by Paul Schmelzer
While a perfect descriptor of its mission of highlighting humanitarian aid efforts worldwide, NEED magazine’s name is unfortunately more appropriate than ever after a weekend break-in at the publication’s northeast Minneapolis office.
Stephanie Kinnunen, who founded the magazine with her husband, Kelly, in November 2006, says she got a call from her security company at 3:42 a.m. Sunday alerting her to a keypad malfunction on the office system. When she stopped by on Sunday afternoon, however, she discovered that the malfunction was really burglars who had jimmied the lock on the entry door to their office, cut the system’s power and phone lines and made off with around $25,000 worth of equipment.
“They took everything electronic: computers, mouses, printers, even our $8 Ikea lamps,” she said.
Kinnunen says no other offices in the building were burglarized. The building is a nondescript warehouse on Kennedy Street, and the NEED office, only accessible from an interior hallway, is on the fifth floor. Still police believe it was an amateur job, “probably just kids out and about,” she said.
The magazine is coming off a difficult yet impressive first year. Funded in large part by the Kinnunens’ personal credit card (and, now, some donors and advertisers), the publication has been getting a lot of attention: It won gold excellence awards from the Minnesota Magazine & Publishers Association, was dubbed one of 2007’s “hottest launches” by a top industry publication, and a copy ended up in the hands of one Bill Clinton.
But the year has been financially trying. Kinnunen has criss-crossed the country promoting the publication, securing distribution deals and looking for donors. Then two months ago, a box of personal checks was stolen from the Kinnunens’ mail and used on a Twin Cities buying spree, which now has them dealing with banks and collections agencies, all while they’re trying to secure a small business loan.
“This really hurts,” she said of the break-in. “We have insurance, but it’s going to take awhile to kick in. With such a skeleton staff and already a limited budget, it’s definitely going to put production of the next issue behind a bit.”
But there’s good news: Kinnunen’s husband, who was in Indonesia on assignment for the magazine when the break-in occurred, backs up all computer files weekly, so the layouts and fodder for the next issue are nearly all intact.
Still, it puts Kinnunen in an unusual position. Instead of laboring to draw attention to the needs of people around the world — from blind orphans in China (Issue 4) to kids kept as sex slaves in Cambodia to the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf States (both Issue 1) — she needs a little help herself.
“This can’t kill us. We’re going to move forward,” she said. “But we need some angels to come in and help us out financially, at least in the interim until our insurance kicks in.”