Meet Annika Allen

Editor-in-Chief & CEO
Flavour Magazine

Flavour is an award-winning media entity encompassing a print magazine, two websites, events and creative services.

Flavour is dedicated to showcasing emerging talent alongside established artists and raising the aspirations of young people. With Annika Allen and Leonard Foster at the helm, the South London company employs a team of seven plus a network of freelancers.

Why did you decide to start Flavour Magazine?
I was planning on starting my own magazine and was looking into it when a friend, who has sadly passed away now, put me in contact with Leonard Foster, who is now my business partner.

Leonard had printed his first issue of Flavour but had no editorial knowledge as his background was in design and publishing. Back then Flavour was a men’s magazine but I had always wanted to do a youth lifestyle magazine with an urban focus. We met, we vibed and discussed our vision. Now, three and a half years later, here we are.

What was your career path prior to Flavour?
I knew that I wanted to become a journalist since I was 8 years old. Back then I had visions of being an investigative reporter or interviewing people on camera in war zones. So as a teenager I sought out as many opportunities as possible to get involved in the media.

I worked on a community radio station, for local magazines and newspapers and then went on to study journalism at The London College of Communication and continued to freelance throughout university.

After I completed uni I freelanced for a number of publications but wanted to broaden my skills in other areas of the media so I began to work in TV production. I started out as a runner; luckily I wasn’t one for long as I hated it! Then I became a researcher and my last role was as an assistant producer.

Working on award winning shows like Holiday Showdown, House of Tiny Tearaways and 10 Years Younger gave me a great insight into people and enabled me to multi-task as you have to be able to juggle a number of things at the same time. All these skills help me in my day-to-day role running Flavour.

So, I’ve gone from freelancing to managing my own business. It wasn’t an easy transition but I just take each day as it comes, make sure that I have plans in place and do the best that I can, while enjoying the ride.

Tell me more about some of your branded events such as Flavour Live and Miss Flavour. How did they get started?
I love events. I enjoy attending them. Particularly ones that are well organised. As a freelancer you sometimes get involved in a lot of different things so I have had experience organising a number of events.

My business partner, Leonard Foster, also used to DJ so we decided to combine our skills and launch an event. Miss Flavour came first. It’s an annual model/talent competition where 21 girls compete in the grand final at Cafe de Paris to win lots of amazing prizes. We’ve had celebrity hosts like Kojo the Comedian and judges like Sway and Angelica Bell plus lots of celebrities and people that work behind the scenes in the media industry attend.

Sleek presents Flavour Live launched on August 12. The event does exactly what the title says and this year we had the likes of McLean and Kyla perform. Flavour Live brings the talent seen on the pages of Flavour Magazine live to our readers and is a platform for emerging talent to perform on the same stage as established acts, whether they are a music artists, beatboxers, spoken word artists or comedians.

Everyone had a great time at the launch and we look forward to building this event to become one of London’s premier live nights. Scorcher, Meleka, Fumin, Kof, Davinche, Cleo Sol, and Mumzy Stranger are just a few of the artists performing at future events.

We also run an RnB and hip hop karaoke night called Breaking the Ice. This started in April 2007; members of the public step centre stage and battle it out to be crowned the karaoke king or queen for the night. We’ve seen the good and the absolutely terrible perform. Buts it’s not about being able to sing, it’s about letting loose, having fun and embodying the spirit of the whole evening. The crowd is always supportive of the people that get on the karaoke stage.

What are you working on at the moment? Can you describe your typical working day?
Juggling 101 things is an everyday occurrence for me but I wouldn’t have it any other way. My days are far from typical and each day changes from the next.

I am currently working on finalising the content for the forthcoming issue, emailing PRs to arrange things in advance for the edition after that. Miss Flavour 2010 is fast approaching and there’s a lot to be completed for that. Judges, hosts and performers to secure, booking artists for Flavour Live and promoting these events.

Emailing and making phone calls to arrange things takes up a large part of my day. Managing the team and keeping abreast with what they’re working on, liaising with my business partner and determining what we need to get done. We not only run the magazine, websites and events but we also offer creative services like contract publishing, art direction services, photography and lots, lots more. If it’s creative we probably do it or could source an appropriate person for your needs.

What have been the highlights of running your own business?
There have been many. Every time I get the latest print issue in my hands I feel a sense of pride that the thoughts manifested in my head are now present on paper and that people are reading it.

Over the years we have been nominated for a number of awards. We were finalists for a UMA award and a Lewisham Business Award and have won a BEFFTA award for Best Magazine. I was featured in Company Magazine as a top urban blogger, I’m a sponsored Virgin Media Pioneer and we as a business have supported a lot of events from Inspirational You to concerts featuring the likes of Trey Songz.

What is the hardest part of running your own business?
The hardest part is juggling my time, ensuring that I’m organised, keeping up to date with responding to people in a decent amount of time and watching our finances.

What has been your proudest moment to date?
There isn’t a specific thing that I can pinpoint but I would say that I’m proud that every day I can get up and go to work for a business that’s my own. I’m proud that I have taken charge to shape my destiny, no matter where it leads.

The recession has knocked scores of companies off course. What have you learnt from running a business during uncertain times?
We don’t commit to projects if we can’t deliver as we want to retain our customers. We ensure that our invoices are constantly chased up and we don’t over extend ourselves. We are extremely proud of how we’ve managed to stay afloat during these trying times.

Do you have a mentor? If not, and if you could pick any high-flying entrepreneur to connect with, who would it be?
I don’t currently have a mentor. I am looking for one though. If I could choose anyone in the world it would be Oprah Winfrey. I am inspired everyday by what she has achieved.

In the future I would like Flavour to be distributed internationally and to have a production company, TV station and produce feature shows and present more. She is everything that I am going to be and more. Watch this space.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
Work hard but work smart at the same time – this is in all aspects. So follow your instincts, if you don’t feel taking on a project is right, even if you need or want the money, don’t do it. Also don’t take on too many tasks if you can’t handle them all at once.

What are your future goals for Flavour Magazine?
We are looking for the right investors to partner with to take the Flavour brand to the next level for the magazine to be printed and distributed internationally and for Miss Flavour to have heats nationally.

We get a lot of young people asking if they can do work experience or an internship in-house however we cannot accommodate that at present which makes it difficult. So, we would like to work on facilitating a work based training programme.

What, or who, inspires and motivates you?
I get inspired by many things in the world – music, quotes, TV etc. Each day when I go to the office Leonard and I inspire each other.

There have been times when invoices were taking too long to get paid, there were more outgoings then in comings and we had to encourage each other to keep on going. So I will say he inspires me.

My mum inspires me, she’s like me. Always busy and working hard. She was in the territorial army and had a managerial job for the local council, amongst other things. My mum always manages to keep a clean home and have dinner ready before 9pm and was always there for my sister and I, and now my niece and nephew. I don’t know how she does it. I’m also inspired by the success of people like Oprah Winfrey, Simon Cowell, Jay-Z, Alan Sugar and Russell Simmons.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting their own media business?
Do something that you enjoy and start with an area that you have knowledge on before moving onto something else.

Utilise the contacts in your network i.e. family members, friends of friends who you can do business with or recommend your services.

Don’t accept no for an answer if you believe in what you’re doing and block any negative people or vibes out of your life. Constructive criticism is fine but pessimism aimed at you especially if you didn’t ask their opinion is not cool.

Lastly, work out what the bigger picture is for your business and set small goals for yourself to achieve that. This will help you to eventually get to that end point. My philosophy is difficult takes a day and impossible takes a week if you keep your eyes on the prize.

For more information on Flavour visit www.flavourmag.co.uk and www.missflavour.com

Annika Allen was interviewed by Octavia Goredema, founder of the Twenty Ten Club.

Twenty Ten Club is a Best Business Blog finalist at the 2010 Black Weblog Awards in the United States. If you enjoyed this post we’d appreciate your vote! If you’d like to vote for the Twenty Ten Club Blog you can do so here until August 31, 2010.

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