JOIN US FOR A LIVE EVENT ON AUGUST 18: The CEOs of Ebony, Diddy’s Revolt and more on the future of Black media

Insider Events panel, from left: DeShauna Spencer of KweliTV, Detavio Samuels of Revolt TV, and Michele Ghee of Ebony
From left: DeShauna Spencer of KweliTV, Detavio Samuels of Revolt TV, and Michele Ghee of Ebony

Black creatives and media moguls have been working hard to gain equity in their own storytelling, but what does the next chapter of that fight look like?

Insider will host a panel on August 18 at 12 PM EST/9 AM PT on the future of Black media, moderated by entrepreneurship reporter Dominic-Madori Davis. Panelists include Michele Ghee, CEO of iconic brands Ebony and Jet Magazine; Detavio Samuels, CEO of REVOLT, the cable network owned by hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, and DeShauna Spencer, founder of KweliTV, a video streaming service dedicated to the issues, stories, and culture of the global Black community.

They’ll discuss what it’s like running a Black-owned media enterprise in the 21st century, as well as the challenges in maintaining control over Black stories in the US. They’ll reveal their career journeys and how how they’re increasing equity for the next generation of creative leaders.

You can sign up here to watch.

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A 23-year-old former waitress started her own restaurant marketing business that earns 6 figures. Here’s how she spends her days.

Sherane Chen
Sherane Chen

At 16, Sherane Chen started her first job at Steak-n-Shake as a waitress. By the age of 21, she’d launched a business specializing in restaurant marketing. Today it earns six figures, as seen in documents confirmed by Insider.

She got here by gaining restaurant industry experience, studying marketing, and having the confidence and wherewithal to spot an opportunity to combine her two areas of expertise. The hospitality industry was devastated by the pandemic, but the The National Restaurant Association is expecting some type of bounce back this year, with food and drink sales projected to hit $731.billion.

During and after college at the University of North Florida where she studied communications, Chen worked in restaurants. She made sure to build savings because she knew one day she wanted to start her own business.

After years as a waitress, she got a job in marketing at a local place called Oceanside Grill where she learned the operational aspects of the restaurant business. When she launched her own marketing firm focusing on social media management, graphic design, video creation, and hiring in 2019, Chen landed her first clients selling marketing services door to door.

“I would say, ‘hey I found your social and saw you weren’t active and I wanted to give you some tips on how you can get more customers in the door,'” she told Insider. She would leave behind her business card and wait for them to call.

Today her company has 17 clients and makes over six figures a year, according to documents provided to Insider. To Insider she reveals what her typical day is like, from walks on the beach, to endless Zoom calls with clients.

She wakes up at 7 a.m. making her first of many cups of coffee

Chen’s day typically begins at 7 a.m.

The eponymous restaurant company she founded has always been remote, which has allowed her to work from wherever, whenever. It currently has two-full time staffers including a graphic designer, a social media manager, and a part-time copywriter.

Before the pandemic, Chen used to work from local coffee shops, but now that she’s working from home, she invested in a top-tier coffee machine that keeps her going throughout the day. “I truly don’t know a marketer who doesn’t love a good cup of coffee to get all of the creative juices flowing,” she added.

Sherane Chen

After having her coffee, she then either makes breakfast or “treats” herself to a breakfast from a restaurant nearby. “Whenever I eat out for breakfast I usually take my computer so I can work on a few things while I’m out,” she continued. “The area I live in is peaceful and not very crowded so it’s usually just me getting things done while enjoying pancakes, eggs, bacon, and whatever else I decide to have that day.”

Around 9 a.m. she prepares to Zoom with her clients

After finishing breakfast, she prepares for her meetings with clients, which have been happening over Zoom since the pandemic struck.

Normally, she said, she would meet them at their restaurant to work on rebranding various parts of it, such as the menu, or develop new general marketing strategies. “We work on the strategy together and then I re-assign to my employees who took over most of the tactical things for me,” she said.

This part usually takes up most of her day. Meanwhile, Chen also makes ads for her own business, which she then runs on platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook to help attract new clients.

Chen always finds time to take a ‘breather’ during the day

Like most, her workload depends on what day she is having. “It’s not the same every day,” she said. “Some days are super chill and others are hectic. All holidays are really busy, and the start of each season – spring, summer, fall, and winter.”

Once Chen finishes the bulk of her workload, typically after lunch or in the early evening, she goes to get some fresh air. Her favorite place to go is the beach because it’s close to where she lives. “Taking a walk along the beach really helps to clear my head and gives me the boost of energy I need after being on the screen for so long,” she said.

Sherane Chen

Often during the day, Chen hops on the phone with her mentor Bruno DiFabio, a pizza chef who’s been helping her “learn the ropes” of the restaurant business for the past two years. Together they chat about ways to help grow her business.

And he isn’t the only mentor Chen has had these past few years – at 19, she met local business owner Nate Mayo, who does social media marketing and photography for various Jacksonville-based restaurants, and has a viral Instagram account that highlights popular food places in the area. Chen snagged an internship with Mayo around 2016 and began working for him, which inspired her to launch her own company.

After her ‘breather’ she goes straight back to work

She typically holds more meetings with restaurant owners throughout the evening, especially since the “lunch rush” is finished, which is usually around 2 p.m.

Chen says to manage the workload of having two jobs she makes sure to always take some time off. She books vacations and takes breathers such as the walk above. Chen also sometimes gets up an hour early to clear her head and prepare herself to stay focused for the day ahead.

After her breather, she usually goes back to work but likes to make a “quick snack.” She likes to recreate YouTube recipes, such as the snack she made pictured below. “I found this on Youtube years ago and have been eating it ever since,” she said. “Brown rice cakes, almond butter, and chia seeds are really filling and hit the spot when you are not a big lunch person.”

Sherane Chen
A snack

Around 6 p.m. she takes photographs outside

Chen’s favorite time of the day is “golden hour” – around 6 p.m. when the sky is a golden-tinted yellow. Chen takes advantage of the good quality light to take photographs of food she is seeking to help advertise.

Sometimes she has to hire someone to help her do it, as work can get busy. “I don’t really get a chance to do food photography anymore,” she said. “When I do have time to go, I love it.”

She eats dinner around 7:30, this day choosing to grab Mediterranean food. Afterward, she spends time studying – reading new books to help her gain knowledge in different areas outside of marketing. She’s currently reading “Zig Ziglar’s Secrets of Closing the Sale” by Zig Ziglar and “Spin Selling” by Neil Rackham.

Sherane Chen

She goes to bed around 11 p.m.

Chen says she doesn’t really “finish” work until around 11 pm. “People always need me all day,” she said, of her marketing exec job. “It’s a management role so I always get my team texting me at all hours.”

But when the calls finally stop and the text messages slow down, Chen has time to think about her next business idea – a podcast agency that helps brands and entrepreneurs achieve success in podcasting. She’s already started running ads for the venture.

“I’m working toward seven streams of income to be a millionaire by 2025,” she said, adding that she has a dream board of other projects she would like to helm. Asked about possible burnout, Chen let her ambition answer for her. “Just keep your focus on what you’re working hard for,” she said. “If you want it bad enough, you’ll make it happen.”

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The latest “it bag” is affordable, accessible, and counts Beyonce as a fan. Here’s what its business model is doing right.

Telfar
  • Fashion brand Telfar is rewriting the rules of luxury and it’s not hard for other brands to follow suit.
  • With its Bag Security Program, customers have a better chance of snagging the brand’s high-demand products.
  • Experts explain why it’s paving the way for next-gen luxury consumers and entrepreneurs.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Tianni Graham, 27, remembers the “before times” – that is, the harrowing months before Telfar introduced its Bag Security Program.

It was early last summer and she, along with thousands of others, was stuck testing their luck each day trying to buy the wildly popular Telfar handbag whose celeb fans include Beyonce, Selena Gomez, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Solange. But they often sold out before anyone could click ‘check out.’

It turns out, robots and resellers were buying products in bulk, making it harder for real customers to purchase them. So, last summer, Telfar introduced its Bag Security Program, in hopes of giving customers better access to its bags by allowing patrons 24 hours to pre-order any bag on the site, with no limits on how many can be purchased. The bag is then made to order, and shipped directly to the customer.

Its first drop, which happened last August, brought in about $20 million – about 10x what Telfar made in all of 2019.

Suddenly, Graham, who is also a fashion archivist and consultant, had her green Telfar bag. It arrived right before Christmas and was a “present to myself,’ she told Insider, adding that other brands could benefit from implementing a similar program. “It would make things so much easier and make the customer feel like you care.”

The program’s success shows how a luxury brand can create accessibility without losing the allure of exclusivity. The old-school model for luxury brands states the product should be scarce and elite, but the next generation of high-end consumers and entrepreneurs are taking a different route.

What’s more, Telfar is growing its exposure by becoming an official sponsor of the Liberian National team for the Olympics – Clemens is of Liberian descent. Additionally, the brand released collaborations with Ugg and Converse, accessible brands that are affordable to a mass audience, rather than Louis Vuittion and Supreme or Dior and Nike partnerships, which target the aspirational class.

Teflar is rewriting the rules of luxury, and this time, it’s not too hard for other brands to follow suit.

Telfar ‘white glove treatment’ is what next-gen luxury shoppers crave

Young consumers look less at price tags and more at brand values when determining where to spend their money; these next-gen consumers want sustainability, inclusivity, and a sense of community. The new “white glove treatment” when it comes to luxury shopping is a speedy online checkout from a brand that cares.

For Telfar’s latest drop this week, customers had the option to use the payment installment plan Klarna, making it even easier for those looking to obtain a bag. While customers will have to wait a few months before receiving the bag, people often spend years on a Birkin bag “waiting list” and most will probably never get one.

Shortly before Telfar’s program ended this week, a spokesperson for the brand told Insider it was, already, “going very well.”

Telfar started with an aim of inclusive luxury

Telfar was founded in 2005 by its eponymous founder Telfar Clemens and has dedicated the past two decades to building an inclusive business model.

In 2014, it released its now-iconic vegan leather handbag, which takes inspiration from a Bloomingdale’s shopping bag. The bags became widely available around 2018 after Telfar won $400,000 from the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, allowing the company to expand production.

Clemens described his brand to The Cut as being “genderless, democratic, and transformative,” purposely seeking to challenge the notion that high fashion is only for a certain group of people, with the brand motto being “Not For You – For Everyone.”

Telfar

Now, Telfar bags come in three sizes, with prices ranging from $150 to $257. (For comparison, Birkin bags go for at least $12,000 while Black-owned luxury brands such as Brother Veilles go for at least $1,295.)

As reported by FT, handbag sales in the US declined 18% between 2016 and 2019. Yet, Telfar stood out – in 2016, the brand earned $102,000, growing to earn $2 million in 2019. Last year, New York Magazine deemed its bag the “Bushwick Birkin” and the brand was on pace to earn eight figures, even as the fashion industry was expected to take a 90% loss in profits due to the pandemic.

Boston Consulting Group’s Head of Luxury Sarah Willersdorf told Insider that Telfar has checked all the boxes on what it takes to connect with next-gen luxury shoppers. She said the brand has a narrative that “evokes emotion” and properly intertwines timelessness, creative partnerships, and culturally relevant authorities. GQ pointed out Telfar’s customer base was built, not through influencers, but through “customer aspiration alone.”

Telfar
Telfar Clemens.

Raising the bar for next-gen luxury

Brands like Telfar are important in proving accessible business models can be just as lucrative. Willersdorf expects other brands to follow similar strategies in a post-pandemic world, as shopping continues to pivot online.

In the old days – a pre-millennial world, perhaps – having too much of a product is thought to dilute its value. The Bag Security program defies that. But even the most tech-savvy luxury brand is often behind the curve, as Insider has previously reported.

“Luxury brands are always nervous,” Joseph Yakuel, CEO and founder of consulting firm Within, told Insider last year. “There’s so much risk to them tarnishing their brand reputation because luxury brand price points are only supported by their perception, and if their brand perception goes down market, their price point gets eroded very quickly.”

Clemens and his artistic director, Babak Radboy, said they aren’t worried about oversaturation. It’s about community, now. The new “white glove treatment” is making sure everybody gets a pair that fits perfectly.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Millennial entrepreneur Brandon Blackwood shares how $7,000 and Instagram helped him build a handbag empire that’s on track to book $30 million in revenue

Brandon Blackwood
Brandon Blackwood

  • Brandon Blackwood is a handbag designer who is on track to book $30 million in revenue this year.
  • His eponymous business is best known for its “end systemic racism” tote that went viral last summer.
  • He found success by cultivating connections with customers and sharing his political views on Instagram.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Fashion designer Brandon Blackwood was at a crossroads last summer: Along with other Black-owned brands, he saw an increase in support as Black Lives Matter protests swept the nation. He was inspired but didn’t want to create just another handbag for his collection.

“It felt fake and dangerous to do at such an important time,” Blackwood said.

In early July, he conceptualized a small tote bag printed with the words “end systemic racism” and planned to donate a portion of proceeds to the pro bono legal assistance program Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. Almost two weeks later, Blackwood launched his collection of 500 “ESR” bags, made in 37 different colors and materials.

It sold out in two hours. “That’s when I knew the bag was more powerful and necessary than even I expected,” Blackwood told Insider.

Blackwood built his eponymous fashion label in six years and is now selling in the prestigious retailers that once rejected his designs. He found success by cultivating connections with customers and sharing his political views on Instagram.

Brandon Blackwood, which sells in bags ranging from $70 to $8,500, booked $3 million in revenue last year. Today, the brand already netted $6.5 million in revenue and estimates it will hit $30 million by the end of the year, according to documents viewed by Insider.

Blackwood shared how he built a brand with strong messaging that’s been sported by celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Normani, and Joan Collins.

Building a Black-owned brand from the ground up

Blackwood was born and raised in Brooklyn, and when it came time for college, his parents believed he was pursuing a degree in neuroscience at Bard College in upstate New York.

Brandon Blackwood
Brandon Blackwood

Growing up in a “strict Jamaican household,” he had two options: become a doctor or lawyer. “It was ingrained in me that no other job exists and nothing else will make you successful,” said Blackwood, now 29.

But he secretly pursued fashion instead, interning at Bergdorf Goodman and Elle Magazine, in addition to working with a manufacturer to make custom handbags for himself.

On graduation day, the announcer read the title of his thesis as he walked across the stage. His parents were expecting to hear something neuroscience-related and not his actual thesis title, “Diane von Furstenberg: Feel Like A Woman, Wear a Dress.”

“My whole family was caught off guard,” Blackwood recalled. “But I was like well, I can’t turn back now.”

After college, in 2013, Blackwood returned to Brooklyn and worked as a buyer at a consignment shop for about $10 an hour. During that time, strangers often compliment the backpack he designed and wore, asking where they could buy it.

“That’s where it clicked,” said Blackwood, who then aspired to create a brand people would feel proud to wear. “I should start taking this more seriously.”

He trademarked his name and began saving money – often opting to walk instead of paying subway fare. “It was either pay for my samples or a train ticket to work, ” he said.

Blackwood saved $7,000 and officially launched his brand in 2015 with four bags named after his close friends and brother. But he couldn’t get into stores because his name wasn’t big enough and e-commerce sales were slow because nobody knew who he was.

“No one was really seeking Black-owned brands,” he said. “It was about top-selling brands, which was disheartening to see.”

Zacharina Dainkeh
Zacharina Dainkeh

Using Instagram to connect with fans and reach cult-status

To build a relationship with customers, he used Instagram to boost his voice and identity. Blackwood often shared candid photos of himself with his bags, his diverse consumer base, and used the platform to voice his political opinions.

In the comments, he also would ask shoppers what colors and materials they’d want to see on his next bags. Business was steady, until 2020 when he released the “end systemic racism” tote.

After selling out his initial 500 bags, Blackwood restocked and sought celebrities who would promote it on social media. Most were reluctant to do so, he said.

Then, in August, he took a chance and cold messaged Kardashian on Instagram, asking her to share a photo with her 224 million followers. She obliged, and in late October, shared a picture that received more than 2 million likes.

“When she did that everyone began circling back around,” Blackwood said. Since then, other bag styles have gone viral, such as its mini trunk bag seen styled on Jessica Alba. He’s also begun working with a diverse set of celebrities to promote his work, including singer Doja Cat, model Winnie Harlow, and tech heiress Jaime Xie.

Most of his consumers are millennials and Gen Zers, who support brands that appear authentic and share their socio-political and ethical views. Fashion blogger Zacharina Dainkeh, 23, bought the “ESR” tote last summer, telling Insider the message resonated with how she was feeling at the time.

“I always support businesses that are important to me,” she said, adding that Black designers are undervalued. “We are not trends – we are everlasting and here to stay.”

Predencia Solange, 28, an account executive based in Brooklyn also bought the “ESR” tote in an effort to support more Black designers. She said systemic racism has played part in her life as a woman and color, and being more sociopolitically conscious as a Black woman also meant being also being more conscious as a buyer, she told Insider.

“I wear the bag in style, mood and politics,” she said.

A future without the End Systemic Racism tote

This March, Blackwood discontinued the tote. He didn’t want the bag to become a trend that distracts from its initial purpose to give back.

Brandon Blackwood
Brandon Blackwood

But he’s already made a name for himself that extends beyond the viral hit.

The brand just released its spring selection of bags, and some styles have already sold out. He’s now joined other Black fashion entrepreneurs such as Telfar Clemens, Christopher John Rogers, and Kirby Jean-Raymond, who are seeking to redefine the luxury sector.

Luxury within the Black community is about comfort and taste, rather than price point, said Blackwood and fashion historian Darnell-Jamal Lisby. For the new rising crop of Black luxury entrepreneurs, it’s also about being accessible and making sure Black people can be included in the conversation of luxury that has long excluded them.

This is one reason why Blackwood’s company insists on letting customers pre-order items to ensure everyone gets a bag, similar to Telfar’s Bag Security Program, which Insider hailed the “New White Glove Treatment.”

Today, Blackwood’s bags are sold in some of the very stores that once turned him down. He hopes to expand into shoes, outerwear, and sunglasses to become a household name.

“People think I’m this new person who came from nowhere but that’s not the case – there are five years of history behind this,” he said. “This is one of the few times where I can finally take a step back and breathe.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

He was the first African American member of Miami’s most exclusive social club. Today, he owns it – and has a plan to recoup his $8 million investment.

R. Donahue Peebles
R. Donahue Peebles

  • Miami’s exclusive club The Bath Club has reopened with new owners.
  • After years of excluding Black people, its current owner Don Peebles is African American.
  • The new owner talks to Insider about his plans to build an “exclusively inclusive” club to cater to a new generation of private club-goers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When R. Donahue Peebles first set foot on the sand of the Beach Club in Miami in 1996, toured its three acres of private beach, two clay tennis courts, and 26,000-square-foot clubhouse, he had no idea he would be the private social club’s first African American member.

“It was a beautiful Mediterranean building,” said Peebles, who is the founder of the multi-billion dollar real estate development company Peebles Corporation. He’d come to Miami to build the Royal Palm Hotel in South Beach – a project that would make him the first African American to develop a major hotel in the US.

And that wouldn’t be his last first: In 2000, Peebles bought this very social club, remaking its image after decades of excluding people of color. He and his wife Katrina, who is creative director at Peebles Corporation, invested $8 million renovating the club, which reopened this February with a membership list curated by the couple.

The new Bath Club, they said, will be a place where everyone is welcome – and Peebles has a plan to recoup his investment by catering to a new generation of private club-goers who value his family’s “exclusively inclusive” approach.

This wasn’t the barrier I was looking to break’

Founded in 1926, the Bath Club was the first private social club established in the Southeast United States. It was a place of leisure for the Vanderbilt, Cartier, and Boeing families, though minorities, especially Black and Jewish people, were barred from entering.

R. Donahue Peebles
R. Donahue Peebles

Though Peebles joined seventy years later and thirty years after the end of the Jim Crow era, he said there were moments when he felt used – a mere vehicle to help the storied club change its image. “This wasn’t the barrier I was looking to break,” Don said.

Miami Beach has a long history of racism and discrimination. In fact, it used to be a sundown town, a nearly all-white community that banned Black people past sunset. Aside from the Bath Club, other prominent social clubs, such as Indian Creek and the Everglades Club, have all faced decades-long criticism for their policies which appear to discriminate against Black and Jewish communities. Some of these clubs have found a loophole in a Florida law that only explicitly bans clubs with over 400 members from discriminating against minorities.

Freddy Stebbins, a history and sociology professor at Miami Dade College, told Insider the old Bath Club used to send postcards that said “gentiles only” on the back – a way to signal they didn’t want Jewish people to enter the club. (In 1947 Miami Beach passed a law banning businesses from displaying signs that used the distinction.)

“It was a boy’s club,” Stebbins said, adding that members were typically those from the North who had money, wealth, and prestige. “You most often had to be Protestant. You could definitely not be a person of color and you could definitely not be Jewish.”

The Bath Club
Exterior of The Bath Club

Things began to change, however, after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and the end of Jim Crow. The area experienced an influx of immigrants and new money. Then, in 1996, came Peebles.

More diverse than ever before, but still just as exclusive

Katrina Peebles & Don Peebles
Katrina Peebles & Don Peebles

As the demographics of South Florida began to change, old-school exclusive clubs fell on hard times. Over 70% of the region’s population is Latino, compared to an overall 27% for the state of Florida. As of 2018, over 50% of the population was born outside of the United States (the national average is just 13%). Miami has the highest population of Cubans outside of Cuba; it has a vibrant Haitian community in what’s known as “Little Haiti,” and a Colombian population nearing 300,000.

In the modern era, the Bath Club struggled to attract new members. After it experienced financial difficulties, Peebles won a bid to buy it in 2000 for $10 million. At first, he allowed the club’s original owners to retain rights; he built a luxury tower and six beachside villas on the property.

But around 2013, he began buying out club members. Two years later, his company took full control of the club and used it as an event space. It was Katrina who suggested turning it back into a social club.

The aim for the new Bath Club, said Katrina, is to be “exclusively inclusive.” As a biracial couple, both have experienced feeling like the “only” people in the room and felt buying the historic Bath Club sends a message. “It could show how far Miami and even America has come,” she said.

The club may be more diverse than ever before, but it’s still just as exclusive. The initiation fee is $20,000 with annual dues costing $18,000 – a steal compared to other clubs where initiation fees can start at $200,000. Membership is capped at 200 and is via referral by a member, or the Peebles themselves.

So far, about 150 of the memberships have been sold, though they declined to share to whom beyond saying the group included some “high profile” people. The Peebles are fixtures on the nation’s social scene, having hosted campaign fundraisers for both the Clintons and the Obamas.

Peebles says he’s already made a third of his $8 million investment back. The rest he’s expecting to recoup in less than two years.

Enter, the new Roaring 20s

The club’s exclusivity is a selling point to many new members, as it gives the opportunity to socially distance while lounging in a cabana on a private beach.

The private dining spaces, ballroom, spa, and restaurant attracted new members like Lauren Geduld, who told the Miami Herald she joined the club alongside her husband and two daughters, looking for a place to entertain themselves safely and privately. “The beach is what attracted us. It’s located in such a special part of Miami Beach. The service is great. The food is great. It has such a magical environment.”

The interiors, done by female-founded firm Antrobus + Ramirez, contain floral patterns, with a mix of retro-furnishings. The Prohibition-era secret doors were restored, and the new menus are curated by the Apicii Hospitality, which also worked on the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort in Orlando.

The US market for golf courses and country clubs hit over $20 billion last year and is expected to increase at least 2% over the next five years. Calling the social club industry “interesting,” Peebles isn’t in a rush to buy another one. In fact, he said, when he bought the club he didn’t even necessarily have plans to reopen it; he just wanted to preserve it. But then of course, on the cusp of a bustling new jazz age, it would be quite irresistible not to share that white-sand view of the twinkling night sky above the Atlantic.

“It was a long winding road to get us here,” Don said. “But buildings tell stories, and this one tells the American story of how we were segregated, how our wealth was concentrated racially, then someone like me bought it, and, along with my wife, this is what we did with it.”

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Comedian Lil Rel Howery is using the streaming app KweliTV to give Black content creators more ownership over their work

Lil Rel Howery
Lil Rel Howery.

  • Lil Rel Howery, an actor and comedian, was in “Get Out” and “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
  • He’s also the comedy head at the Black-owned streaming service KweliTV.
  • He told Insider about his plans to help redefine Black comedy.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Last summer, the actor and comedian Milton “Lil Rel” Howery grabbed his phone and scrolled through Twitter. An ad for the Black-owned streaming service KweliTV stopped him.

Enamored of the premise of a Black-owned media company, Howery downloaded the app and binge-watched indie shorts and feature films for two days. He reached out to KweliTV through a direct Twitter message, and DeShuna Spencer, KweliTV’s founder, responded.

“I was already in the mindset of wanting to jump into the streaming game,” Howery, 41, told Insider. “So I told her I’ve been watching everything and I was a fan of what she was doing.”

Founded in 2017, KweliTV has over 40,000 subscribers and offers over 500 films and shorts from independent Black creators, including dramas and documentaries. After several conversations with Spencer about the state of Black media and new techniques for content creation, Howery became the head of comedy at KweliTV in October.

Howery, who is scheduled to host the Oscars preshow on Sunday, has made a name for himself by appearing in films and TV shows such as “Get Out,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” and “Bad Trip.” With his new position, Howery is reassessing the role of comedy in Black culture.

DeShuna Spencer, founder & CEO of kweliTV.
DeShuna Spencer, the founder and CEO of KweliTV.

He’s greenlighted nearly 30 projects, including an animated series, “The Matumbila’s,” about a Tanzanian immigrant family adjusting to the social mores of the US.

“Our business model is built around shifting the Black narrative, helping to dismantle implicit bias, and increasing the visibility and economic inclusion among Black creatives,” Spencer told Insider. She added that after the first few conversations with Howery, “I became excited about what we could build together.”

The ’90s are often referred to as the golden age of Black television, with sitcoms such as “Martin,” “Living Single,” and “Moesha,” among others. But some of the creators of these shows didn’t have equity in their work. That’s something Howery and Spencer can change – and they’re eager to do so.

Allissa V. Richardson, a journalism professor at the University of Southern California, told Insider that now there’s a need for content made for Black people, by Black people, especially in comedy.

“People are turning away from things that don’t make them feel good,” she said. “They want to escape into a world where Black life is limitless, fun, and funny. And our entertainment typically does that.”

“It is a blessing in disguise that we weren’t accepted by all these networks and studios,” Howery added. “It’s forced us to do our own stuff.”

‘You can create your own table’

Howery has trained for years to be a comedy executive. He’s attended Hollywood pitch meetings and executive-produced his own work. On every set, he asks “a million questions.” He’s diligently observed how producers strategize, how directors lead, and how editors craft.

Grasping both the creative and the technical aspects of the entertainment business gave him an open mind when selecting content for KweliTV, he said. During a time of social and political unrest, Howery wants to offer content that makes people feel good.

Sean Bartley
Sean Bartley created the TV series “Connect.”

“Everything can’t just be about slavery. It’s OK to talk about, but we have more stories than that,” he said. “There are different types of Black people all over the world doing different things.”

Each Sunday, Howery goes through content submissions with Spencer and calls creatives to talk through their ideas. One of the hardest parts of the job is saying no to creators, he said, especially since he knows filmmakers are emotionally and financially invested in their work.

“When it’s bad but shot well,” he said, “that’s irritating – it looks beautiful, but it’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen in your life.”

One of the projects Howery has greenlighted is “Love, New York,” a short directed by Dionna McMillian that follows a struggling actress on her way to a big audition. McMillian told Insider that, as she’s an independent filmmaker, much of what she’s able to accomplish is through the willingness of others to invest in not only her work but her brand.

“When your film receives a stamp of approval from an established comedian, people tend to be more willing to watch your work and believe it’s actually a funny film,” McMillian said.

Zulfiqar Manzi
Zulfiqar Manzi, the creator of “The Matumbila’s.”

Sean Bartley is the creator of the TV series “Connect,” which chronicles the lives of four friends and their entrepreneurial journeys; the second season premiered in February on KweliTV. Bartley said that the benefit of having Howery greenlight content helped him realize that creators don’t always need major networks to greenlight projects.

“You can create your own table and state your own claim,” he said.

Zulfiqar Manzi, the creator of “The Matumbila’s,” agreed. “Even though the family comes from Tanzania, there is still relatability,” Manzi said. “Howery understands anything that’s funny first can work.”

Creators get paid quarterly and based on minutes watched of their episodes. The payment to producers such as Manzi is split 60/40: Manzi takes home 60% of the royalties, while KweliTV receives 40%.

KweliTV’s future

Howery is aware there are other Black-owned networks, such as Diddy’s Revolt and the Black News Channel, cofounded by former Rep. J. C. Watts. “We don’t have to compete,” he said. “Maybe at some point we can figure out a way to combine forces and turn into these big players out here.”

Describing himself as “hands-on” with creatives, Howery said that connecting with others as a comedy head had inspired him to invest more in carving out a space for himself in Hollywood. Similar to the producer and actress Issa Rae, Howery believes it’s important to connect with next-generation talent, especially as more creatives become their own executives and streaming services continue to overtake traditional media.

Aside from Howery, Spencer runs the company alone. Howery brought on an assistant, who helps him look through submissions. The next step for the platform is to increase its presence internally and to double down on making it a “safe space” by introducing more wellness topics, Spencer said.

Though he’s carving out his own path, Howery hasn’t forgone traditional Hollywood. He wants the industry to pay attention to the app to find up-and-coming talent to work with. Even he still works full time as an actor and comedian – he wants more Black creatives to continue to rise in Hollywood, paving the way for others who want to do the same.

“Have your hand in everything while building your own tools,” he said. “After that, figure out how to build a home.”

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A day in the life of a 23-year-old, 6-figure-earning marketing entrepreneur who started as a waitress at Steak-n-Shake

Sherane Chen
Sherane Chen

At 16, Sherane Chen started her first job at Steak-n-Shake as a waitress. By the age of 21, she’d launched a business specializing in restaurant marketing. Today it earns six figures, and Chen also works full-time as a marketing lead.

She got here by gaining restaurant industry experience, studying marketing, and having the confidence and wherewithal to spot an opportunity to combine her two areas of expertise.

During and after college at the University of North Florida where she studied communications, Chen worked in restaurants. She made sure to build a savings, because she knew one day she wanted to start her own business.

After years as a waitress, she got a job in marketing at a local place called Oceanside Grill where she learned the operational aspects of the restaurant business. When she launched her own marketing firm focusing on social media management, graphic design, video creation, and hiring in 2019, Chen landed her first clients selling marketing services door to door.

“I would say, ‘hey I found your social and saw you weren’t active and I wanted to give you some tips on how you can get more customers in the door,'” she told Insider. She would leave behind her business card and wait for them to call.

Today her company has 17 clients and makes over six figures a year, according to documents provided to Insider. Chen also works full-time as a marketing lead at a business coaching company. To Insider she reveals what her typical day is like, from walks on the beach, to endless Zoom calls with clients.

She wakes up at 7 a.m. making her first of many cups of coffee

Chen’s day typically begins at 7 a.m.

The eponymous restaurant company she founded has always been remote, which has allowed her to work from wherever, whenever. It currently has two-full time staffers including a graphic designer, a social media manager, and a part-time copywriter.

Before the pandemic, Chen used to work from local coffee shops, but now that she’s working from home, she invested in a top-tier coffee machine that keeps her going throughout the day. “I truly don’t know a marketer who doesn’t love a good cup of coffee to get all of the creative juices flowing,” she added.

Sherane Chen

After having her coffee, she then either makes breakfast or “treats” herself to a breakfast from a restaurant nearby. “Whenever I eat out for breakfast I usually take my computer so I can work on a few things while I’m out,” she continued. “The area I live in is peaceful and not very crowded so it’s usually just me getting things done while enjoying pancakes, eggs, bacon, and whatever else I decide to have that day.”

Around 9 a.m. she prepares to Zoom with her clients

After finishing breakfast, she prepares for her meetings with clients, which have been happening over Zoom since the pandemic struck.

Normally, she said, she would meet them at their restaurant to work on rebranding various parts of it, such as the menu, or develop new general marketing strategies. “We work on the strategy together and then I re-assign to my employees who took over most of the tactical things for me,” she said.

This part usually takes up most of her day. Meanwhile, Chen also makes ads for her own business, which she then runs on platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook to help attract new clients.

Aside from running her own company, Chen also spends her day working as marketing and sales lead for a business coaching company called The Unstoppable Entrepreneur owned by Kelly Roach. Chen has worked there for nearly two years and makes six figures there, as well. For that company, she helps manage the marketing team, ads, and helps coach Roach’s clients on the various aspects of marketing.

Chen always finds time to take a ‘breather’ during the day

Like most, her workload depends on what day she is having. “It’s not the same every day,” she said. “Some days are super chill and others are hectic. All holidays are really busy, and the start of each season – spring, summer, fall, and winter.”

Once Chen finishes the bulk of her workload, typically after lunch or in the early evening, she goes to get some fresh air. Her favorite place to go is the beach because it’s close to where she lives. “Taking a walk along the beach really helps to clear my head and gives me the boost of energy I need after being on the screen for so long,” she said.

Sherane Chen

Often during the day, Chen hops on the phone with her mentor Bruno DiFabio, a pizza chef who’s been helping her “learn the ropes” of the restaurant business for the past two years. Together they chat about ways to help grow her business.

And he isn’t the only mentor Chen has had these past few years – at 19, she met local business owner Nate Mayo, who does social media marketing and photography for various Jacksonville-based restaurants, and has a viral Instagram account that highlights popular food places in the area. Chen snagged an internship with Mayo around 2016 and began working for him, which inspired her to launch her own company.

Chen also counts Roach as a mentor as well. “Kelly has taught me how to be resilient and how to be the best what you do,” she said. “She taught me how to work for the things I want and never give up.”

After her ‘breather’ she goes straight back to work

She typically holds more meetings with restaurant owners throughout the evening, especially since the “lunch rush” is finished, which is usually around 2 p.m. She also continues assignments for Roach’s company.

Chen says to manage the workload of having two jobs she makes sure to always take some time off. She books vacations and takes breathers such as the walk above. Chen also sometimes gets up an hour early to clear her head and prepare herself to stay focused for the day ahead.

After her breather, she usually goes back to work but likes to make a “quick snack.” She likes to recreate YouTube recipes, such as the snack she made pictured below. “I found this on Youtube years ago and have been eating it ever since,” she said. “Brown rice cakes, almond butter, and chia seeds are really filling and hit the spot when you are not a big lunch person.”

Sherane Chen
A snack

Around 6 p.m. she takes photographs outside

Chen’s favorite time of the day is “golden hour” – around 6 p.m. when the sky is a golden-tinted yellow. Chen takes advantage of the good quality light to take photographs of food she is seeking to help advertise.

Sometimes she has to hire someone to help her do it, as work can get busy. “I don’t really get a chance to do food photography anymore,” she said. “When I do have time to go, I love it.”

She eats dinner around 7:30, this day choosing to grab Mediterranean food. Afterward, she spends time studying – reading new books to help her gain knowledge in different areas outside of marketing. She’s currently reading “Zig Ziglar’s Secrets of Closing the Sale” by Zig Ziglar and “Spin Selling” by Neil Rackham.

Sherane Chen

She goes to bed around 11 p.m.

Chen says she doesn’t really “finish” work until around 11 pm. “People always need me all day,” she said, of her marketing exec job. “It’s a management role so I always get my team texting me at all hours.”

But when the calls finally stop and the text messages slow down, Chen has time to think about her next business idea – a podcast agency that helps brands and entrepreneurs achieve success in podcasting. She’s already started running ads for the venture.

“I’m working toward seven streams of income to be a millionaire by 2025,” she said, adding that she has a dream board of other projects she would like to helm. Asked about possible burnout, Chen let her ambition answer for her. “Just keep your focus on what you’re working hard for,” she said. “If you want it bad enough, you’ll make it happen.”

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The creator of a $150 purse beloved by AOC and Oprah is revolutionizing “it bags” by making them accessible to everyone. Against all odds, it’s working.

Telfar

Tianni Graham, 27, remembers the “before times” – that is, the harrowing months before Telfar introduced its Bag Security Program.

It was early last summer and she, along with thousands of others, was stuck testing their luck each day trying to buy the wildly popular Telfar handbag whose celeb fans include Oprah, Selena Gomez, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Solange. But they often sold out before anyone could click ‘check out.’

It turns out, robots and resellers were buying products in bulk, making it harder for real customers to purchase them. So, last summer, Telfar introduced its Bag Security Program, in hopes of giving customers better access to its bags by allowing patrons 24 hours to pre-order any bag on the site, with no limits on how many can be purchased. The bag is then made to order, and shipped directly to the customer.

Its first drop, which happened last August, brought in about $20 million – about 10x what Telfar made in all of 2019.

Suddenly, Graham, who is also a fashion archivist and consultant, had her green Telfar bag. It arrived right before Christmas and was a “present to myself,’ she told Insider, adding that other brands could benefit from implementing a similar program. “It would make things so much easier and make the customer feel like you care.”

The program’s success shows how a luxury brand can create accessibility without losing the allure of exclusivity. The old-school model for luxury brands states the product should be scarce and elite, but the next generation of high-end consumers and entrepreneurs are taking a different route.

Teflar is rewriting the rules of luxury, and this time, it’s not too hard for other brands to follow suit.

Telfar ‘white glove treatment’ is what next-gen luxury shoppers crave

Young consumers look less at price tags and more at brand values when determining where to spend their money; these next-gen consumers want sustainability, inclusivity, and a sense of community. The new “white glove treatment” when it comes to luxury shopping is a speedy online checkout from a brand that cares.

For Telfar’s latest drop this week, customers had the option to use the payment installment plan Klarna, making it even easier for those looking to obtain a bag. While customers will have to wait a few months before receiving the bag, people often spend years on a Birkin bag “waiting list” and most will probably never get one.

Shortly before Telfar’s program ended this week, a spokesperson for the brand told Insider it was, already, “going very well.”

Telfar started with an aim of inclusive luxury

Telfar was founded in 2005 by its eponymous founder Telfar Clemens and has dedicated the past two decades to building an inclusive business model.

In 2014, it released its now-iconic vegan leather handbag, which takes inspiration from a Bloomingdale’s shopping bag. The bags became widely available around 2018 after Telfar won $400,000 from the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, allowing the company to expand production.

Clemens described his brand to The Cut as being “genderless, democratic, and transformative,” purposely seeking to challenge the notion that high fashion is only for a certain group of people, with the brand motto being “Not For You – For Everyone.”

Telfar

Now, Telfar bags come in three sizes, with prices ranging from $150 to $257. (For comparison, Birkin bags go for at least $12,000 while Black-owned luxury brands such as Brother Veilles go for at least $1,295.)

As reported by FT, handbag sales in the US declined 18% between 2016 and 2019. Yet, Telfar stood out – in 2016, the brand earned $102,000, growing to earn $2 million in 2019. Last year, New York Magazine deemed its bag the “Bushwick Birkin” and the brand was on pace to earn eight figures, even as the fashion industry was expected to take a 90% loss in profits due to the pandemic.

Boston Consulting Group’s Head of Luxury Sarah Willersdorf told Insider that Telfar has checked all the boxes on what it takes to connect with next-gen luxury shoppers. She said the brand has a narrative that “evokes emotion” and properly intertwines timelessness, creative partnerships, and culturally relevant authorities. GQ pointed out Telfar’s customer base was built, not through influencers, but through “customer aspiration alone.”

Telfar
Telfar Clemens.

Raising the bar for next-gen luxury

Brands like Telfar are important in proving accessible business models can be just as lucrative. Willersdorf expects other brands to follow similar strategies in a post-pandemic world, as shopping continues to pivot online.

In the old days – a pre-millennial world, perhaps – having too much of a product is thought to dilute its value. The Bag Security program defies that. But even the most tech-savvy luxury brand is often behind the curve, as Insider has previously reported.

“Luxury brands are always nervous,” Joseph Yakuel, CEO and founder of consulting firm Within, told Insider last year. “There’s so much risk to them tarnishing their brand reputation because luxury brand price points are only supported by their perception, and if their brand perception goes down market, their price point gets eroded very quickly.”

Clemens and his artistic director, Babak Radboy, said they aren’t worried about oversaturation. It’s about community, now. The new “white glove treatment” is making sure everybody gets a pair that fits perfectly.

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The new CEO of Diddy’s Revolt TV wants to make it the world’s largest Black-owned media empire

Detavio Samuels
Detavio Samuels.

  • Detavio Samuels, 40, is the new CEO of Diddy’s Revolt.
  • He wants to help expand the network’s coverage of social justice.
  • To Insider, he discusses the state of Black media, and the future he wants to help build.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

There’s an African proverb that Detavio Samuels keeps in the back of his mind: Until the lion learns to tell his own story, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.

“It’s a proverb about how, as long as you don’t control your own narrative, someone is always going to set themselves up to be the victor,” Samuels told Insider.

He thinks about the proverb often, because “that’s what we’ve had for centuries,” he said. “There are Black stories not being told because the power isn’t with the people who are authentic and inside the culture.”

On March 3, Samuels, 40, was announced the newest CEO of Revolt TV, the cable network owned by hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, which specializes in creating music-themed content for Black audiences.

Founded in 2013, it is one of the few Black-owned cable networks and was previously helmed by Roma Khanna until she resigned as CEO in July. Revolt is broadcasted in over 60 million households and is known for its popular show “State of the Culture,” in which Joe Budden, Remy Ma, and Eboni K. Williams discuss pop culture and politics.

In addition to the robust schedule of entertainment programming, as CEO, Samuels wants to bolster content addressing important topics in the Black community, such as socioeconomic discrimination, intersectional feminism, and wellness.

In April the network launched Revolt Black News, and Samuels wants to expand its coverage to highlight activists, center Black women, and focus on investigative and breaking news. Later this year Revolt TV will be offered on more television and mobile platforms, such as Apple TV, Roku, Android, and iOS. Currently, about 75 to 100 people work at the company, and Samuels is planning to expand that, too.

There are plans for a possible podcast, too. “The dream is that we will be the largest Black-owned media company in the world,” he said. “So we’re doing it.”

On the same day of Samuels’ appointment, Revolt also announced Colin McIntosh as COO and CFO, and Deon Graham as chief brand officer of Combs Enterprise.

Revolt’s social justice

Too often Black people become the antagonists of their own stories. In 2017, Color of Change found that major news outlets regularly, and disproportionately, depict Black families as dysfunctional, while white families are often shown as stable.

REVOLT TV
Poster for the new REVOLT show “Crew League” in which hip hop stars and their friends compete against each other.

The same study also found that media outlets are more likely to portray Black men as absentee fathers, despite research arguing the opposite, and that although Black family members make up 26% of those arrested on criminal charges, they represent 37% of criminals in the news. White people are portrayed as criminals only 28% of the time even though they constitute 77% of crime suspects, according to Color of Change.

“Much what of we’ve seen of how Black people are depicted is through the white gaze – it’s how non-Black people see us,” Sofiya Abena Ballin, an award-winning journalist, and creator of Black History Untold, told Insider.

“Black people are seen as a threat, as a stereotype, or as a caricature,” she continued. “Black media has been trying to consistently undo that work. That’s why it’s important to have us there.”

The past century has seen the creation of outlets such as Black newspapers, radio stations, and networks seeking to communicate information and tell the stories of the Black community. In the era of social media, there are more opportunities for people to become the narrators of their own truths.

Ballin said that gatekeeping and diversity are only part of the story. Black people need to support each other as well, she said, giving the example of many Black celebrities who may decide to pass over Black media in lieu of a large, mainstream outlet.

“When you complain about how you’re depicted, it’s because you go to the ‘popular mainstream’ news outlets that you deem to be more valuable and are not owned and run by Black people,” Ballin said. “But they don’t have a true understanding of who you are as a person.”

‘This is the moment’

Samuels has come a long way from the rocky mountains. He was born in Boulder, grew up in Denver, and graduated from Duke University in 2002 with a B.A. in political science.

In 2006, Samuels earned an MBA and a Master’s degree from Stanford University. From 2005 to 2007 he worked in marketing roles at Johnson & Johnson and GlobalHue before pivoting to advertising and digital media at RadioOne as president of its subsidiary, iOne.

But in late 2019, Samuels wasn’t sure he wanted to work at Revolt because he wasn’t too interested in giving up his presidential control at iOne.

The turning point of Samuels’ career came when Samuels’ father died last year. His father was a professor of African American literature at the University of Utah and instilled in his son the importance of Black liberation.

Walking out of his father’s funeral, Samuels decided it was time to dedicate his career to a cause. He went back to the Revolt team as chief operating officer and began his rise through the network’s ranks. His first day was the same day George Floyd was killed.

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The return of Ebony magazine: After a $14 million buyout, its new millennial owner talks a historic relaunch

Eden Bridgeman
Eden Bridgeman.

In the early 1990s, Eden Bridgeman sat underneath a hairdryer in a Louisville beauty shop. She was just a child then and wanted to look pristine for Easter Sunday.

Next to the hairdryer stood a rack of magazines. Among them, a beautiful Black woman graced a glossy cover. She picked it up and flipped through its pages. This was one of her first encounters with Ebony magazine. 

As a pastime, Bridgeman studied Ebony, as so many Black girls did in hair salons, in their grandmother’s living room, and on their auntie’s kitchen counter.  

With glamorous celebrities and public figures like Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, and Michelle Obama on the covers, Ebony portrayed Black women at their finest. “These were our superstars,” Bridgeman, 34, said. “The people driving the culture.”

Now, after a tumultuous 75-year history, which has seen a decline in the appetite for print products and the bankruptcy of Ebony Media Corporation, Bridgeman is the magazine’s latest owner, as well as the mastermind behind its rebranding.

On March 1st, Ebony relaunched. 

Ebony was founded in 1945 by publisher John Johnson and during the 1960s, the publication earned acclaim for its coverage of the civil rights movement. Ebony’s diminutive, sister magazine, Jet, was founded in 1951 by Johnson. For nearly six decades, the two publications defined Black culture with their in-depth profiles of such figures as civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael, Diana Ross, and its insightful coverage of the AIDS epidemic. In the 1980s, their circulation topped an impressive 1 million.

Ebony Magazine
Martin Luther King Jr. on the cover of Ebony Magazine in 1968.

Then came the 21st century, and financial woes struck the lorded publications. Both magazines suffered years of declining subscriptions and ad revenue. In 2016, Ebony and Jet were sold to private equity firm CV Media, and in 2019, both publications stopped printing physical copies. In July, Willard Jackson, the magazine’s CEO, was removed after an internal investigation of unauthorized use of company funds. 

Shortly after Jackson’s leave, Bridgeman’s father presented the family with an idea: he wanted to buy Ebony and Jet. Bridgeman was interested immediately.

To start planning, Bridgeman was introduced to former CNN and BET executive Michele Ghee through mutual friends. They spoke about what the future of Ebony and Jet could look like. A few days later, Ebony Media Operations filed for bankruptcy. 

In December, the Bridgeman family won the bid to buy Ebony and Jet for $14 million. Soon after the deal was closed, Ghee was officially appointed CEO and planned a relaunch for March. This gave them a month to organize Ebony’s rebirth. 

Jet is scheduled to relaunch in June. 

‘We’re a 75-year-old startup’

The new Ebony, Bridgeman said, has three core values: to be bold, brilliant, and beloved.

The magazine has at least a dozen people on staff. Both Ebony and Jet will be entirely digital endeavors, and there are no plans for either to return to print. Bridgeman’s day-to-day is ever-changing. She’s on calls, meeting with advertisers, and assisting in finding partners and contributors for the magazine. 

Ebony cover
The new Ebony cover, released March 1, featuring artwork by Jon Moody.

She tells Insider that throughout her years as a business professional, she’s come to appreciate the idea of servant leadership – the notion that she, as the leader, is not bigger than any entity. A title is just a title. 

“You have to understand every aspect within the business,” she said. “You [have to] show up in a way that people feel they can approach you. They [must] feel that they can work with you, not only just for you.” 

Purchasing the assets out of bankruptcy meant Bridgeman had an obligation to make sure her business strategies could sustain themselves, she said. And she’s been emphasizing the power of the Black dollar to advertisers, which was valued at over $1 trillion in 2019

“You are going to want to tap into that power,” she said. 

Rather than go back to print, Ebony will funnel money into the magazine’s technological expansion. “We’re a 75-year-old startup,” Bridgeman joked.”There’s plenty of room across the media space for all of us to live. We want to lift each other up.” 

Ebony’s first digital cover features a painting by artist Jon Moody, which portrays a woman with her locs flowing in the air. Tanisha Ford, historian and author of “Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl’s Love Letter to the Power of Fashion” is excited for the relaunch. 

Growing up, it seemed every Black family in Ford’s life had a subscription to Ebony and Jet. Often spread out on coffee tables, the magazines became a collector’s item – a generational touchstone. 

That was then, however, and Ford is curious to see how the magazine will establish brand loyalty in the modern age.

Jet Magazine
Eartha Kitt on the cover of Jet Magazine in 1955.

“I think about folks who are finishing high school and on the verge of college,” Ford told Insider. “It doesn’t mean the same thing for them – they don’t have the same kind of nostalgia of having an aunt pass down old Ebony magazines in the same ways that I do.”

The next 75 years

Bridgeman was born in Los Angeles and raised in Louisville. Since 2009, she’s been working for her family’s company, Manna Inc., which owns hundreds of restaurants throughout the United States, including 130 Wendy’s locations. In 2013, she completed her MBA at Loyola University Chicago-Quinlan School of Business. She was named chief marketing officer of Manna Inc. in 2017, a position she will retain as she oversees the relaunch of Ebony and Jet.

Bridgeman wants Jet to produce fast-paced news targeted toward millennials, and there are plans to bring back its beloved Beauty of the Week section, which highlights beautiful, successful Black women. 

That section was an early memory for entrepreneur Maori Karmael Holmes, founder and artistic director of BlackStar Film Festival, who also recalls seeing Ebony and Jet magazines scattered throughout the homes of both her grandmothers. Last year, Holmes launched her own print journal, Seen, which focuses on filmmaking.

She is also hopeful for the relaunch, pointing out that Ebony was essential to opening the doors of Black writers, and gave Black entrepreneurs a chance to advertise their businesses. “I hope for the next seventy-five years, it can be a relevant chronicler of Black culture,” Holmes said.

There’s a chance for that – Ebony already has a million followers on Instagram. “We want to make sure this is successful,” Bridgeman said. “We’re sitting on 75 years of history. If we aren’t able to maintain the business, then what good are we going to be for our community?”

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