There is a turning point in each of our lives, a moment when everything changes either for better or worse. For Pat Means, hers was for the better, and it happened to be Turning Point. It's a magazine, a point of view--and for the 49-year-old, it's a career, a dream fulfilled and a way of life.
Means spent most of her adulthood in product marketing and consumer promotions. She started her own marketing and promotional services company in Dallas in 1983 and then continued that line of work as a consultant when she moved to Los Angeles in 1990.
The initial idea for Turning Point came during the riots in Los Angeles in 1992, when, for a couple weeks, the world thought for sure the city would slip into the sea without help from an earthquake. Means was affected by the crisis and talked with Karen Hixson, a college friend who also had moved to Los Angeles, about what they were seeing on TV. Means says much of what they saw in the news was negative. "We wanted to look at what was right with L.A.," she says, "the positive things going on, and the proactive people."
The two started to think about putting out a newsletter aimed at middle- and upper-class African Americans--it would focus on positive things going on in African American culture. Leave the negativity to CNN, NBC, The Washington Post and the rest of the media masses, they thought.
The newsletter idea evolved into a full-fledged magazine, with Means and Hixson each contributing approximately $1,000 to their new project.
Soon, they began immersing themselves in the world of periodicals, buying "a ton of magazines to see the layouts and trends," says Means, who was also studying the concept's feasibility. She felt there weren't any existing magazines doing what they wanted to do: "a four-color, glossy local magazine with a positive focus that would speak on issues of interest to middle- and upper-income African Americans."
According to Folio, the magazine-industry trade publication, 400 to 500 magazines begin every year, and every year, three out of four magazines fail. But that didn't deter Means and Hixson. They determined Turning Point would be published quarterly and given away for free.
The magazine debuted in 1993 with a circulation of 50,000 and brought in $100,000 that year. The first issue, Means admits, "was a pretty crude little thing." But nobody's saying that now. By 1998, the circulation hadn't changed, but the advertising dollars had: The revenue was up to $600,000. This year, Turning Point expects to make $1 million.
Turning Point can't be found on the newsstands; it's distributed through churches, social and professional organizations, and some retail stores. "We were [and still are] trying to play a positive role in the development of African Americans," says Means, which is one reason her magazine isn't carried in liquor stores and doesn't accept advertisements promoting alcohol or tobacco products.
Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.