Local company produces national magazines
By Jane Myhra
Jones Publishing is celebrating 30 years of providing magazines for crafters and collectors.
From a venture that started in their basement in March of 1985, Joe and Maggie Jones grew a business that now produces multiple magazine titles.
The company’s magazines include: DOLLS, Haute Doll, Teddy Bear & Friends, Sunshine Artist, Handmade Business, Smart Retailer, Cessna Owner and Pipers.
“We see ourselves as being a stable long-term employer in Iola,” Joe Jones said.
On his first day, Joe Jones imagined a company of about 20 employees who would depend on his being a success. His goal was to help build people’s businesses.
Jones Publishing now has 22 employees and 10 publications.
To achieve his goal, in 1984, Joe gave a one-year notice to his present employer, Krause Publications.
“It took Joe two years to convince me to start a new business,” Maggie Jones said. “We had two young children and Joe had a good, secure job.”
When he started his own company on March 1, 1985, Joe received encouragement from his former employer. He targeted a different clientele than Krause Publications.
“I did not go into competition with them,” he said. “Chet Krause was very supportive.”
Under the name Joe Jones Agency, Joe began producing publications and newsletters in his home. He soon had nine employees.
Starting with two magazines, Camping & RV Trader and a custom publication for a nonprofit group, he soon grew the company to a staff of over a dozen employees working out of his basement.
To accommodate the growing business, Jones Publishing purchased the old Iola Herald building across the street from the Crystal Café.
The first major publications were Pipers Magazine and Cessna Owners Magazine, acquired in 1990.
“Those have been some of our best publications,” Joe said.
Through the years, they acquired more magazines.
“We had a tendency to sell the smallest and buy larger,” Maggie said. “That’s how we grew.”
In March of 1994, the company built its existing 15,000-square-foot building located at N7528 Aanstad Road, Iola. They continued to expand to serve additional markets, including the craft and collectible fields.
In 2000, Jones Publishing acquired DOLLS Magazine and Teddy Bear Review. Both served high-end collectors.
In 2006, Jones Publishing surprised the magazine industry by buying out its major competitor and acquiring Doll Reader and Teddy Bear & Friends. The new magazines were merged into their present publications under the names DOLLS and Teddy Bear & Friends.
With eight publications, Jones Publishing is divided into three divisions: Aviation, Collector and Craft. Their sister company, CrossLife, carries two publications and two member organizations.
“Publishing has changed a lot in the last 30 years,” Joe said. “National magazine publishing is challenging, but it’s not going away.”
Jones Publishing is looking at expansion, according to Joe.
“It is harder to make a profit, so we are looking at new areas of growth, with a greater effort to do product sales,” he said. “This is the wave of what a lot of publishing companies are doing.”
The company also plans to do more online and custom publishing.
Joe and Maggie are in the process of transferring the business to other family members.
Once in charge of accounting and human resources, Maggie is now fully retired. Joe is “almost fully retired.”
“It is our objective to help the company be independent by passing it on to the next generation,” Joe said.
“It has been wonderful working together,” Maggie said.
She said it worked because “our jobs were so different.”
Maggie stays busy as a member of the Iola Lioness Club and the Winchester Academy Board of Trustees. She also spends time with her grandchildren.
Joe has been a member of the Iola Lions since 1973. He is also active in the Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club and Score, an association of retired executives.
Joe and Maggie are both active in their church, Peace Lutheran Church, in Amherst. They spend the winter months in Texas with family.
Rya Jones has served as president of Jones Publishing since 2012.
Before graduating from Iola-Scandinavia High School in 1992, Rya worked part-time at the family company. After receiving a bachelor of science degree in Communication Arts, Rya worked in the ministry until 2004.
While between jobs, Rya joined the staff in 2008 on a part-time basis, selling ads for a special product. The part-time job quickly became full-time.
“Once I was here, I did more and more,” Rya said. “I saw other things that could be done around the office, mostly with the website. Soon I was helping my parents make decisions.”
Rya was promoted to vice president in 2010 and took over as president when Joe semi-retired in 2012.
“I always thought business was not for me,” Rya said. “But life changes you.”
Mostly she liked the challenge of upgrading the company to the digital era.
“I realized I enjoyed the leadership aspect of business,” Rya said. “I enjoy helping people work together and seeing projects come to fruition.”
What Rya never liked about business was that it seemed to be “all about the cash flow.”
“I am more guided by my heart, so it is hard if I feel that it is all about the money,” she said. “Now I realize that it’s all about serving our readers and making a difference in people’s lives. That distinction was the difference between disliking it and falling in love with the company.”
The goal of Jones Publishing is to help others be successful.
“Our readers are very passionate about what they do,” Rya said. “We give them all the tips, tricks and tools to be profitable as a retailer and provide inspiration to the collectors.”
“A doll is not just a doll to a collector – it is a passion,” she said. “There is nothing like giving people something they really love.”
According to projections, Rya expects 2016 to be “our strongest year yet.”
“The key to our success at Jones Publishing is undoubtedly the staff,” Rya said. “We have worked hard to attract the best and the brightest in each position. My philosophy is to surround myself with people who are smarter than I am. And it shows.”
Diana Jones has served as operations manager of Jones Publishing since May of 2014. She is also president of CrossLife, a sister company to Jones Publishing.
CrossLife publishes Today’s Christian Living and Today’s Pastor, as well as running two membership organizations: CAP Benefits Association (a Christian alternative to AARP) and Homeschool Benefits Association.
Diana started her career as editor of Today’s Christian Living in 2011, then moved to selling advertising space and now is publisher.
Although her background is in microbiology (she has a Master’s degree and five years of lab management experience), she feels like she fits right into the publishing world.
“I really enjoy every facet of my job,” she said. “It is the people that work for us that make my job easy and fun. We have an amazing staff that I am so grateful for.”
Diana is secretary of the Iola Lioness Club and loves to get involved in the community in any way that she is able. She is also a member of Highland Church, in Plover.
Trey Foerster joined Jones Publishing in September 2015 as group publisher. He works with all of the company’s publications, concentrating on sales.
Foerster has lived in Iola since 1975, when he joined Krause Publications, and has an extensive background in publishing as past publisher/editor of the Iola Herald and Manawa Advocate and as publisher of the Waupaca County Post and Wisconsin State Farmer. He is a past president of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.
Foerster is a member of the Iola Winter Sports Club, Iola Historical Society and the Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club.
“I get to work with friends and neighbors and am able to make new friends,” Foerster said. “I get to become more involved in the community in which I live, while continuing to pursue my publishing passion. It is nice to be able to live and work in this community.”
Mark Williams is a marketing consultant from Willmark Enterprises who creates, develops and implements marketing initiatives for all of the Jones products and brands.
He leads new subscription promotions, renewal efforts, prospect generation and event promotions in various channels, including direct marketing, email marketing, social media and others. In addition, he provides strategic planning, business forecasting, event management, project management and business management services to the executive team.
Williams formed Willmark Enterprises in 2014 after eight years in marketing and fundraising with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and 18 years in publishing with Krause Publications/F+W Media.