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Determination to succeed never flagged

When the idea to start The Slovak Spectator was first planted in our minds, I had just turned 24. We were arrogant, full of our own self-importance, enthusiastic, and extremely optimistic.
English-language newspapers had sprung up all around central Europe as foreign investment flocked to Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, and it seemed Slovakia was next. It wasn't a question of when, but of who would start an English newspaper in the country.


Daniel J. Stoll

When the idea to start The Slovak Spectator was first planted in our minds, I had just turned 24. We were arrogant, full of our own self-importance, enthusiastic, and extremely optimistic.

English-language newspapers had sprung up all around central Europe as foreign investment flocked to Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, and it seemed Slovakia was next. It wasn't a question of when, but of who would start an English newspaper in the country.

Zednik, Lewis and I thought that we should be the ones to do it. It was clear, however, that our enthusiasm couldn't make up for our lack of business training. So I persuaded Lewis and Zednik to accept my best friend, Eric Koomen, who had just finished his Masters of Business at Buffalo. He was taken in, and the first issue was completed on time only by sweat and dogged determination. This "d" (as Koomen and I referred to determination) would be what carried us to today.

Foreign investment never came. The paper looked like it was doomed after six months. There were many sleepless nights wondering if tomorrow would be the end. But in a startling autumn in 1995 the newspaper started to take off. I met my current wife Renata that autumn, and remember the joy of getting to know her as we resolved to make the business succeed.

Succeed it did, but the hard way. Signing disadvantageous contracts then fighting to get them rewritten, paying our staff too little rather than too much, educating both our sales team and potential advertisers about the benefits of our newspaper, understanding foreign laws that seemed to change every other month, getting the newspaper distributed properly and displayed on newsstands, creating ads with no art background, comprehending the printing process, manipulating cash flow to keep the company afloat - and I had just wanted to be an editor.

Yes, we made mistakes. Yes, we worked ungodly hours through the week and on weekends. Yes, we had no social lives. But we learned. We made believers out of doubters. We were never afraid to try the big idea. Spectrum Live, our debate series, Spectacular Slovakia, our annual travel guide, and our whole sales philosophy were unorthodox ideas that achieved results.

Finally in mid 1997 I became Editor-in-Chief, my goal when we started the venture. I had achieved my personal ambition, learning along the way the wonders of the publishing business.

In June 1998 I left the newspaper only to come back in December last year to work as Senior Editor. In the sweat of the editorial office, the concentration in the finance department, the creative juice in the graphics room, and the buzz in the sales suite, I saw that "d" still thriving.

Founding co-owner Daniel J. Stoll began as Business Manager, became Managing Editor in 1997 and served as Editor-in Chief from Sept. 1997-June 1998; he is now currently Senior Editor.

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