1988 marked the year of the birth of a legacy. It is when a tiny seed of an idea was planted in the minds of a father and son, to create a magazine that would celebrate the beauty of South African properties and the talent behind them; a magazine that would explore the mysterious ebbs and flows of trends in décor and design; and a magazine that would grow to be more than anyone could have hoped for.
Edward Braby and his son Michael (Mike), joined forces in a powerful synergy at Avonwold Publishing in early 1988, after Mike had completed his articles at the accounting firm, Pim Golby (now Deloittes). “The idea to pioneer SA Home Owner was born at a trade show in late ’88, following various enquiries for a niche consumer magazine with a certain profile that readers felt was not available at the time,” says Mike.
To a collection of three trade journals and 16 staff members, SA Home Owner started humbly with one editor and one sales executive, producing quarterly issues with a circulation of 10 000 copies. Mike’s focus was to develop the creative aspects of publishing: concept, design, photography, editorial balance, features and production, that he found exhilarating and rewarding; and of course meeting and befriending a broad cross section of talented architects, interior designers, craftsmen and suppliers. Mike describes this as a special privilege.
“It did not take long to appreciate the exciting potential – and to be encouraged by readers and advertisers alike. The ever-expanding team of devoted writers, feature sales executives and the supporting production staff were like family! We worked so closely together on every aspect, always challenged to maintain the highest standards, meet deadlines and win prestigious awards. It was a thrilling time!” reflects Mike.
Six years on (and seeing a few roles changes along the way), SA Home Owner welcomed Kerry Johnston, who started working as a production assistant for SA Home Owner and a few other publications in the Avonwold stable. Kerry worked her way up in the company, leaving briefly in 1998 – as the Production Manager, contributor to editorial, and sometime photographer – to travel abroad.
Kerry returned to the SA Home Owner family in 2000 after her travels, in the role of Managing Editor, when Christine Johnson was the outgoing Editor. “She (Christine) swore blind that the magazine was too much work to put together more than four times a year (it was a quarterly at that stage.) I think her successor, Gail van Zyl-Webber took the magazine to alternate monthly (six issues a year), with everyone taking deep breaths, and swore that it was too much work to produce more frequently than that!” says Kerry.
“With Sarah Winter as business manager, the magazine soared – we increased frequency to 10 then 11 issues per year; we added a selection of supplements and exhibitions; we established offices in Cape Town, Durban and the Eastern Cape; our biggest issue was over 400 pages, and the advertising sales team kept on setting new records and then breaking them.”
In 2006 Joy Capon took the reins as Managing Editor, with a background in trade publishing. “SA Home Owner was unlike other magazines I had worked on before, as it followed a unique and challenging model. However, it proved to be a fun and rewarding experience, allowing me to interact with new people in new spaces,” comments Joy. Over those four years, Joy reminisces that “many who have had the pleasure of working at SA Home Owner will recount wonderful times with wonderful people. It’s impossible to put out a publication such as this without the cooperation of everyone in a large team.”
After her four-year tenure, Joy spread her wings and achieved her long-time dream of starting her own business, EditSA, and in this capacity is still a part of the SA Home Owner family, contributing to the magazine in different capacities from time to time.
In the same year that Joy took the reins as Managing Editor, Kerry Hayes joined as a feature writer across SA Home Owner and two trade publications – Hospitality and Built. “SA Home Owner always had a family feeling about it, and I remember the first time I walked into the building in January 2006 and thought, ‘I’m home’,” reflects Kerry.
In the proceeding years, SA Home Owner took flight into the digital sphere, and created its website www.sahomeowner.co.za, with the support and encouragement from advertisers and readers. An online directory then followed; a newsletter; an explosion onto the social media scene; and the creation of the SA Home Owner eZine.
A couple of facelifts along the way kept SA Home Owner fresh and vital, but a brand refresh in August 2012, following an empowering reader survey, saw the brand blossom, with a new tagline “Welcome Home” and three pillars marking the brand’s promises to its readers and advertisers: to always remain informed, innovative and inspired.
“25 Years down the line, and SA Home Owner is still going strong; it has never lost that humility that makes it so personal, so ‘human’, and the feeling of absolute privilege to be able to share an incredible passion for property, design and décor – and the industry talent that underwrites it – with our readers,” comments Editor, Kerry Hayes.
The story of SA Home Owner has just begun, and the legacy born of a seed of inspiration of a father and son, will continue far beyond the printed pages or written words: the legacy of SA Home Owner is its impact on the hearts of all who cross its threshold to the heartbeat, ‘Welcome Home’…
With thanks to Mike Braby, Kerry Johnston and Joy Capon.
Birthday wishes from our contributors:
Mike Braby: “May you enjoy a bumper issue, celebrate a great milestone and be motivated to nurture Home Owner’s special place in the home interest niche!”
Kerry Johnston: “Congratulations on publishing a beautiful magazine in a tough environment, after 25 years! Happy birthday to the magazine, to the people working on it now, and the many wonderful people who have contributed to its success over the years. I hope SA Home Owner continues to go from strength to strength, remaining a trusted reference book for South Africans who want to build the home of their dreams.”
Joy Capon: “So happy birthday, SA Home Owner! And to another 25!”
To read our Editor, Kerry Hayes’ birthday wish to SA Home Owner, get your August copy of the magazine, and visit the Ed’s Note on page 12.
You will also find a very special commemorative article with birthday wishes from 25 of our longest-standing advertisers. See page 200.