01 Aug 2013
- Written by Roz Edward, National Content Director
…. And why wouldn’t he? The 52-year- old head of one of the world’s most iconic black hair care businesses has wisely parlayed his time at the company’s helm into not only expanding the Bronner Bros. Inc. empire, but now he is an award-winning publisher, movie producer and true business mogul. Bernard Bronner is, as they say in the movies, “Laughing his way to the bank.”
The enigmatic entrepreneur explained to Atlanta Daily World staff in a recent interview, why he doesn’t stop to rest on his laurels in light of all that he has accomplished and all that is left for him to accomplish.
Bronner’s business sense …
I think it was my father and the previous generation of Bronners who trained me on how to be an entrepreneur. My father and the publisher of the Atlanta Daily World were like family. My father threw the Atlanta Daily World newspaper, and as soon as I was able to walk good, I had the Atlanta Daily World in my hand. When I was six and seven I was delivering the paper and by the time I was 12, I had a couple of my brothers working for me throwing the Atlanta Daily World.
I use the same principles I learned from my father regarding how to start and cultivate a business and grow it into a major enterprise. … And not only have I built the hair show and the product line, I have added new things like Upscale magazine, a silverware line and now the movie, Laughing to the Bank.
The second generation has been running the businesses for about 30 years and the first generation ran things for about 35 years. We are in year 66 now. The first generation sold products in the six southern states. The second generation, my generation, took the show nationwide and now global. We just did a hair show in Dubai …, We’ve done London shows now, and we have done all of the Caribbean. We do Baltimore, Dallas, Oakland and Chicago along with Atlanta here in the states.
Bronner on the basics …
One of the basic business principles that I have learned is to start small and make that small thing a success. That has been the hardest thing for me to get into my head. When I got into the record business, industry experts told me that I needed to make it popular in small cities like Macon and Augusta, before bringing it to Atlanta. I wanted Dallas and Chicago and L.A. but those markets are so expensive and if it doesn’t sell in a small town…. So now I test everything through the small towns; that is something I learned from Walmart. They started in small towns and then when there was nowhere else to go, they moved into the big cities.
His newest venture …
I started a new movie company, Make It Rain Films, and we are releasing our first major movie. We showed it to the public for the first time in Miami at the American Black Film Festival. We screened it there to an audience of about 300 movie industry people and they loved it and it was the talk of the ABFF.
What makes Laughing to the Bank so significant is the fact that it is 100 percent black owned, black produced and black distributed. So the movie and our philosophy are about economic empowerment. The movie is a comedy about someone who has to raise the money to shoot a movie. It’ a comedy about the process of making a movie and the rejection of going to the studios it deals with all of the trials and tribulations of going to major studios and telling them that you have a film for black audiences and you want them to finance it. That’s why the movie is so funny … because the process is near impossible.
The movie industry …
It was a terrible year for black actors and black actresses. I have seen us go form 15 black oriented films last year to just a few this year and Rainforest Films’ Think Like a Man, and Tyler Perry’s and another that didn’t do so well.
The studios have not been willing to green light African-American themed projects. They know we spend a lot of money and they know we are good consumers. They still don’t respect our people. They have done all of these studies that say this, yet they refuse to do anything black. They refuse to advertise or attend black events. They refuse even though they have the statistics that say these are the people who are buying your product. In Hollywood only a few studios address our audience.
The great thing is that I have great friends like Steve Harvey, and Michael Baisden and Tom Joyner who have committed to promoting the movie.
What he is proudest of …
My claim to fame will not be that I inherited my father’s company and bled it. My claim to fame will be that I inherited my father’s entrepreneurship abilities and I built many companies. Not only did I build them, but I trained and continue to train others to do the same thing. I work with partners to ensure that they experience the kind of success that I am having. I don’t know how a human being can enjoy himself any more than I am.
The hilarious comedy Laughing to the Bank will be in theaters on Aug. 23!