While most 12-year-old girls were catching up on homework or joining the local softball team, Leah Larson was learning how to build a website, raise money and write and edit articles. What began as one pre-teen girl’s quest to find a magazine that catered to young Jewish girls, became the Yaldah Media empire (www.yaldah.com), which today includes the magazine, as well as books, local clubs and weekend retreats for teen girls.
Growing up, Larson — a native of Sharon, Mass. — subscribed to magazines like American Girl and New Moon, but she never felt that they reflected her Jewish values. She thought about the types of articles she would want to appear in her magazine, and one day “I asked myself, ‘why not make it?’” So Larson spent a year learning the publishing business from the ground up, and published the first issue of Yaldah in 2004, printing 150 copies. “I sold them around school,” said Larson, “and then very quickly word started spreading.” She printed another 100 copies, and set to work on the next issue. Today the magazine comes out quarterly, and its pages are filled with recipes, crafts, essays and stories. More than 2,000 copies are printed of each issue, 700 of which are sent to subscribers.
Though the first issue of Yaldah was created on her own, today Larson has input from girls around the country. “By the second issue I was taking applications for what we now call the editorial board,” said Larson, which is a group of 20 girls that changes yearly. “They are the primary ones creating the content, writing stories interviewing, illustrating, doing photographs and testing recipes.” Larson handles the business end of things, including marketing, budget and accounting.
Larson was able to launch Yaldah’s book publishing branch — YM Media — after she won $100,000 in 2008 in a Wells Fargo competition. “Our goal is really high quality Jewish books,” said Larson, “that anyone could pick up and relate to.”
Long distance: For two years in boarding school, a year spend in Israel after high school, and today at Stern College, Larson continues to work on Yaldah via laptop.
Wedding Bells: Larson will tie the knot this June, but stay in New York to finish college.