How Essence Magazine Broke Through Media Barriers

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June 9 (Bloomberg) -- Edward Lewis, co-founder of Essence magazine sits down with Bloomberg’s Pimm Fox to tell him how Essence magazine all began. (Source: Bloomberg)



It is an irony that they are spinning off their magazine and media business into a separate company.

One was it like when you first got involved with time?

They had a 49% stake in the company for a long time.

When i entered into a relationship with time in 2000, they agreed to sell 49%, and i agreed to retain 51%, and during that.

Time, when the deal was completed, we got to know each other.

I got to realize the incredible resources they had.

In 2004 they said they would like to buy the remaining 51%. it has been a wonderful association in terms of the growth that essence has experienced.

? let's start off talking about the four gentlemen that you came together with.

None of you had magazine or editorial experience.

What did you decide to do?

We wanted to go into business.

We wanted to make a difference.

This is against the backdrop of will was going on in 1968 with the coming of martin luther king and robert kennedy.

25 of us came together at a home, and they said there must be a need for a magazine for negro women, and they got us together and said we have an idea, and says lewis know something about money.

Why don't you get together?

We did not know each other, but we wanted to do something that was very meaningful in terms of celebrating beautiful of intelligence of black women.

There were some big bumps, because you're going to be a lawyer.

I had aspirations.

I got out of graduate school, i went to georgetown law school, i knew my life was that.

Except the world gave me ups and downs.

First national city bank led me to my dream of starting my own business.

I want to give you some names from the book, because these gentlemen that you form the company with, it was tough times to raise the money to get the magazine going, even just hiring in editor-in-chief.

Clarence smith.

My former partner, we met in 1970. we had an incredible relationship over the many years, the 33 years we were together.

He was responsible for advertising, and he did a magnificent job of wanting to make sure the advertisers had an appreciation and determines the power of black women in the marketplace.

As far as putting together the whole content of the magazine, it seems as though one of your points and you interviewed people, you wanted to know what they were interested in politically, socially, culturally.

It was not just about the publishing business.


We were talking about the totality of black women.

She is concerned about relationships, family, career.

She is concerned about schools, voting, all of the issues that all of us are dealing with, but also dealing with the issues of beauty and making herself phil good.

Essence has been her friend that she can count on.

I remember one reticular chapter, -- particular chapter, called black man, do you love me?

That came about because of a very heated conversation.


One thing i feel really good about is that we devoted issues every year to black men, so that black women and black men can have an appreciation of each other, to understand each other.

Just getting a better understanding what it is to be black men and black women.

This was back in 1977, you were at the office, and a box arrives.

You opened it and there was all this paper.

Tell us what was in it.

It was a subpoena to us to let us know that my former partners were in the process of taking over the business.

Getting the information from the lawyers, it came as a real shock.

We had to respond, and respond we did.

I'm here today.

You prevailed.

We prevailed.

You were able to retain the ownership of essence communications.

You also write in the book that the focus on individual, african-american wholly-owned businesses may have been surpassed by a general focus by all corporations on minority demographics and groups and customers.

What do you have to say about that?

All corporations, particularly where we are the art of the capitalist system, and we are part of this country, and we try to run a business, and we try to redirect with business out there -- we try to make sure that they understood the power of the market that we serve to that was underserved.

We wanted to remind corporations and people that if you invest in our market, you will have a wonderful return on your investment.

There were some corporations that thought that african-americans did not buy cereal, paper products but did not contribute to the consumer society.


We did not in our procter & gamble ad until 1985. it was not for lack of trying, it was just because you cannot convince them that black women bought their products.

That is the struggle, the fight we had to continue.

The beauty industry was another industry we had to overcome to make sure that they knew that black women used their products.

It was a continuing struggle all these years for us to convince the marketer that this is a market that you need to be a part of.

What is the struggle right now?

The biggest challenge in terms of accurate american -- in terms of african-american and black owned businesses?

There's a sense of purpose, but we have a changed world.

Particularly in the area of print a miss and i sold the company in 2005. one has to be keenly aware of making choices that you know your customer, making sure that you understand the appreciation of cash is king, queen, jack, and everything else.

And try to hire the smartest people you can find, and stay out of their way.

Listen to people.

Thank you for being here.

Edward lewis, the cofounder of

This text has been automatically generated. It may not be 100% accurate.


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