Jenn and I love telling a good story, and this month we’d like to celebrate David Zimmerman, the creative force behind Boston Spirit Magazine, New England’s premier LGBT magazine. With the prestigious Boston Business Journal and Boston Magazine credits as a part of his pedigree, this risk taker and LGBT ally quit and took out an equity line of credit in 2004 to become a publisher with pride. Besides delivering a quality product, he’s launched innovative LGBT executive recruitment events and a phenomenally successful annual Summer Sunset Cruise benefit that’s about to set sail again. I had a chance to dock with him for a few minutes recently.
Your initial idea with “Boston Spirit” was a simple one…to do a gay Boston Magazine. Did you ever imagine that 8 years later you would be where you are today?
I really didn’t know where we would be 8 years later. If you think about it the world has changed so dramatically over the last 8 years, especially the world economy and business climate. As a result a lot of publications/newspapers have gone out of business. At this point I am just happy that we were able to weather the storm and survive, thankfully we are doing well these days. The magazine and our events are doing better than ever.
You and your wife took a financial risk in your start up–what gave you the courage?
I’m not sure if it was courage or ignorance. If anyone is thinking of doing what we did I would tell them to do a lot more research than we did. I thought I had a good idea and convinced my wife that it was a good idea. That said, I probably romanticized how easy it was going to be. It’s been very tough and stressful at times.
What kind of advice would you give to small business owners starting out today?
Do a ton of research! Meet with as many people in the industry as possible, try to find a mentor. Chances are that the person starting out will have one vision of the business and that vision will probably change as reality takes over. You need to also plan for worst case scenario… have a plan B and plan C.
As an ally, how fulfilling has it been knowing you have helped strengthen and celebrate the LGBT community?
It is, by far, the most fulfilling part of my job. I get so much positive feedback on the magazine and our events, that never happened in other jobs I held. Think about it, we held an LGBT Executive Networking Night in March, more than 1,300 people attended….that event didn’t exist 6 years ago. Boston Spirit created that event and now we have this massive gathering for LGBT corporate professionals. I think that’s a tremendous accomplishment.
You have been very involved in community outreach. Talk about your work with Fenway Health.
Fenway Health is a wonderful organization, the largest healthcare facility in the world with LGBT in its mission statement. They were at the forefront of treatment for HIV/AIDS and remain leaders in the field. Each year the magazine holds a summer sunset cruise (it has sold out 4 years in a row…more than 500 people) and every penny raised goes to Fenway Health. It has raised more than $100,000. That said, there are many great non-profits working on behalf of the LGBT community in the Boston area, including AIDS Action, Boston Living Center, Community Servings, GLAD and more….they all do great work.
Fenway Health will be benefiting again from your Summer Sunset Cruise. There are still a few tickets left–why is this event particularly special to you?
The event is special because, like our other events, we built it from scratch. I had an idea for a different, fun, low cost event…and the sunset cruise was born. It’s such a fun night, great food, great music, and all for a great cause. This year we have a bigger boat and we anticipate having about 700 people onboard…it’s amazing how big it’s gotten.
Tell us about the new career series you are launching.
We have found, through our LGBT Executive Networking Night, that many companies are looking to hire through diversity initiatives and, specifically, from the LGBT community. There really isn’t an outlet to get that message out. We feel that doing this section gives these companies an outlet and also serves our readers…a win-win.
What would you recommend for those interested in learning more about the Boston Spirit and advertising opportunities?
Feel free to give me a call or send along an email. I can be reached at (781) 223-8538 or by email at email@example.com.
Tell us a bit about your life “off the clock”?
My life off the clock is completely dominated by my family. My wife Kris, my 7 year old daughter and my 5 year old son. And I wouldn’t have it any other way, all the tee ball games, karate practice, school shows, all that stuff. I love every minute of it.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I’d like to commend the companies working with Diversity Works for “getting it.” Embracing diversity and supporting a diverse group of employees is a very wise business decision. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s smart business. It’s nice to see more and more businesses doing the right thing.
Is there a LGBT leader you’d like to see saluted? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org