Quick Breather- Exhale Lifestyle's CEO stops by the Lounge

A magazine of her own | WCVB interview with Sandra Casagrand

Sandra Casagrand, Founder + CEO of Exhale Lifestyle Media

Sandra Casagrand, a publisher in the Boston market for more than 20 years, has a keen interest in quality content and a demonstrated commitment to improving social conditions. As a graduate of Simmons College, Sandra has a long-held passion for women’s issues. It’s been her dream to create a women’s media company that tangibly improves the most important aspects of women’s lives. Sandra understands the powerful influence media and its images have on how women see themselves within their society. It’s time for women to lead the conversation, and Sandra launched Exhale Lifestyle to make that happen.

Q: Share with us why you got involved in publishing. Which parts of the job attracted you?

A: It was not my initial career goal.  I fell into publishing when I agreed to help my husband out by working at his newspaper for a short term (because he was having staffing issues). I really had no background in media.  Long story short, I ended up staying for 20 years! It’s a small company so I was able to learn all aspects of publishing a print product.

Q: The Bay State Banner, of which you were a part, covers the “urban beat.” What does that mean to you? Why is an urban beat important?

A: Urban beat generally means ethnic. Bay State Banner was founded in 1965 as a legacy to the first African American owned newspaper in Boston, The Guardian. It’s the newspaper of record for Boston’s African American community and their archives are now housed at Boston University. The stories that are reported in the Banner over the years were not reported by the daily local papers.

Working at the Banner really made me understand the importance of stories being written from different points of views. I apply that as well to women.  Who tells the story is often as important as who the story is about.  

Q: Tell us about your pivot from Banner Publications to the development of Exhale magazine. What inspired you to produce this publication?

A:  I started Exhale while at the Banner because I was meeting so many interesting women and I wanted a place to share their stories. I expected it to be just one issue because I had limited resources.  The magazine was popular and I ended up doing 12 over the course of two years. It was a free publication that was distributed throughout Greater Boston. The Banner newspaper is an urban product, but Exhale was a general market product---but given my background, it was diverse.  I knew that at some point I would have to create a separate company with capital investment to take this little project to the next level. My last issue of Exhale while at the Banner was in 2012, and I formed the new company last year. It took me quite awhile!

Q: Despite naysayers, you’ve chosen to stay devoted to print. Why? Do you believe print magazines still hold relevance in the 21st century?

A: Even though I believe in print, I did do a lot of research on the state of magazines across the country. You cannot make business decisions based on just what you think; you have to back it up with research. Keep in mind that digital media companies are not doing well either and it is even more difficult to find a revenue model with just a local digital product.  

Q: When you think about Exhale Lifestyle Media, what excites you about its development? What ideas are in progress?

A: Over the course of the six years that I did not publish Exhale, I kept a notebook in my purse so I could jot down names of interesting women that I would meet and that I thought would make a great story. That booklet got quite full and what excites me most is that I now have a place to tell their stories! We will be expanding the events side of the business this fall and into next year. I’m excited about that!