It can be hard to get your voice heard in the world of journalism. Rianna Raymond Williams found a way, however, when she decided to combine her passion for writing with her knowledge of youth issues.

With funding support from our friends at O2 Think Big, Rianna launched Shine Aloud, and became the Editor of a magazine that now has 50,000 readers internationally. We caught up with her to find out more about her journey, and get her top entrepreneurial tips…

“Shine Aloud is a sexual health, youth empowerment organisation and social enterprise which aims to educate young people about sex and relationships, combined with arts and culture,” explained Rianna. “We started the project just over five years ago and after we received O2 Think Big funding. It was just basically an idea that I had before I went to university, a small project that started as something to do in the time I had over the summer holidays, to educate young people about sensitive issues.”

“I didn’t really see a place for myself anywhere in the industry, so I wanted to create something that represented my voice, but also a voice of other young people.”

Rianna used the funding to get her website off the ground. Now, there’s been seven issues of the magazine and they have print and online editions. “£300 was just enough to design the first website, get the logo, buy web hosting and pay a few rights for the content,” she told us. “I put it on Facebook and Twitter and within a week there was 300 likes and Twitter followers and I was thinking ‘oh my gosh!’ Then people really started to relate to the content we were providing and the product we produced”.

So how did Rianna identify a niche that had never been done before? 

“At the time I was working first hand with young people on a daily basis, talking to them about ways to better manage their sexual health and relationships in terms of contraception, sexual health tests, and even healthy relationships – just the sort of conversations you would have with young people. Through that experience I realised that there was all sorts of different misconceptions.”

“You’d think something that was so needed and so necessary would exist. It’s interesting because I feel like maybe leaflets or little booklets exist in that form. But it’s not made by young people, it’s made by adults who sort of have an idea what young people want. That’s the difference that we have with the magazine – it’s a publication made by young people, for young people, so it’s all about them knowing themselves best and knowing who they are. I think it’s really important to have a youth voice at the forefront of any sort of youth movement, and I guess that’s where we’re different.”

“I think it’s really important to have a youth voice at the forefront of any sort of youth movement, and I guess that’s where we’re different.”

Rianna herself had studied journalism, but when it came to finding a job, she felt that she didn’t just want to write about any old thing…

“I didn’t have a place I wanted to be,” she told us. “Some journalists that I spoke to who were interested in writing or blogging saw themselves as being writers for MTV, or the Guardian, or the Financial Times, or wherever it was they saw a place for themselves. I didn’t really see a place for myself anywhere in the industry, so I wanted to create something that represented my voice, but also a voice of other young people who were interested in the same things as myself.”

“A lot of people want these opportunities to come to them. I really love to write, I studied journalism, and I can write about anything but I don’t want to. I don’t feel like I should have to compromise what I’m passionate about. It’s definitely about finding your values and what’s important to you.”

“In life you just do things in motion, you go to school, you go to college, you get a job, you don’t really think about anything else,” she said. “When I started the first issue of the magazine I didn’t think I could be a magazine editor, I think I was waiting for someone to give me that approval. But I think we need to own that ourselves, we need to accept that we can do anything that we wanna do. No one can tell us that we can’t, we can.”

“You’re not gonna be perfect straight away, so I guess just take the risk and learn from the journey.”

Got an idea for a project but scared to take the plunge? We asked Rianna for her advice:

“Just do it,” she told us. “There’s all these clichéd things that if it keeps you up at night you should just do it – but there really is something in that. If you think about something all the time non-stop and you’re speaking to people and you can’t stop talking about it, you’re meant to be doing it. As a person I feel like I changed so much, what I thought back then five years ago and what I think now is completely different, and that is absolutely fine. We’re allowed to change and it’s a process of changing, experiencing and just having that chance to be yourself and evolve in the journey. You’re not gonna be perfect straight away, so I guess just take the risk and learn from the journey.”

If you have a digital idea that could improve your community, O2 Think Big could give you £300 to get started, as well as advice on how to spend the money and support to make your project happen. Find out more and apply here.

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