While most city dwellers thrive on the hustle and bustle of urban life, they often yearn for that intimate sense of community and connection that’s found in small town USA. Here in the Valley of the Sun — one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country— local newspaper publisher Natasha Beal is giving Phoenix residents their sense of community and belonging.
Beal is co-owner of Eculeus Group Publishing, which currently produces five publications — the Deer Valley Times, North Tatum Times, North 32nd News, Scottsdale North News and The Scottsdale Standard, with plans for expansion in other communities in and around the North Valley.
Beal is like many of us who start out with a passion for one career, and life intervenes, and we find ourselves on another road entirely. In college, she was a copy editor who loved the idea of running her own paper. However, the lure of sales pulled her away from that aspiration, but it was serendipity that brought her back. One of her friends owned the Deer Valley Times. Due to unforeseen circumstances, she decided she would either stop publishing it or sell it.
“I was leaving my other career and looking for a change,” said Beal. “I knew the Deer Valley Times had a great reputation and was loved by the community, and I didn’t want to see it die. The opportunity to purchase it definitely brought things full circle for me.”
That was January 2017. A self-described go-getter, she’s realized her original career dream by establishing and building a successful newspaper publishing house—Eculeus Group Publishing.
In September of that same year, she created the North Tatum Times. Once she had her bearings on how to run the paper by herself, she was ready to launch her next newspaper.
“We didn’t have a community newspaper where I live in Desert Ridge, so I essentially took what we were already doing in Deer Valley and cloned it here—creating the North Tatum Times. It has the same look and feel with custom content for this area.”
And she didn’t stop. In April of 2018, she applied the same principles to the North 32nd community, which, again, lacked a neighborhood newspaper, and founded the North 32nd News.
In September of this year, she published the Scottsdale North News, which will represent the communities north of Grayhawk. January 2019 will see the launch of The Scottsdale Standard, direct mailing to all 20,000 homes in the coveted zip code of 85254. That’s five newspapers in two years! Success takes guts and courage, and Beal has both these qualities.
“It was never my intention to create multiple publications,” said Beal, “but I had people see the papers and say they would love to have one like it in their area. Filling a need in the community and seizing the opportunity—that’s how the other papers got their start.”
Beal’s newspapers are published monthly, and they’re direct mailed to their respective community’s homes and businesses. She also places additional copies in strategic locations throughout each neighborhood. With a distribution of over 100,000 copies each month, they’re now one of the largest publishers in the North Valley.
In a world of Twitter and instant electronic blasts, how have her papers not only survived but thrived? Beal says it’s the power of the hyper-local news and the advertising her papers embody, and the readers are connecting with this month after month.
“People want to know what’s going on—what’s newsworthy—in the neighborhood where they live,” said Beal. “Residents, as they should, feel a sense of pride about their neighborhood. They’re happy that someone cares enough to focus on their home community and are eager to support their local business owners.”
Beal delivers big on the micro level. Her papers feature local news, including relevant school announcements, a highlight of new businesses, a community events calendar and other fun and interesting subjects like movie reviews. On a pro bono basis, she also showcases a different nonprofit organization each month.
When asked what she loves most about her career as a newspaper publisher, she said:
“Aside from bringing news to the residents, I want to help mom-and-pop shops prosper and continue to be successful in their communities. I love working with small business owners and getting to know their story, how they got started, how they fit in with our community and how we can support them.”
As a business owner herself, Beal can totally relate to all the highs and lows of running a business. She’s particularly passionate about inspiring women to conquer their fears and start their own businesses.
“I’m a huge advocator for small businesses. I really admire the determination and drive that it takes to put yourself out there,” she said.
On a personal note, Beal, who’s 34, is married with two sons. She enjoys spending time with her family, rocking climbing, camping and being outdoors.