Virtual Bliss

Couple start their life together by creating a Website for brides of color

As with most brides-to-be, Kesha Monk was on a mission to create her dream wedding. Monk, currently a radio personality for 98.7 KISS-FM in New York, lived in Chicago at the time, and her fiancé, Eugene Myrick, worked in Los Angeles. The geographical divide only added to the pressures of planning their ceremony, which would be held in New York.

Monk soon noticed a void in the bridal marketplace: The African American bride was ignored by mainstream publications. So she relied on Internet outlets in her search for vendors, hairstyle ideas, and ways to incorporate her heritage into the ceremony. But she was still disappointed by the lack of services that “celebrated the beauty of the African American woman or that recognized my culture or traditional values,” says the 36-year-old professional.

The solution was to create her own entity. Nine months after their September 2003 nuptials, Monk and Myrick, a 35-year-old former schoolteacher, created a Website that would help brides of color who rely on the Internet to find information, inspiration, and support. The site, ChocolateBrides.com, showcases more than 450 businesses that cater to the cultural desires of this niche market, including makeup artists, hair stylists, florists, photographers, caterers, and event planners. “We are trying to bridge minority brides and minority business owners,” says Monk.

The popularity of the Website, which receives approximately 7 million hits monthly, is driven by the close-knit bond women form on the message boards, where single, engaged, or married women from all over the world seek advice from each other, says Monk. Despite the traffic, the duo says their greatest challenge has been convincing potential advertisers of the site’s reach. The couple has also decided to create an offline, offshoot product–Chocolate Brides magazine. Monk hopes that the Web audience can be transformed into faithful magazine subscribers.

Monk and Myrick invested $120,000 from their personal savings to start and promote both the Website and the magazine through direct-mail marketing, word of mouth, bridal expos, and brochures. When Monk announced the site on the radio, the response was 40,000 immediate hits.

For the past three years, ChocolateBrides.com has generated $25,000 annually in sales from businesses that advertise on the site. The couple, who met at Shaw University in North Carolina, has hired a magazine publisher to mentor them and help them understand the distribution process. They project revenues for the Chocolate Brides brand to reach $1.5 million in advertising sales, Internet radio streams and video podcasts, and magazine subscriptions come next year.

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