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Afropolitain Magazine: A New Afro Lifestyle Magazine That Inspires To Bring All Africans & People Of Color Together Under “One United States Of Africa” – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Nsayi Keziah Makoundou, Founder & Creative Director, Afropolitain Magazine…

March 20, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“We want to do both, (print and digital) because a lot of people were asking us where they could find our print magazine. And every time I would tell them to just pull up the website, they were insistent that they would rather have the print version. So, we’re definitely going to do both. But just to make sure that we reach as many people as possible, we’re going to pursue digital more, because there are a lot of countries right now where people do not have access to the print, so if we’re digital they can just grab their phones and access the content.” Nsayi Keziah Makoundou…

“Everybody was telling me not to do print. I heard that at least 2,000 times, maybe more. But there is something inside of me that has always said that somehow, print is not dead. Obviously, I’m a big fan of magazines and books because of my background, but I feel like the people that I’m trying to reach, they’ve never really had a product like this. So, I won’t say that print is dead, because a lot of people have been asking for the printed magazine. If we’d listened to what everyone had said, we would have never moved forward. I usually go with my gut feeling, and my gut was telling me that I should definitely do the print magazine.” Nsayi Keziah Makoundou…

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou (Keziah) had a dream: launching her own magazine. Keziah comes from a magazine background, working for publications such as Popular Mechanics, UPTOWN Magazine and Vibe. But when the entrepreneurial bug bit, she literally stopped everything she was doing to focus on this project, Afropolitain Magazine.

I spoke with Keziah recently and she told me that what motivated her the most was that she realized there was a lack of a good Afro lifestyle magazine – especially in France, and in a lot of countries in Europe, hence the bilingual aspect of the publication, every issue is half English and half French. So, ignoring the naysayers and the fact that her creative side was much, much stronger than her business side, Keziah took a risk and launched Afropolitain’s first issue. And soon, Issue #3 will hit newsstands.

If passion and belief in your product makes a success, then look out world, Afropolitain is on its way, because Keziah has an ample amount of both. And her entrepreneurial spirit is no more pronounced than her philanthropic one, as she wants the magazine to be a tool that unites all Africans and people of color together to see what a difference they can make in business, fashion, and any other interest that grabs them, by amplifying each of their strengths. It’s a beautifully done magazine and one that Mr. Magazine™ is very excited to see on the newsstand.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who believes, as the magazine’s tagline reads, that her magazine provides “The Afro of Today For Tomorrow,” Nsayi Keziah Makoundou, founder and creative director, Afropolitain Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Afropolitain Magazine: I worked in the magazine business and I had always wanted to do a magazine that spoke to me and to African people. And with me being in the industry and working for all kinds of different magazines, I just decided to jump in the pool and start my own magazine.

On how she actually created the magazine: It was probably 2010 when the idea took hold in my mind, and I realized I needed to create a prototype, so I talked about it with some of my friends. It had been in the back of my mind for quite some time. And I worked a little bit on it, stopped, and then a couple of years ago I actually did a different prototype for someone who wanted to start a magazine for black women. And I think doing that prototype gave me a wakeup call, where I asked myself, instead of doing prototypes for other people, why don’t you just finish your own project? Who don’t you just push it until this project becomes a reality?

On the DNA of the magazine: Basically, Afropolitain represents the young, modern African that’s competitive, travels, has a good job, whether they’re in Africa, Europe or America. To me, Afropolitain is for people like us who are educated and who change the game in what we do. It’s to show the younger generation, and really, everybody, that you can be black, African, and be great at everything that you do. We just need to let people know that in every industry, there’s a black or of color person who is on a higher level.

On whether launching the magazine has been simple and easy for her: Oh, no, no, definitely not easy. The team is very, very small and we just started, so right now we’re just trying to put our name out there. We’re growing carefully, but we really need to be out there everywhere, on social media, but make sure that we’re consistent with the magazine. And we’re actually looking at a digital version of it, which will come out soon.

On the most challenging moment for her throughout this journey: Everything is challenging. I’m a woman and African, and trying to be a businesswoman. I’m an artist more than anything else, so being a businessperson is very new to me. It’s a big challenge to focus on the business side of the magazine, but it’s a learning process and I am learning it. It’s also challenging to be an African woman and to try and launch a business; is everyone taking me seriously, especially when you deal with African men.

On why she decided to make the magazine bilingual by creating half in English and half in French: There is a big break between Africans who speak English and Africans who speak French, in general. I feel like there is a lot about the English-speaking part of Africa that people in the French-speaking part don’t know about, and vice versa. For me, it was about trying to unite the continent.

On any conflict she finds between her creative side and her newly acquired business side: So far, the only conflict that I have is in doing the business part of it. Sometimes it can take away from me being creative, and that’s why in the context of growing, I want people who know how to handle the business side of the magazine better, so that I can focus on the product that we have and in making sure it’s always excellent. There are some problems with any beginning enterprise.

On launching with print first, and then considering digital: We want to do both, because a lot of people were asking us where they could find our print magazine. And every time I would tell them to just pull up the website, they were insistent that they would rather have the print version. So, we’re definitely going to do both. But just to make sure that we reach as many people as possible, we’re going to pursue digital more, because there are a lot of countries right now where people do not have access to the print, so if we’re digital they can just grab their phones and access the content.

On whether anyone asked her had she lost her mind for launching a big, thick print magazine in this digital age: Everybody was telling me not to do print. I heard that at least 2,000 times, maybe more. But there is something inside of me that has always said that somehow, print is not dead. Obviously, I’m a big fan of magazines and books because of my background, but I feel like the people that I’m trying to reach, they’ve never really had a product like this. So, I won’t say that print is dead, because a lot of people have been asking for the printed magazine. If we’d listened to what everyone had said, we would have never moved forward. I usually go with my gut feeling, and my gut was telling me that I should definitely do the print magazine.

On anything she’d like to add: Just that with Afropolitain, I want to unite people because I feel like being African, we don’t come together enough and in doing this product it brings us together. Everything you see in the magazine is done by Africans or black people: the photographers, the writers; my editor in chief is from Congo, my art director is from the Caribbean, so it’s really a black-made, African-made product. And I really want people to know that and to understand how we can come together and do something great. And I think that’s what we need in our communities. To come together and do something, instead of always trying to outshine or hate on the next black or African next to you.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up at her home unexpectedly one evening: It’s really very simple, you’d find me sitting on my couch, on my computer, doing something for the magazine or emailing people or looking for different things to do. But most likely you would catch me working.

On what keeps her up at night: Being successful. Making sure that our magazine will always move forward and that people find out about us. Thinking about the next plan and the next move. My main focus right now is to be out there and reach the max number of people. My ultimate goal is that I want this magazine to become the top magazine for our community, so that’s what keeps me up at night. What is the next move for us to get there?

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Nsayi Keziah Makoundou, founder and creative director, Afropolitain magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of Afropolitain.

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: I worked in the magazine business and I had always wanted to do a magazine that spoke to me and to African people. And with me being in the industry and working for all kinds of different magazines, I just decided to jump in the pool and start my own magazine.

Samir Husni: So, was it as easy as just deciding it? One day out of the blue, you created your own magazine, just like that?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: It was probably 2010 when the idea took hold in my mind, and I realized I needed to create a prototype, so I talked about it with some of my friends. It had been in the back of my mind for quite some time. And I worked a little bit on it, stopped, and then a couple of years ago I actually did a different prototype for someone who wanted to start a magazine for black women. And I think doing that prototype gave me a wakeup call, where I asked myself, instead of doing prototypes for other people, why don’t you just finish your own project? Who don’t you just push it until this project becomes a reality?

That’s when I decided to quit my job and focus on Afropolitain and do the prototype. And from the prototype we did Issue #1 and now the second issue just hit the market and we’re working on the third one. So, it was that wakeup call that motivated me to stop wasting time and to just do it.

Samir Husni: How did you come up with the name and what is the DNA of the magazine?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: I was looking for a unique and different name and a friend of mine, who is an artist, were having the conversation about what the name should be. I wanted something modern and that spoke to young Africans, young black people, and we were exchanging ideas when my friend suggested “Afropolitain” and I thought it was perfect.

Basically, Afropolitain represents the young, modern African that’s competitive, travels, has a good job, whether they’re in Africa, Europe or America. To me, Afropolitain is for people like us who are educated and who change the game in what we do. It’s to show the younger generation, and really, everybody, that you can be black, African, and be great at everything that you do. We just need to let people know that in every industry, there’s a black or of color person who is on a higher level.

And that’s what we hope to do with Afropolitain, I want the magazine to become a tool for people, so that they can grab the magazine and get advice for business, beauty, travel, recipes; learn things about African tradition, modern traditions, just a mix of lots of things. We’re in those Western countries too, so we need to bring everything together to make a great product.

Samir Husni: You’re working on Issue #3 now, so was it a walk through a rose garden for you with the first two issues? I mean, was it that easy?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Oh, no, no, definitely not easy. The team is very, very small and we just started, so right now we’re just trying to put our name out there. We’re growing carefully, but we really need to be out there everywhere, on social media, but make sure that we’re consistent with the magazine. And we’re actually looking at a digital version of it, which will come out soon.

It’s an everyday challenge, but it’s worth it. We get a positive reaction from people and we’ve received positive critiques, so it’s good to know that we’re getting somewhere. We just have to keep pushing.

Samir Husni: What has been the most challenging moment for you throughout this journey?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Everything is challenging. I’m a woman and African, and trying to be a businesswoman. I’m an artist more than anything else, so being a businessperson is very new to me. It’s a big challenge to focus on the business side of the magazine, but it’s a learning process and I am learning it. It’s also challenging to be an African woman and to try and launch a business; is everyone taking me seriously, especially when you deal with African men.

So, every step of the business is challenging. There are mistakes that we did with the first issue that we corrected with the second issue. And we’re working very hard on the third issue now. Every issue is a challenge for us to make sure we do better each time.

Samir Husni: Why did you choose for the magazine to be bilingual? You have half in English and half in French.

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: There is a big break between Africans who speak English and Africans who speak French, in general. I feel like there is a lot about the English-speaking part of Africa that people in the French-speaking part don’t know about, and vice versa. For me, it was about trying to unite the continent.

It was really important to me to have French and English, because I wanted to be able and touch the whole continent, not just the French-speaking countries or the English-speaking countries. Or people just in America or Europe. That’s why it was very important to do both French and English, and to really include everybody from the continent.

Samir Husni: Where are you originally from?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: My origins are Congo Brazzaville (my dad’s side) and Côte d’Ivoire (my mother’s side).

Samir Husni: Being a creative person; being an artist, and being a creative person myself, I know that we think more with passion and our hearts than anything else, yet we have to apply a business type of thinking to most things. Do you feel a conflict between the two when it comes to Afropolitain?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: So far, the only conflict that I have is in doing the business part of it. Sometimes it can take away from me being creative, and that’s why in the context of growing, I want people who know how to handle the business side of the magazine better, so that I can focus on the product that we have and in making sure it’s always excellent. There are some problems with any beginning enterprise

But for me, I will say that there can be a little havoc that can take away from me wanting to be creative, such as doing a photo shoot. But, as I said, it’s a learning process, and the longer we go, the better I will learn how to balance the business side without taking away from the other.

Samir Husni: You’ve managed to create almost two magazines in one; it has that flip quality, where on one side it’s geared more toward men and the other side is geared more toward women. And you started with print first, and now you’re considering digital.

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Yes, we want to do both, because a lot of people were asking us where they could find our print magazine. And every time I would tell them to just pull up the website, they were insistent that they would rather have the print version. So, we’re definitely going to do both. But just to make sure that we reach as many people as possible, we’re going to pursue digital more, because there are a lot of countries right now where people do not have access to the print, so if we’re digital they can just grab their phones and access the content.

So, it’s very important to have a digital presence, but we’re going to continue to do both. We’re going to continue making sure that our print magazine is great, but also that people have access to the content wherever they want it.

And the fact that we do men and women, I think with my research into ethnic magazines, I felt like I never really saw a lifestyle magazine just for men, something where men can go and read about business, fashion, traveling, and relationships. Most of the magazines that are geared toward African men are more about politics and the economy. I’m not going to say they’re boring, but I felt like in today’s world African men travel, they go shopping , they like fashion, and they enjoy good restaurants. So, it was important for me to include men too, and that’s why I sort of divided the magazine into two parts, one for men and one for women.

Samir Husni: And when you talked to people about your idea of launching this print magazine, and a hefty-sized one too, we’re not talking about a 96-page publication; Afropolitain is a substantially thick, big magazine, did anybody ask you had you lost your mind for what you were about to do? You were launching a print magazine in this digital age.

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Everybody was telling me not to do print. I heard that at least 2,000 times, maybe more. But there is something inside of me that has always said that somehow, print is not dead. Obviously, I’m a big fan of magazines and books because of my background, but I feel like the people that I’m trying to reach, they’ve never really had a product like this. So, I won’t say that print is dead, because a lot of people have been asking for the printed magazine. If we’d listened to what everyone had said, we would have never moved forward. I usually go with my gut feeling, and my gut was telling me that I should definitely do the print magazine.

The print product is a great-looking one and we’re going to progress and do better and better, and keep pushing forward. The people that were telling me that print was dead weren’t even in the magazine industry, they were just going by what they had heard or the little bit they did know about the industry. It is more expensive to do print, but it costs money for digital too. To have an app up and running; to make sure the product is good, that’s expensive too. Right now, I want to keep doing both, and in the next year or two, we’ll see if doing print was a good idea or not. But so far, people are reacting very positively to it.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Just that with Afropolitain, I want to unite people because I feel like being African, we don’t come together enough and in doing this product it brings us together. Everything you see in the magazine is done by Africans or black people: the photographers, the writers; my editor in chief is from Congo, my art director is from the Caribbean, so it’s really a black-made, African-made product. And I really want people to know that and to understand how we can come together and do something great. And I think that’s what we need in our communities. To come together and do something, instead of always trying to outshine or hate on the next black or African next to you.

If we understand that teamwork is important. I’m a creative person, but I can’t write. I have an editor in chief who can write and writers that are terrific, so they make the product look good. That’s another message that I want people to understand, working together is the future. If we want Africa to do better, we have to combine our strengths and create a unit that’s going to move forward together, not just country by country or tribe by tribe. It’s a group effort.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening after work, what do I find you doing; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: It’s really very simple, you’d find me sitting on my couch, on my computer, doing something for the magazine or emailing people or looking for different things to do. But most likely you would catch me working.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Being successful. Making sure that our magazine will always move forward and that people find out about us. Thinking about the next plan and the next move. My main focus right now is to be out there and reach the max number of people. My ultimate goal is that I want this magazine to become the top magazine for our community, so that’s what keeps me up at night. What is the next move for us to get there?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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