By Andrew Seale

Kateryna Topol

“This is not a blog, it's a magazine,” says the 29-year-old of the online alternative music and urban arts magazine. She’s very clear. There’s no identity crisis here. There might have been. Maybe just a little at the beginning. But not now.

It’s been three years since she launched Quip. The online magazine has spread from Toronto to Chicago, Montreal, D.C., New York and beyond. Forty contributors, fresh voiced with ears to the ground, post content on the burgeoning music, arts and culture scenes in their respective cities.

And all the while, Topol has continued her career as an art director taking contracts with ad agencies like Leo Burnett Toronto and Extreme Group.

“Quip started as a side project. I was working for this other magazine that was trying to take off and it wasn’t really happening,” she says. “I’m a very spontaneous person and I was like, I can do this myself, so I decided to start my own.”

At first the content was all over the place. Food and drink, fashion, you name it, Quip covered it. But Topol knew she needed focus.

“I sat down with one of the small business advisors at Enterprise Toronto and went step-by-step over my business plan looking for any holes, and if I was to pursue financing what I would need to do,” she says.

Ultimately she shook off the notion of soliciting investors, instead taking the lean approach – knowing it would be easier to couple her art direction business into Quip as one solid media company should she choose to go that route in the future.

“With the [Enterprise Toronto] workshops, sometimes it’s stuff you don’t know but it kind of helps you from day-to-day to reassure yourself that you’re actually doing something right,” she says. “Enterprise Toronto has been totally supportive.”

The consultation also helped the young entrepreneur focus on her niche and build out a tight-knit readership.

But Topol has no illusions. She knows the online publishing sphere can be thankless at the best of times. It’s why some major news outlets were hesitant to invest in it for so long. But she also knows the space offers elasticity that print doesn’t, a limberness that savvy online media outlets like Vice Media have exploited to innovate and disrupt the old publishing models.

Topol is already pushing Quip beyond the boundaries of the written word, building out audio and video features like Quip Talk with Nicky, an episodic arts and culture talk show hosted at Toronto music mainstay The Rivoli.

But she shrugs off her sole responsibility for the magazine’s success, deflecting it to her team of contributors, some she’s been working with since day one. They’re Quip’s beating heart.

“Every now and then I get a little tired but my team they’re amazing, some of them have been for writing for years and I’ve never met them but I know them so well,” says Topol. “If I’m having a really lazy day when I’m reading those 900 emails, I just have to think about them.”