Ex-Advertising Dynamo Makes Switch to Magazine Publisher

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Catherine Frederick brings her dog to work. She takes her kids to school each day and picks them up. Her office is in a renovated barracks out at Fort Chaffee near a picturesque grove of pine trees, and these days, she loves, rather than likes, what she does for a living.

Such are the benefits of being the boss.

As the owner, publisher and editor-in-chief of Do South magazine in Fort Smith, Frederick has earned the comforts she enjoys, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s comfortable.

The former hardboiled advertising executive with The McIntosh Group Inc. and BrightHouse Marketing has ambitious plans for her lifestyle publication, which was launched in September 2010.

Already established in the River Valley, Frederick wants Do South to expand, first into Northwest Arkansas, then into Conway, and when and if the time is right, into Little Rock.

When Frederick, 39, was first profiled by the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal as part of the 2004 class of Forty Under 40, she was an account supervisor with McIntosh. In 2006, she founded her own agency, BrightHouse, and for a time represented St. Edward Mercy Medical Center, now Mercy Fort Smith, and powerhouse personal injury law firm Nolan Caddell & Reynolds.

Frederick’s high-flying career in full-service advertising was satisfying, she said, and through it all, she learned how to make a sales pitch, handle pressure, satisfy clients and meet tight deadlines. It also left her with a contact list that was custom-tailored for a foray into the world of print and online magazine publishing.

She knew writers, designers, photographers, printers and ad reps, and she knew how to bring them all together to create a product. She also had a deep understanding of the editorial landscape of the River Valley. It all added up to @Urban magazine, which was rebranded in January as Do South.

Rather than being a lifestyle glossy in the vein of CitiScapes Magazine or Celebrate Arkansas Magazine, Do South highlights regional history and culture, with an array of writing and photography that veers from the nostalgic to the modern, and with standing features for book and movie reviews, recipes, travel and profiles. The online version is updated weekly, while the print edition comes out monthly.

“I knew there was a hole for this kind of niche publication,” Frederick said.

She said she doesn’t miss the stress and grind of landing and implementing an important advertising contract,
and while publishing a magazine
presents its own set of troubles, the rewards of so doing are simple and important.

“I get to have more fun,” she said. “I have creative freedom and I like serving a readership.”

Her ad agency, BrightHouse, still does piece work, but increasingly, Do South occupies more and more of her time. The magazine relies on a stable of contract contributors, but only has three full-time staffers — Frederick, a managing editor and a creative director.

Though funded through ad sales, the magazine also supports the nonprofit community and in the past has worked with, among others, Bost Inc., the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of
Crawford, Franklin and Sebastian counties, and the Fort Smith Little Theatre.

A native of Little Rock, Frederick has lived in Fort Smith for 20 years, and with a husband, a son, two stepdaughters and a miniature Australian shepherd named Jack in the household, there are no plans to leave the Sebastian County seat anytime soon.

Son Tyler is a budding basketball player, stepdaughter Leah is about to learn how to drive a car and stepdaughter Lauren is deciding on which college to attend. As she and her husband, Scott, make their way through
the sweet spot of parenthood, Frederick looks around and likes what she sees.

“Fort Smith has the perfect pace for my family,” she said. “The schools are good, it’s a great place to raise a family, and, to me, a great place to do business. We’re happy right now.”