Last week, almost any publication you can think of had their own creative way of covering the recent royal baby pregnancy between Prince William and Kate Middleton. For Union Jack News, it was just another day of delivering news with a British flair. Union Jack News was founded by two Vancouverites: Alexandria Mitchell and Matthew Millar. Both founders are passionate when it comes to tying together Canadian and British heritage as the company uniquely intertwines local news with UK news, sports, pop-culture, and entertainment.
1. Who are you? Tell us about your business/core idea and how it got started.
Alexandria Mitchell and Matthew Millar here! We are two Vancouver entrepreneurs leading the charge in national print and digital media with our publication, Union Jack. It’s a print and online newspaper with in-depth analysis on current affairs and exclusive access to what’s happening with the most interesting personalities across the country.
We’ve had some experience in media and entertainment – so it was a natural fit. I (Alex) am a former actress in film and television and have worked in communications and PR. I (Matt) have represented private and public entities to to population-at-large – we both have fun talking up exciting projects!
We had the eye for the opportunity to launch the Union Jack in Canada back in July 2011. Union Jack launched June 2012 with Sir Richard Branson and HRH Prince Charles in town during the Vancouver and Toronto celebrations. We’ve been pushing forward with developing our web presence with up-to-date news features and content that connects Canadians.
2. Tell us more about how Union Jack delivers news with its unique British spin.
Our culture, history and heritage in Canada is uniquely British. Today, this permeates our day-to-day lives and appeals to all Canadians. Our readers, whether aged 18 or 85 share a common interest in UK pop-culture, entertainment, sports and news from a local, regional and national perspective. Our writers and contributors keep our readers informed of what’s happening about town with ‘British flair’, everything from arts, culture, food and drink to travel, news and sports at home and abroad. There’s something in it for everyone. And PS – we love to tweet! Say hello @UnionJackNews and to our BC feed @UnionJackBC
3. What do distribution plans look like for the future, will you focus more on digital or will you continue to expand on print?
We’re in print from as far West as Victoria to as East as Ottawa and we keep expanding. Our masthead is a tangible presence in each of our major markets and we will always drive our print distribution – its credible, authoritative and marketable. Print and digital are two very separate businesses and have their own unique demographics and challenges. The Union Jack brand is reflected in across both mediums and together they reach a broad, albeit different segment of the population respectively. Through both mediums we strive to maximize our reach to our readers and deliver the most value to our advertisers.
4. What kind of challenges has your team had to face and how have you mitigated them?
The misconception that the print industry is in decline and that there’s no money here. Media is an extremely valuable property in this country. The larger organizations, however, have to change their business models and scale back their operations, as their overhead and fixed costs eat their profit margins immensely. The state of the industry favours our growth and our workflow capitalizes on that: our operations are decentralized keeping our fixes costs low and we deploy technology to our advantage – often replacing human resources from the traditional organizations. Print and postage costs will always be increasing, so making sure we print and produce locally is also important factor.
5. How does this improve the city of Vancouver? What is the real world problem you’re solving?
In our business we are a service to our community as a source of quality information. This extends beyond editorial and advertising – we value our relationships with everyone we work and interact with. We meet a lot of people across all industries in our travels. We enjoy being able to introduce the people we meet along the way to other likeminded individuals who share ideas and often form great business and personal relationships.
We love to give back to our community, we do this through several means:
Giving opportunities to students to work with an exciting and dynamic organization while gaining real-world experience and empowerment not often afforded by larger media organizations.
Actively supporting charitable causes that have a significant impact and presence in their community, such as St. John Ambulance.
Supporting local arts, entertainment, food and beverage – from internationally renowned festivals like Bard on the Beach and local venues such as the Cultch, who bring world class talent and visiting productions to their stages; to local craft breweries, the newest restaurants, food trucks and the best in hospitality. Its all about the relationships.
6. What’s your advice for current or future entrepreneurs?
Define what “successful” means to you and keep it personal. Find your passion and follow it. Your personal drive and ambitions are what will keep you motivated along the path of life. Your business success is absolutely contingent on your own personal success, so take care of yourself and those around you! Think about your community and build lasting relationships while finding meaningful ways to give back and help others. Being in business is a service to others, so think about how you can serve with humility!
*End of interview*
Media gets more and more intricate as technology steps in and as our attention spans decrease. Coming up with the “best source for local and international news” is almost impossible. You need to have something unique about your publication and it has to deliver and cover news in ways that truly grab people’s attention – Union Jack News is on the right path. We at Vancity Buzz have our own way of delivering content and couldn’t agree more that to make an impact, you need content that resonates and is delivered with the right tone.
Stay in touch @pauldavidescu
*Vancity Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs or startups that are making Vancouver a better place. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send [email protected] an email explaining why*