By conventional standards, Hughes wasn’t destined to build a successful multimillion-dollar media company. She was a teen mom by 16 and a high-school dropout. However, she later completed high school, followed by brief stints at area universities in her hometown of Omaha, Neb.
Got a Mentor
Despite her limited formal education, Hughes, who credits publishing legend John H. Johnson as one of her mentors, worked her way up at Omaha’s KOWH radio starting in 1969 before heading to the nation’s capital to become a lecturer at Howard University. In 1975, she became general manager for the university’s radio station, WHUR-FM. By 1979, she bought her first radio station, WOL-AM in D.C., with her then-husband and founded Radio One a year later.
Homeless and Divorced
Those early years were rough. Hughes, who was divorced by then, slept with her son on the floor of her radio station because she couldn’t afford to live anywhere else. “My mother tried her best to talk me out of the radio business because of that,” Hughes recalls. It’s for this reason that she advises young entrepreneurs to be wary about who they divulge their challenges to — even family. “If I had listened [to my mother], I would be a government employee right now and there would be no Radio One.”
Hughes Builds Empire
Thirty-two years later, in addition to the radio company, Hughes’ empire includes her television network TV One and several interactive ventures, including NewsOne.com and HelloBeautiful.com. Her charitable efforts include serving as a board member and the main benefactor for the Piney Woods School, a boarding school located in Piney Woods, Miss., that serves students from financially strapped families.
- Do whatever it takes to be a success
- Believe in your ideas
- Give back