It’s been 365 days, 52 weeks and 26 Flyers since we launched this publication in July of last year. But if we were going to tell the whole story, it would be exactly 1,095 days, 156 weeks and 78 editions from us to you since 2014. So why are we hootin’ and hollerin’ about ‘One Year and Counting’ when we’ve been dishing out papers for 3 years? Because the Flyer has always been the end game… things didn’t truly start until Fresno Flyer came to fruition.
But before I get carried away, you’re probably wondering just who the ‘Us’ is in that last sentence. Let’s clear that up, first.
Who We Are:
I can start by telling you who we are not. We’re not a corporation, we don’t have a parent company, we’re not a subdivision of a larger entity and we definitely do not send all our money back to some headquarters stationed in Los Angeles or San Francisco. We are a small, locally owned business living and breathing right here in the Central Valley.
It’s a little funny in fact, sometimes people arrive at our office and say things like “Oh, I thought it’d be bigger.” And I smirk with a knowing nod, all the while thinking that this is what Dalton must have felt like in that 1980s Patrick Swayze classic Road House. Newspapers, magazines and all other types of publications have traditionally maintained large personalities with a likewise sizable footprint and it’s no wonder people assume we should be in some high rise building with a dizzying office. And truth be told, that’s still very much the case with those other guys… it just isn’t for us.
Who We Are… Really:
All this time we’ve been using terms like ‘we’ and ‘us’ with a great deal of ambiguity without really giving too much away about the people who actually run things behind the scenes. So, who are we, really?
We’re a couple of millennials who thought it would be a fantastic idea to start up an independent newspaper in an increasingly growing digital age. More specifically, we’re Lisa and Kalian (kay-lee-anne) a stubborn, hardworking, and formidable duo who oversee the entire operation from start to finish of each Flyer.
Where Kalian was essentially born to do this paper, I sort of just fell into it by accident. A proud Bulldog by way of CSU Fresno, I graduated with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism in 2012 but with an emphasis on electronic media, or in other words, video. For me, it was all commercials, TV broadcast, film, and anything else I could capture with a camera or chop up in the software installed on my computer. Print didn’t even exist in my peripheral, truth be told, and I nearly forgot it was a thing… until Kalian showed up with all her print knowledge and a ‘print is a thing’, thing.
We met in the spring of 2013 through the round-about happenstance of meetings that are common amongst 20-something-year-olds. I soon learned that Kalian liked to stop at these free-publication stands around town to pick up newspapers and magazines for reasons I didn’t quite understand. Turns out, her family had been working in the print business for years where she had done everything from taking out the trash and delivering the papers to eventually working up to management. Picking up the collection of publications was a form of habit, to always be checking out what the competition was up to, even though she wasn’t really active in the family business anymore. (resulting from a myriad of complex reasons… as such is the case with most family affairs)
Kalian always looked like she was in a state of musing while thumbing through magazines and newspapers like she was piecing together a puzzle. After some invasive poking and prodding, I learned she had a deeply rooted dream to own her very own newspaper… the kind that pushed to the forefront the sort of cool, diverse culture that bubbles in the underground of the Central Valley. When I heard that, I think the result was something to the effect of “S#@t yes! You should definitely do that.” But despite my charming enthusiasm, Kalian shot out a lopsided smile and dismissed it all as an elaborate pipe dream.
Then, at 27 years old, in the spring of 2014, Kalian had a rare opportunity to jump into the game and do that very thing. Well… sort of. First, she had to ask me for my help because I happen to be a media guru that can basically ninja her way around any and all things technology thus making me such an indispensable and valuable partner-in-crime. … That’s a little overselling it, I’m just a giant nerd who’s great at tech support. But, since I’m sitting here writing this story 3 years later, I think you can piece that one together.
We set up shop in an 852 sq ft house. Let’s take a moment to appreciate that, 852 sq ft… do you know how small that is? I’m fairly positive that’s not even the size of most garages in the majority of the newer homes being built these days. But I digress.
Our first real office was in the tiny house we shared, and we quickly learned that between the limited square feet and our personal belongings, there wasn’t enough room for everything a proper business needs… printers, desks, idea boards, computers, filing cabinets, shelves… so we did what any self-respecting business owners would do, we gutted the house and sold just about all the furniture to make sure there was enough room for everything we needed. For an entire year, we lived inside our office space with naught but beds and kitchenware as our home, sweet home.
And it was crazy. We held meetings in our living room, ate meals at the desks, kept magazine racks on the back patio and stuffed 20,000 copies of our paper into our garage every 2 weeks. It was learning how to be a boss when most of our adult lives were spent as employees, it was understanding what it meant to assume ultimate responsibility, to hit consistent and unrelenting deadlines, and convince seasoned business owners that a couple of late 20-somethings knew what they were doing.
In all this time we still weren’t the Fresno Flyer. If you’ve been following us a while then you know who we were before our debut; The Valley’s Nickel. It was ‘buy, sell, trade’ only, no editorials, highlights, or articles, just advertisements. That’s how we found our ‘in’, it was by picking up where an old business left off as they closed their doors. We cut our teeth and earned our stripes by being a ‘rag paper’ first. It took 2 solid years of working the delivery routes by hand, moving the stands all over the Valley as we began to truly understand the diverse neighborhoods who read the paper print after print, along with the businesses who chose to work with us. We revamped the design and layout of the paper over and over and over again on so many different occasions in order to get closer to where we wanted to be that sometimes it meant being up until 3 a.m. and driving our printing press nuts.
It took 2 years of doing every job ourselves to understand who we wanted to become and what kind of publication we wanted to produce. We learned a lot of valuable lessons the hard way (it really could be its own story) and took the longer, harder road more times that not, but we’re standing here today able to actually hand you the vision we’ve held for what feels like forever. Even though we’re celebrating one year as the Flyer, it wouldn’t have been possible without those 2 years as The Valley’s Nickel.
We’re Not Us Without Them:
It’s time we put the spotlight on some amazing people who have played a big part in helping us get this far in our journey.
Distribution of our papers is the lifeblood of our business because let’s face it if the Flyer doesn’t make it into your hands, we don’t have a business. Randy Shirinian is the backbone of our entire distribution, and he’s been with us since day one. Without fail, he fills an entire truck bed full with bundles of the paper every 2 weeks and makes the rounds out to Prather, Oakhurst, Reedley, Parlier, Fowler, Kingsburg, Selma, Sanger, Clovis, and a big chunk of Fresno… all the while without ever needing a map, because he knows these roads like the back of his hand. What we understand about the readership in the outer cities is largely due to Randy’s hard work.
Learning the ropes of owning a business would have been even more difficult if it wasn’t for the help of our Senior Account Exec, Aaron Bianchi. He jumped on board with the sole intent of helping us build and lead our sales force, but when we really needed the extra help he never hesitated to share his expertise. See, Aaron’s a successful businessman himself having built and sold his own company. A veteran, an entrepreneur, a friend, Aaron has helped see us through some of the ‘downs’ in the ups and downs of this business.
When we decided we were going to dive head first into printing original editorials, Marc Chenault lent his writing and knowledge of music to help us take that next step. His experience brought us the history and diverse music communities existing in our area. After a year writing non-stop with us, he had to slow down and let go of writing due to health issues. Marc helped to shape the foundation of the Flyer’s identity, and we’ll always be thankful for that.
Some other notable mentions would go to our contributing writers: Anglia Walpool who has been covering a variety of entertainment topics ranging from music to stand-up comedy over the last year, Saeed Alkurdi who single-handedly mans ‘A Foodie’s Review’ with unique pizazz, Don Priest who not only covers live music but also throws down on some larger, heftier articles and Pete Salazar who works tirelessly at not only promoting his own events and personal business, but also works to uplift others in the community by connecting them to the Flyer in order to share with you as much of the original and unique things going on here.
The Fresno Flyer may be the brainchild of Kalian and myself, but it’s also a community of hardworking individuals who believe in the idea of local talent and local ingenuity. We always say that without our readers, we wouldn’t be here, and that is very true, but without the work of everyone behind this paper we couldn’t BE the Flyer.
We still have a long way to go and the work is far from over or being easy. In fact, I’m sure it’ll never be easy. But we’re here for the long haul, so long as the readers keep emptying our stands like you do.
Print is an artform for us here and still one of the best damn ways to connect with your local community. As dailies continue to drop their coverage of the arts, we’ll pick up the slack. When small, local businesses need to catch a break in finding someone who will treat them like more than just a number, we’ll lend a hand any way we can because we know what it’s like to be in your shoes. This isn’t just a business, it’s our lives, this Valley, pouring out onto these pages and all we want to do is share it with you.
The conversation here is always open, we take calls and emails from readers with a buffet of ideas. We talk to each person and read all the suggestions, sometimes it’s a great fit, and other times, not quite a match. But this is your paper, too. Working with you is what helps us grow. We got the Flyer off the ground, and now these early 30-somethings would love to hear from you on where they should take it next.