About Dear Abel and Sofi: While our Q&A Forum addresses 1,000+ public questions weekly, we wanted to give our small business owners an outlet to anonymously share the kinds of frustrations, fears and private struggles few people express openly. Father-daughter duo Abel and Sofi co-author the column, bringing diverse perspectives to both professional and personal problems. A serial entrepreneur and counselor, Abel, 65, is known for his empathy and his uncanny understanding of many issues. Co-owner of a salon, Sofi, 28, has a younger, more candid approach to life’s challenges. Beyond appearing on Alignable’s Q&A Forum, now this column in syndicated in outlets including the Focus Newspaper in NC and The Yankee Xpress in MA. To submit your anonymous questions to Abel and Sofi, please click here

Dear Abel & Sofi,

I am a publisher (or was, that is, until my graphic artist husband passed recently).

Being kept in the dark about operating the Mac was not a concern until I lost the person I depended on to help produce my monthly community magazine – over the past two decades. For now, I have put my business on hold.

Trying to keep positive, I am renting 4 rooms in my home. One is being rented, another one is ready. And I’m in the permit stage to turn the home office into two bedrooms or a bedroom and an office.

I am wondering how difficult it would be for me to learn to be a graphic artist able to submit art to a print company? I have been my own boss for 22 years, so I don’t want to work for another publisher.

By the way, the “Advice Column” is a great idea. Readers of my monthly magazine loved following the authors’ monthly columns with professional information and thoughts – looking forward to my note going live.

Sincerely, Publisher On Pause



Dear Publisher On Pause,

What a great note – not just for what you said, but what you didn’t. Let’s start with what you didn’t say. I want to offer my sincere condolences for the loss of your husband and business partner. Mom & Pop Shops are great when the two of you have the kind of relationship where you’re able to split your roles, stay out of each other’s way, and build what sounds like a solid business.

But when the Mom & Pop Shop becomes just the Mom Shop, there’s a lot that occurs immediately that hurts both personally and professionally. You’re faced with tackling life without a husband, a business partner, an active contributor to the magazine, a revenue producer, an advisor, and often a major supporter of your goals and dreams. Yes, sometimes husbands and business partners are a big pain, but I’m taking the high road here.

Regarding your question about becoming a qualified graphic artist, I will open this question to graphic artists on Alignable to answer more completely. But from my experience working with many graphic artists, you need a few traits to be a good one – artistic talent, the ability to master a variety of software programs, a passion for the work, and at least a year or two (or more) of training.

Given those requirements, I would suggest, instead, hiring a part-time graphic artist who knows how to use the software necessary to revive your magazine and get it back into the hands of the readers who likely miss it.

In the meantime, you can help reignite the advertising relationships that fueled the magazine and plan the rest of the content. Maybe you also could hire interns from a local university, such as content writers, business majors to help you find new advertisers, and even a social media expert to enhance your digital presence.

While I can’t predict the future, I would love to have you write me in a year, saying you’re renting out several rooms and the magazine is up and running again – with a print version and some nice social media supporting it.

I’m hoping that you can eventually generate strong advertising revenue and continue using the skills you developed to keep the business alive for 20+ years. Enlisting help from a graphic artist to take over your husband’s duties should give you the chance to do what you do best.

As an entrepreneur, having at least two income streams tends to make life a lot more enjoyable and stable. That’s what I want life to be for you, especially since you’re doing such an admirable job remaining positive and moving forward after a difficult loss.

Wishing you the very best, Abel


Dear Publisher On Pause,

I’m so sorry for your loss and I think you’re showing a great deal of strength. You’ve been a real Renaissance Woman mapping out how rooms can be changed to drive more renting possibilities, and bringing in one renter already while you’re contemplating construction plans. That shows that you’re future-focused and action-oriented, instead of focusing primarily on the loss of your husband, as many widows would. So I have to give you major kudos for all of that.

But I am a little worried about something, and I’m surprised Dad didn’t bring it up. Becoming a landlady overnight is not the easiest thing to do. I want to make sure you have a good lawyer reviewing rental agreements and providing you every type of protection you can get.

The lawyers and real estate agents on Alignable should weigh in here, too. But, at the very least, I would insist on getting a healthy deposit, along with first month’s and last month’s rent before you let anyone move in. Plus make sure everyone knows and lives by the rules of the home and put them in the contract.

Also, make sure to talk with several references and conduct criminal background checks. Though plenty of people are landladies and landlords, and it can work out beautifully for them, there are plenty of others who end up on Judge Judy looking for rent money that’s owed or other damages. You don’t want someone moving in who throws wild parties, doesn’t pay his or her rent, and has a revolving door of partners coming into the house at all hours of the night and day.

Finally, it would be a good idea to talk to your local police about other safety measures you should take. Sadly, there are some people who could see you as an easy target or someone who’s just there to take care of them – like another mother. You need to protect yourself from those types of people.

You’ve already been through a lot and I want to help make your next chapter as good as possible.

Thanks again for writing!
Take care, Sofi

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