors and keeps the rest of us in check; Malka Goldberg, who shoulders the production and many editing responsibilities and has helped us transition from a haphazard group to a better-oiled machine; and Karen Barall, who adds much-needed big-picture and hands-on insight, perspective, and contacts in all aspects of the community. Special mention to Ellie Kramer who was also instrumental in helping us get off the ground and established in Baltimore, as well as to Sarah Bracha Cohen, who handles the proofreading process.
I would also like to thank our regular contributors, including Gabe Aaronson, Suzanne Pollak, Dovid Nachson Albright, and Jackie Feldman; as well as our regular columnists, including Larry Shor, Rachel Burnham, Rabbi Stephen Baars, Joshua Z. Rokach, Justin Walls, Paul J. Blank, Dear Rivkie, The Shadchan Next Door, Batya H. Carl, and Fred Shapiro.
There are so many more people to thank, many who would likely prefer to stay behind the scenes. For example, the individual who provides legal advice at the drop of a hat despite being busy running his own law firm, the person who volunteers to do deliveries, and the countless business men and women who have offered guidance; those who offered marketing expertise, sales advice, article and content suggestions, the list goes on and on. Thank you all for your continued support; we embrace it and would not be where we are without you.
How it All Started
Kol HaBirah’s launch was due to the encouragement of a few pioneering individuals who felt it was needed and were willing to put up long-term financial support in the form of ads. These include Julie Black of Nurture Care, Shonny Kugler, the Barbara Ciment Team, Dan Kugler, and Joey Franco. Thankfully, the support has grown beyond these individuals which enabled us to reach year one with a small profit.
Where Are We Headed?
According to the roughly half a dozen experienced business people I spoke with since January 2018, it is impressive that we turned a profit after our first year in business. Our second half of 2017 experienced significant growth, and the general consensus was that our revenue needed to continue even further on that trajectory in 2018 to move closer to becoming a sustainable, healthy business. They collectively helped me set realistic revenue benchmarks that, if reached, would indicate healthy business growth.
Our team will do everything in our power to reach those revenue benchmarks while keeping costs within reason. However, we will need the community’s proactive support and sense of ownership of Kol HaBirah to reach sustainability.
First and foremost, this means the community needs to support Kol HaBirah in the form of advertising. If you are a local business or organization, you likely have a marketing budget. Consider placing an ad with us either once in a while or on a regular basis. If you know of or are part of a local business or organization who doesn’t advertise with us, suggest to them that they do. Not a part of a local organization or business but wish to support Kol HaBirah? You can follow the example of a few individuals who allocate marketing dollars on behalf of organizations they wish to support so they can advertise various programs in Kol HaBirah. That’s a “win-win” and it is due to people like these that we are in existence.
Lastly, I can’t stress enough that making a concerted effort to notice, thank, and support those who advertise with us will go a long way to helping us as well.
In addition, each reader of Kol HaBirah should sign up for home delivery. This will help us make the case to the community, ourselves, and our advertisers that there is a large enough demand for Kol HaBirah and that it is a strong community service. I can assure you this won’t significantly boost our revenue as our profit margins on $1 per issue are minimal. Instead, significant orders (well into the thousands) will demonstrate a proof of concept for Kol HaBirah, that we are a necessary community staple. (You can order your subscription at www.kolhabirah.com or send a check; your card will not be charged, nor will your check be cashed until we receive minimum 300 orders from your area which will allow us to begin delivery).
Regardless of where we end up, we can hang our hat knowing that we had a successful year. Let’s make the next an even better one with your help!
Hillel Goldschein, Publisher