Celebrating Our Second Anniversary and Evolution into the Coastal Insider
by Melissa LaScaleia
It’s been two very full years since we published our first edition of the Insider at the Market Common. And we’re celebrating our achievements this month by sharing with you the story of our journey from then to now.
The concept of the Insider began in 2016, but the vision began much earlier.
“People who know me know that I’ve been in this community for a long time,” says Jim Parker, the co-founder of the paper and co-owner of Real Living Home Realty Group in the Market Common. “I was stationed here with the Air
Force from 1978 through 1983, and I’ve been living here ever since. After moving to the Market Common in 2008, I found myself being asked on a regular basis about what was happening here— the events and places to go spend your time, as well as my opinion on real estate opportunities in the area.
“The Market Common has had a really good vibe from the outset, but I found there was no delivery method to get the message out about what was happening when and where, or about the economic development of the area.”
John Jobson, Jim’s business partner and co-owner of Real Living Home Realty Group and the Insider, shares:
“There were so many different moving parts to the Market Common, but it was like the parts didn’t talk—they overlapped. We saw the Market Common more as a whole, rather than parts. The city had things going on, but nobody knew the schedule. The restaurants had events but nobody knew; developers were doing things, but nobody knew what they were doing. We started the Insider as a publication to connect with the community in a way that we felt wasn’t available— to demonstrate that we are the market experts, and that means we support a cohesive, informed community. We don’t just have our heads stuck in
real estate and numbers. People matter. And a community is made up of people, not just buildings.”
Jim and his daughter, Megan Parker, started working on the concept and design together in January 2016.
“In life, timing means everything,” Jim says. “I’m fortunate that Megan is talented in graphic design and photography, and she was exiting a five year career and looking for a change. After thinking the idea through, I realized that if I was ever going to create a publication, it should be now.”
Initially both Jim and John thought they would create a small newsletter. But after a few months of seeing how it was unfolding, they realized they had a lot to say, and that they were going to need a writer.
Megan and Jim were connected with Melissa LaScaleia, who had a professional writing background. She was on board from day one.
“Everything just kind of fell into place,” Jim says. “If I hadn’t had a daughter with that skill set, we wouldn’t have moved forward with this venture. And we were fortunate to know Melissa. It just continued to take on a life of its own, and we never looked back. Our first edition was twelve pages, and today it’s forty-eight plus our sixteen page real estate insert.”
“I appreciate the opportunity to create something from nothing every single month,” says Melissa of her experience at the Insider. “I like that the Insider is a platform to share all the beautiful things people are doing in our community as well as the beautiful things they stand for. At a time when we are bombarded with so much negativity from the media, I’m grateful to be a voice that shares stories of what is good and simple and true. In my writing, I try to capture the personality behind the business storefront to answer the, ‘Why this? Why here?’ because that makes a person’s story real and relatable to others. I’ve met such incredible people through the Insider, both in the office and outside of it. I just have so much fun doing what I do.”
“Starting out, I was excited about meeting more of the community, and to be able to connect to them daily has been rewarding,” says Megan of her experience with the Insider. “When we’re featuring a business, it’s my duty to showcase them in the best light possible— to communicate with the readers visually. It’s my job to bring color and paint the picture of their business through photographs and design.”
For some, the idea of real estate brokers starting a community publication might seem odd, but for Jim and John, it’s integral to their business identity.
“We’ve been in the brokerage industry our entire careers,” John says. “And we started a new company in the Market Common because of the opportunities we saw here. We formed the identity of this real estate brokerage company around our values of community. We saw a need in this area for a local publication that contains relevant information that is applicable to the community and to real estate. We tell life stories, we incorporate what is happening with restaurants, with festivals, new and old businesses, big chains, and small stores— we weave the fabric of our local culture through the stories we tell. The real estate business and business in general is about relationships. Our industry connects to so many different parts of the community around us.”
“We currently have over sixty-five businesses advertising with us,” says Jim, “and 85% of them have long term agreements. Many have been with us from day one. It’s exciting for us to hear how they benefitted from our publication. It’s rewarding to know that we’re helping to build their business at the same time as ours.”
As the Insider has evolved, we saw the positive impact of our publication on the businesses and areas outside of the Market Common, and we’ve seen that there is a disconnect along the Grand Strand that we can address. To celebrate our two year anniversary, we’re expanding the scope of our publication and our new name reflects our broader vision to achieve that. Our new identity as the Coastal Insider now includes more information about a larger geographic portion of the Grand Strand—still with the same mission, to inform and connect our community.
We’ve reformatted the real estate section to be its own stand-alone publication, the Coastal Home Insider, which showcases the properties of our company, Real Living Home Realty Group, exclusively. We’re printing an additional 5,000 copies for distribution as part of our commitment to marketing homes of the Grand Strand at the highest level. This means we expose the real estate that we represent to a readership of over 100,000 people monthly.
Our distribution will extend as far south as Pawleys Island, north to the Barefoot Landing area, and inland to the Carolina Forest and east Conway area; our current readership for the Coastal Insider is 87,500.
We’re now working with a local distributor who will be able to place our publications in more major grocery chains and shopping centers, as well as business reception and waiting areas. Additionally, we will have outdoor distribution racks— green for the Coastal Insider, and red for the Coastal Home Insider.
“There’s not just one person making this happen,” says Jim. “It’s definitely a group effort. What John and I bring to the table is business and managerial experience. But we don’t have graphic design or writing expertise. We had to build a team to make this happen.”
Latoya Grayson works in public relations and sales. “I’ve known Latoya for five years,” Jim says. “I knew that if I ever needed anything with public relations or marketing, it would be her. She’s been with us for over a year now, and she’s the face of our publication.”
“I really identify with my role in public relations because for me people come first,” Latoya says. “And I’m just elated to be a part of this team. I’ve never before worked with a team that feels truly like family— in what they believe: treat people the way you want to be treated, we are unified.”
“As Director of Operations,” says Charlie Miller, “I’m responsible for coordinating between departments the day-to-day workings of the Coastal Insider. Over the last year, we’ve grown in leaps and bounds. I’m so glad to be a part of this great team!”
Tom O’Leary has evolved from being a “Meet Your Neighbor” interviewee to running our distribution around the Market Common, and his daughter Jennifer O’Leary helps Charlie with the bookkeeping.
“Every single person on our team I value and appreciate so much as my family,” Megan says. “Working around Latoya, my dad, Melissa, and Charlie is amazing, and I’m very grateful to have so many driven and kind faces and voices to see and hear every day.
“My dad and I share a lot in terms of believing in a common goal, and knowing this paper is bigger than just us. It’s created an energy of giving back and connection, and rallying for that small business that many Americans don’t find themselves being successful at. Knowing that we have a vehicle like the paper to deliver their message to the community makes me smile. I find meaning and purpose in knowing that I’m helping to make other people succeed.”
“It definitely helps when you have someone as close to the project as Megan is,” says Jim. “She’s focussed on this publication and it’s a passion for her at this point like it is for John and myself, to continue to move forward with it.”
“For me,” says John, “this experience highlights the positive influence our publications have on the lives of our staff, agents, advertisers, and real estate clients.”
“We sort of just glued this idea together,” Jim laughs, “and somehow it stuck.”