The following was submitted by Juliette Rocheleau of the updayton Entrepreneurship Team, and is their first of several future feature articles about Dayton-area entrepreneurs.
Co-owner of the Dayton Weekly News, Donerik Black knows that being an entrepreneur is no easy task. The Dayton Weekly News celebrated its seventeenth year in circulation this November, with Black juggling the duties of project manager salesman, designer and more. While the different tasks of entrepreneurship can be demanding, Black admitted in most other professions he would, “be bored to death.”
A native of the Dayton Region, Black chose to stay in the area after he finished college. Post-graduation Black realized, “Unless I won the lottery, I was going to work for somebody. What better person to work for than my dad?” Black and his business partner father, Don Black, first owned and operated a public relations and consulting business. Additionally, both knew the Dayton area well, having been born and raised in and around the city.
In the early nineties, the perception of Dayton was extremely negative. Despite its reputation, Black knew there was a better story to tell. “We felt that there was a need for Dayton’s urban community to have a voice,” said Black. He and his father set out to create a newspaper. Originally they used a publisher in the Columbus area. Due to simple geographical complications, the paper was labeled as “a Columbus paper with a Dayton masthead.” Consequently, the two businessmen severed ties with the Columbus branch. From there the Dayton Weekly News was born.
“…even if we have to give them away, we still want people to see the paper.”
The early days were tough. However, thanks to their public relations and consulting business, the Blacks had already created many good relationships with social organizations and churches in the area. Using, “guerilla marketing,” as Black puts it, the business, “hired young kids to go door to door and [gave] away a lot of complimentary copies of the paper.” The Blacks followed up each give-away with another paper, turning recipients into potential readers.
After years of successful business, the Blacks are still trying new and inventive ways to raise awareness of the Dayton Weekly News. Black explained, “We’ll have subscription drives. We’ve even had young kids who have used it as fundraising projects—even if we have to give them away, we still want people to see the paper.”
Black serves on the board of the United Health Solutions, an organization focused on enriching the lives of those who are less fortunate in the Dayton community. The cause is important to Black, explaining, “They’re a great organization. And, we try to get as involved with them as possible.” Black also encourages the Dayton Weekly News to get involved with the American Heart Association. For Black, the organization hits close to home. A heart patient himself, he advocates the importance of health.
Each year in April, which is Minority Health Month, the Dayton Weekly News covers important medical details. “Minority Health Month is something that we’ve really tried to put our hands around. We let our readership know what’s going on within the community so they can get tested for ailments that really plague African Americans, like diabetes and high blood pressure, that are preventable and controllable.” Black added, “We really like to get involved with those organizations that are putting out information that help our readers make healthier choices.”
As an entrepreneur, Black admitted it would be easier to calculate how many hours a week he doesn’t work. “When I’m sleeping, I’m typically not working,” he said, “From the entrepreneurial standpoint, you’re always working.” Long hours aren’t the only necessity for starting and owning your own business. According to Black, “Everybody’s a salesman. Everybody sells something to someone everyday. Period. Pointblank.” Black believes the need to sell drives all jobs. “If you don’t like selling,” he said, “you’re going to have a hard time doing anything.” Passion for what you do should fuel your desire to sell. Black knows, “You need to love what you do.”
“For lack of a better term, I enjoy the ‘smallness’ of Dayton”
He also emphasized both the need to “be a people person” and “be ready to close when you get the opportunity.” Black explained, the “kiss of death” for small business owners is when an opportunity is lost and the potential client moves on to the next company. “A lot of times as a small business person, you many only get one shot to make a good impression.” He continued, “When you get an opportunity, you have to seize it by any means necessary.”
As a resident and business owner in the Dayton area, Black most appreciates the city’s size. “For lack of a better term, I enjoy the ‘smallness’ of Dayton, “ describing Dayton as an accessible city and a “ninety-minute market.” Black likes that Dayton’s not far from larger cities such as Chicago and Atlanta, both a few hours away via car or plane. As for the city itself, Black said, “From a business perspective it’s a good place to work, because if you have innovative ideas, you can really cut your teeth in a town like Dayton.” The key to Dayton, or to any big city, is to be aggressive.
Black admits that Dayton has the tendency to slip into complacency. However, he does not consider it to be negative. “If everyone’s going to sleep,” said Black, “I’m just going to tiptoe right through it—chomp it all up.” Dayton is a “reactionary city,” with events happening in and around Dayton. “Policy is passed, things are done, and we have to take control of it,” he said. Black added, “As a whole, the smallness could be Dayton’s best attribute and its worst.” And yet, there are many opportunities. “Dayton would be a wonderful place to come and test the waters,” said Black, “I hope more people look at it as a hub for technology.”
The Dayton Weekly News is looking to expand digitally and offer a version of the paper online. Currently the website is geared toward advertising. “Baby steps” is Black’s answer to expanding. The team is working to both offer the paper online and maintain subscription numbers. Black isn’t too concerned about adding a digital version of the paper. With a loyal readership, Black trusts the Dayton citizens. “We’re going to get that support,” he explained. “The larger number of supporters will subscribe because they want to see this paper survive.” Black thinks in the end, “People will always want that hard copy.”
The Dayton Weekly News is working hard to bring the people of Dayton an efficient, cost-effective, timely newspaper. “That’s always my mission,” Black proudly declared. “Every week I enjoy opening it up, looking through it, and selling that paper.”