• Dreamers + Doers: Lizzy Okoro of Bunch Magazine

    Dreamers + Doers highlights emerging artists, entrepreneurs, and up-and-coming ones to watch. Whether it’s starting a new business, creating something beautiful, or just daring to do things differently, we stand behind those taking steps toward something new.

    Get to know Lizzy Okoro, the hard-working, multitalented editor in chief and founder of Bunch Magazine…and the winner of our UO and Squarespace Start-Up contest! The recipient of $20,000 to further develop her print magazine dedicated to creatives, entrepreneurs, and freelancers, we visited Lizzy’s Los Angeles studio to learn more about what’s in store for this all-around Dreamer and Doer. 
    Photos by Carlos Quinteros Jr. 

    Lizzy Okoro has always been a big dreamer: Before BUNCH started, she was attending graduate school in NY studying International Affairs, she'd just started working at a charter school, and had a plan in the back of her mind to open her own internationally-focused school. To balance her academic work, she kept up a blog about food and fashion, which gave her the opportunity to connect with a network of "all of these amazing New York creatives, people whose jobs I had never heard of before, people who were artists and risk takers and most of all, happy and successful," she explains. The opposite of the cautionary stories of starving artists she'd heard growing up, it was an eye-opening ah-ha moment. "Immediately I knew I wanted to focus on these creative communities and that a blog just wouldn't suffice. I needed to be able to hold these stories in my hand and display them on my coffee table." And just like that, BUNCH was born.

    "A Guide for the Daring Creative," BUNCH is a print magazine profiling diversely talented individuals in all different creative and entrepreneurial pursuits, both telling their stories and cultivating a loyal following of talented up-and-comers (you can follow along with the BUNCH community through the publication's Instagram hashtag, #OneoftheBUNCH). 

    Can you share more about the decision leading up to quitting your day job to pursue BUNCH full-time?
    I actually really enjoyed my job but I felt like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. From 8am-4pm I was one person and then once 4pm hit I was an editor, on set at shoots meeting these amazing creatives. Not only did I feel like I had a split personality, I was also realizing that the common thread with so many of the people I was highlighting was that they were risk takers. About seven months before I left my job, a lightbulb went off and I knew what I had to do. I suddenly had a crazy amount of determination and focus. So while the thought of leaving my job was a little bit scary, the idea of not trying was way scarier.

    What has been the hardest part?
    Not knowing what I was doing! I got started in 2012 and enlisted two friends in LA to help. None of us came from the publishing world and at that time there wasn't a ton of information on the Internet on how to start a magazine. If you want to self-publish a book, the information is endless. If you want to start a blog, the information is endless. I had no point of reference for coordinating photo shoots or pitching publicists or finding a printer or getting your magazine into stores. Having that information from the onset would have helped save a lot of time and money and I might have a few less gray hairs.
    What has been the easiest part? 
    Not knowing what I was doing! Honestly, going in blind was a gift and a curse but mainly a gift. Had I known just how hard it would be before I got started I might not have taken the first step. Like so many people it's the fear of failure that stops us from achieving our dreams. I had no point of reference for what failure actually was so I just jumped in feet first and kept flailing my arms until I started to swim. 

    If you could have anyone contribute to Bunch magazine, who would you pick? 
    Oprah, hands down. I know that may sound cliche, but she is the ultimate Daring Creative. So many people see where she is now and forget all of the risks she took to assemble her empire. She truly shows that anything is possible.

    Who is the most inspiring person you’ve met, interviewed, or featured in the magazine?
    I feel like that's asking me to pick a favorite child! It's a three-way tie between actress Tessa Thompson, blogger/photographer Natalie James of NJinLA.com, and Javier Laval of Android Homme. Three very different people but they all spoke so passionately about the power of believing in yourself and how it affects your ability to achieve.

    Why is it important for you to put out Bunch as a print publication?
    I love the Internet because I'm an information hound; I love being inundated and getting lost online...just look at my Pinterest account. But that's just it: a lot gets lost online. These stories are worth more than a casual click, they need to be savored, you need to read them again in a month, six months, a year. You can absolutely go back to digital stories, but keeping it real, how many of us actually do?

    Do you have any advice for other young creatives out there looking to start up their own projects/businesses?
    Don't be scared! You often hear people say that the most successful people aren't afraid to fail. The funny thing is that I when I reflect on my life the only time I've ever truly failed was when I would get into my own head and wouldn't try. Yes, things haven't always worked out the way I wanted to, but they weren't failures in my book. So in short, you will only fail if you don't try.

    What’s been your favorite moment of being the EIC of Bunch? 
    The Dream Issue was a huge game changer for us. It came out right after I quit my job so I had the time to really dissect what was and wasn't working. To get the notification that this particular issue sold out meant that I was on the right path and to trust my instincts more often. 

    How did you feel when you found out you’d won? Were you completely surprised? 
    I was overwhelmed with joy and very surprised. When I entered I felt like, "Yes, I can actually win this!" Needless to say actually winning was a whole other ballgame. Quitting my job and moving from NY back to my hometown LA was a lot of transition for me. I was experiencing a ton of emotions on a daily basis, even questioning whether or not I had made the right decision for my life. To win was more than just a check, it was two companies that I love and admire acknowledging that what I'm doing matters. It was also the nudge I needed from the universe telling me to keep pushing forward.

    Can you share more about what you’ll use the prize money for? 
    I'm spending the money on hiring staff to help with sales so that we can pay our generous network of contributors what they deserve. Someone on Instagram said that this was not just a win for BUNCH but a win for the entire creative community and I thought that was so true.

    To you, what does being a Dreamer and a Doer mean? 
    Being a Dreamer and a Doer can be two totally separate things if you let them. A person who embodies both is someone who understands that imagination is just as important as action and will never prioritize one over the other when pursuing their goals. 

    Meet Lizzy this Friday, June 12, where she'll be speaking on the “Real Talk” Innovation Panel at Northside Festival in Brooklyn, NY — learn more here.

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