business opportunities and the capital needed to fund them. At the time, there were roughly 100,000 black businesses in this country, and most were small mom-and-pop operations. I had been inspired by the success stories of A.G. Gaston, a millionaire who created an insurance and funeral parlor complex in Birmingham, Alabama; Henry Parks, the founder of Baltimore-based Parks Sausage (he would eventually become a member of our first advisory board); and John H. Johnson, who transformed one magazine into a magazine publishing and cosmetics empire. We needed to replicate these models of success.
When I shared my idea, Samuels told me that I should expand the concept and give some thought to the creation of a magazine. Even though I was not well versed in magazine publishing at the time, I knew it would be an ambitious undertaking. I would have to feed and nourish the publication through advertising. I would need to reach thousands of black entrepreneurs, professionals, and business aspirants nationwide. I would have to put together a small team of professionals and create an organization that would be able to put out a monthly magazine chock-full of facts and advice that our readers would be unable to find anywhere else.
Gradually, the magazine took on an identity of its own. We found that people were drawn to the publication. People wanted it to succeed. The bottom line: There was a need for black enterprise.
I saw the magazine as a how-to. I used to say to our staff all the time, “If we’re not saying how to, we’re not doing our job.” I saw that it was important to help, to teach, to encourage our readers whether the advice or information we were giving them was related to their ascension in the workplace, acquiring capital to run a business, or saving and investing their hard-earned dollars. We wanted to show our readers a better way and, at the same time, communicate to the business world, from Madison Avenue to Wall Street, that there was a viable black consumer market. It was my vision to show a more positive side of African American participation in the business mainstream. Along the way, we would carve a path for future generations.
What has given us credibility is that we live the lives of our readers.
You have budgets to meet?
So do we.
Trying to put aside money for your kid’s education?
Dealing with racism as you try to advance in the business world?
You are not alone.
Our staff and our readers have an unbreakable bond. We identify and help each other in every issue, every month, every day.
That’s our mission.
A Barometer for Black Business
But as the magazine grew, our thrust expanded. We became an important gauge of black business activity for this nation. In 1973, we started our ranking of the top 100 black-owned businesses. Instantly, we became one of the key barometers for black business activity. It was imperative for us to make this move. Up to that point, business publications such as The Wall