Filled with smiles and good feelings, this special feature section commemorates a special occasion for Style.
This month marks the 15th anniversary of Lake & Sumter Style. That’s right. The big 1-5.
Such an issue presents a puzzle. What to do? How best to celebrate the occasion with something special? This issue is going to come around only once, you know.
That in itself is a point of pride. Fifteen years is a significant milestone in the publishing world, where newspapers are closing and magazines fold while still in their infancy. As technology advances at a blinding clip, producing a quality, independently owned magazine is challenging.
But instead of settling for a premature death, Style has evolved with the changing times. When Publisher Kendra Akers purchased Style from an Ocala company in 2010, her initial goal was to highlight and celebrate the people, places and events that make Lake and Sumter counties great places to live, work and play.
As time went on, though, it became apparent to Kendra that the publication should serve as more of a lifestyle magazine. In other words, the publication represented a way to learn about the area’s way of life and fully participate in it at the same time. To reach as many people as possible, Style started getting its message out through not only the print magazine but also through up-do-date website content and digital and social media, as well.
“We’ve created a vast resource center for the community to find out important information related to our area,” Kendra says. “No matter what format people are reading our content in, we strive to keep abreast of the lifestyle we live through our Style brands. We connect people to the community.”
An anniversary always is a time for reflection, and for Kendra that brings timeless memories and the nostalgic delight of stories and pictures. It also makes her reminisce about the diverse content that has appeared in the magazine.
The publication has given readers a behind-the-scenes look at the massive preparation that goes into Leesburg Bikefest each year and provided video footage of the exotic, rarely seen cars lined up at the Festivals of Speed. Writers have taken readers on many culinary adventures, ranging from the upscale Goblin Market in Mount Dora to the more downhome Red Wing Restaurant in Groveland.
Of course, Style has never shied away from controversial issues. Feature stories on homelessness and the water quality of local lakes certainly drew the attention of readers. For Kendra, the one story that still tugs on her heartstrings was an in-depth look at human trafficking that ran in March 2012.
“I was reluctant at first because it was the first subject our magazine tackled that had a negative tone,” Kendra recalls. “However, since Central Florida has a high rate of human trafficking, I thought we had a platform to bring this difficult subject to light.”
Not only did the story bring human trafficking to light, it also generated lots of feedback.
“I received a letter from a judge in Miami who expressed her appreciation for bringing awareness to this problem,” Kendra says. “In fact, several local programs to address human trafficking started as a result of the article.”
She’s equally proud of the annual Best of the Best issue, which recognizes businesses that serve delicious meals, provide stellar health care, carefully manage finances or help people find their dream home. The winners and runners-up are determined by votes from magazine readers.
“These companies operate because they’re passionate about what they do,” Kendra says. “They’re not in it to win awards. However, our Best of the Best issue is a reminder to them that they’re doing a good job and their customers appreciate them enough to take the time to vote for them.”
Then there are the fun events that Style hosts, such as the Business Women of Style party each May and the Business Men of Style party each June. Business owners who participate in a special advertising section come together for a fun-filled evening of camaraderie, food and drinks. A reverse drawing is held, and the winner appears on the cover and receives a free four-page inside spread.
“It’s a promotional event yet very entertaining,” Kendra says. “Our advertisers look forward to it every year.”
But it’s not special issues or special events that please Kendra most. What she truly values are the loyal readers who have openly welcomed the publication into their hearts and homes for 15 years.
“Without their support, sharing story ideas and becoming part of the magazine, we would not still be here today,” she says.
Asked and answered:
We asked you to vote for your favorite Style Cover. The winner is the August 2017 Hot Issue!