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Passion for Pets Puts Publisher at Top of the Game

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Connie Wilson, founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Modern Dog and Modern Cat magazines, was selected as the 2014 recipient of Global Pet Expo’s annual, “Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contributions to the Pet Industry” award.

This award recognizes individuals in the media who have the power to influence millions of people and use it to positively promote the joys and benefits of pet ownership. Past recipients include Rachael Ray, Ellen DeGeneres, Sandy Robins and Victoria Stillwell.

Launched in 2002, Modern Dog magazine began as a regional publication in Canada. The magazine quickly found a readership across North America. In 2012, Wilson launched Modern Cat, a quarterly publication that was named one of the 15 hottest magazine launches of 2012 by Samir Husni, founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center at University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism.

“Connie’s true passion for pets and their well-being comes through in all that she’s accomplished,” Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association, said. “Her magazines and websites are just another way for her to share in the love we have for our pets to an active and enthusiastic group of people, which is the true essence of this award. We congratulate her on her contribution to the industry and the pet-loving population.”

Pet Age recently spoke with Wilson about the award and her publications.

Pet Age: What makes Modern Dog and Modern Cat different from other publications?

Wilson: The content, definitely. We strive to make it smart and fun, and good looking and inspirational. Our aim is to provide the perfect mix of advice, entertainment, DIY’s, photos to make you smile, ways to improve your relationship with your dog, new things to discover. We frequently get the comment, “It’s the only magazine I read cover-to-cover,” which of course always thrills us.

Pet Age: You have mentioned that you didn’t have a lot of experience in publishing when you first started Modern Dog magazine. What inspired you to take on such a massive project?

Wilson: I can thank my dog, Kaya. When I moved back to the city, I was nervous about leaving my friends and family and starting a new urban life. And [I] worried that my dog Kaya wouldn’t be able to adapt. Ironically, it was Kaya who helped me, introducing me to a whole new circle of friends, those who loved their dogs like I did mine and treated them as their canine kids.
I was looking to start a new career and Kaya gave me the inspiration to create a resource that would help the dog community live their best canine-inclusive lives. Thus, Modern Dog magazine was born, with Modern Cat following!

Pet Age: You have a sincere passion for dogs and cats, which is evidenced through the high quality of your work. Can you tell us about your pets? How do they motivate you? 

Wilson: Kaya, who passed away, was not, for all her lovableness, an easy dog to live with. High-trung, headstrong, neurotic, not to mention flatulent, throughout her life she gave me examples of just about every problem a dog owner could face, providing inspiration for articles and an empathy for others who experienced similar difficulties. We worked through our problems and built a bond so strong it nearly tore me apart when she passed on.

There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think of her. Penny, a rescued Wirehaired Dachshund, now rules my life. She’s a real cutie and my first small dog, so she’s providing a totally different perspective for me. Having a dog in my life helps keep my centered, gets me out for walks where I can commune with nature, re-energize and also connect with my community. Our dogs are such a blessing.

Pet Age: Which quality would you say most inspires the cross-border (and cross-species) success of your publications?

Wilson: I think there’s a real hunger for quality information delivered by someone who “gets it.” “It” being the myriad of ways our dogs and cats bring joy to our lives, and I like to think to bring that all wrapped up in an enjoyable package.

Pet Age: Where do you gain your inspiration?

Wilson: From our readers and their pets, and from our awesome team here and their pets. The Modern Dog and Modern Cat team are a totally amazing and creative bunch. It’s fun working together to come up with ideas that we think will inspire.

Pet Age: What’s the most rewarding part of your work?

Wilson: The creation of the Modern Dog and Modern Cat communities. Our readers are the best.

Pet Age: As an entrepreneur, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned in working with the pet industry?

Wilson: You need to be quick on your feet, adapting to a constantly changing environment, both in terms of competition and technology.

Pet Age: What does it feel like to be the recipient of such a prestigious award? 

Wilson: I feel truly honored. I’ve worked really hard to get where I am, so receiving this type of recognition from my peers is a milestone in my life.

Pet Age: Where do you see the industry heading in 2014? 

Wilson: It’s going to keep growing, as it has been for years now. The busier our lives get and the more entwined we become with technology, pets are going to be our salvation, balancing our lives and keeping us sane.

Pet Age: Any advice for aspiring pet industry influencers?

Wilson: First, be sure to do a market test so you’ll know if your target market thinks the product is as great as you do. Secondly, you’ll need to have the passion to see it through, as more likely than not you’ll be putting in long, hard hours; as well you’ll need enough money to finance it. It’s sad to see a great idea fizzle because there isn’t enough money to bring it to market, a process that often takes longer than you think it will.

Wilson will accept the award March 13 in Orlando, Fla., at the Purina Media Reception during the Global Pet Expo, presented by the American Pet Products Association and Pet Industry Distributors Association.

- Stacy Mantle

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