When Stephanie Skinner, the publisher and co-founder of culture, first envisioned the magazine, it was “a nice little magazine nestled in the woods of the Berkshires. We’d dabble a bit in digital, but we’d never stress ourselves out.” And the world of cheese is thankful that she was wrong. culture has grown beyond its humble origins, bringing the word on cheese to thousands. And all of this has happened with Stephanie in the background, finding ever-new and innovative directions for the magazine. “I always try to foresee what trends are coming and prepare us on capitalize on them… There are macro trends driving changes in both the publishing business AND speciality food.” And even though she never predicted this future for herself, she can now thank her sister for her immersion in this world: “Lassa was the inspiration for culture, just as she was the catalyst for my (now long established) cheese obsession.”
Before she was wandering the landscape of media and speciality foods, Stephanie was working long distance for The George Educational Foundation while she lived with Lassa, who was constantly bringing home cheese news and samples, and one evening, she brought over a friend, our own Kate Arding: “Kate and Lassa were talking cheese business over a glass or ten of wine, discussing the pressing issue of discovering cheeses for the shop project they were working on. I asked what was the magazine about cheese…they said there isn’t one…so we conspired then and there to do it.”
After the first four issues, the steady flow of readers and advertisers “turned into a flood” that is still growing. In an effort to meet the growing needs of the magazine, the culture team met about nine months ago to do make some minor changes to the magazines structure…and the small project grew into major re-imagining of the brand. This has changed what Stephanie does on a daily basis, filling her time by attempting to define not just what culture does, but how it does it. Although sometimes tedious and frustrating, this project allowsculture to grow and adapt into an even better outlet for the cheese world.
The summer before culture’s launch, Stephanie attended her first American Cheese Society conference. While rubbing elbows with hundreds of cheesemakers and cheese lovers, she spread the dream of a beautiful cheese magazine and was wished luck and tentative support. These connections would turn out to be vital as the magazine blossomed: “I met scores of cheesemakers who would go on to support our little dream of a magazine.” These cheesemakers have formed part of culture’s strong support group. This lesson follows the first thing Kate and Lassa ever told Stephanie about cheese: “The wonderful thing about the cheese business – even more wonderful than the cheeses themselves – is the people. No matter where you go in the world cheese makers and mongers, distributors and importer/exporters are congenial and supportive.”