A Contactus History: 2012-present

The first Contactus flyer (we've long since given up the idea of being a business directory; now our magazines form part of a business's marketing plan)

The first Contactus flyer (we’ve long since given up the idea of being a business directory; now our magazines form part of a business’s marketing plan)

Promoting Ealing businesses and events – online, in print and in person

Carlene Bender BA Hons (Media&Comm); MA (Soc/Anthr)
– Director, Contactus Ltd
Email: info@contactusealing.co.uk

Carlene Bender

Walking around the Ealing town centre taking photos of broken buildings and businesses just after the Ealing Riots in August 2011 started me thinking: how would these shop-owners recover? Was there anything I could do to help Ealing get back on its feet?

Besides spending more money locally myself, what I thought I could do was try to encourage others to shop more in Ealing too. Twenty-plus years of experience in newspaper and magazine newsrooms came in handy as I worked out how to start up a small publication highlighting Ealing businesses. It would be a channel for businesses, events, clubs and schools to advertise in, to spread their message beyond the usual limits of online media. Each issue would focus on a different shopping parade, and be distributed to all the neighbourhood. This new idea was happily received by Ealing residents, who are always keen to ‘shop local’.

In December 2012 the first issue of ‘Contactus Ealing’ magazine was published, with a spotlight on the businesses in Pitshanger W5, because that’s where I live. A few months later brought the launch of ‘Ealing Homebiz’, like ‘Contactus Ealing’, published twice a year, but this time geared to businesses run from home: sole traders who don’t have a counter or a shop window, but who still need to find ways of reaching customers.

What has touched me most about producing Contactus magazines is the high number of mum-based businesses in Ealing, run by parents frustrated by the constrictions of childcare, who (like me) are missing being productive at a financial level. I hoped that by putting out these magazines designed to give their businesses exposure, it would help them to realise their dreams, and open up a successful life based on being self-employed.

To extend the reach of the magazines, I decided after a year to merge the two titles, so ‘Ealing Homebiz’ became incorporated into ‘Contactus Ealing’, and there have been special editions outside the W5/W7/W13 borders, in Chiswick W4 and Acton W3. In 2016, a weekly online mini-Contactus, ‘The_Ealinger’, was launched, while ‘Contactus Ealing’ became a Christmas annual magazine.

By mid-2017, Contactus magazines finally gave way to the anti-advertising movement, and production ceased as the business model was reworked, and my emphasis shifted to include promoting local networking via the Ealing Business Diary, and especially the Ealing Business Expo annual event.

Ealing Business Expo has gone from strength to strength, and has now expanded to a two-day event, happening next across Monday 7 and Tuesday 8 March in 2022. Find out more over on the Expo website: ealingbizexpo.co.uk

Contactus magazines back issues highlighting different areas of the borough of Ealing, from Hanwell to Acton, are still online and free to read, at: issuu.com/contactusealing

More information about my background and experience on LinkedIn:


Proud member of the FSB – Federation of Small and Self-employed Businesses in the UK

Come networking with me: online via social media including the #EalingHour tweetchat every first Tuesday of the month 8-9pm on Twitter

Also check out the three Contactus-based Facebook groups, featuring threads with local shop-owners and home-based businesses:
Businesses in Ealing – ‘Contactus’
Businesses in Acton W3 – Contactus
Ealing Business Expo – Online Networking Group

Throwback video for all the Contactus magazines fans

The magazine advertising business model


Featured in the Ealing Gazette
(December 2012)
Contactus-EalingGazette23-11-2013FB_FindUsOnFacebook-100 twitter_logo


Reza Zolfagharifard, Bold Club (advertiser):
“Before I advertised in ‘Contactus Ealing’ for the first time, my colleagues told me ‘no, that’s a waste of time, print is outdated, it’s all online now’. Well, to their surprise, our print ad worked: we had three enquiries after our first insertion, and we’ll be advertising many more times with Carlene’s magazines from now on.”

Peter Newton, The Business Conductor (advertiser):
“I always tell my businesses to use tracking on their ads; I used a unique email address in my ad with Carlene, and I’ve had two enquiries already via that email address. So I know the ad has worked.”

Inge Woudstra, Mum and Career:
“Whenever one of these free magazines comes through my door, I think, oh no here’s another one of those magazines, with the same adverts, and the same interviews with the same actors. But when Contactus comes through the door – wow! This is something different.”

Christine Lees, life coach:
“I found out about a service I didn’t even know existed from Carlene’s magazine, ‘Ealing Homebiz’. I’ve been planning a move to France, and needed to sort out my house and get it ready to put on the market. I was looking through Carlene’s magazine and saw the advert for House In Order. This was exactly what I needed just at the right time.”

Angela Weyers, My Stylist London (advertiser):
“I’m happy to say I took an ad in the last issue of ‘Contactus Ealing’, and I was amazed I had to do nothing – Carlene designed and laid out the artwork for me, and all I had to do was pay. So now I’m looking forward to lots and lots of calls. Thanks, Carlene.”

Emily Fawell, 4Well People (advertiser) – via Twitter:
“Carlene, you truly deserve all the positive feedback that you get. You are having such an impact on Ealing businesses! Well done you.”

Narmeen, Gemstone Tech – via Twitter:
“Picked up the latest Ealing Homebiz magazine today and left it on the seat next to me on the tube. I saw three people read it during my journey.”

Alison Joshi, graphic designer, Joshi Was Janes (advertiser):
“I took an ad out in Carlene’s magazine and within days had a new client who’d seen Carlene’s article on me in ‘Ealing Homebiz’. Now she wants me to design her cards, website, brochure, leaflets… She said she called me because I looked like a nice person in my picture – credit to Carlene! This is proof that print advertising really does work.”

Alison Joshi – via Twitter:
“@ContactusEaling just had another query for design work because they saw my ad in your magazine #newbusiness #advertisingdoeswork”

Carole Ann Rice, life coach and Daily Express columnist (advertiser) – via Twitter:
“Someone who works in the lobby at Westminster said he saw my ad in your fab magazine x”
“other comments were ‘nicely put together’ and ‘a good little read'”