New Media 'Gap In Market' Leads to Social Enterprise
19 March 2013 at 4:20 pm
An idea that sprung from an RMIT journalism assignment to find a ‘gap’ in the new media market has evolved into a digital startup that provides international students studying in Melbourne an online hub of news and events. Now known as Meld Magazine, it is in its sixth year of publication.
Entrepreneur and Meld Magazine founder Karen Poh is profiled in this latest Spotlight on Social Enterprise column.
Photo: Meld Magazine
For former News Limited print journalist Karen Poh, the fact that there was no platform for international students studying in Melbourne to share their experiences was an opportunity waiting to happen.
“The idea came from an assignment to create a ‘new media’ outlet to fill a gap in the market,” Poh explains.
Being an international student herself once, she decided that her niche market would be young people new to the area who were looking for information about what to do and how to proceed with their career ambitions.
“I was interested in new media – from print to online,” she says. Two years after she submitted the assignment, she left her job as a print journalist to work full time on her start-up company, an online news and lifestyle site tailored for international students called Meld Magazine.
But making the move to work on her project full time wasn’t an easy task even though she was excited to start from a ‘clean slate’.
“I come from a media background,” she explains.
“When it came to setting it up, a lack of business background and lack of industry experience was a challenge.”
Photo: Meld Magazine
“Putting the business model together was the hardest part.”
What the website does best is provide information for international students about Melbourne life, but it also gives journalism students that chance to get their bylines published and build up their work experience portfolio while they are still at University to help them with their media careers after graduation.
“We have about 30 students on the editorial team,” she says.
“No-one gets paid at the moment – not even me.”
But the site does fund itself through grants and online advertising. As a fundraiser, the site offered international students a Melbourne discount booklet to raise more funds to maintain the website.
In addition to editorial interns, Poh partners business students with mentors from managing consultants from Australian corporations to give them guidance about starting their own enterprises.
It wasn’t until Poh attended a social enterprise conference hosted by RMIT and Social Traders that she realised her company fell into the category of a social enterprise.
“I never released it was a social enterprise until attending a social enterprise conference in Melbourne last year.
“A social enterprise needs to be sustainable – we seemed to tick all boxes. We are a sustainable business.”
In the future, Poh plans to expand the mobile-friendly site outside of Melbourne’s borders.
“Going national has always been a goal for us,” she says.
“I’m looking at taking on part time staff in the future.
“All I really want is for this to be sustainable.”