Clarence O. Smith

By: Errol I. Mars
Company: Essence Communications Partners, Avocet Travel Position: Co-Founder Industry: Media, Entertainment, Publishing Country: United States

Since leaving Essence Magazine Smith started Avocet Travel which was launched in early 2003. Avocet is the first and only provider of travel vacations with non-stop air service from New York to Salvador, Bahia.

Essence magazine was started 35 years ago by Edward T. Lewis, a New York City banker and Clarence O. Smith, an insurance-company employee. It's inaugural issue was published in May 1970. Both Lewis and Smith had no experience in the publishing industry. "We had to learn about the business of magazines; we didn't know anything," Smith says. "We had to take a magazine and break it down to try to think of all the components that make up a magazine. Then we had to find out how the whole thing comes together."

Initially they determined that they would need $1.5 million to start the magazine but where only able to raise $130 000. $13 000 from Freedom National Bank of New York, a black owned bank and the rest from family, friends and credit cards. It took six years to break even and much longer for advertisers to see the black market segment as valuable.

Today Essence Communications Partners is one of the largest African American owned multi-media organizations in the U.S. with 2003 revenues of $136 million.

Smith resigned on June 28, 2002 to pursue other opportunities in existing and new media projects outside of Essence.


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