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Women in Business: Cathy Hughes of Urban One, Inc.

Cathy Hughes is the first African American woman to run a media company that is included in the U.S. Stock Exchange and her path to this achievement was not a simple one. Hughes’s company, Urban One Inc., houses a number of brands including Radio One, TV One, iOneDigital, and CLEO TV. She is an inspiration to other entrepreneurs, specifically women who want to run businesses.

Photo: CathyHughes.com

Hughes began her career at a black radio station in her native Omaha, Nebraska. She caught the attention of Howard University and she came to the DC area to teach and be the school’s Assistant Dean of Communication. After that, Hughes went on to work at other radio stations in the DC area.

When Hughes and her then-husband wanted to own a radio station and not work for one that someone else owned, they ran into some challenges. Thirty-two banks turned down their requests for a loan. When they did find a bank willing to lend them money, Hughes had to compromise on the station offerings: she wanted a talk radio station but her funding source wanted a music station. Hughes was able to have a talk show in the morning and then the station played music for the rest of the day.

This professional triumph was followed by a personal challenge: Hughes went through a divorce not long after the deal to buy the station was finalized. Hughes was able to buy her former husband’s share of the station but she was low on funds. She ended up living in the station with her son. Hughes persevered despite this difficulty in her personal finances. When the station did become profitable, its gains were mostly because of Hughes’ morning talk show.

As Founder and Chairperson on Urban One, Hughes has continued to grow and expand her business. The son who watched her managed the company from a young age is now Urban One’s President/CEO/Treasurer. Hughes, the woman who originally wanted to own one talk radio station, still finds time to appear on the radio doing public service announcements that air on her various radio stations.