Successful Black Media Entrepreneurs Share Startup Tips

July 2, 2014  |  


When you’re starting a business, every conversation begins with capital — idea, information and investment.  However for African Americans, accessing that crucial element can be a struggle. Fortunately, three Black female businesswomen shared their insight with a full room at the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY, and I was there to get the details. The event, held in conjunction with the New York Association of Black Journalists and the CUNY Journalism School, featured solopreneur Andaiye Taylor*, journalist, author and professor Linda Villarosa and media entrepreneur Kelly Virella highlighting best practices to getting a new venture vested and monetized.

The speakers all began their projects with a similar goal in mind. Each undertaking is aimed at filling a gap in the market, making the ideas themselves assets. For Villarosa it was a hyperlocal blog with a dual purpose: enhancing the long-running Black periodical New York Amsterdam News and getting her students published. Virella analyzed the reading habits of herself and her friends, noting that she and her peers — even those who looked like her and worked in her field — didn’t support Black magazines. This inspired her to launch the first African-American narrative journalism magazine, Longview. Not leaving the concept to stand on its own, Virella conducted her own market research — information capital — to pinpoint her product.

Although these women are targeting what could be considered niche markets, they have two things undeniably in common: ambition and a creative approach to securing capital.

Taylor, a Newark native, created Brick City Live to combat the alarming amount of negative Black-focused news in her hometown. Seeing a worthwhile long-term investment, Taylor built her website on her own. Villarosa tapped into human capital; she staffed her first business with the very people it was helping — her students — and her second with her family. She also partnered with her employers, Amsterdam News and City College, which considerably reduced her need for investors to support hiring.

Taylor and Virella have also taken proactive approaches to monetization. BrickCityLive.com is billed as a service that connects people to information and other resources, a bundle of jargon that broaden her ability to generate revenue. Taylor also created a loyalty program that incentivizes support of local business through her brand and charges the owners, rather than the consumers, a fee for inclusion in the program. Both allow independence from the typical web income ads supply. Virella carefully outlined a handful of earning opportunities inherent to her project that she can present to potential investors as returns.

Once the women finished detailing creative paths to capital, Chris Rabb, an entrepreneurship and media consultant, expounded on the simplest form of capital. Money. Entrepreneurs need money, and according to Rabb, usually much more than calculated. He imparted that sufficient access to capital and relevant work experience are enormous boons to launching a business.

Together the panel effectively conveyed that entrepreneurs need to know exactly what capital they have already tapped. But more than that, enterprising business owners should anticipate needing more and create a strategy to guarantee it.

*We previously referenced Andaiye Smith by the last name Taylor. We regret the error.

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