Seven years ago, Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin launched the electronic newsletter TheSkimm with the goal to bring Millennial women the news in a digestible way, but with zero management experience or idea of how to expand the concept into a full-fledged business. And, yes, it terrified them.
As the years — and readers (more than 7 million of them now) — have accumulated, their team has expanded from office to office, recently settling into a new space in Manhattan’s Flatiron District that is five times the size of their previous office. And as Weisberg and Zakin began to really quantify their influence as a business, they decided it was time to put things into print and take it on the road: TheSkimm IRL.
“We were getting very anxious and thinking through everything that is left to do and someone was like, ‘Oh, it’ll be so much fun,’ and I took a step back, and I was like, ‘It will be an incredible experience of a lifetime, and I’m not sure what that will look like,’” Weisberg says of the tour, which kicked off in New York on June 10. (The book, “How to Skimm Your Life,” is published June 11.) “It will be an amazing learning experience. It’s something we’ve never done before, and seven years in, it’s really cool in that we’re going to try something on a big scale that’s totally new.”
The project is twofold: the physical book and then the accompanying tour, which has them traveling throughout the country to meet their readers in person.
“We feel so lucky to have this amazing community of women throughout the country that had cheered us on; they are the first and biggest supporters and critics,” Zakin says. “We take a lot of what they say to heart. We build products based off of the routine of this target demographic of Millennial women who are working, who are busy, who are living real lives, and we want to make sure that we’re creating a membership to living smarter throughout all of their days.”
The root of the project is relatively simple: explaining things in an approachable manner in written form, and then having the opportunity to talk it through with their readers in the flesh. Several of the lessons are things they’ve bumped into themselves as founders of a young and growing business.
“I think everyone has that moment at some point of, like, ‘Wasn’t there supposed to be a class on this? Why was I sick that day?’ So over the years, we’ve been fortunate enough to have those experiences ourselves, we learn from them, and also hear where that comes up in our audiences lives, and so the idea behind the book was to create a reference guide to growing up and to navigating these big decisions together,” Weisberg says. “The idea behind the tour was to come together as an audience and say ‘Let’s talk it out.’ We want the tour to be this fun night-out celebration, raising your hand, saying something that you’re dealing with, and collectively cheering each other on.”
It was during Memorial Day weekend four years ago that the duo saw the reality of publishing a book begin to take form.
“We didn’t know what to read. We are both big avid readers and we were recommending books for each other, but we were stumped and so we were like ‘Our audience is probably going through the same thing on a long weekend,’” Zakin says. Their literary section, Skimm Reads, was born, and to quite the fanfare.
“Three weeks later, one of the authors that we featured emailed us and said, ‘I just want you to know I was on Amazon’s top 10,000, and then you guys wrote about me today, and now I’m in the top 100, and you’re the only press I have this week,’” Zakin continues.
In other words, they got a very tangible sense of the kind of power they had.
“As that franchise developed and we continued to get approached for different opportunities, we’re now at the scale of a business where we said, ‘OK, is the timing right now?’” Zakin says. “We’ve obviously built out our business and are exploring new opportunities as a company and really thought it was the right time to explain, as Danielle said, ‘how do we make it easier to live smarter?’”
The pair describe the book as a “foundational reference book of what a Skimm life means” — it covers everything from personal finances and negotiating a raise to how to make a wine selection.
“We want to inspire confidence,” Weisberg says. “Whether to have a conversation with someone or to make a decision that you haven’t made before.”