Christianne Meneses Jacobs creates a Spanish-language children’s magazine as a tool to help bicultural families keep the Spanish language alive for their children.
LatinaLista — Nicaragua-born Christianne Meneses Jacobs had a problem: How could she ensure that her U.S.-born toddler would grow up speaking and retaining her Spanish as she got older?
Founder and Editor of Iguana magazine, Christianne Jacobs takes time to visit with her magazine’s namesake.
It was a problem Christianne knew many bicultural Latino families faced. However, she knew she didn’t have to look any farther than her own past for the solution.
Arriving with her family in Los Angeles, California in 1988 from Managua, Nicaragua, Christianne attended public high school where she served as editor-in-chief for both the English and Spanish student newspapers.
Excelling academically, Christianne was awarded a four-year scholarship to Wesleyan University in Connecticut. She majored in government, but when she returned to Los Angeles after graduating college, Christianne discovered that teaching children brought out her best.
Starting out as an elementary school teacher, Christianne went on to receive her Master’s degree in Education, eventually receiving her certification as a “Reader Specialist.”
Fondly remembering her days at the student newspaper and her current position helping children learn to read, it wasn’t long before Christianne knew the answer to her problem — she would publish a Spanish-language magazine for children living in the United States.
“The moment (for the magazine) became clear when my daughter Isabelle was 2 and became interested in words and sounds,” Christianne said. “As she began to fall in love with books, I began to look for more books in Spanish that were not translations of other works. It was very hard to find original literature written in Spanish for children.”
With her mind made up, Christianne, with help from her husband, created the children’s Spanish-language magazine Iguana.
Targeting ages 7-12, the 32-page Iguana has a mix of educational content that appeals to any age Latino child. From fiction and biographies to science articles, complete with experiments to try at home, craft projects, puzzles, poetry and contests, the magazine doesn’t just celebrate the Spanish language but also highlights the contributions of notable Latinos.
Never having started a business before, let alone a children’s magazine, nor having any real funding for it, Christianne spent her family’s $60,000 savings account to get started.
She applied the money towards travel expenses to attend book festivals. She talked to parents, teachers and librarians about the concept and what was currently available on the market.
She sent out parent surveys and finally, she contacted freelance writers and illustrators who might help her turn her dream into reality.
Christianne knew that if she really wanted to see Iguana be a success, she would have to treat it like the business it should be.
So, she and her husband created the company NicaGal, LLC., where Christianne serves as President. She also assumed the job titles of Publisher and Editor of Iguana magazine too.
Then she followed a four-step process to achieve her dream.
She began by taking classes on how to start a business from the Minority Business Development Center through a local community college.
“Once you take a course with them, your business qualifies to receive free business counseling so I met several times with counselors to discuss various aspects of starting the business.”
Secondly, she read every book she could find about the magazine industry, children’s publishing and education.
“I researched my idea for a year before I decided to become an entrepreneur. This entailed researching my market — finding out who the competitors might be, evaluating similar products and talking with others who had started businesses with little money or no funding.”
During her research phase, Christianne found that nobody was publishing a Spanish-language magazine for children — and to this day there is no competition in the market.
Next, Christianne moved into the development phase.
“We created mock-ups of the magazine and then enlisted the help of kids, our focus groups, who reviewed the material and provided feedback. You can create a working prototype and make sure that you get copyright, trademark or patent protection on your product.”
Finally, it was time to put all the hard work in research and development to use.
“We put together our first magazine and had it printed. Then came the most difficult part — selling it to others.”
Christianne feels the uniqueness of Iguana is a great hook for a variety of potential customers, but she admits it hasn’t been easy.
“I have no financial backing. I had to rely on savings to start my magazine. It is very difficult sometimes to continue because things are very slow at the beginning. A lot of money is going out and not enough is coming in. I have faith and believe in Iguana and its potential every day.”
Yet, Christianne’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. She has been featured in the National Education Association’s magazine NEA and awarded the 2007 Anna Maria Arias Memorial Business Fund award from Latina Style magazine.
The award was based on criteria that included business innovation, success and community service. But there was one more criteria, unspoken but understood, that made Christianne’s success possible.
She had the courage to hazlo.
Christianne shares three tips if you want to publish a children’s magazine:
1. Find very good vendors and establish good business relationships with them. In my case, I was very fortunate to meet a printer broker at a book festival in Miami. He works with printers in Korea and was able to secure us very affordable prices on printing. When things don’t go well, he fights for us and does everything in his power to help Iguana.
2. Don’t quit your day job. I still work as a teacher while working on my business at night. Be patient and wait until your business takes off and you are able to pay the bills before you quit a steady job.
3. Believe in yourself. There are days when the overwhelming amount of work, the rejections — either directly or by someone not returning your phone call, and the constant pressures of life can make quitting seem attractive, but you have to persevere. This is your dream and you can make it happen. You have to believe in yourself — and work really hard, too.