WisBusiness: New magazine aims for Asian market

By Brian E. Clark

During her six years in Wisconsin, Heidi Pascual has seen Hmong, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese and other publications aimed at specific Asian groups.

But Pascual, an associate editor at the weekly Madison Times and native of the Philippines, said she’s been unable to find a newspaper or magazine that covered the broader Asian community.

She aims to rectify that with "Asian Wisconzine," a monthly publication based in Madison that will have its debut in January. It will also have a Web presence at www.asianwisconzine.com.

"Unfortunately, the ethnic publications out there tend to segregate and keep us apart rather than bring us together," said the 53-year-old Pascual, who directed an editorial division of the Philippine Legislature in her native land.

"And the mainstream media doesn’t cover us enough, either, so we are sort of invisible in some ways," added Pascual. She said she moved to the United States to be closer to a sister who was in graduate school at UW-Madison and to siblings who live in Chicago.

Pascual said the diversity of publications for Asians is understandable.

"After all, we do have different cultures and languages," she said. "But I thought it would be nice to have a venue to discuss the things that we have in common rather than what makes us different."

As a whole, Pascual said she believes Asians have done well in Wisconsin.

"Of course there are some issues," she said. "But there are many professionals, many professors and many business leaders among our ranks. However, there aren’t enough Asian-American political leaders in Wisconsin. I’d like to see that change."

Pascual said she believes Asians tend to be lumped into the "other" category by the mainstream community and mainstream media.

"I hope to give us some more visibility and common ground," she said. "This will also be a publication for non-Asians who are interested in learning about our different cultures, our issues, our peoples and our spirituality.

"I know that some people carry old grudges from where they were born. But this can heal old wounds. And besides, people who come here often want to leave the past behind."

Pascual recently gave up her up her position as sales director at Madison Times, which has a circulation of 8,500 and focuses primarily on Madison’s African American community. Under Pascual’s editorial direction in the past few years, however, it has broadened its scope to become more "multi-cultural," she said.

Though Pascual has a master’s degree in human resources from the University of the Philippines, she said took a three-month course from the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp. to help her do market research and prepare a business plan.

Her first circulation run will be 3,000 and circulation, she hopes, will build from there as publication catches on.

She said Dane County has nearly 12,000 Asian Americans and about 90,000 living in Wisconsin. Other minority populations, according to the 2000 census, show the Badger State’s black community at roughly 300,000, Latinos at 192,000 and Native Americans at 45,000.

She said her magazine and Web site will focus at first on Madison and Milwaukee, later moving out to cover people, events and issues in other parts of the state where Asians live.

The publication will have columnists and regular sections covering health and family, travel, immigration, politics and government, food and nutrition, events, profiles, technology and science, youth concerns, news from home, community resources and networking. The monthly cover story will focus on one Asian culture.

In addition to providing quality editorial content, Pascual said the key is to make "Asian Wisconzine" successful as a business.

"I have good advertising contacts from my work here at Madison Times, where I’m a 15 percent owner," she said.

"And I’ve got an entrepreneur streak in me," mused Pascual, who said she once had a small shoe company in her native country. "I know how to take a risk and I’ve taken out a second mortgage to do this," she said. "But I’m also scared to death. And at this point, I’m looking for an angel investor."

Ronault Catalani, a law partner with Community Legal Services in Madison, said he believes the magazine will succeed if it can build a circulation and advertising base.

"To do that, we’ll need a mix of 68 percent Asian Americans and 32 percent other folks who are interested in our arts, culture and politics," he said.

Catalani, who serves on the publication’s board of directors, said he also thinks it has a strong chance of success because Asian-Americans are "terrific consumers."

"We buy things at a higher rate than the mainstream,"
he said. "That means it will be very important to secure not only local, but state and national advertising accounts as well."

Catalani said he believes Pascual is a good fit to run the magazine.

"She has a great background for this in her work as an editor and writer, in public relations and sales," he said. "Moreover, she has a passion for telling the stories of our ethnic enclaves."

Last but not least, Catalani said Pascual does not count hours.

"Like a lot of immigrants, she works and works and works," he said. "This magazine will be her life and lifestyle. If that’s a factor, she’ll be successful."