Kiante Young is a phenomenal
entrepreneur, who has already achieved a long line of accomplishments
in his fairly young career. Young is presently and best
known for his role as the publisher of Young and Doin’
It Magazine, a publication that speaks directly to urban
teens and shows them various ways to strive beyond the challenges
of an urban environment and achieve success. Raised in Harlem,
Young grew up amidst the same challenges that many urban
teens face today. However, the day of his graduation from
highschool, he was able to rise above any hardships and
make his mark in the media industry with the “Young,
Black, and Doin’ It” brand he created to encompass
all his business endeavors.
Initially, beginning with a television show on cable access
called “Young, Black and Doin’ It,” he
later extended his talents into magazine publication. Along
with his accomplishments in television and magazine publication,
Young has already written several books featuring a great
selection of his poetry. One of his most renown books his
poetry compilation, I Used to Be a Beast.
During the interview,
Young stressed the importance of believing in oneself and
viewing challenges as simple obstacles to step over. He
also emphasized how his business life and personal life
had become intertwined. And his accomplishments and wisdom
are proof enough that his business has become his life.
He surely has embodied the title of “Young, Black
and Doin’ It,” encouraging black teens not so
much by his magazine as by the example he sets through his
Were you originally
from Las Vegas?
And you moved
How was the move for you? Did it have an impact on your
Honestly I don’t remember; I was nine days old.
Did you have
any role models growing up?
Yeah, there were a lot of role models for me. In particular,
my number one role model- everybody who knows me knows this-
it’s Damon Dash. He’s my favorite entrepreneur;
he’s from my neighborhood. But I also like Will Smith
a lot, and I like Magic Johnson. I appreciate anyone who
was from the urban community but didn’t allow that
situation to discourage them. But still aspired to do big
things and made it happen. I like Puff Daddy too.
When did you
first realize you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur when I was working
for someone, and I was working very hard- probably around
the same time I did the interview with you guys. I was working
for a company, and I just said to myself ‘‘Wow,
I’m really working very, very hard to help these people
accomplish their goals, and they aren’t working as
hard as I am. And, as an entrepreneur, you’re a visionary.
And I just had a lot of different ideas, and a lot of goals,
and a lot of things that I just wanted to accomplish, and
I knew that I could make it happen. And so what I decided
to do was to keep it real with you. In a meeting one day,
I just had my head on the table ‘‘cause I was
just pissed off at the situation. I just looked at them
and said ‘‘You know something. I’m resigning.""
Literally, just like that. And the next week I left. And
I started my company. Fortunately for me, I had developed
a lot of relationships. So, as I was literally carrying
the boxes into my apartment from my job, I got a call from
Coca-Cola. And they had a bunch of magazines that they needed
to get rid of, and they hired me to distribute them across
New York City. And that’s when I said to myself, ‘‘I’ll
never have another job for anyone else in New York City
When did you
first realize that you wanted to start a magazine?
I wanted to start a magazine, actually, when I was at Columbia.
I knew that I liked to write. I always like to write- whether
it was poems, or songs, raps, or whatever. I always loved
to write. But the true power in writing comes in ownership,
and having ownership over your material. Whether you’re
writing for someone or whatever- whether you’re writing
for your own magazine or publishing your own books or whatever.
But actually, what happened was, when I was at Columbia,
I called this magazine- I called a bunch of magazine- but
I called one magazine in particular, and I asked them if
I could write a column called ‘Young, Black, and Doin’
It" about young black people who are doin’ their
thing. And she was like ‘No.’ but she says [to]
send me some of my work, and I sent her some of my poems,
and she published one of my poems. And so I was very excited
about that. Right then and there, I knew that the whole
bug for young, black and doin’ it, the whole doin’
thing, came about.
What steps did
you take from when you first had you’re idea to where
you are now- in terms of the magazine?
Well, the first thing I did was I met with a whole bunch
of people who worked in publishing. I met with a couple
of executives. Exactly, one of my biggest mentors is Darold
Dye at Ebony magazine He’s been like really mentoring
me with this project. But I had been talking Fred Jackson
at Vibe magazine for a very, very long time. I just used
to call him and ask him for advice. And then thirdly, I
used to call and talk to the art directors at Black Enterprise.
And they exactly took two hours with me and sat down with
me on their lunch break and really laying out the magazine
and giving me a lot of tips. Terrence Saulsby and J. Michael
Rush. They sat down with me and really broke down the magazine
and actually designed part of the magazine for me. They
designed a whole section.
What type of
skills and training do you need to start a magazine?
To start your own magazine, it takes a bunch of skills.
First of all, you have to have a network of advertisers
and potential sponsors. It’s not necessarily in newsstand
sales. I do not plan on selling the magazine ever...never.
I always wanted the magazine to be free. So, for me, what
I did was to develop relationships with the advertisers.
Secondarily, I had to learn how to design a magazine. Not
just to design it, but more so to lay it out. And I had
to learn the computer program. But this is just something
I had taught myself a long time ago. And lastly, you have
to form a relationship with the editor ‘cause you’ll
have stupid little typos like I had in my first issue.
I think you
already answered this, but when did you first think of the
name ‘Young and Doin’ it’ and what other
names crossed your mind when you were naming the magazine?
I’ma be honest with you. When I was at Columbia, and
I had pitched that idea to the woman. I guess you did some
research on me so you know I had a t.v. show on cable access
called ‘Young, Black, and Doin’ it.’ So
that’s really where the magazine stemmed from. And
the reason I had called the magazine that was that I had
created a brand around that. The television show, even though
it was on public access, was extremely successful. What
I did was, I would produce the shows, and I would make dubs
of each show, and, on a random week, I would send it to
a different press organization or a different executive
or a different person so that I was constantly promoting
and developing relationships. So I created a brand around
the whole name of "Young, Black, and Doin’ It"-like
people see me and say ‘Yo, ‘Young, Black and
Doin’ it,’ what’s up.’ Just in continuing
and developing the magazine, it was the next step.
Did you succeed
at first or did it take a while from when you first had
My definition of success is anytime you’re a step
closer to your goal. I had a goal of putting the magazine
together, and the magazine came out. And it was very successful,
in my opinion, but, then again, it wasn’t successful.
Let me explain to you why: I had a lot of goals- Overall
it was successful, but I had set goals for things that I
wanted to do with the magazine. And, to be honest with you,
I didn’t reach those goals. But, what I’ve always
done was I’ve always tried to set really high goals
so that, when I got halfway to those goals, I was like there.
In my first book, I used to be a beast, I got a poem, and
it goes like this, it’s called ‘The Sun,’
and it goes: Most people say ‘Reach for the moon,
and you might hit a star.’ Kiante says, ‘Reach
for the sun, and pick up stars along the way.’‘
You know what I’m saying. So that means like try to
aim really high so that, if you don’t accomplish your
goal, if you get halfway there, hey, that’s still
good. And that’s what I did. The magazine was extremely
successful-we’ve gotten international exposure, not
only being featured in Japanese magazines, but also a career
journalist had done a documentary on the project. It did
a few a radios shows. The Daily News did something on the
project. Crane’s New York Magazine did something on
the project. More importantly, all the letters I had received
from young people all across the country, who had really
appreciated what we had done with the magazine. So that’s
where the real success comes in, you know.
did you find in managing the magazine and working in the
The only challenge is like finding people you can depend
on to support you. Anytime you start a new company, especially
in publishing, publishing a magazine is very different from
a lot of other businesses. And in order to be successful
in this project, you can’t do everything. So you have
to find people you can depend on, who you can trust to accomplish
certain things. And for me, the challenge is not in meeting
people because I have letters, hundreds and hundreds, maybe
400 emails from people who want to write, or who want to
draw, or who want to design the magazine. Just finding the
people, the right people, who you really think will benefit.
Like, I don’t want a 40-year-old guy from Kentucky
writing for a magazine that’s for urban teens. You
know what I’m saying. But it would be another challenge
getting advertising dollars. But, to be honest with you,
it’s not really a challenge ‘cause, the first
issue, I mean, for me to sell any ads, let alone sell probably
5 different type of ads is really good. Eddy's Grand Ice
Cream sponsored us, Enyce is one of our sponsors, Timberland
boots, and Fleet Bank sponsored the first issue as well.
And, for that to take place is really accomplishing. And
so, for me, this is something I would like you to instill
in yourself and instill in people you come across. You are
a very intelligent young lady and it’s obvious that
you’re gonna do big things in your life. The only
thing a challenge is is something for you to step over.
And then, when you look back, you be like ‘Wow, I
knocked that out.’ I don’t look at things as
challenges; I look at it as an obstacle ‘cause obstacles
are something that you jump over.
But did you
think about giving up at any point though?
Hell yeah. I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t
because it’s very hard. Sometimes it’s not easy.
But the fact that I’m moving forward, you know. I’m
comfortable with that. The reality is, with any business,
if you’re at point in your business where it’s
a standstill, then you have a problem. But if you’re
moving forward and you’re moving up, then I’m
doin’ my thang, I’m straight.
How did you
balance both you’re business and you’re personal
life? Was it challenging?
My business is my life. Anything I do personal is based
around my business. Just to give you an example, what I
love to do is I like to go to the movies, I like to watch
movies, and the reason why I go to movies, or the way that
it intertwines in my business, is I’m a writer. I
write books, you know. I have like four novels that I’ve
written, and I’m actually looking to get published
now. And for me, I go to the movies just to see the dialogue.
You know like, in the entertainment business...when you’re
older and get people in the business, there’s always
a party, there’s always somebody promoting themselves
at some party. In the entertainment business, when you get
older and when you start really to network and get deep
in the business, there's always a party. There's always
somebody promoting themselves at some party. I mean,
with the magazine, we've done about 46 events since March.
Sometimes I do 6, 7, 8 events each week. Like last week,
we did 5 events at the Department of Youth and Community
Development. In each borough they did events, so we supported
those events. So there's always an event, there's always
a party; there's always a private screening of some movie.
So, when you're in entertainment, and as an entrepreneur,
your business becomes part of your social life.
you in the beginning? Was it family and friends? Or did
it come from elsewhere?
My grandmother has been my number one source of support.
She is my number one fan, even when I had the television
show. Like, one thing you'll learn is like, I'm not gonna
call any names in my family, but one thing you'll learn
is that people won't support you 'til you start looking
good. When I had my television show, and it was crap, people
were like 'Oooh, you think you're all that. Your show is
garbage.' But when it was still crap and I was sitting with
Damon Dash or I was sitting with the celebrities, they were
like 'Oooh, aahh.' Or, when they see me on the Morning Show,
then other people will call them and say, 'Oh my god, I
saw your relative on this television.' And then they're
like, 'Oh my god, he was on the Morning Show. That's my
boy!' So people pop out of the woodwork. So, my number one
source of support has been my grandmother. She's been truly,
truly supportive. She and I are really good friends. Our
relationship is really close. In terms of companies, Enyce
has been truly, truly supportive, financially. They have
always been supportive the Young and Doin' It. China Flowers,
Lateef Lee, and Tony Sherman have always supported the Young
and Doin' It project. But recently, I've become really good
friends with Lateef Lee, who's become the marketing director
there. And he's been really supportive of the Young and
Doin' It project. And the reality is, with the business,
it's not successful until it makes money, until people buy
into it. And they were the first company who, to be honest
with you, agreed to write me a check. It wasn't for what
I asked. But it was still there; it was still a check.
How much has
NFTE helped you across the years?
NFTE has been very supportive, actually one of the magazine
sponsors. I use their office space. What NFTE did was actually
help me with my business plan,
connect with a few people.
When did you
first hear about NFTE?
Actually, when I was in high school. But see, when I was
in high school, I was a knucklehead. All the other kids
would be involved in the NFTE program, and I
didn't really wanna do that. I just wanted to party. It
wasn't until I had graduated in high school- it was the
day of graduation when I literally grew up because
it was time for me to bigger and better things. I always
knew I was destined to do something positive/powerful.
How hard was networking and finding contacts?
That's not hard. That's my gift. I network easily. Anytime
I've always had the ability to walk into a room, and when
I leave, everybody knows who I am. Just to give you an example,
I went to an event- actually Terri Williams, she's a celebrity
publicist (she actually wrote an article for the magazine),
took me to an event, but she was surprised how I worked
the room. It's all about who you know, not what you know.
You ever meet people and be like, 'God you're dumb. How
did you get that position?' 'Cause they know somebody.
How hard was
it, being a young entrepreneur, to convince people that
your business was legitimate? The thing is I developed
relationships a long time ago. When I knew that I wanted
to do a magazine, I started those relationships a year before,
two years before I actually put the magazine out or actually
told them about the magazine. It's funny because people
I did tell about the magazine, they never gave me any sponsorship.
I'm not gonna name any companies' names, but companies that
I've done major, major events for, did not support the magazine
project at all.
How was managing
a t.v. show more or less difficult than managing the magazine?
It's different. And I don't look at things as hard or challenging.
I look at it as something I got to do. The thing that's
different is, with the magazine, the thing that I like more
with publishing than television is that I can say 'I have
a television show.' But until you see, then you see it.
But I say, 'I have a magazine.' You're like, 'No you don't.'
Then I'm like, 'Okay, pop! [holding up the actual magazine].'
There's always gonna be challenges with anything andeverything
you do...The hardest part is just getting the celebrities.
Like, we were supposed to interview Kanye and he went out
to Europe. But that's how th nature of it is. When you're
a small fry, you're not important. It's all good. You gotta
know your place.
What's a typical
day in your business?
I get up. The first thing I do is I always check my emails,
I'm constantly sending out my press kit out- just like samples
of old magazines that we've been featured in. I'm calling
and just touching bases with people. I'm calling the graphic
designer. It depends on the day. Sometimes I have to do
events, but it depends on the day. It depends on the day
because, as an entrepreneur, it's like, especially when
you're new, you find yourself doing a lot of things. I don't
do everything in the magazine, but I do a lot of things.
But it's all good. But it's very hard because I don't work,
I don't have a job; I'm totally immersed in my entrepreneurship.
So fortunately, I've been able to do a few deals here and
there for my marketing company, but, you know, I'm focusing.
I'm turning 100 percent into the magazine.
How long does
it take to put an issue together, typically?
Depends on how fast you work. It can take two weeks if people
do what they're supposed to do.
Do you have
any present goals for your business?
I want the magazine, within two years, to be running itself.
And after 2005, I want to start prospecting for a television
show on network t.v. I have a concept for a television show.
Next summer, I wanna take time and shoot a pilot for the
television show, so I'm developing now. You always wanna
start way in advance. So I'm developing those relationships
now. I currently have an editor for the television show,
so I'm just looking for the camera crew. Those are easy
roles to fill, but you always want to plan ahead.
Where do you
see yourself in 5 years?
I see myself successful. I see myself accomplishing your
goals. This magazine has done three times better than I
had imagined, than I had planned for it to do. From the
press coverage alone, we've gotten so much exposure and
for the international exposure that we've received. So,
for five years from now, I wanna at least have published
three books and have the magazine on television, and have
the magazine at a circulation of no less than a million.
What was the
first award you've ever gotten and what was the most meaningful
The first award was an award from Fleet Bank. It was the
Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. I appreciated that.
But the award that I appreciated the most was from NFTE,
the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship And
the reason being is because NFTE has been very supportive
of the Young and Doin’ It project. And it just meant
a lot coming from them. I also got an award from some of
the people in Harlem- Ufswa, and that was in 2001. And I
appreciated that because it was coming from the community.
But the most important one was from NFTE. And actually,
since you’re speaking about awards, I’m actually
going to Washington going to compete in this business plan
competition with entrepreneurs from all across the country.
So that was like an award; it was a free trip, all expense
What other interests
do you have besides writing and running the magazine?
I want to do a restaurant franchise. I’m not gonna
get into that because the idea is incredible. I want to
do television production too. I want to e.p. (executive
producer) a lot of things. I have a lot of relationships,
so what I do is I maximize on them when the time is right.
I’ma start off with the Young and Doin’ It television
show and build from that. I got a lot of television show
ideas. All of the novels that I write, all of the stories
that I write can be made into movies. I write so they can
be made like that. I just want to make a lot of money and
then take the money and reinvest it into myself. That’s
always been the Young and Doin’ It way. Anytime I
make money, I reinvest it into something else. One time,
I made about $2000 from a company, and I took and I printed
out all my books. I took half of it and printed up some
of my poetry, I used to be a beast.
Out of the all
the people you’ve interviewed, who’s the most
Ice-T. Funny as hell. To be honest with you, there are two
interviews that stand out to me out of all the interviews
I’ve done. Ice-T, number one, because he called me
one day and was like ‘Come to my crib.’ We were
at his penthouse It was cool, but I was very, very nervous.
And for some reason, I’ve never been nervous in front
of anyone before. But for some reason, I’ve never
been nervous in front of anyone before. But he was very,
very warming. He was cool. We were there for like the whole
day, and we ended up doing a three week series. Secondarly
was Damon Dash, of course, ‘cause I’ve always
liked him as an entrepreneur. And to be honest with you,
he reminds, just seeing and listening to him, he reminds
me of myself, just in terms of personality-wise and the
fact that, as people say, ‘Damon Dash don’t
take ‘no’ for an answer, he’ll just move
onto the next person.’ And that’s how I’ve
always been. I’ve never allowed a ‘no’
to stop me. And I think we’re the same sign; we’re
both Tauruses. So, we’re both real bull-headed and
Who do you decide
who to put on the cover?
Basically, number one who’s hot. And, number two,
the reason I did it with DMX was because Ruff Ryders had
been very, very supportive out of all the record labels.
And, to honest with you, I knew I could get DMX. Instead
of killing myself getting this person, getting that person.
We did Kanye in this issue because Kanye’s hot right
now, number one. Number two, his story is really sexy to
me. When I got to understand more about Kanye and his story
and his situation, I learned that he started producing but,
in reality, he wanted to be a rapper. He just happened to
be able to make beats. So, it worked out.
How do you see
yourself influencing urban teens?
I just want to influence them to realize that anything and
everything they want to be is possible, number one. Number
two, I want to show them that they don’t have to be
a rapper, basketball player, or athlete, or whatever to
be successful. I wanna show them that they need to stop
selling crack, selling drugs. All my peoples have don’t
that, and I got family that are still doin that. And, to
be honest with you, it’s very, very important for
me. Even if just one person reads the magazine and says,
‘Wow, I can be successful. I’m not gonna sell
drugs anymore.’ Then I’m satisfied.
How has being
an entrepreneur affected your life, in general?
You know, being an entrepreneur has become my life. That’s
how I can answer that. I’m a very stubborn person,
and I like things my way. And as an entrepreneur, hey, you
get to have things your way- except when you’re working
with clients. You have to appeal to your markets/clients.
It’s helped me utilize my skills, my natural talent.
I naturally can network, I can talk, talk you to death-
we can sit hear and talk all day. I do a lot presentations.
It’s given me an avenue to express my creativity.
would you give young entrepreneurs today?
The main thing I always say when I speak at events is ‘Work
hard and believe in yourself.’ If you want to make
something happen, you have to work and believe in yourself.
Make a plan (or business plan), talk to people who’ve
already done it, go back to your plan and fix it, go to
the library, do some research, go back to your plan and
fix it. Then set it off; start your business. And that’s
exactly what I did.
Among all the advice you’ve received, would you give
it in return?
I mean, it’s the same garbage. Not the same garbage
but it’s the same garbage that’s been passed
all along and on and on. Believe in yourself. Until you
see it in yourself and believe in yourself, it will be.