“I’m a risk taker. Without risk, there is no reward.” Call it her motto, call it her personal brand, but if you know Capital Area Women’s LifeStyle Magazine (CAWLM) publisher, Tiffany Dowling, you know this to be true. Although she doesn’t consider herself fearless, there are few things Dowling won’t try when it comes to business ventures that she considers “no-brainers.” Starting CAWLM five years ago was one of those easy-to-make choices. “I’m a PR girl, I love writing and I was really having a struggle getting good news put in some local magazines,” said Dowling. When a staff member at M3 Group — the full service branding agency Dowling founded 10 years ago — mentioned a Women’s LifeStyle Magazine she had seen in Grand Rapids, Dowling was intrigued. That was in June 2007 and, with Dowling tackling both sales and writing, by December the first issue of CAWLM hit newsstands. Throughout its five years, CAWLM has featured a number of inspiring and strong women. From MSU Women’s Basketball Coach Suzy Merchant, to city council woman Jessica Yorko, to those in the Lansing media like Sheri Jones to those well-known to be community supporters like Robin Miner-Swartz. Of course, CAWLM also has our annual Men’s issue where we’ve featured the likes of Bob Hoffman, Phil Denny and Tim Staudt, just to name a few. Today, CAWLM has grown to become one of the most well-read and well-respected publications in the Capital region. Each month 10,000 copies hit newsstands in the tri-county area reaching more than 20,000 readers. And there are plans for even more growth. But Dowling will be the first to admit, the idea of CAWLM wasn’t exactly popular among her peers when she started. People thought print was dead, but she knew better. Dowling said one of the biggest challenges of CAWLM is, “helping people understand that print is not gone and that there are different types of print and that niche publications are actually thriving.” Of course, some supported Dowling’s endeavor. “As a former marketing director, I felt that the mid-Michigan Area was lacking a positive vehicle targeted specifically at the female market,” said Shelley Davis Mielock, Dowling’s close friend and Director of Training and Professional Development at M3 Group. “I had the opportunity to review similar publications and knew with Tiffany’s business acumen and team of professionals that she could make it extraordinary. “ Davis Mielock’s support and expertise eventually landed her a column in the publication – Image Focus – which she continues today. “Almost four years ago I was given the opportunity to write a monthly column,” said Davis Mielock. “M3 Group did the branding for my business and thought the readers would find my speciality interesting and useful to learn about.” Julie Becker, who worked for M3 Group from May 2009 to August 2012, eventually serving as production director of CAWLM, was one of the first to work on the magazine. “I sat in on the focus group Tiffany held in October 2007,” said Becker. “I was inspired and excited that someone in the Lansing community was so dedicated to sharing good news about women. The energy in the room was awesome — I knew from the start this was going to be a great addition to the community, and a huge success.” Like so many in the community Becker, who now lives in Atlanta, Ga., and Davis Mielock say the good news is what keeps them coming back as readers. When I joined the CAWLM team in September 2010 I was amazed at the reputation of the magazine. I come from the newspaper world, where there is always a part of you that is afraid to tell someone where you work. People have strong feelings about their local paper and most of the time they have something not-so-nice to say. The opposite is true with CAWLM. From day one I wanted to shout from the roof tops about my involvement in the publication, because everyone loves it. For former editor Emily Wenstrom, the magazine’s reputation is why she get involved in the first place. “I found CAWLM just as it was completing its first year as a publication,” said Wenstrom. “I was a freelance writer looking for new opportunities, and I was so thrilled to find this great magazine right in my own community. There’s nothing as satisfying to me as a writer than contributing to something that touches me personally.” The positive reputation, said Dowling, comes from the fact that CAWLM does promote good news in Lansing and the surrounding communities and what’s more — we listen to our readers. “We try to stay connected to what’s happening,” she said. “We pay attention to what people say and what they’re interested in.” As the magazine grew, Dowling began expanding the brand by starting two signature CAWLM events — the CAWLM Lady Classic, which is the only all-female golf outing in the area and the CAWLM 80s Flashback Fundraiser, which began in 2011. With the 80s Flashback Fundraiser came the creation of the Caring About Women Locally (CAWL) Award, which honors a woman giving back in the community. Each event raises money for a local nonprofit. Since the start, CAWLM has given back more than $35,000 to local nonprofits in the form of donations and pro bono adverting opportunities. Today, Dowling and the entire CAWLM staff — both past and present — have proof that risks are worth it. “I don’t ever want to feel like ‘I wish I would have,’” said Dowling. “I think the entire CAWLM project is proof that if you believe in something enough, work hard enough and put the right people in place to make your ideas come to life — anything is possible,” said Becker. “Even during one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history, a teeny-tiny print publication grew and thrived. CAWLM is proof that content is king, and people love good, positive news. The commercial and community success is one thing, but as the editor, nothing is a bigger compliment than the one I received while preparing this piece. “I love reading it,” said Dowling.
Emily Caswell is the Managing Editor of CAWLM. She has a passion for fun, family, friends, shopping sprees, cold drinks and Lansing.