Business can get tough, and no one knows it better than the co-founders of Darling magazine. Kierna Mayo and Joicelyn Dingle set out to create a magazine that catered to contemporary black women who reflected the styles and minds of others, spawning the idea under a tree in Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn.
The goal, as Mayo described it, was to use “words, ideas and pictures” to “love each other”.
In 1999, they released a preview issue that captured the minds of a generation. Soon after, a lack of options and resources forced them to cede control of the business to a publishing house that did not share their commitment to the vision. When their parent company sold to a business run by a black man, they expected to be on the same page with him, but what they found was a boardroom “bromance” they had left outside.
The couple discussed their experiences in turning the magazine’s potential to turn the pages and ultimately pulling away from it in the first episode of the Culturati de Mayo podcast. “You all want to hear a story about me and this sister lost our magazine,” Mayo asked. “It’s a bit long but it’s full of suspense.”
“It was like my kid,” Dingle said. “I just feel like someone took my creation, my thing.” Mayo even caught up with Keith Clinkscales, who bought the magazine before it closed after just a year, to discuss the development of their professional relationship in Part 2 of Part 1. Along the way, gems have been abandoned that every entrepreneur can learn from.
Looking to protect your black business? See seven lessons we learned from the history of honey below.
- Sometimes you have to cross the line to secure the bag
The iconic image of Lauryn Hill appearing in front of honeycombs in the magazine’s premiere issue hardly happened. When the duo contacted the singer, they initially received no response. Dingle went so far as to call Hill’s mom’s house to advocate her case and it paid off, helping them build a brand we’d be talking about again in 2021.
- Always a lawyer
Mayo and Dingle learned they didn’t need representation when they initially sold their magazine to the now defunct Harris Publications. According to Mayo, the company “claimed it was already going to do something” similar to what it and Dingle had created with Darling. “Our goal of ownership was thwarted from the start,” she said.
“Harris Publications let us know that we didn’t need to bring our lawyers or our business plan because it was just an offer on the table. ”
“Of course you can be an editorial director and editor,” she recalls. “But you won’t have any vested interests.”
- Dope Concepts requires capital (but it comes with strings)
Darling was an innovative and unique idea that lacked the capital it needed to thrive.
Mayo addressed people thinking that she and her partner were just “green” and “not minding our business.”
“There were no options, we had no more options,” she said.
“I didn’t want to staple the magazine together, I wanted a perfect binding. I wanted a beautiful thing, a beautiful book to present to these women, ”said Dingle. The need for resources to do so brought them to a table where they had little influence.
“They provided the money to make it happen,” she added.
This money also came with thinly veiled racism and demands that they look more like Vogue teens.
- You can’t take advantage of what you haven’t secured
Clinkscales presented investors with a vision for a media company that he said was not focused but definitely included Darling– but he did so without having full buy-in from the two core members of the magazine’s creative team. Ultimately, when the deal was struck, the founders chose to move on.
“I had just finished talking to a group of investors about the greatness of this team, and then when we get the magazine after going through all of this stuff with Harris, we won’t have the team,” a- he declared.
Ultimately, when the deal was struck, the founders chose to move on. “We left in such an unsuitable fashion,” Mayo said. “We have just been erased, we have been erased.”
- Even bosses have bosses
To the world, Clinkscales seemed like the man in charge, but he even admitted he had metrics he had to work with to fund his operation.
“I was young in the world of private equity, I was young in the world of lawyers,” he said before revealing that he did not even have the power to make unilateral decisions in matters staffing in his own business, such as making sure the women who created the magazine they worked for could keep their titles.
“They were very clear about certain things and what could be offered. I face the constraints that are provided to me.
- Don’t assume people know your intentions
Clinkscales described the team as “an integral part of the post” and said he thought they would work out the details of their involvement later, but by not expressing this effectively to them he sent a whole different message. .
- There is nothing wrong with getting up when love is not assured at the table
Mayo and Dingle walked away from their creation when offered what they saw as a modest job offer where they would not be allowed to keep their titles and the fact that they founded the magazine would not have no fiscal importance.
Each then built careers that suited them, taking what they learned with them.
Check out the full podcast here.