Having been instrumental in building her family´s business into a regional retail powerhouse, Dana Spain-Smith entered publishing in 2001 by purchasing a minority stake in the then struggling Philadelphia STYLE and took on the role of Chief Operating Office.
Under her guidance, Philadelphia STYLE became a profitable periodical in 18 months, says Dana. She grew revenues by 30 percent during the first two years of her tenure and revenues have continued to grow by at least 15 percent annually. In October 2004, Spain-Smith purchased Philadelphia STYLE and three months later formed DLG Media Holdings, LLC in January of 2005 as a platform for the expansion of the STYLE brand to additional metropolitan areas. The first undertaking of DLG Media´s expansion was the May 1, 2005 debut of DC STYLE.
Dana admits that she “was actually interested in becoming a heart surgeon until an Organic Chemistry course coincided with a Political Science course in college and the latter fueled a bigger passion than the requisite pre-med classes. Out of school and working for "corporate America," I realized then that I would never be happy with a career where I had to answer to someone else. I either had to be a partner in a business or run it myself.”
To start her role in the publishing industry, Dana “bought in as a minority partner. Throughout the first couple years of growth, I used my personal savings and borrowed against my assets to procure a low interest loan (sponsored by the city) that helps small businesses expand. Once we decided to launch DC I borrowed from banks against the assets and receivables of the company.”
She did establish a foundation for creating “a business plan for both expansion through launches and expansion by acquisition. I researched and wrote them from scratch using the skill set I honed during my senior thesis in college.” Her advice to others? “Forget programs, just sit down and write it out. Do the homework on your business model, the potential competition, the upside and downside and always be conservative in your estimates. Write a story that people will want to read and that you are excited to sell and the business parts will fall into place.”
Dana believes that success is ongoing “You never really can say you have succeeded while you are still actively in business. Success ebbs and flows every day. I measure the level of our success by our brand recognition and the feedback from the community. When I see people reading our magazines and enjoying themselves, that´s success. When I know that we are giving back to the community through charitable works and by helping make our cities better places to live, that´s success! When I look at our team of talented creative people who work together like family, see the big picture and strive to put out a better product every issue, that´s success.”
For other women who want to follow in her entrepreneurial footsteps: “First, love what you do, then surround yourself with a solid support system of people who are better, smarter and faster than you are! And always give yourself a break. That´s the hardest thing to remember. Taking a break and a minute for yourself is not slacking, it´s refueling and it´s the smart thing to do.”