Interview with Sis Up North
By Shanice Mabussi
This issue we had the pleasure of speaking with Tia Marshall, one of the co-founders of Sis Up North, an online magazine aimed at students in northern cities. Tia balances being a Journalism, PR and Media student with running the publications website and Instagram account, but still tries to make time for her passions, which include everything self-care and Pinterest. She is joined by fellow co-creators Lauren, a Journalism and Magazine Creation student and music events enthusiast, as well as English Literature student Lucy, lover of interviews and baking. In the following interview, Tia tells us about creating accessible content for a northern audience, the struggles of website-building and the future of Sis Up North.
Tell us about how Sis Up North came to be. What were your initial inspirations for the blog?
All of us are on a placement year programme run by the Enterprise Team. We are mentored throughout the year about social media, running a business, finding your target audience, etc. Our goal was to create an online publication that brought attention to the North.
We felt that a lot of magazines, blogs and creative content are centred around London, which isn’t accessible to a lot of people. Although there are magazines out there focusing on northern cities, we wanted to include the big three: Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds. Not to mention, we are student-focused too.
What type of articles can readers expect?
Readers can expect articles on student lifestyle, beauty, food and culture. On our website we have a quick reads carousel; we know people have absolutely no attention span these days, so we made sure to incorporate articles that take five minutes or less to read. Our aim is to talk about everything and anything, from “calorie labelling is dangerous” to “I tried pole dancing for the first time.”
Who is your target audience for Sis Up North?
18–24-year-old students around the North. The idea behind the website was to be like a big sister character to university students in a new environment who might want information about things that aren’t necessarily spoken about in standard publications for students. We’re a conversational and casual voice for people to feel intimate with rather than feeling like just another reader visiting the site.
Who are your authors? Do you accept voluntary writers? If so, how could somebody contribute?
Myself, Lauren and Lucy are the authors. At the moment, we haven’t taken on any voluntary writers as we are focusing on building a community first. We’d LOVE to have volunteer writers, but we want them to have a space to talk to actual people who are interested in our magazine. For now, people can contribute by commenting on our posts and articles; we are extremely chatty people (and nosey, too!). We want to know what people think.
How often do you publish?
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7 p.m. We try to keep true to this as consistency means people know when to come back and view what we have uploaded!
What are the biggest hurdles you’ve faced in establishing and releasing Sis Up North?
Getting the website up was a nightmare. We didn’t have experience in designing or building a website so we felt extremely lost and frustrated for a few months. There is a lot more to website building that we originally thought. But the situations we tackled were a great learning curve for us to understand the premise of setting up a live website.
Where do you envision Sis Up North being in a year's time?
We would love to carry on our publication once the placement year comes to an end. The aim would be to continue to write and publish on a smaller scale, while working on our final years of university.
What’s been the most rewarding part of creating and publishing Sis Up North?
Standing back and looking at the blog once it was up and running was like a huge weight had lifted off our shoulders. To see the product you've been working towards for six months all come together was extremely rewarding for us, especially after the struggles we faced when creating the content.
Are you interested in publishing as a career?
I would love to pursue social media management or continue my journey into writing for magazines. I love the idea of creating content and have always been drawn towards photography and media.
What is your top advice to anyone wanting to launch their own creative platform?
Just go for it. Don’t keep waiting for the right time because it’ll never come. Find your niche and run with it! Publications are something that are so important for creating communities and giving voices to people that often get missed out. Don't be afraid to offer something new to the industry.