May 1, 2016

Looking at the good side of things for twenty years

Yes Magazine

Sarah Van Gelder - This year marks 20 years since we founded YES!—and that’s about 19.5 years longer than I originally thought we’d last. Like many startups, we had an energized small team, an idea we thought important, and a basement for our offices. But unlike many startups, we had no angel investors. We had taken on the obligation to fulfill the subscriptions of a predecessor magazine, In Context, and we inherited some old Macintosh computers, but we had almost no money to work with.

There were some difficult decisions: Do we pay the magazine printer or cover payroll? The printer. Do we buy a new subscriber database or rely on the old custom-built one? We keep the old one working. Do we delay publication when the staff is stretched thin? No, we work weekends and pull all-nighters.

People came from all over with offers to help. A couple of women drove out from Minnesota and repainted the dingy walls of that Bainbridge Island, Washington, basement office. A retired dentist and his wife arrived from New Mexico in a truck camper and parked in the driveway. They, along with friends and neighbors, helped with mailings, editorial research, and fundraising. Another friend helped build our website.

I remember one weekend close to deadline, when I looked out the ground-level basement window and saw an ice cream cone held by a small hand. First I thought I was hallucinating after too many hours staring at a computer monitor. Then I saw that it was one of my kids with an offer of support.

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