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Stepmom noticed an unmet need and filled it

When Brenda Ockun married her husband, Gregg, eight years ago, it not only changed her personal life but set her on a new career path.
With Gregg having two children, Ockun, now 44, was put in the unfamiliar position of being a stepmother.
"It was completely new to me," Ockun recalls. "In looking for advice, I was surprised that there were very few resources available for people in my situation. I found very few books, very little help online and no magazines at all."
Unable to find much literature on the subject of being a stepmom, Ockun decided to create her own. She came up with the idea for StepMom Magazine, a digital publication containing resources and stories by therapists, certified stepfamily professionals, published authors and experienced stepmoms.
Ockun says the magazine became an extension of her 20 years of corporate marketing experience, working for manufacturing and financial services companies in Rochester.
"I’d already spent most of my career managing large projects," Ockun says. "The first step in the process of creating the magazine was really pulling together experts that I could find in each area and organizing the endeavor myself."
After months of preparation, Ockun launched StepMom Magazine in January 2009, using her own funds to create the website and connections with writers, designers and Web developers to put the magazine together.
"Once the website launched, I started attracting attention from published authors and some licensed therapists who were stepmoms themselves," Ockun says. "They approached me with a desire to contribute."
In April 2009, Ockun got a call from a producer at "Good Morning America." The television show was planning a segment about the challenges stepmothers face in sharing the role of mom with biological mothers. Ockun was interviewed as a consultant for the segment.
Since that time, StepMom Magazine has been featured in the Washington Post and on National Public Radio. Ockun says she also recently did an interview with the New York Times for a story that has not yet been published.
The magazine has become so successful that Ockun recently left her career in marketing to work on the magazine full time.
"It has gotten to a point where I have so many different ideas to enhance the magazine and reach more people," Ockun says, "doing it on the side just wasn’t an option anymore. In order to take it to the next level, it really needs full-time attention."
StepMom Magazine is available as a digital download for $5 a month or $48 for the entire year. The annual subscription includes access to StepMom’s online support group forum, a privately managed discussion group for stepfamilies and certified professionals.
Ockun says the magazine does not currently contain ads, but it is something she plans to pursue in the future.
She declines to disclose the number of subscribers but says it has readers in almost every state in the U.S., as well as Canada, the U.K., Australia and South Africa.
"Having the magazine be digital opened me up to an audience on a global scale, which I don’t think would have happened if I went the traditional print route," Ockun says. "This entire thing has been a coming together of this very niche group of mostly women who are also stepmoms that want to share their experiences. It’s proof that stepfamily challenges are universal."
Small Business is a weekly feature focusing on entrepreneurs. Send suggestions for future Small Business stories to Associate Editor Smriti Jacob at rbj@rbj.net.

9/21/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.



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