Impending graduates may have trouble finding a job. So instead, Toyin Awesu created her own. With her strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit, the senior journalism major is editor in chief and publisher of “Avenue Report,” a quarterly magazine set to launch in April and transform the way black men are portrayed.
“I decided to create a men’s magazine, black man at that, because I wanted to do something that was unfamiliar for me,” Awesu said. “I wanted to see how I could succeed at something I know very little about,” she continued.
“When I was thinking of what type of magazine to create, I spent some time at various newsstands to see what was missing in the magazine industry or what needed some major work.”
Awesu wants to convey that black males aren’t one dimensional. To that end, “Avenue Report” targets the ones that are professional, fashion conscious and business savvy.
Awesu researched, brainstormed a business plan and weeded through hundreds
of resumes (including a few from Temple).
With help from her Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. sisters and from Toshamakia of 100.3 The Beat WPHI-FM, “Avenue Report” was founded in June 2006. With a staff of 15, two online versions were later created with Johnta Austin and Lupe Fiasco gracing the covers.
“I bugged Atlantic Records until I got the interview with Lupe,” Awesu said. “I kept telling everybody I’m working on something. I’m busy, I’m busy. I had to keep my mouth shut until it happened.”
As is often the case in life, she met adversity on the road to success. Her mother passed away in January 2006. The loss caused her to turn down an internship
with “CARGO” magazine and delay her graduation by one year.
“It had been a rough year, my mom didn’t see me turn 21 but I know she was right with me,” Awesu said. “She foresaw [my success] before I did. She wouldn’t be surprised. It’s not like me to not be up in something.”
Whenever creative minds set out to make their dreams reality, there are always people queued to capitalize on that success.
“You do have to deal with people who say they’re going to help you and then they don’t,” Awesu said. “If they can’t work within the project and guidelines, I’ll let them know I can’t work with them. I’ve learned that there is no point in crying over people unless they are really good.
“If they are, then you bend over backward
for them. But if they’re just regular, there are 10, 15, 20 people that can come and do their job.”
While finishing up her degree, Awesu visits home during the week, driving two hours to care for her 14-year-old brother in Maryland. This commute doesn’t stop her from filling the 84 pages to 92 pages with content. She is currently working out the distribution details, but an estimate of about 12,000 copies to 15,000 copies will be available.
“Branding is AR’s biggest thing. Right now the target cities are New York, D.C., Philly, Chicago, Atlanta and Detroit.” she said. “I get a lot of phone calls now and it’s annoying.” Describing herself as a TV-watching weirdo who’s a bit bossy, goal oriented, loyal, busy-body, fun, intelligent – yet lazy when she wants to be – and somewhat introverted because of her love of staying inside and reading books, she has some advice for people who might want to start their own business venture.
“This generation is an era of entrepreneurs,” Awseu said. “Twenty-, 21-, 22-year-olds, I meet them everyday. Don’t underestimate yourself, but be well aware of the pros and cons. You must take the time to research and know the industry.” So what’s next for the self-starter?
“My brain is always cracking into something new. I’m into fashion,” Awseu said. “Maybe a restaurant. Whatever it is, it will be something new and necessary.”
Kenyatta A.N. Joseph can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.