Greenwood, Monique A. 1959–
Monique A. Greenwood 1959–
Author, editor, community leader, entrepreneur
Changing one’s own life and the lives of one’s neighbors, and inspiring others to take the steps necessary to change their lives takes a great deal of strength and tenacity. A woman of many talents, Monique Greenwood has used her abilities, hard work, and resolve to achieve impressive success. Greenwood would argue that every black person has the potential for achievement; and that all that is needed is the motivation and determination to make success happen. Greenwood is without a doubt a living testament to her own belief in this formula. She has developed her many talents, and through incredible focus and hard work has achieved success in many different areas of her life—as a writer, editor, business owner, and community leader.
Greenwood was born in 1959 in Washington D.C., one of five children. Her family had lived in the area for several generations, and Greenwood spent her childhood in Washington. In the 1920s her grandfather operated a small grocery story in the southeastern part of the city, and he later owned and operated the Greenwood Transfer Moving and Storage Company, one of the country’s leading black-owned businesses—a business that would eventually be listed as one of the United States’ top 100 black-owned businesses. Greenwood was inspired by her grandfather’s success in a business field dominated by white business owners. His example proved to her that racial discrimination could not stop a man who had the determination to succeed. Greenwood’s own personal determination was clearly evident in her magna cum laude graduation from Howard University. She then earned a graduate degree from the Simmons School of Business in Boston, in a unique program for developing managers aimed at educating women for the business world. This was clearly a comfortable fit for Greenwood, who went on to forge a successful career in the business world that she had been so carefully trained to enter.
Much of Greenwood’s early business success was in magazine publishing. She worked for 15 years at Fairchild Publications, whose magazines included Women’s Wear Daily, often considered one of the most important harbingers of women’s fashion and beauty. Among Greenwood’s achievements at Fair-child was the 1985 creation of Children’s Business, a monthly trade magazine that provided information about a wide range of children’s apparel and other products. In 1996 Greenwood moved to Essence magazine, where she began as both the lifestyle director and the style director. Two years later she became the executive editor at Essence and began to manage the editorial operations of the country’s leading publication for African-American women. By early 2000, Greenwood had been promoted to editor-in-chief of Essence, a position that carried huge responsibility in a magazine that enjoyed a monthly circulation of more than one million readers. Even while Greenwood was enjoying a huge success in publishing, however, she was also focusing on changes in her personal life and on developing her own business empire.
In 1989 Greenwood married Glenn Pogue, the son of an army officer. Greenwood and Pogue soon purchased
At a Glance…
Born in 1959; married Glen Pogue, 1989; children: Glynn. Education: Howard University, BA,; Simmons Graduate School of Business MBA.
Career: Fairchild Publications, 1981-96; Essence Magazine, lifestyle director and style director, 1996-98, executive editor, 1998-00, editor-in-chief, 2000-01; Akwaaba Mansion Bed & Breakfast, owner/operator, 1995– Akwaaba Café, owner/operator, 1998–, Mirrors Coffee House, owner/operator, 1999–; Akwaaba by the Sea, owner/operator, 2001–; books include: Go On Girl! Book Club Guide to Reading Groups, Having What Matters: The Black Woman’s Guide to Creating the Life You Really Want.
Awards: Points of Light Award, presented by President Bush, 2001.
a brownstone in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, a historic neighborhood of 200,000 people. Greenwood and her new husband immediately began restoring their new home. Soon after their daughter was born, they spotted a Victorian mansion, one of the few stand-alone structures in their neighborhood of brownstones. They easily envisioned themselves as innkeepers and felt that such a business might solve a need in their own neighborhood. In a 2002 interview with Yvonne Rose of the KIP Business Report, Greenwood recalled that “Ever since we met, Glenn and I have spent our vacation time at various bed and breakfasts and felt that this type of business could be financially and socially rewarding to us.” Even though it took several years to complete the purchase and win over the neighbors with their plans for a commercial business venture, Greenwood pushed forward with her plans. In an interview for Taste of Brooklyn, Greenwood told Eugene J. Paron that while waiting to complete the mansion’s purchase and renovations, “I studied every inch of that house, collected furniture and decided what would go into the spaces.” About 20% of Greenwood’s guests are not African American, but the mansion’s decor attempts to reflect and capture black historical and cultural experiences. Greenwood knew exactly what she wanted, and as she told Paron, “I had already stayed in at least 10 different inns down at Cape May, New Jersey—the capital of B & Bs. On each trip there I kept a journal of everything I loved and hated.”
Greenwood’s new bed and breakfast had 18 rooms, and most of them needed extensive work before the business could open. Greenwood and her family moved into the building and immediately began work. They replaced windows and rebuilt the porch, upgraded plumbing and electrical fixtures, and renovated the interior. In July of 1995 the Akwaaba Mansion Bed & Breakfast opened for business. The name akwaaba was taken from the language of Ghana and means “welcome.” Guests must indeed feel welcome, since occupancy rates run at about 90 percent, well above average for such businesses. Greenwood’s inn has been featured in several national publications, in films and commercials, and was a featured home on the Home and Garden Television Network program Restore America.
Greenwood’s interest in owning her own business did not stop with the opening of the Akwaaba Mansion Bed & Breakfast. Even before the renovations were complete, she and her husband had decided to buy another nearby property and open a restaurant. The renovation of a local hardware store turned the property into an elegant 72-seat restaurant called the Akwaaba Café. The restaurant, with its mix of traditional southern foods and Caribbean choices proved to be another successful venture. Soon another large piece of property became available, and Greenwood and her husband bought it and began to renovate the property for rental income. In 1999 Greenwood and her family opened Mirrors Coffee House, with decorating suggestions provided by Greenwood’s young daughter.
In less than ten years, Greenwood and her husband had succeeded in renovating and revitalizing a largely neglected segment of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Her efforts on behalf of her own neighborhood did not go unnoticed by the city’s leaders. In a news release issued by the Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation (BEDC), a spokesperson for the city of Brooklyn noted how “one person’s leadership and vision can lead to the successful development of real estate and small business in inner city neighborhoods.” Greenwood told BEDC that “the result of this redevelopment has been the creation of a ‘village community.’ Hundreds of children line up to visit her bed and breakfast each Halloween, when the inn is turned into a haunted house; and hundreds of neighbors participate in a tree lighting ceremony in a nearby park at Christmas. And Greenwood had acccomplished these business successes while still putting out a magazine each month at Essence.
In June of 2001 Greenwood and her husband opened another B & B called Akwaaba by the Sea, in an 1850s Victorian building in Cape May, New Jersey. Like the Brooklyn project, this newest inn was decorated with suggestions of African heritage combined with Victorian decor. Eventually Greenwood and her husband hope to open other B & Bs and spread their ventures beyond New York and New Jersey. They have also licensed the Akwaaba Cafe and plan to start a chain.
In 1992 Greenwood published her first book, Go On Girl! Book Club Guide to Reading Groups. She is also the co-founder of the Go On Girl! Book Club, the largest African-American book club in the United States, which has more than 400 members and 32 chapters. The book club began as an informal office chat between Greenwood and several other women, and it spread quickly. Greenwood told Steve Paulson of Wisconsin Public Radio, in preparation for a 1999 program called Reading at Century’s End, that “reading groups have a long history among African Americans and function as both social clubs and agents of social change.” Greenwood’s second book was the successful Having What Matters: The Black Woman’s Guide to Creating the Life You Really Want. The book is a prescription for personal and professional success. While writing it, Greenwood decided to take her own advice and leave her job at Essence in order to focus more time on her family and business interests. Greenwood’s book describes how she overcame various problems in her life and achieved a fulfilling marriage and career. She calls her plan “bootstrapping,” and sees herself as a model to prove her method’s effectiveness. In an interview for Essence, Greenwood explained that “I wrote Having What Matters because I come into contact with so many Black women who have commented on everything from my having my own businesses to my great relationship with my husband and daughter. Some of those women don’t always believe these things can be theirs. The truth is, any woman can have the things that matter to her, once she has identified exactly what they are. Having What Matters will give Black women the confidence to define success as they see it and the techniques to turn dreams into reality.” In Black Book News a reviewer wrote: “Replete with good humor, motivational examples, and infinitely useful advice, Having What Matters gives African-American women the understanding and the confidence to define their dreams for themselves, and it also gives them the detailed method they must follow to turn them to reality.”
Greenwood is currently writing another book, to be titled Life Under New Management: How to Fire Your Job and Become Your Own Boss. This book will also relate Greenwood’s own philosophy for success. As part of a cover story on her selection by The Network Journal as one of the 25 most influential black women, Greenwood told the magazine, “I learned very early on not to limit myself because of others’ limited imagination and I always surrounded myself with people who believed in me as much as I believe in a higher power.” Greenwood does not accept limitations in her life. An excerpt from Having What Matters revealed that she has modeled her life on that of her grandfather, Benjamin Ordway Greenwood, who rejected defeat and worked that much harder to succeed. She wrote that her grandfather’s story is “a clear example of a poor, black man in America bootstrapping his way to the top.” Greenwood has seen bootstrapping as a means to her own success, as well as a way for others to achieve a similar success.
Go On Girl! Book Club Guide to Reading Groups, Hyperion Press, 1999
Having What Matters: The Black Woman’s Guide to Creating the Life You Really Want, William Morrow, 2001.
Life Under New Management: How to Fire Your Job and Become Your Own Boss, forthcoming.
Greenwood, Monique A., Having What Matters: The Black Woman’s Guide to Creating the Life You Really Want, William Morrow, 2001.
Essence, January 2002, p. 52.
—Sheri Elaine Metzger
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