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Small Business Saturday: Driftless

Welcome to Small Business Saturday, a new feature here on CreativeIncome. Today we get to meet the creators of the independent magazine, Driftless. Leah and Shelly told us all about what it’s like to have full time jobs while creating Driftless and we’re excited to share with you their inspiring story so far!

Small-Business-Saturday-driftlessQ: Tell us a little bit about Driftless.

A: Driftless is an ad-free, independent magazine about food, art + adventuring in Midwest America. We are publishing bi-annually, as a 100-page full color, perfect-bound print magazine. We focus on the creative and awe-inspiring wonders the Midwest has to offer by way of stories, illustrations, recipes, guides, and interviews. We highlight small businesses, contemporary artists, and makers and adventurers of all kinds.driftless1

Q: How did you come up with the name Driftless?

A: The name was inspired by the Driftless Area of the Midwestern United States — a region geographically unique having never been touched by glaciers. The term, however, is much more conceptually based for us — to describe the many creatives and makers who have remained somewhere within the Midwest, and have yet to drift off to the east or west coasts.

Q: When did you first realize you wanted to create a publication?

A: About a year ago, we decided that it was important for us to begin sharing the amazing things going on here with the rest of the world. We were continually disappointed that many of our favorite publications neglected to highlight the small businesses, contemporary artists, makers, and adventurers that are thriving here in the Midwest. So we thought — okay, let’s do this.driftless4

Q: What is your schedule like on a typical business day?

A: Well, we don’t really have typical business days for Driftless at the moment (but we’re hoping to as soon as we can make the leap!). We both have full time jobs outside of Driftless, so a typical day for us is working 8-10 hour days, and then finding time during our lunch breaks, after work, before work, and on the weekends for Driftless. 

Q: How much time do you put into your online activities?

A: It has been a little bit of a struggle for us to commit as much time as we would like towards our online activities, since everything we’re doing is happening outside of our full time jobs … but we would say  we spend anywhere between 20-30 hours per week between the two of us. We’re hoping to commit more time in the future to keep an updated blog highlighting the features that aren’t finding their way into our printed issues.


Q: What has been your most difficult challenge in creating this publication?

A: The most difficult challenge in creating Driftless has been the financial aspects of running a print magazine. We want the issues to be affordable and reasonable, but also able to sustain the printing costs of the next issue. We would love to be able to hire a bigger team, but at the moment it’s just the two of us since we don’t have the extra funds for paid employees / coworkers.

Q: What is your favorite part of your handmade business?

A: The endless support and positive responses we get from our readers. It’s so incredible to receive emails from people who are just ecstatic that we’re highlighting an area of the US that is often overlooked. We’ve been engulfed by the shared love of the region from those who still live here, those who have moved away, and those returning to the Midwest. There is also no greater feeling than finally picking up the printed copy of an issue you’ve been working on for weeks! It’s really wonderful to have that physical, tangible object to share with the rest of the world.

Q: Where can people find Driftless?

A: We’re selling copies both online on our website and in about fifteen shops throughout Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota. A complete list can be found at readdriftless.com/stockists. We’re always looking to expand, and are continuously reaching out to shops to see if they are interested in carrying the magazine.driftless2

Q: What’s next for Driftless?

A: We’re hoping to continue to grow — we would love to be able to print four issues a year, hire on a much larger team, have issues in shops throughout the entire US, and maybe even open up our own storefront some day that showcases the artists and products that we feature in the magazine. We’re taking things one step at a time, but trying to be as optimistic as possible about future endeavors.

Q: Any tips for following your dreams?

A: Surround yourself with people who are supportive of those dreams, who inspire you to do whatever it takes to get there. Work hard — late nights and early mornings are often worth it. But don’t be afraid to reward yourself when good things are happening. And, ask for help or take a minute when you need it. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Following your dreams is something that takes time and so much work, but in the end it will show and you’ll be so happy that you did everything you possibly could to make it happen.


It’s always great to hear about independent creative people doing what they love! Check out Driftless and support entrepreneurs everywhere!

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