Hometown: Born on the Caribbean island of Jamaica, raised in Brooklyn, New York
Reside: Brooklyn, NY
Studies: BFA from Fashion Illustration at Parsons School of Design; Masters of Science in Publishing from Pace University
PR: What is your publishing background?
Marcia: I entered the field of media about 20 years ago. When I was 26, I was named as the Editor-in-Chief of a short-lived teen entertainment magazine called 2 Hype. I developed a vision and saw it executed without much interference. The publisher liked what I did and as a result moved me to the hair magazine he had just launched called, Hype Hair. He allowed me to do unconventional things, such as produce some iconic covers with celebrities who, at that time, were not receiving recognition as style arbiters (gatefolds with Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill, MC Lyte; sepia covers of Nia Long; black and white covers of Zhane). It quickly earned top recognition within the genre.
PR: Did you always have an entrepreneurial spirit?
Marcia: I can’t say that when I was nine years old, I charged my neighborhood kids for my grandmother’s tasty fried dumplings; being an entrepreneur was not part of my psyche then. But when I look back throughout my life, even as a teenager, I was often placed in a position of leadership by others. And whenever I was in charge, my main desire was that whatever I oversaw I wanted it to be bigger and better. I normally succeeded. I’ve spent my career launching or re-launching magazine and web titles at small and large publishing houses, so the rush of taking something from ideation to launch was a consistent career experience. I guess you can say it has always been about the makeover for me.
PR: What gave you the inspiration to launch AMBERmag.com?
Marcia: The phrase: “Freedom of the press belongs to those who own it.” Launching a high-quality beauty magazine for women of color was always a desire. I first became an entrepreneur in 1999 when I launched a site called Insidesalon.com (consumer-focused articles about hair and product reviews), which survived for three years. I was a little before my time with that as the internet boom and bust occurred; when Suede magazine, the last title I co-launched folded, I wanted to funnel my energy into a launch where I had more control over its destiny. In the ‘90s it was unclear how to monetize a content-based site, but fast forward ten years later and research showed that marketers were moving dollars to the web to attract the generation that grew up in a digital world.
PR: When did you first launch AMBERmag.com and how has it evolved over time?
Marcia: Starting in 2005, I spent a year and a half creating the business plan, developing branding and marketing concepts, recruiting people, developing a media kit, selecting a design firm, and building the site.. The soft launch was in September 2006, but we officially launched in 2007. We are currently working on refreshing the site’s look for 2010.
PR: Tell me about the content of AMBERmag.com.
Marcia: Our content includes beauty, fashion, and entertainment, and we target African American women and Latinas. My favorite sections of the site are “Look of the Week” and “Editor’s Picks,” plus our blogs. The former two sections are more photographically driven with original work created by our team of photographers and stylists. I enjoy seeing those content areas come to life because those images can’t be found anywhere else on the web.
PR: How did you recruit super model Iman as one of your beauty advisers?
Marcia: A colleague told Iman about the site, and Iman liked it. She and I had lunch and talked about my plans for the beauty board. She appreciated the site and, as an entrepreneur who was already vested in the beauty of women of color, our site was a natural fit. She really enjoys what the site has to offer and the point of view we are coming from. We have a great relationship. We support her brand online and off via some events because her brand truly works for women of color—her products are in my beauty bag; I’ve used them for 15 years!
PR: Looking back, is there anything you would do differently now?
Marcia: I would have brought on more people who already had digital experience—it’s good to be surrounded by others who have greater expertise than you do to help navigate best practices. Also, I would have learned how to code because coders can hold you and your site hostage for even the slightest change/upgrade. I know way more now, so it definitely helps. But that’s the nature of being in business; you learn from your mistakes and keep it moving.
PR: Do you hire interns?
Marcia: Yes I do. We hire interns throughout the year. They work directly with me, so I get to mentor them. Some have interned elsewhere and others, much to my surprise, have not had an editorial internship during their college career, so when I get a resume from a promising student like that in their senior year, it’s upsetting. I wonder what their guidance counselors are telling them. When I see young, black girls in their senior year at college and they haven’t interned anywhere, I stress to them the reality of this very competitive field. At every magazine, I have received 2-page resumes from students who are sophomores. If you haven’t interned and it is your senior year, it is very likely that you will spend another year interning in your chosen field, to gain some level of experience.
PR: Is AMBERmag.com on any social networking sites?
Marcia: We were a little late to the social networking scene (though we have over 350,000 friends on blackplanet.com) and didn’t rev up the newer social applications until this year. It’s a lot to maintain! We are on facebook and twitter—I like sending out tweets. We have a rotation of people who write tweets, but it is a separate entity, a separate conversation. It’s a way to draw new readership because people who follow us on twitter are not necessarily our subscribers, and that’s why it is a useful tool. We tweet about things happening on AMBERmag.com, but then we tweet about other things that aren’t on the site, like entertainment or social commentary.
PR: Do you work on any other projects? If so, what?
Marcia: AMBERmag.com powers a beauty blog on BET.com. The parent company of AMBERmag.com is Ivy Communications, Inc; we handle web production and management, as well as video production. There are other things in the works…but I’m not at liberty to discuss them right now.
PR: Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs?
Marcia: Starting your own business is not for the faint of heart. But it does require one to be patient—do your research, be sincere, and take it one step at a time.Read Also