We recently connected with Carlee Henderson and have shared our conversation below.
Carlee, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today How did you scale up? What were the strategies, tactics, meaningful moments, twists/turns, obstacles, mistakes along the way? The world needs to hear more realistic, actionable stories about this critical part of the business building journey. Tell us your scaling up story – bring us along so we can understand what it was like making the decisions you had, implementing the strategies/tactics etc.
1. Visualize it.
Whether you believe in the law of attraction or not, visualizing your successful business to the most minuscule details makes a world of difference. Your thoughts and energy flow accordingly, so as a scaling business owner, some advice: be mindful of your thoughts. Also: keep a business journal. Reflect often. What’s working? What’s not? What’s easy, what’s been challenging? What are you grateful for (did you make a sale today/this week/this month? Any exciting meetings or opportunities come to fruition?) What does your dream business owner self look like? What are you procrastinating on? What are your hopes and goals? Visualization creates intention. Intention brings ideas to life.
2. Just start.
Don’t wait for the big moments. Start with the small steps. It’s about consistency and output, not about waiting for the perfect moment.* This was reiterated into my life recently when I read ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear. (Great read, I recommend it!) I talked about FLORA | | FAUNA to anyone who would listen. I told people I was an Editor and small business owner and even had business cards made. It felt like I was a fraud but in fact, I wasn’t at all. I was just green, excited, eager, ambitious as hell, curious, but most importantly: consistent.
* Spoiler: it’s never going to be perfect. So be open, go with the flow, pivot, adjust and adapt. Go bold, take the risk of rejection. Rejection is not failure, it’s simply just redirecting with the intention of continuing to move forward. YOU decide your reactions; listen to your intuition, not your ego.
3. Opening up to a larger audience.
I started the zine solo and worked on every facet of the brand by myself for two years. Then in January 2018, the zine grew to 15 people overnight. Each person involved was so voluntarily to build their portfolio and to be a part of something new and exciting. So, not just reaching outside of your bubble for content, but open yourself up to meeting new people who want to work with you, too. Don’t get comfortable!
3.a. COMMUNITY. Sharing with friends, family, and coworkers. Who then share with their friends, families, and coworkers. I’ve always loved Denver for this amazing trait of being supportive and open to collaborate.
4. Don’t give up when things slow down or don’t progress to your expectations.
In 2019 I didn’t create a single zine. I thought this was the end of FLORA | | FAUNA but really it was only my first setback (plateau) as a business owner. I now feel stronger and more intentional than ever to create consistently, communicate, and be active in my community.
5. Try new mediums.
When I launched the website, it was purely to house digital versions of our zines for anyone to read. After the fifth issue, I launched our blog for year round content so the zine stays relevant in-between issues, avoiding dormancy for months on end. This was a domino effect that led to launching our online store and having a larger online presence via Instagram and our website. Our most recent endeavor has been video. Since 2020 and the TikTok explosion, we started capturing behind-the-scenes video content of our photo shoots for upcoming issues and the blog. Now, we’re still capturing behind-the-scenes videos, but are also working with filmmakers and documentarians for various styles of film. As technology increases, I continue to try and make the magazine more immersive i.e. QR codes in each upcoming article that will take you straight to our website and show behind the scenes videos, mini-docs or films we’ve made to complement the printed article.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
About the company:
FLORA | | FAUNA is a Denver based zine publication highlighting the city’s underground avant-garde creatives. The zine focuses on small businesses, artists, musicians, and people with interesting career passions. The zine’s collaborative efforts have become well known for celebrating not only the subjects in each article but writers, photographers, and videographers’ unique styles as well.
We sell physical magazines, as well as shirts, tote bags, stickers; whatever we feel like printing our name on. What are we most proud of? The hype. People love the zine and its message. We get to create fun, energetic, cool content with incredible people, all the time! But the main thing to know about us is that FLORA | | FAUNA is a positive, safe space for creativity and community (… and that we really love our release parties).
I sometimes get the question “why ‘zine’ and not ‘magazine’?”. The reason we use the word ‘zine’ and not describe ourselves as a ‘magazine’ is that while magazines are often produced by publishing companies, I self-publish with a local printing company here in Denver. I’ve also noticed larger magazines sometimes focus on selling advertising space, whereas we focus on spreading inspiration while being able to experiment new ideas freely. When I started, it was purely a passion project, a zine. I believe we’re now expanding into a larger magazine type structure as time progresses, but FLORA | | FAUNA will always have the zine grit to its core. I also believe we’re redefining what it means to be a magazine and how advertising can work with us, not against us.
About the Editor:
I moved to Denver in 2014 after graduating university not knowing a soul. I worked downtown as a server where I met more and more people serving alongside me that had side hustles. But like, serious side hustles. Small business owners, artists, musicians, even freelance designers and writers. I quickly realized Denver’s booming economy brought many dreamers (myself included) to explore, imagine and create in an exponentially growing, like-minded city.
In a nation that runs on fast paced, franchised consumerism, I set out to dig up and highlight a slower, more thought produced market that highlights artistic creativity and quality over quantity. Each issue is uniquely themed and curated with an exhibitionist process in mind.
The zine also gives opportunities to photographers, artists, writers and videographers to produce creative articles, custom editorials and storyboards about everyday events in a new perspective of the city’s underground scene. FLORA | | FAUNA has been a shining beacon of positivity and inclusivity; a melting pot of creative talent both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
Pivoting is something I’ve become incredibly skilled at. Each new issue’s first draft looks nothing like the final copy. What I mean by that is articles and subjects change, advertisements change, layout designs change, fonts change, even the paper weight can change! The moment I get stuck on something, it causes friction and stress. If a potential subject randomly ghosts us, I simply thank the journey, and move to the next. Denver is full of fascinating people, after all! That’s life I think. Being ‘in flow’ with yourself and your business is a beautiful place to be but it takes work and living with intention. I believe it helps open up for more (better) opportunities that would’ve never been if you had been stuck on something that didn’t work out or felt ‘off’.
Another example was 2020. Just, in a nutshell. We went from a previous team of fifteen to just four. 2021? Much of the same tension and restriction, feeling stuck and in a reactionary state. This year, I made a decision. 2022 is a new year, our new normal, so I accepted this new reality and adapted accordingly. I was able to grow our team back to a new group of fifteen. It’s been a refreshing and exhilarating time, welcoming flow and new opportunities. I invite everyone to think of what areas of their business they can refresh, pivot, or try something new. New branding, new social media ‘voice’, attending more pop up events, launching that online store, starting a TikTok, starting a podcast, even creating new labels or thank you cards. How you pivot is how you identify yourself and ultimately identify as a business. It’s ok to outgrow things that once excited you or thought was your aesthetic. Pivoting assures you’re living in the present and are aware of your surroundings for your business’s best interest.
How do you keep your team’s morale high?
Owning a publication that creates fun, exciting, and positive content is naturally appealing. But I believe working for FLORA | | FAUNA offers other dimensions for writers, photographers, and videographers that leave them feeling fulfilled, confident, and eager to create more.
Each issue we produce has an umbrella theme, much like a contemporary art museum exhibition. Our staff then takes on the challenge to metaphorically connect the subject to the theme, in their own way. I tell team members, “This is what I want but how you get there is your journey”. This builds trust, creative freedom and clear, open communication.
I believe being a great listener and kindness goes a long way as a leader. But, do not take kindness for weakness. I offer constructive criticism when needed, am very organized, stick to deadlines, and am a valuable resource when my team needs me. Even after people leave the magazine to pursue other things, I ensure they know they can reach out to me at any time for help, advice, or resources (which they do!), creating a lasting bond with people I’ve worked with in the past.
Even though I founded the zine, I’m also the best production assistant on shoot days. I’ll bring the coffee and donuts, then proceed to hype the photographer and subject like the most excited, compliment-induced cheerleader (who wears all black).
Finding purpose in your work is one of the greatest challenges and simultaneously one of the greatest rewards. What gets you excited to wake up for the day? I think this mindset and energy can be translated to an equally enthusiastic team to connect and create harmoniously. The finished product always speaks louder than words, after all. I often think of the quote by Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I carry this into my daily routines and believe it to be a valuable asset for a successful business model.
All photography by Alex Rocha Instagram: @rochaflip