“Date someone who spoils you, always says how beautiful you are and never thinks you’ve had enough to eat. Basically, date your grandma.”
The quote comes from a silly meme that circles around social media, but the message is golden. No one spoils you—or feeds you—like your grandma. And incidentally, no one can feed your need for wisdom like her, except maybe your grandpa.
Publisher Christine Crosby had this in mind when she created GRAND Magazine-Living the Ageless Life a decade ago. The grandmother-of-two has a lot to share with other grandparents and even those who have yet to take on the treasured role.
She calls the digital magazine her “GRANDbaby,” and making a go of it isn’t the first hurdle Crosby has overcome in her 72 years. The wife and mother-turned entrepreneur-turned company president-turned publisher has fought—and won—a lot of battles in her life.
The child of alcoholic parents, Crosby said her own grandparents had an enormous influence on her in her formative years. Her own father died of alcohol abuse at the age of 47. He was an only child, but his father and mother—a grocery store owner and town clerk in upstate New York—ultimately raised three of Crosby’s siblings and sharing their wisdom and life lessons with her throughout her young life. “I saw how critically important grandparents can be in the life of a child,” Crosby said. “It’s not just a nicey, nice thing to have grandparents. Sometimes it’s a matter of life and death or the difference between survival and success.”
Crosby said one of the best lessons she gleaned from her grandparents and her own experiences was self sufficiency. “I learned early, ‘If it is to be, it is up to me,’” Crosby said. “I was married and pregnant at a young age. So at 28, I started to take charge of my life.”
And that she did. She launched an office equipment systems company in 1976 when she was 36 years old with a $1,500 loan and herself as the sole employee. When she sold Delta Business Systems 12 years later, it was earning revenues of $32 million a year and boasted over 600 employees.
Two years later she entered the publishing business, first with a book—“Death From Child Abuse And No One Heard”—that told the story of the last five days in the life of a five-year-old girl who died as a result of abuse and neglect. The story is told by the child herself.
That book became the catalyst for Crosby to start her first magazine, “I thought ‘What can I do be a part of a solution to prevent this horrible situation that’s going on all over the country of how we treat children.’ I knew I had a heart for it, and I had the experience of it in my own life, but I wasn’t an expert. So I found experts.”
She launched Central Florida Family in the late 1980s bringing experts together on a mission to help young families develop ways to prevent and fight child abuse. In the years that followed, one magazine became four and Family Journal Publications was born.
Crosby sold that company in 1995 to the Tribune Company, (now Tribune Media) convinced that she would live out her dream and retire at the ripe old age of 50.
And she did rest for a while, at least long enough to marry her “sweetheart,” she said. But then came 2003 and that first grandbaby.
A “born entrepreneur” by her own account, and always sensing the coming trends of the nation, Crosby saw another need from her own personal experience that just might have the makings of a successful company. “I thought, ‘I don’t really know how to do this grandparenting stuff,” she said. “So the first thing I thought was, ‘Where’s my magazine to help me do this?’ Well, I didn’t have one, so I launched a magazine for grandparents.”
A print magazine in the beginning, Crosby took GRAND Magazine national by its second issue. And it became a huge success, doing just under $1 million in revenue in its third year.
Ever the business woman, Crosby went out to find more money for expansion. And she got it. Or at least she thought she did. The Omaha, Nebraska wealth management services firm, QA3, pledged some $5 million straight out of the gate.
But that was 2007, and by 2008, the United States economy was near collapse. The Nebraska firm pulled out, and they eventually went bankrupt. Crosby was in sink or swim mode.
“I had to decide: ‘Do I let GRAND go or do I find another way to survive.’ I had already started a digital version alongside, but nobody was reading digital magazines yet, least of all grandparents,” Crosby said. “But that’s all I had to fall back on. If I could hold on long enough, eventually the economy will get better, advertisers will start recognizing the boomer market and the 50-plus consumer will adopt digital media.”
And that’s exactly what happened. Once again, Crosby’s insight and gift for recognizing trends was on point. The 50-plus consumer has indeed adopted to digital media—think Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—and advertisers are recognizing it. In fact, the Internet is brimming with articles on how to market to an older demographic. “Who wants to reach this market?” Crosby asked. “Everybody.”
If they aren’t now, they should be soon. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 National Population Projections, by 2030, America will be home to 78 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.4 million under the age of 18. In other words, 1 in every 5 residents will be retirement age, and older people are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history says Jonathan Vespa, a demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau.
Though she’s always looking for new sponsors, those like health insurance company Humana, Inc. chose to stay with Crosby through the rough times and are still there. “I just committed I was going to continue producing and slowly but surely—very slowly and very surely—things turned around,” she said.
As of today, Crosby has produced 92 bi-monthly issues of GRAND Magazine. She has been featured on Good Morning America and the Today show; and she has learned more about grandparenting and aging well than she ever could have imagined.
“Grandparenting is without a doubt the most joyous part of aging—to look into the eyes of that little person and see your DNA going forward, that they will be here long after you are gone, and how we can give to our grandchildren what maybe we couldn’t give to our own children—it’s a powerful, powerful place to be.”