With a reported net worth of $460 million, Cathy Hughes, the second wealthiest African American woman in the nation, has made a resounding impact on black media having pioneered Radio One, a BE 100s company and one the of the most successful and lucrative black-owned media companies to date.
If you’ve listened to The Quiet Storm on the radio, watched your favorite shows on TV One, or perused an Interactive One digital outlet, you’ve experienced Hughes media influence.
A gifted trendsetter, she has thrived for more than 30 years in an ever-changing often directionless industry, yet she still hesitates to be called a success.
Adding to her list of accomplishments, the media mogul was recently honored by Howard University with the renaming of the school of communications to the Cathy Hughes School of Communications.
Here she offers lessons on longevity and entrepreneurship.
What was your ultimate goal when you set out to create Radio One?
To give a voice to my community. I felt that our opinions, desires, needs, likes and dislikes were not being adequately addressed except by black newspapers on a weekly basis or black magazines on a monthly basis. We needed a daily outlet to talk about what’s important. My mantra is information is power and unfortunately, by the time black folks got the information it was black history, not current events.
How have you managed to stay on top of the trends throughout your tenure as a media professional?
We’re a very research oriented company. In a tight year, we spend $1 million on research. It’s very important to me. One of the critical errors that the media has made in relationship to African Americans, even with black media, we’ve told our audiences what we thought was important to them. We’ve always done it in reverse—we’ve always asked them.
What should an aspiring media mogul be doing right now to lay the groundwork for a long lucrative career?
You should be learning everything you can about your craft. You should be attempting to meet with everyone that you’ve identified as doing what you would like to do in your career. Network, go to various conferences, and read everything you can get your hands on about individuals who are accomplished. I probably know as much about Oprah as her staff because I read every single solitary thing. If I see her name, I read it.
How do you solicit funding when you’re trying to build a media company of your own?
You go to the bank (laughs). That’s where the money is—it’s in lending institutions. You go to people who loan money and you hope like heck God will bless you with an angel investor.
I presented my proposal, for my first step into the world of media, a 1000-watt radio station, WOL in Washington, D.C. 32 times to 32 different lending institutions. It wasn’t until the 33rd that I got a yes. If you’re determined to fund your project, you just don’t take no for an answer. You ask everybody you know that has the resources to make your project a reality. Always ask for the max, but know what you can actually do it for.
What should media entrepreneurs be using to guide their ventures right now?
Research. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. No question is dumb. You have to do whatever is necessary to seek knowledge because information is power.