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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Runaway Publisher Jokes His Way to Success

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Back in 1993, as Donald Craig flew headlong into a snowstorm over Moscow, he couldn't have told you how long he'd be staying in Russia and publishing jokes was certainly the last thing on his mind.

In fact, Craig wasn't even sure that his plane would land in the traditional sense at all.

"I thought I was going to die, honest to God. You know — I flew for nine, 10 hours to die in Moscow?"

Eight years down the line the humorous paper he first tinkered with on his PC when work slumped in 1997 and that subsequently "sat in the computer for two years," has taken on a life of its own. It commands a print run of 10,000 copies per month with a dedicated fan base of Russians and expats.

Craig, 41, who hails from Morgantown, West Virginia, is the proud owner of Runaway Express — what he describes as a "high class, high-school paper." Or as the front page puts it, "A monthly dose of back home humor."

The English-language paper can be found in bars, restaurants and nightclubs throughout the capital and its 16 pages are jam-packed with cartoons and jokes laid out collage-fashion in different fonts and styles.

The gags — which Craig receives in vast quantities every day and welcomes at runawayexpress_ru@yahoo.com and runaway@ropnet.ru — may be bawdy, but the paper's heart is certainly in the right place.

"What I will tell you is that every time there is a charity event — that's free advertising," he said.

The name of the paper neatly encapsulates what Craig is hoping to achieve.

"You can't always just hop on a plane and take a vacation somewhere. I called it Runaway Express so that people could take a little bit of time and escape. ... You're just reading a few jokes, a few funny stories, looking at a few cartoons, you like it, you don't like it — you might read the whole paper and like two jokes ... but you have an escape, and that's the whole point."

Not that Craig is looking to escape from Moscow. As he says himself the paper is his evenings and weekend job — essentially a hobby. He is here for the long term and his two children, whom he clearly adores, are based in Moscow.

When Craig flew in to the capital it was as an automotive consultant and when the company split a year later he moved on. His next venture, DC Ltd., an autoparts dealership that he ran successfully for five years, was set up with $500.

"I actually had to fly home to see my mother, so on the trip I bought $500 worth of parts — I made my first grand, then I set up DC Ltd."

The company's hot-rod logo now graces the front page of Runaway Express, while the firm itself has long since slipped through his fingers.

Today he is country manager for IVLP Fleet Management Leasing Services.

In terms of a business philosophy, Craig firmly believes that with the desire and the motivation one can achieve almost anything.

"There's a lot of potential for new business. It's just that people's imagination stopped working after they got comfortable," he says.

And there's another important element to his philosophy — widgets.

"A widget is an item, which everybody wants and everybody can afford — so you have 14 million people [in the Moscow and Moscow region market] and you have that widget costing 50 cents and if you make 5 cents — you're a millionaire. Everyone wants to find their widget — I've been looking for mine for 41 years, and I'm still looking."

Craig may have found a rich seam of widgets in Runaway Express. With a new opinion page and a top 10 column in the works, he plans to take his paper online this summer — but the ideas don't stop there.

"We're going to start a company called Runway Fashions. We have a very talented young lady who designs evening gowns and things of this nature. And I've been approached to do a summer cafe, so maybe we'll have the Runaway Cafe. You know, just someplace you can go out and drink some cheap beer. And Runaway Travel that's a definite. It's going to be a travel agency."

Does he have any advice for people looking to do business in Moscow?

"I would tell them that to come here, you can't be full of yourself. You have to be prepared to adjust. ... Anything's possible because this is the land of opportunity. Modify and adjust."