San Diego Business Journal

A drive along the coast can do wonders for a clouded state of mind.

It can even inspire a career.

Such was true for Mayt & #233; Rodriguez-Cedillo, who owns and publishes Baja Traveler: Mexico's Ports of Call. Cedillo operates the annual publication, which has a circulation of 40,000 and sales last year of $325,000, out of her Chula Vista home.

In 1997, Tijuana-born Rodriguez-Cedillo had recently returned home from traveling in Europe and was considering her career path. Before Europe, she left her sales job at NBC in Los Angeles, where she had worked for more than a year.

As she drove along the coast of Ensenada, she was struck by the beauty around her. At the same time, she recalled the many harsh news stories that she had seen about visiting Baja California.

At that point, Rodriguez-Cedillo decided to start a magazine that would focus on the positive side of Mexico's tourism.

Annual Deadline Approaches

Now, three years later, Rodriguez-Cedillo and her publication are heading toward a December deadline. She's trying to sign the last ads while the magazine's art director continues to design and produce the issue. She's planning to distribute it the last week of December.

Jorge Gamboa-Patron, of the Mexican Tourism Board, has watched the fledgling magazine evolve.

"The quality has been improving very much," Gamboa-Patron said. "The second one was much better than the first one, and I believe that this one, the third one, is going to be much better."

He continued, "They've been learning about the procedure of marketing and the procedures of advertising and different forms of promotions."

Roots Dig Into Business

Rodriguez-Cedillo recalled the effect her roots had on her business. From the time she was young, Rodriguez-Cedillo crossed the border from Tijuana each day to attend school in San Diego.

After high school, she attended SDSU, where she studied advertising through the university's journalism department. She worked sales part-time at San Diegan, a local tourist guide.

After college, she worked behind the cameras, first at KGTV Channel 10, then at the NBC affiliate in Los Angeles. She got a lot of experience during a strike by writers and production workers. Her tasks ranged from running cameras to monitoring the audience, she recalled.

At age 29, she had tired of the lifestyle and took a year off. She traveled and pondered her future.

In early 1997, soon after she made the decision to start the magazine, Rodriguez-Cedillo began approaching clients and examining media kits of other publications, looking at what they offered advertisers as well as what they charged them.

First Edition Budget

A year later, she began production of the first edition of Baja Traveler. Working out of her parents' home at the time, Rodriguez-Cedillo invested $30,000 of her own savings into the magazine. As she does now, Rodriguez-Cedillo works with Mexico-based clients.

"It was tough," she recalled of the learning process. Among her lessons were distribution and the balance of being a publisher and editor.

Baja Traveler has two large distributors, one that covers the United States and Canada, and another that covers Mexico. Rodriguez-Cedillo supplements the two with her own efforts, sending thousands of copies to Europe, through Mexican consulates and various travel agencies affiliated with American Express Co. of New York. She also finds additional distribution spots in North America, she said.

Of the 40,000 circulation, 80 percent is in the United States and Canada, 10 percent in Mexico and the remaining 10 percent in Europe, she said.

The magazine's distribution to high-income consumers, through distribution in upscale hotels and yacht clubs, is particularly important, Gamboa-Patron said.

Because the business is small, and her focus of promoting Baja California is clear, she often focuses on the sales side of the business, Rodriguez-Cedillo said.

With the current annual schedule, editorial work picks up each year in August, with design taking place in November.

Culture Affects Production

Sales and deadlines are particularly difficult with the laid-back Mexican culture, she said. She finds herself making calls upon calls to remind and follow up with clients.

"That's really a challenge that I just have accepted and I have to live with it," she said.

"Personality and persistence is what sells."

Rodriguez-Cedillo travels frequently to tourism trade shows and makes personal calls for distribution locations, she said.

As for dividing the editorial and sales work, Rodriguez-Cedillo said she cuts her day in two, starting with advertising and ending with writing and editing.

Editorially, the magazine's first two issues have had 30 to 40 articles, Rodriguez-Cedillo said. The magazine had 96 pages for the 1999 issue, 146 in last December's issue and in next month's issue for 2001.

She's still calculating the sales total for 2000. This year, elections in Mexico were an additional hurdle for the magazine, she said.

"People aren't as sure as to what is going to happen," she said of the potential advertisers. "They hold onto what they have."

Celebrities Featured

The sunnier side of Baja California tourism remains the focus of Baja Traveler. Since its inception, one of Rodriguez-Cedillo's main changes is widening the magazine's original focus on Baja.

The upcoming issue features an article on celebrities who frequent Acapulco, such as Keanu Reeves, Ricardo Montalban, Sandra Bullock and Mariah Carey, Rodriguez-Cedillo said.

The positive approach works for advertisers such as Viviana Ibanez, who owns a campground in Tecate.

It also is a way Rodriguez-Cedillo affects the country's tourism, in which 22 million visitors generate $8.2 billion for the country each year, according to Gamboa-Patron.

"That's one of the reasons the job that she does is so important," said Ibanez. "Given all of the negative press that has been given to Baja California, I think sometimes all the positive is being forgotten."

In agreement is Luz Maria Davila, director of international relations and special affairs for the city of Tijuana. "Most of the press, including press on this side and press on the other side, is always harping on 'Oh, the murders,' 'Oh, the assaults or the kidnappings,'" Davila said. "It's not true, it's just the way that they slant it."

Detailed Coverage

Davila said Baja Traveler offers more thorough coverage than other publications.

"It's really the only magazine available that has such details of the towns of Baja California. I see a couple of magazines that maybe will have one article on one town in Baja or about the food but this magazine covers each and every one of the towns."

Rodriguez-Cedillo's plans for Baja Traveler's future include developing its Web site, producing an infomercial for cooperative advertising with her clients, eventually opening an office in Mexico and making the magazine a biannual publication.

"I'm thrilled with the response it's gotten," she said of her magazine. "I hope it continues to get better and is around for a long time."