MEET Wahida Clark: She served 9.5 years in prison for money laundering and mail fraud, received valuable business advice from multi-millionaire and prison mate, Martha Stewart, and turned her life completely around. Her page turning street lit has landed on the New York Times bestseller list not once, but three times. Major publishers who have taken her on include Simon & Schuster and Cash Money Content, a company owned by Bryan “Birdman” Williams and Ronald “Slim” Williams. Her chart topping books include Payback Ain’t Enough and Payback With Ya Life. Not one to shy away from a challenge, as soon as she was released from prison, this wife and mother also started her own business, Wahida Clark Publishing a company that has 14 authors on its roster.
MN: Had you thought about starting a business prior to your 9.5 year prison stay? Also, what advice did prison mate and multi-millionaire, Martha Stewart give you that continues to help propel your business forward?
WC: Before I went to prison and while I was living in Trenton, New Jersey, I dabbled with starting a book and printing company. Later, I moved to Georgia and sold telecommunications. During this time, I also did some business with the Housing and Urban Development (HUD). While I was incarcerated I wrote and published seven novels. The success of my books, including Essence bestseller, Thugs and the Women Who Love Them, caused me to receive lots of manuscripts from other inmates. Soon I realized that I had no choice but to start a publishing company. I developed the business plan for my publishing company while I was in prison and asked Martha Stewart to review my plan. She gave me a nod of approval. As soon as I came home I put my business plan into practice.
MN: When did you start Wahida Clark Publishing?
WC: I got out of prison in December 2007. I started my publishing company in 2008, as soon as I got out of prison. In order to be in a halfway house or home confinement you have to have a job. Rather than work for someone else, I started my own business.
MN: How much capital did you initially invest in Wahida Clark Publishing and what resources did you use to finance your business?
WC: I’m not sure of the exact amount I initially invested in my business. I used my own royalties from books I sold to start Wahida Clark Publishing. Businesses require an ongoing influx of capital. To meet this requirement, I constantly put money into Wahida Clark Publishing. I pay for the editing, printing, interior layout, etc. off royalties from books I sell.
MN: You’d already published and sold more than 300,000 copies of your Thug Series books under other publishers. Why did you decide to publish Justify My Thug and Payback Ain’t Enough under Cash Money Content?
WC: In prison I had contracts with major publishing houses. When I inked a deal with Cash Money Content, I simply moved from one publisher to another. Cash Money Content . . . when I thought about it, they had Nikki Minaj, Little Wayne, Drake etc. These artists sell millions of CDs to my target audience. So this was a chance for me to tap directly into my target audience. Cash Money has the ear of my audience. By working with them, I have a direct line into my target audience.