Black Classic Press, launched in 1978, has reached a milestone. Next year, it will have been in business for 40 years!
Since then, founder W. Paul Coates launched BCP Digital Printing, which is now in its 22nd year, and just recently, Coates and company acquired additional top-of-the-line printing equipment by Xerox to better serve the needs of their customers.
“22 years ago, we purchased digital equipment to print our own books knowing that in order to pay for it, we’d have to print other people’s books as well. And that’s what we did,” Coates shares with TNJ.com.
A current resident of Maryland, Coates says his inspiration for opening the business came out of his early days spent as a member of the Black Panther Party. “The publishing idea came out of my time in the Black Panther party. After leaving, I started a prison program that would quickly have an impact on brothers and sisters coming out of jail. Eventually, the prison program dropped off because I couldn’t sustain it, but the concept of what I wanted to do stayed and that was, initially, to open up a bookstore, which I did. Next was to open up a publishing company, which would supply books to that bookstore and to others. Third, was to open up a printing company, which would print books for that publishing house, the bookstore, and for other people,” Coates says.
“That’s been more than 40 years ago. That’s the vision that we still operate in today,” he adds.
In reflecting on the benefits of being a business owner, Coates says, “The good part about owning a business is that we get to contribute the economy in the black community in a positive way. We take money in and expend it through our employees and it has a positive impact on the Black community. We have people who have worked with us for 30 years. From day one, when we put the printing equipment on the floor, it translated back to benefits for our employees’ families, their children and the community as a whole. That always makes me warm.”
He continues, “The other benefit is the knowledge that we have a handle on the technology that is being used all around the world. We have that technology in our community and we’ve been able to make it accessible. Another good thing is really thinking about business and keeping in that mode. The challenge there is that if you don’t think business, then you will have days where the business won’t think you. And you’ll be broke. And that leads to a lot of strains in the business. It is a constant struggle to keep it in front of us and keep pushing forward.”
As for advice for aspiring small business owners, he notes, “The lesson for me over all these years is that during times when you have absolutely no money and you’re, by traditional standards, bankrupt, you have to keep going anyway. You have to keep opening up the doors because the moment you close them, the business you could have done is gone. You can’t afford to not plan and work towards your future. You have to keep thinking to the end time and keep active as if you have a pocket full of money. You have to stay in business because that’s what business is.”