In our interview with Lucia Tran (founder of Zooey Magazine), we asked her about the best parts of her job, her biggest guilty pleasure and her inspiration behind the magazine.
“I initially had an entertainment blog when I was 14-years-old. It was nothing more than a platform that exuded positivity for girls who read it. Then, 2 years later, I created Zooey out of the desire to turn it into a physical companion. Zooey was meant to be read with an open-mind and an open-heart. I’ve read endless magazines since I was a little girl, and I always felt that publications lacked in the department of curiosity. I wanted something smarter, something more exciting, and something more fulfilling. So Zooey was sought to fill that void. I can’t even begin to tell you how many of my friends read tabloids and trust every word in it. I’d rather be spending my time discussing larger issues than be gossiping about people we have never met.”
Taylor Magazine: What inspired you to do something so huge at such a young age?
Lucia Tran: I grew up in a web development era. I’m talking about Livejournal and Xanga era. I’m sure no one under the age of 21 has heard of either platforms. I was so fascinated with the computer and began learning how to change the layout designs of these blogging sites, which drove me to create websites for local businesses in my area. My family was not financially well-off, and money was not a secret topic in our upbringing. I began creating websites for others to help pay our apartment rent, etc. Then, I began to turn it into something more. Is that a pretty typical Silicon Valley-story?
Taylor Magazine: Did you ever find that running the magazine got in the way of your social life/studies at that time?
Lucia Tran: Absolutely. When does it not? I was obsessed with meeting deadlines, but when you have a Type A personality, you come to realise you’ll have more than one deadline and certainly more than one standard to meet. I was driving myself mad to perfect everything. Running the print edition of the magazine was so, so difficult. I was pulled into so many different directions. I started the magazine while in high school and ran it all throughout college. It was challenging, to say the least. And I regret trying to do so much, when I look back today. I really loved school and learning, and I didn’t get to enjoy it as much I as I wished. It became a burden, and I wish I didn’t feel that way about university.
Taylor Magazine: What’s the best thing about running your own publication?
Lucia Tran: The best part is being in control of your own creativity. There is no right or wrong. There’s only you.
Taylor Magazine: What is the biggest set back you faced when you first started?
Lucia Tran: As with any business, it’s about getting it funded. I was completely self-funded throughout all my years in business.
Taylor Magazine: When Zooey first launched, how did you get the word out about it? Do you find social media is pivotal now in connecting with your readers?
Lucia Tran: The world was at Twitter when I first started, so I gained a lot of readers through that now-fossil. We had celebrity readers, features, etc; that really helped. Social media is how any business will reach their readers or potential readers. Using it properly, on the other hand, is a different topic.
Taylor Magazine: How did you used to decide which girls to use on your covers?
Lucia Tran: I had celebrity covers; so there tends to be a formula for deciding who got on the cover. And the most important part in that decision is whether or not someone would care for the cover story/cover model.
Taylor Magazine: With the magazine, is there anything you would do differently looking back?
Lucia Tran: So many to even count and explain. I think I wish I took it slower. There’s nothing worse than looking back and not feeling proud of something that I made.
Taylor Magazine: Do you think there’s still a place for print magazines in the world?
Lucia Tran: A few years ago, Warren Buffett spent hundreds of millions of dollars on local print publications. I’d say print is still a win, as long as you do it right, and focus on issues that matter. Local publications, also, still thrive because it concerns people who will more than care. I don’t think we need another tabloid on the racks, or one that will tear down women and offer unrealistic expectations for our gender.
Taylor Magazine: What is the most important lesson or bit of advice you would give others starting their own business?
Lucia Tran: Read, read, read.
Taylor Magazine: You live in LA which is our favourite place in the US to visit! Would you say you take inspiration from the city in the work that you do?
Lucia Tran: Absolutely! This is the city of entertainment. I’ve learned so much from living in Los Angeles. A lot of Angelenos are well-versed in the language of failure. You have to fail 100 times to succeed.
Taylor Magazine: What advice would you give anyone just starting who wants to pursue a career in magazines?
Lucia Tran: Read every single magazine on the local newsstand, and determine how different yours would be and whether it would be worth reading. It’s so easy to ‘create’ a magazine now than it was 5 years ago. Make it worth the Internet’s time.
Taylor Magazine: What’s a typical day for you?
Lucia Tran: I wake up at 6 AM every day, even during the weekend, and drink at least one cup of coffee before leaving for the office. I sit in traffic and listen to NPR or an audio book (I just finished maybe 4 books in the past 3 weeks – I love the app ‘Overdrive!’). I have meetings and work all day, and tend to come home around 8-10 PM. A few months ago, I used to work from 6 AM to 12 AM. Every single day. My body gave up on me after a while – phew! 😉
Taylor Magazine: What’s your favourite part of your job?
Lucia Tran: My favourite part of my job is getting to meet and work with the most incredible human beings. I am so blessed that I have a career at my age. Truly. Not a day goes by that I am not grateful. I’m also just here to make my mama proud 🙂
Taylor Magazine: Currently you oversee PR for many brands, which sounds so exciting! Do you ever feel like your workload is too much?
Lucia Tran: If it’s not too much, then it’s not enough.
Taylor Magazine: In terms of PR, your first client is still with you. How do you maintain strong relationships when it comes to work?
Lucia Tran: I’m lucky enough to also be friends with my clients, but as it goes, it is always about work first. We always share the same goals and care about each other’s businesses.
Taylor Magazine: Where do you (and Zooey) hope to be in the next 5 years?
Lucia Tran: For PR, I think I’d love to open up a New York branch. I think that’ll be my future goal. Right now, I’m trying to lessen my bucket list and appreciate what I have now. It has been a long time coming.
Taylor Magazine: Career highlight so far?
Lucia Tran: I won’t name names, for the sake of keeping my geeky-ness a secret, but I got to meet so many people who I could only have dreamed of meeting as a child. And then, only to come to realise that they know me from reading about me online or hearing about me through their friends. How crazy is that? My 8-year-old self would be so happy to know.
Taylor Magazine: What did you want to be when you were a child?
Lucia Tran: I wanted to be many things — a cashier (I loved the buttons of the registrar), a veterinarian (but found out I would have to put down animals), an elementary school teacher, a journalist for the New York Times, and then I wanted to own my own daycare center. If I did own my own center, it would look so cute 😉
Taylor Magazine: In times of stress, what do you do to relax?
Lucia Tran: I take comfort in a good movie and a good television show. I’m an absolute nerd, I know. As a child, I used to read so many books/magazines and watch television because it was my escape. I realise I still do the same thing today.
Taylor Magazine: Like us, you LOVE Buffy. Are there any other shows you’ve been hooked on recently?
Lucia Tran: My attention span can only really permit sitcoms – so I love “Difficult People” which airs on Hulu, “The Mindy Project,” “Unbreakable Kimmy” (on Netflix), “Fresh off the Boat” (on ABC), and “2 Broke Girls.” Those are all ones that keep me laughing. Other than that, I still fall back on the good ol’ shows like “Buffy” and “Gilmore Girls.”
Taylor Magazine: Think back to before you started Zooey. A 16 year old Lucia is sitting in her room deciding what she wants to study when she goes to college. What advice would you give that 16 year old version of yourself?
Lucia Tran: A 16-year-old Lucia had already decided everything – haha! I would tell my 11-year-old self this though: do not dwell on the past, the present, or the future. Just live in the moment, appreciate everything, and always keep your chin up. Things get better, but only if you work for it. It doesn’t matter whether you go to college or not, as long as you work hard in whatever it is that you do.
I used to be so upset with getting B’s in high school. I look back and I laugh now, because none of that matters today. College is finally a thing of the past, but a memory that I am certainly grateful for. I am glad that I went, and glad that I was able to gain intellect from it. I am lucky to be in a country that allows me to achieve higher education when so many other girls cannot.
Taylor Magazine: Our magazine is focused on having content that’s ‘Taylored For You’ so if there’s a particular topic or theme you’d like to learn more about, what would it be?
Lucia Tran: Girls’ education, to start!
Taylor Magazine: Do you have a go-to read?
Lucia Tran: “What Maisie Knew” by Henry James.
Taylor Magazine: Do you have any secret skills or weird hobbies?
Lucia Tran: Hah! Not sure about this one. I have a pretty strong sense of smell, if that counts as a secret skill at all. I can smell smoke before anyone else in the room can.
Taylor Magazine: What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?
Lucia Tran: My biggest guilty pleasure? Listening to Justin Bieber’s music on repeat.
Taylor Magazine: What was your favourite book/magazine to read growing up?
Lucia Tran: I used to love reading the “Little House on the Prairie” books when I was 6-7. It was probably the first chapter series I finished. I started reading really early (major bookworm), so I moved through books very quickly — thank goodness for the library!
As far as magazines, I read everything from A to Z. I still have my copies of Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, etc from 2001. Whatever had content, I read it. Even to this day. I will even read French and Italian magazines, even though I am a bit rusty in both languages now.
Taylor Magazine: What three things would you take with you if you were on an island?
Lucia Tran: If I was stranded on an island, I’d bring my three dogs to keep me company. They’re always the best companions to have around 🙂