When Ed Lewis, co-founder of ESSENCE magazine, started the publication in 1968, he only received a $13,000 bank loan, even though he applied for $1.5 million. Despite coming up short (he and the rest of the magazine’s founders were able to raise a total of $130,000) he was able to build a brand that’s now, 44 years later, the leading publication for black women.

Lewis, who was born and raised in the Bronx, N.Y., sat down with Ad Age’s Rance Crain and discussed the challenges he faced launching a black woman’s magazine in the late 1960s. High-end retail store Bergdorf-Goodman and Dreyfus were among the first advertisers to work with the brand.

Although ESSENCE has grown to having 8.5 million readers, Lewis said print publications with strong brands must now think of new innovative ways to keep the brand alive.

If you want to learn more about Ed Lewis, you still have time to purchase your tickets to this year’s ESSENCE Festival. You can meet the man behind ESSENCE this July 4th weekend in New Orleans. He’ll be in the ESSENCE Festival book store on Friday at 2pm as well as Sunday at 2pm.

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