Essence and Black Enterprise’s Turbulent History
Lewis also spoke of the collaboration between Black Enterprise founder Earl Graves and Ebony and Jet founder John Johnson, as they collectively visited Madison Avenue advertisers to demonstrate the united power of black media. Lewis said he always considered Graves more of a business friend than he did Johnson, who owned stock in Essence.
“We worked together; we respected each other, we wanted to do something for our community for black media, so it was important for us as a partnership to do this,” Lewis reflected. “Earl has done a magnificent job of starting Black Enterprise in 1970 and Essence started in 1970.”
Lewis’ chapter entitled “Selling In” includes his dismay about Black Enterprise‘s 2002 article about an agreement between Essence Communications Inc. and Time Inc. During the chat, he recalled that before selling Essence to Time Warner he went to John Johnson, who told him, “It’s a good deal—you don’t worry about my saying anything negative.”
Ken Coleman deftly directed the dialogue toward business axioms, and Lewis’ memorable mantras included “Cash is King, Queen, Jack and Ace.” His response to what it takes to be an entrepreneur included the following observation, “One has to be a little bit crazy in terms of the demands on you; it really is 24/7. It’s going to require that you believe in yourself, that you can do it, and that you can make a difference in the world.”
Those words hit home for many, including Makedah Shartukar, CEO and co-founder of BiLD in Oakland, CA. “I think what really resonated with me is the tenacity and just the ability to be resilient in pursuit of your dream,” said Shartukar. “So what he talked about in terms of the confidence–the need to be a little crazy– really sat with me because I’ve felt that way sometimes. I’m a mother of two kids, and when you’re talking about pursuing the path of entrepreneurship, that stability goes away. It’s not just about you, but when you have your family invested in you, the stakes get a lot higher, but it’s about what you want to leave behind,” she said.