About a year ago, sophomores Nabriya Ware and Nic Zuhse were sitting down at dinner when Ware brought up an idea for a new project. She was attempting to find her niche on campus, and found things she seemed interested in but didn’t match her own outward style or internal struggles with race and ethnicity.
Instead she wanted to create her own — a magazine that would match her style and display people who aren’t usually featured in mainstream media.
“At the same time the creative outlets came with some form of restrictions in some ways,” Ware said. “So instead of starting from an already established publication or anything of the sort and try and work around or change things, I just wanted to start from scratch.”
At the time, the publication didn’t have a name or a team, but Ware had an idea and went with it.
On Feb. 3, after many long weeks of planning, Ware was able to launch online the first issue of Blase, a student-run magazine she proudly says she’s the editor-in-chief of.
The first issue contained stories and spreads on topics ranging from finding your inner peace to oil-slicked hair to why Drake is so popular.
Creating a team
Instead of beginning with a traditional hiring process, Ware handpicked her team from people she thought would be good in each role.
“It’s all talented friends, man,” Ware said. “It was like, ‘I know you can do this and you can do this.’ They all jumped on my initial vision and ran with it and it all just came together.”
Though Zuhse was originally working for another publication, she agreed to leave and join Blase as art director when she found out she would have complete creative freedom. The two continued to bounce ideas off each other to formulate a plan for the magazine.
Zuhse hired sophomore Lucy Northup and freshman Joseph Henry-Penrose as additional designers because she thought they would match the initial aesthetic of Blase. Without any initial design guide to follow, they spent hours playing around to determine the style that would match the initial vision.
“Since we were building this magazine from the bottom up, there wasn’t anyone I needed to answer to design-wise,” Zuhse said. “I just really wanted to make something that was a reflection of who Briya and I were as people and who some of the hidden communities of Elon [University] were and the diversity that isn’t always shown.”
Additionally, junior Katy Bellotte is online editor, sophomore Matt Simmons is the head of photography and sophomore Tyler Grimsley is health and wellness editor. Ware plans to do a formal hiring process for additional staff.
Though Ware has never managed a team of this size before, she has been devoting every day to the publication and has good people backing her up. The most difficult aspect for Ware is separating friendships from business and “getting tough with someone she cares about” to make sure the job is done correctly.
But she’s been taking everything day by day and ensuring the integrity of the publication.
“I say all the time, ‘I am winging this,’” Ware said. “I’ve never had any experience being an editor-in-chief in any way, but I’d say my attention to detail, being meticulous as far as what I want and getting input from others as well. When you have a team that works as well as ours does, it’s super easy.”
Building the brand
Both Ware and Zuhse, wanted the magazine to be a piece of their personality and passions while showcasing those who don’t necessarily fit the typical “Elon stereotype.”
The name initially came from a pitch meeting when someone suggested the name “Blase” — meaning bored because of familiarity — and everyone was on board.
“The Blase brand is all about encouraging creativity and diversity,” Zuhse said. “So not backing down from anybody. We’re not here to please anybody. We’re here to please ourselves and highlighting people who aren’t usually highlighted.”
To build excitement, the team created an Instagram and posted behind-the-scenes photos of shoots, alluding to upcoming articles.
They also used the motto: “If we make you uncomfortable in the process, then by all means. Disturb the peace,” to further explain their branding.
“The whole point is we’re not trying to conform to a standard or sensitivity of anyone else,” Ware said. “We’re trying to make ourselves as far as how we’re represented on campus and our individual alternative ways of being known — and if that makes someone uncomfortable, then by all means.”
Though Blase has been founded out of Elon’s campus, it is not an official student organization, but rather a student-run organization with no direct affiliation with Elon.
Ware said they also did not want to be overshadowed by the Elon brand, but may one day decide to begin the process of becoming an official organization.
“With what we have going on, we didn’t want anything that we did to reflect poorly on Elon at any point because were different than the Elon brand — obviously that’s why I put it together,” Ware said.
Forming a future
According to Zuhse, Blase’s first issue received readership in 22 countries and more than 1,000 reads in the first week through promotion over social media.
Right now, each issue will be released every other month, giving the team time to produce more and better content. The next one will be released in April, and they hope to go to print through money raised with GoFundMe and other fundraisers.
Though the staff is composed of Elon students, Blase will partner with other brands and models in North Carolina and the East Coast.
“There are no rules of what we can put in the magazine,” Zuhse said. “We’re highlighting brands from all across North Carolina that support things such as Black Lives Matter and the ‘No Ban, No Wall.’ All these great brands that have either people of color running them or a minority running them.”
Ware is shocked by how quickly the publication has blossomed. So many people reached out to her about Blase that she held an interest meeting Feb. 9.
With a larger staff, Ware hopes to keep pushing the envelope while keeping things a surprise before the next issue.
“The way it’s been managed with the staff we have now, I’ve had absolutely no issues,” Ware said. “I say we just keep pushing the limit and kind of feel out what we can and can’t handle.”