• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint

Some noteworthy intros

Because introductions are rarely published, it's not easy to find real introductions to use for illustrations. However, I have a few that you might find interesting. The first is an introduction of John H. Johnson, the founder of the publishing company that bears his name. This is the same speaker to whom I referred in the discussion of anecdotes in Chapter Eleven. He was speaking to the Economic Club of Detroit, January 30, 1989. The introducer is Gerald Greenwald, vice chairman of the Chrysler Corporation:

Our guest speaker today has a history every bit as dramatic as any Horatio Alger story.

John Johnson was born in Arkansas, raised in Chicago, and spent his childhood years in poverty. When he was a senior in high school, his mother, a domestic, lost her job and the family went on welfare. Three months later, John got a great big job—$25 a month—as an office boy for the Supreme Life Insurance Company, which then was the largest black business in the North.

There he got inspiration and he got an idea. He saw for the first time that blacks actually could be successful business people. And reading the papers for the company president and giving him a digest of the events in the black community persuaded John to start his own business—a monthly magazine condensing black-oriented articles that would be called Negro Digest.

His friends thought he was crazy and cited the failure of a number of previously tried black-oriented magazines. John didn't listen. He persevered. He persuaded his mother— can you believe this?—he persuaded his mother to hock the family furniture for $500. He used the money to pay for direct mailings to potential subscribers, offering a charter subscription for $2.00. Three thousand people responded, and with the $6,000 he was now ready to publish the first issue of Negro Digest.

He asked a leading Chicago distributor to handle newsstand distribution, but the company said no, saying the magazine had no chance of selling. Well, when there isn't natural demand, an entrepreneur like Johnny creates it. John got his friends to go around Chicago asking for the magazine. This convinced the distributor that there must be a demand out there.

His success with Negro Digest was an example of how one black man could succeed after witnessing the success of other blacks. This became John's publishing credo. He felt black Americans needed positive role models to help them fulfill their own potentials—stories about successful black men and women in commerce, in the arts, government and a host of other fields.

This was a startling concept for the time; the idea came to John more than a decade before Martin Luther King carried a similar message.

Time and time again, John has defied conventional wisdom. The experts didn't think Ebony, his second magazine, would last. When advertisers wouldn't buy space in it, he started a group of mail order companies and ran their ads in Ebony. The magazine survived Life and it survived Look.

After Ebony came other magazines; and then a nationally syndicated television show and three radio stations; the Supreme Life Insurance Company, of which he is now chairman; Supreme Beauty Products Company, a hair care company; and Fashion Fair Cosmetics, which was started when the large cosmetic companies refused to make shades dark enough for black women. And which today, I might add, is one of the top ten brands sold in department stores in the United States, the U.K. and France.

Add all that together and you get the biggest blackowned company in the United States. John says his life is a story of turning disadvantages into advantages. It also happens to be the story of Chrysler in the '80s. Because we thought we had something in common, we reached out and asked John to join our Board of Directors four years ago. It's appropriate to note that John's appearance today comes a week after Chrysler and the NAACP agreed to discuss a fair share agreement to expand economic opportunities for minorities who are involved with our company.

John's topic today is ''The Future of Minorities in America.'' Ladies and gentlemen, I'm proud to present an authentic American entrepreneur, John H. Johnson, publisher, chairman and chief executive officer of the Johnson Publishing Company.



Not a subscriber?

Start A Free Trial

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint