Take a successful, loving couple and watch what happens when they get creative. More success.
On Nov. 3, the Fauquier Chamber of Commerce recognized the accomplishments of Kathy Harper and her late husband Bill by naming Discovery Publications the 2018 Small Business of the Year.
The launch of their publishing company fittingly occurred on lover’s day, Feb. 14, 1991. It originally targeted readers in a four-county area, including Fauquier. Today, there are two publications, Discover Fauquier and Discover Western Prince William, closing in on three decades of success.
Many of its readers characterize the free-distribution paper as “the good-feeling publication” because of its focus on positive stories about local businesses.
Sadly, Bill Harper passed away of pancreatic cancer in 1996. But Kathy Harper and her staff of 14 have carried on and created a legacy for the man who conceived the idea for the paper.
Bill Harper was marketing director for Jefferson Savings and Loan Association and had previously started a similar paper called Leesburg Today.
“The Discover publications were the brainchild of my husband and first published on Valentine’s Day 27 years ago. Bill had requests from local businessmen to help them promote their businesses during a recession. The paper started in a one-room office in the Ben Franklin store,” Harper said.
The Harpers hired a graphic designer, Susie Eastridge, after the first issue was released. She has been with the paper ever since. One of the hallmarks of the paper is the length of service of many of its employees; a justifiable point of pride for Harper in an age of employment hopping.
Prior to his death, Bill Harper taught his wife the marketing business. As a quick study and successful career woman in her own right, the lessons paved the way for the subsequent long running success of the company.
Today, her daughter Katie Quadrini is the sales representative for the Western Prince William edition of the paper.
“Katie has worked for the paper for years, even when she was in school,” said Harper.
Her son Paul was in the Marine Corps for seven years attaining the rank of captain before leaving to begin a separate career of his own.
The two newspapers are published about 10 times a year generating some 85,000 copies per issue; 36,000 for the Fauquier edition and 41,000 for the Western Prince William paper. They are delivered free to residents via direct mail.
In addition to company profiles, a hallmark of the paper is editorial support for local businesses and nonprofits, including the hospital and sheriff’s department.
“We focus on the positive slant. Our mission has always been to support the community with high-quality advertising and friendly articles. A typical paper will range from 36 up to 56 pages,” said Harper.
In 2011, the publication launched a home and garden show held each spring so local businesses and clients can connect face-to-face. The 8th annual show was held at Fauquier High School last April.
The show brings together artisans and businesses in a tradeshow format and features a host of items for sale to beautify home and garden.
Shopping, food and live entertainment make it a fun event.
Experience breeds success
Achieving the role of a successful publisher is not surprising when one considers Kathy Harper’s resume. She logged her first career at the United States Information Agency working at the Voice of America and for its Office of General Counsel.
“I worked in Canada, Iran, London among other places telling the American story. What I do today is tell the Fauquier and Prince William stories. Both Bill and I had communications backgrounds; me with the government and him in the private sector. We were also good communicators together,” said Harper.
The job is not without its challenges. Recently she received a compliment from a hospital employee for all the paper had done to support its programs, adding, “How do you guys make money with it being free?”
Harper explains it’s not easy given the cost of paper and postage today. “It’s very expensive to produce the paper. We have no subscriptions, so we need to make money on the advertising.”
A loyal community of businesses is key to its survival, so the laser-like focus on showcasing merchants in the two counties served is critical for success.
A testimonial from Ashley Simmons with Sky Meadows State Park is representative of the feedback Harper often receives, “Thank you for helping Sky Meadows State Park reach a wide audience with information about the fun things people can enjoy at our park.”
Another supportive comment came from the past president of the Piedmont Symphony Orchestra, Cooper Wright, who said, “I hope everyone had a chance to see the wonderful article on the Piedmont Symphony Orchestra in the March edition of Discover Fauquier.”
Kathy Harper reflects the positivity created by the Discover newspapers saying, “Life has been a good ride for me. I can’t say I regret any of it. I’m sad my husband isn’t here to share all of the good stuff that has happened with the paper. But I know he watches down on me and my employees.”
To catch the latest editions of Discover Fauquier and Discover Western Prince William visit: www.discoverypubs.com
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