They call her the Red Tornado.
She’s a fierce gust that never enters a room unnoticed, raising heart rates and blood pressure and leaving windblown those in her way. Her flash of red hair is more extension of personality than physical attribute. She’s unpredictable and unstoppable.
And I say that all with love.
I say it because that intensity built this magazine from the ground up with nothing but sweat equity, a few credit cards and pure grit. I say it because Shavonne Blades, the owner and publisher of Yellow Scene Magazine, is perfectly aware of her whirlwind-like nature.
Ten years ago, she started a small newsletter that targeted the emerging market in Erie. Since then, it’s grown and evolved and gotten glossy. And as any media company would, this year we celebrate that 10-year landmark with self-glorifying brouhaha.
But first, you must meet the woman behind this magazine.
Before she started Yellow Scene, Shavonne spent decades in the media business—not as a journalist but selling, selling, selling. She is phenomenal at selling and a stud when it comes to advertising and marketing.
“It’s ’cause I like winning,” she laughs. “I like turning a no to a yes. I mean, that’s cool. That’s artistic: turning nothing to something.”
In 2000, Shavonne played around with the idea of starting her own publication. She visited a few contacts in Louisville and Longmont and asked if they would consider advertising in a small publication. They all said yes, and she ended up overselling the first issue of The Goldmine—a coupon book printed on yellow paper.
“I was really just horsing around. I mean, the first two issues I was really winging it,” she says. “But then, people were like, ‘I got response from that. Do another.’”
Shavonne realized there was potential in this publication, and it was worth an investment of time, money and energy. She and her young son moved into a small apartment, and she made ends meet by waiting tables and bartending.
“We were poor, poor, poor,” she says. “But I didn’t really realize it at the time.”
She added content and freelancers, focusing on local issues and events. She recruited friends to help. She hired an employee. And she was—as she is today—a force with which to be reckoned.
“You know, someone told me that in those days, people didn’t really know how to handle me,” she said. “I didn’t understand that then, but I do now.”
Ten years later, Shavonne finds herself and her continuously growing magazine in a place not necessarily defined by big paychecks or vacations in Mexico, but by a committed staff, a growing respect in the community and self awareness. I’m not talking about a crystals-and-burning-sage type of enlightenment, but a world view that is inspired by confronting and surmounting fear, sacrifice and loss. Success, she says, is creating a product that she takes pride in and having a team that works tirelessly because they love the magazine.
I ask her about success: how she grew a magazine when most pubs are struggling.
“It’s the same things that make people not like me,” she says. “I push. I never back off. I push. I never take no for an answer.”
She calls it her “God-damned unwillingness to give up.”
“I’ve had employees ask, ‘What happens if we don’t sell all the space?’” she says. “I’m like, ‘No! No! You are fired for even asking that.’ Not selling is not an answer.”
That attitude is a constant within this office: No is not an answer, coming up short is not an option.
This year, we celebrate our 10-year anniversary and the one-woman-show that grew this publication from 4,000 copies in Erie in 2000 to 70,000 copies throughout Boulder County and the North Metro area today. We also prepare for the next 10 years—because Shavonne says this is just the beginning. And we just can’t tell her no.