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5 lessons you can learn from the entrepreneur who built a radio empire against all odds

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“I realized I had a mission; an obligation to someone greater than myself.”

As a female African American growing up during the 1950s, Cathy was laughed at for thinking she’d ever have her own radio show. Family and friends were under the impression that she was crazy. Teachers went as far as advising her for counseling. On top of that, becoming a single mom at 17 is a moment that would set back any normal person from pursuing their dream. Instead, Cathy went on to build Radio One: the largest African American owned broadcaster in the United States. Here are 5 lessons we can learn from Cathy.

1. Don’t stop based on what the clock says

Stop when the task at hand is finished. Cathy stresses how critical this is for entrepreneurs. Growing up in Nebraska, she was geared to wake up at 4am and leave late. For a while, she actually lived in the station with her son. She didn't stop until she built the radio empire she knew she always would.

2. Don’t sell past the close

Something Cathy teaches all her sales people. After 32 loan rejections, Cathy had perfected her pitch. When one banker finally accepted, she kept trying to convince her. The banker reminded her she had already said yes. 

3. Play offense, not defense

Cathy stayed ahead in the face of overwhelming financial obligation. She’d call up her lenders ahead of time and explain she only had a small fraction of what she owed that month. But she would send every penny she had as a token of good faith and a promise to pay in full once she could. She claims it’s the reason she’s never been foreclosed on, gone bankrupt or had any check bounce.  

4. Stick to your core business

After going public, they kept Radio One strictly in the telecommunications industry instead of expanding into concerts, etc. This kept them afloat against giant competitors. 

5. Allow yourself to lose enthusiasm and you’re dead

Cathy ensures 'the unshakable belief that things will work out' is an acquired skill. If you stay cheerful and committed to your goal, there’s nothing that can stop you.

Hear more about how Cathy built her media empire on NPR's "How I Built This" podcast with Guy Raz.

Photo Credit: Praise94.5

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