Nicole Cohen and Melinda Mattos were told from the beginning that publishing a feminist magazine for teenaged girls would be a challenge. Although creating an alternative for Canadian girls is a noble venture, a magazine critical of its usual bread-and-butter would have to be creative in terms of funding.

Mattos says they had some idea about how the magazine industry worked but soon found there were no clear entry points or set rules to starting a magazine. Much of what they learned from classes at Ryerson University and from lunch dates told them that publishing a magazine would never be something that earned them a lot of money.

“It’s frustrating because a lot of the resources are very inaccessible to newcomers to the industry,” says Cohen, managing editor of Shameless. Cohen points out a workshop called Professional Publishing Program held by the Canadian Magazine Publishers’ Association which costs $3, 450 even if you are a member – and membership generally comes as a perk of being employed by a large magazine that can afford it – or $5, 250 for non-members.

Grant money seemed like a great option for the small enterprise. It would help them cover publishing costs and help them to create mock-ups for potential advertisers. However, many of the grants that Shameless looked into, such as the one from the Ontario Council for the Arts, were available to new magazines that had already published one or more issues.

When they found out about a new award for start-up magazines (grant money is generally awarded to established magazines) from the Ontario Media Development Corporation, they worked hard to create a mock-up and recruit people for the positions of publisher, sales rep and art director, which were required to apply for the $75, 000 grant. Unfortunately Shameless was not one of the lucky start-ups to receive the grant money.

So instead, to cover the costs of publishing their first issue which is due out with 5, 000 black-and-white issues in spring of 2004, they will rely on more fundraising events. They raised $2, 200 at their last fundraiser in September at Tranzac, which featured Toronto indie bands The Sick Lipstick and The Creeping Nobodies who played to an all-ages crowd.
Convincing small businesses to advertise with Shameless is difficult without having done solid market research to prove circulation numbers. Shameless of course doesn’t have the budget to conduct extensive market research. It’s also difficult to get advertisers to sign on with a magazine that hasn’t published an issue yet. “How do you get money for something that doesn’t exist? We have no tangible product to show yet,” says Mattos, executive editor. Without corporate backers, Shameless can’t make a fancy mock-up to show advertisers.

Because the usual avenues of brand name hair supplies, makeup products, and fashion are not viable, Shameless’ sales rep Colleen Langford hopes to target independent businesses in Canada for advertisements. Unfortunately, small businesses can’t afford to take out huge advertisements or pay a lot of money. For comparison, Shameless’ rate for a half-page black-and-white ad to small businesses for $550 CDN while YM magazine, aimed at the same age group as Shameless but with different interests, sells the same space for around $53, 000 CDN to large corporations with huge advertising budgets.

Shameless has signed on with Doormouse Distribution and will be in Pages, and possibly even Chapters. They hope to reach teens by placing their magazine in places such as independent record and clothing shops, health food stores, coffee shops, restaurants, concerts. The Shameless team plan to have a booth at the Pride Festival and also at Word on the Street. They also look to Emily Pohl-Weary as inspiration who took her magazine Kiss Machine on tour and did readings to gain exposure.

Presently there isn’t another progressive magazine out there aimed at teen girls in Canada quite like Shameless. Cohen and Mattos truly believe there are teens out there who need it and will support the magazine.