What sustainability looked like for me, and when it changed:
Raleigh Convergence launched at the beginning of the newsletter boom, but after the first from-scratch local news startup companies had found limited success.
The first newsletter for Raleigh Convergence published April 2019, days after the announcement of Billy Penn’s acquisition by WHYY from Spirited Media.
Between that time and Raleigh Convergence’s launch, access to the technology needed to run a media company was becoming more democratized. I could launch a newsletter with Mailchimp for free, the minimum viable product for Raleigh Convergence, and an Instagram account to reach new audiences. The biggest hurdle and cost: Media liability or libel insurance.
Two weeks after I left my job in March 2019 to build Raleigh Convergence, LION Publishers announced the hire of Chris Krewson, Billy Penn’s founding editor and accomplished news leader, as executive director. His tenure at LION is the beginning of new support for local independent publishers that I benefited from as a LION member.
Since Raleigh Convergence’s launch, LION developed resources that I took advantage of, including free one-on-one calls with a revenue coach and other experts. More resources from LION and paths to starting publications like the Tiny News Collective (launched in 2021) will help more folks become founders.
More support organizations grew and other local news publishers pivoted, such as WhereBy.Us, which launched Letterhead in 2021. I used this software as a service as a self-service ad portal for Raleigh Convergence.
I knew I wanted to be a part of the movement of recreating local news by starting from scratch. I decided to start Raleigh Convergence using the lean startup model – self-funded, with a minimum viable product and plans to grow. I’d been an intrapreneur for most of my career, and I was ready to try entrepreneurship.
It felt sustainable, at first. In the beginning, our 1-year-old’s daycare schedule was three full days per week, and I often worked nighttime hours for networking or attending events. The balance of time with my child and the money spent on daycare (more than $1,000 per month) seemed doable.
When he was 2, we lost childcare because of COVID for 6 months. That was when I started working from 4 a.m. until 8 a.m. — when my husband started work — and during naptimes. Daycare picked up again, but the work increased. I kept that schedule a few days a week, finding time in the margins of my life, forgoing sleep.
Nothing changed until my next pregnancy in spring of 2021 forced a reckoning. I planned for a “maternity leave,” sourcing community essays for a shared vision for 2022. But I realized the math no longer worked. I couldn’t pay myself enough to cover childcare, and I couldn’t work enough to sustain a business while caring for an infant.
I didn’t do anything about it at first while I hoped something would change. I considered working part time to supplement Raleigh Convergence’s income enough to pay for day care. Ultimately, I realized this wasn’t sustainable or strategic.