Almost 20 years ago, Ola R. Jackson decided to combine her love of helping women in need with her marketing and advertising skills by creating a local publication titled Onyx Woman—a magazine for women of color in Pittsburgh. Fast-forward two decades and Jackson has parlayed her magazine into a multimedia network that encompasses print, broadcast, motivational seminars and the Internet.
The woman who proudly features distinguished Black women in her various mediums will be honored by the U.S. Small Business Administration as the 2010 Western Pennsylvania Minority Business Champion.
Jackson and eight other local small business owners and advocates will be honored at the Western Pennsylvania SBA May 28th Awards Luncheon to be held at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel Pittsburgh.
The luncheon is held in conjunction with the 47th annual celebration of National Small Business Week.
Carl Knoblock, Western Pennsylvania SBA district director, said Jackson has done her homework in keeping up with media trends and has been able to expand her market during a challenging era for media. “It’s a competitive industry and you have to be on top of new trends,” he said. “If your competition is on the Internet, television or doing podcasts, you’ve got to be doing the same and looking for the next medium.”
Jackson, who began her career in advertising with the former Kaufmann’s department store, decided that launching her own business would enable her to continue working while dedicating more time to the needs of her autistic son. “I did freelance public relations, first as a volunteer, and that led to paid work for small organizations in need of event planning,” she said. “I coordinated media coverage for ribbon-cutting and ground-breaking ceremonies.” Jackson added she liked the variety of public relations. “It’s very rewarding because each job is different.”
However, one project in particular helped the 50-year-old Jackson launch Onyx Woman in 1994.
“I did a program at colleges and job training programs to teach women who were going from welfare to work what to wear in the office; how to mix and match and what is appropriate clothing for their body type,” she said.
“I noticed that they weren’t paying attention, so I thought if I put it in writing, they could read my advice at their leisure.”
With no writing experience, Jackson reviewed other local publications, compiled a list of writers and asked them to write for her new magazine. “It was eight pages with pictures, graphics and text on 11×17-sized-paper, stapled in half,” she said.
“It looked a mess, visually it wasn’t appealing but people were excited because it was a local publication for women of color.”
Jackson went back to the drawing board. She scoured other publications to see how they were produced and who advertised in them.
“We slowly progressed and went quarterly which gave us more time to create a better product and we gradually increased the number of pages; added a color masthead and color photos.”
Within four years, Onyx Woman had become a glossy magazine with a national readership and advertising base. Jackson even created a media kit. However, when the economic downturn hit, Jackson found that innovation would help her weather the storm.
“Now, we only produce a few special print editions of Onyx Woman each year, but we’ve brought our magazine to life by using the Internet and a local television station,” she explained. “We tape six shows a year at PCTV studios and add pieces of the show to our Internet site; soon we’re going to start an internet podcast.”
While women of color have expressed their gratitude for “OWN: Onyx Woman Network,” Jackson is equally grateful for her recent SBA honor. “I’m very excited,” she said. “When you get an award, especially from the SBA, it’s like you have a stamp of approval.”