Nothing compares to the sensation of opening a new magazine for the first time—the smell of the fresh ink, the smooth, glossy pages between your fingers, the bright photos of amazing people doing incredible things—but most people have never considered starting their own. Cara Livermore and Bob Lawton are the exception—after starting their vegan blog Hipster Food roughly one year ago, they decided to take things to the next level with Chickpea magazine, the duo’s newest venture. In it, you’ll find food photos so enticing you can practically taste them, recipes so simple you’ll wonder why you never tried making vegan Nutella before, and stories so deeply personal you’ll seamlessly reconnect with your own compassionate choices. The magazine is currently only available in digital format, but they plan to print a limited number early next year. Hailing from Rochester, NY, Livermore and Lawton connected with VegNews on their transition from casual bloggers to do-it-all magazine publishers, and what their recently successful Kickstarter campaign will mean for Chickpea.
VN: What was the process of starting Chickpea like?
Cara Livermore: We were looking through all these great online magazines and none of them were vegan. We really wanted to veganize [our own] and bring together all of our friends and fellow vegan bloggers in the process to create a more tightly knit community. First, we put the call out there for anybody to submit. We looked through all the submissions and chose [some], then people got back to us with full articles, and we worked with them to refine them. We also did some photoshoots ourselves and edited everything together. From start to finish, it took us two months, [with a] week to photograph, edit, and test the recipes.
VN: What is the mission of Chickpea?
Bob Lawton: Basically to get a whole range of views from the vegan food-blogging community, as much as on Tumblr, as on Etsy, as on anywhere on the internet that we can get in touch with, and to put that all in one place. This isn’t a magazine that has advertising or anything else backing it up—it’s going to be completely supported by whoever buys a subscription and whoever decides to support us.
CL: The first [part of the mission is] giving vegans voices and bringing that community together. The second is getting people to cook more for themselves, so we provide lots of recipes and [offer] a more realistic point of view of what veganism is. I think we do that through the stories and recipes, making it sort of a mix between a [magazine] and a cookbook.
VN: Where did you get inspiration for Chickpea’s style?
CL: Mostly just from other online magazines—we found ethereal, minimalist magazines that I thought were pretty cool compared to a lot of mainstream magazines. The number one magazine that we loved was Kinfolk. They get people to set up big production-style photoshoots, and it’s nearly twice as long as ours. There’s some really great stuff in there, so that’s what want to aspire to.
VN: How have readers responded so far?
CL: We’ve gotten a lot of positive response and a lot of comments on the magazine site and our blog. A lot of people really think it’s top-notch, and we’ve already gotten a ton of submissions for our next issue. We already have more submissions this time than what we had total last time. We’ve gotten some offers, as well—Etsy shops are offering to send us products and cookbooks for review, which we weren’t expecting.
VN: How does it feel to have gained so much support from donors on Kickstarter?
CL: It’s exciting that so many people in the vegan community liked what we did, but at the same time a little daunting that our little project is going to be so exposed. This will certainly make launching our print run a million times easier and give us the capital to do things like applying for periodical shipping rates and printing extra copies to sell at craft shows. All in all it’s wonderful!
VN: How do you think Chickpea will impact the vegan movement?
BL: A lot of our articles are either people talking about how they became vegan or how to become a better vegan, so [it offers] personal perspectives on that. One of our articles is about a girl who moves from being bulimic and anorexic to being vegan to actually eating a healthy diet. It actually outlines the distinction between veganism, unhealthy eating, and getting a handle on what you’re putting into your body. [There are some] pretty inspirational stories about how people have come to veganism from pretty unhealthy places.
Bob and Cara’s Five-Step Guide to Creating Your Own ‘Zine
1. Come up with a really good idea that people will latch on to.
2. Attract contributors. You can start out with friends and contacts, but make sure they’re as enthusiastic about the project as you are.
3. Develop relevant content. Take great photographs and write articles that will appeal to people.
4. Edit, edit, edit. Get to the core of every story before going to press.
5. Promote. You can get your contributors to do some promotion, as well as the backers of your personal projects. That said, simply having a high-quality product will generate a level of buzz.
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