Interview by Sophie Cottrell // Photos by The Robertsons
If you have never heard of White Magazine, you should probably stop what you are doing right now and go have a look at what they have created. Now on their 35th issue, they are seasoned in the magazine and print industry, bringing life to relationships around the world. What started as a tool for engaged couples, now focuses on relationships as a whole, from dating, weddings, and advice from those who have weathered years of storms. They have created something so unique and so beautiful that it is relatable at any stage of a relationship. We had the amazing opportunity to hear from founder, Carla Burrell, about her journey to launching White Mag and the beauty and the challenge of running such an amazing brand.
Thank you so much for sitting down to chat with us. Tell us a bit about your story. Where you were born, your family and how White Magazine began.
Born in Bowral in 1979, I lived a fairly nomadic life with my family who moved across to Perth, WA in the 80’s for a couple years then over to Egypt for nearly 5 years and Scotland for 3. They definitely gave me the travel bug, but life is a little more settled these days with 3 little people to look after. The real story of white began a few years after Luke and I were married in 2002. A lot of things just fell into place really: my background was in youth work, which I did for 10 years and Luke had his own business in graphic design. We saw an opportunity to reach people when they were most in need but least expecting (when preparing for marriage) and an opportunity to offer hope and inspiration for couples along their entire marriage journey, the wedding day being their starting point for all the years to come. We also saw a need to produce a different type of magazine that focussed so much more on real people and honest stories of love and life.
What made you decide that this is what you were gonna do, that this is where you are going to put your time and energy? And what pushed you to take the risk?
I really wanted to be part of the family business but just didn’t quite have the right skill set, so this was an opportunity for me to bring my passion for people together with Luke’s creative business Mezzanine. I knew the message we had was something important! We wanted to make so much more than just a pretty magazine… the heart of what we do is about changing and challenging culture in marriage. As Australians, I find our culture very much private. People’s outer walls are extremely high and hard to get through. Talking about personal stuff just isn’t what you do, you protect yourself, and for this reason we wanted to bring down walls, bring hope and joy and share the honest journeys others had taken. I didn’t even think about the risk to be honest. It was probably a bit naïve a, but we were willing to work hard and take risks. Kinda crazy now that I think of it… with no idea how the world of publishing worked, let alone how to produce a magazine! Let’s just say, there were lots of lessons and very steep learning curves along the way.
Relationship is at the centre of what you do at White Magazine. What is the common thread that you find after you have met and talked with countless people in their relationships?
Totally! Relationship is where it’s at and what people crave so deeply. Being loved and accepted is a pretty fundamental part of us that really overflows into ALL areas of our life. With both of these behind us we feel ready to take on the world, we have that safe place to come back to.
What does success look like to you?
Asking all the hard questions now! I think that people might look at my life and think I have it all together… owns a magazine that is successful and distributed globally. It’s a bit like the Iceberg analogy; so big and beautiful above water, but mammoth and indescribable below the surface. I think my view of ‘success’ is a bit skewed… maybe if we looked at success as the degree of impact we have in our communities no matter how big or small that is. I keep thinking that if one life is changed, who knows what that one life can do!
Tell us about where you live. What is it about this city that you love? What are your favorite places to eat and shop and explore?
Luke and I have lived in Newcastle now for 17 years…. yikes I sound so old! We love this city, it’s bursting at the seams with creativity and there has been a huge move towards the arts and community connection. Newcastle has always been a bit of an underdog, which I guess I can connect with. It’s exciting to see her coming to her full potential.
To be honest going most places with 3 kids under 7 – we’ll let’s just say has its ‘fun’ moments. The sort where you want to crawl under a rock and die. We do love a good hamburger and we have a little Mexican place called Antojitos… gahhhh if it wasn’t nearly midnight I might go there now.
We are only just getting to a place where we can enjoy camping and little adventures as a family. On the weekend, we went for an incredible walk at Glenrock Reserve - not even the rain could stop us - and have two more camping trips planned in the next few weeks. I think so often we want to go away to the greener grass, but we’ve really been enjoying exploring our local region.
At Sceen’ry we talk a lot about finding beauty everywhere you go. What are some of the most beautiful places you have visited and what is it about them that really stands out to you?
I’m lucky to say I’ve travelled quite a bit, but at the top of my list of faves is most definitely Japan. I love the place! It’s just such a mix of old and new. The people are incredibly respectful in all areas. It would be hard to find graffiti or litter anywhere. Culture and history are sacred and passed on through generations.
Other incredibly beautiful places – the drive down Hwy 1 on the West coast of the US. Italy with its rich colours and connection with heritage. New Zealand is just so lush, we’ve travelled both Islands and I’m a sucker for the Coramandel Peninsula. For something even closer I think Tasmania should be on everyone’s list with its untouched landscapes and pristine waterways.
What is the biggest challenge and biggest reward from what you do?
It is so incredible to be able to do something you love and for that I feel extremely humbled and honoured to have a place in so many homes. But anyone who owns their own business will know the complete investment that it takes to keep things on the road emotionally, physically, mentally and financially. Worth it, totally, but in all honesty the impact to our family has been real on all fronts. I’ve come to realise there is no such thing as work / life balance but more of a juggling act and when you love what you do it’s hard for it not to play a massive part of your life to the point where it doesn’t so much feel like work… you know that ‘live and breathe’ thing.
What do you look for in places that inspire you, not only creatively but also personally?
I actually adore using Instagram! My own account is my outlet for creativity - something all to myself, where I can do what I want, where no kids can go. I use it as my personal challenge to create and I find inspiration all around me. It’s fun to capture parts of my life! Of course you only want to show the pretty stuff (now one wants an ugly feed) but I’ve been trying to balance this out with sharing my own struggles and the realities of life. I know we all just want something authentic and honest that we can connect with; that makes us smile.
What are 5 things you would never travel without?
My phone charger - so I can keep taking pics.
A pillow – if I forget my pillow it’s a sad day.
Snacks - these can really save the day, though we normally have a no eat in the car rule, but travelling is the exception to the rule.
Socks - I like snuggly feet.
Baby wipes – they have saved me many times.
What are some tips you would give to aspiring business owners?
Be willing to make sacrifices if you are passionate about what you do. Changing the world takes hard work, commitment and needs us to go the extra mile. It’s like that analogy of a jar filled to the brim with rocks… there is still so much room if you add grains of rice, sand and water… somehow our capacity is so much greater than we realise! It’s tough to do anything alone and you need your loved ones to be behind you 100%, so don’t forget to make time for them too.