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The first advertiser of AL DÍA was “La Manzana”, later renamed “La Fogata”, this bakery in Olney owned by Eduardo Marín, who invested the first $25 dollars into the publication. Photo: La fogata
The first advertiser of AL DÍA was “La Manzana”, later renamed “La Fogata”, this bakery in Olney owned by Eduardo Marín, who invested the first $25 dollars into the publication. Photo: La fogata

An Improbable Entrepreneur | OP-ED

Money is not important, except when it is an unexpected endorsement from strangers of your personal efforts. This is how $25 dollars got AL DIA off the ground…

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I was finally ready in the Summer of 1991 to start a business, equipped as I was with a computer, a laser printer, a home-made light box, and hanging from the wall my pompous Master Degree in Journalism from the University of Iowa — one of the best schools in the country but so far useless in my failed attempts to land a job in my profession. 

But I couldn’t complain: I now had all the technology needed, perhaps all the knowledge needed, to produce a newspaper, and the powerful motivation that only people shutting the door on your face and turning you down can give.

I came downtown, figured out how to get a business license in Philadelphia City Hall, and eventually created a Pennsylvania corporation we called “AL DIA Newspaper Inc.” in 1994. 

What was needed next to finally start the enterprise was, not surprisingly, money. The darn money. 

What was needed next to finally start the enterprise was, not surprisingly, money. The darn money. 

I am not talking about investment from angels, or loans from banks, or personal savings — all depleted by then — but the immediate money needed to print the first edition of AL DÍA. I had already inquired, and it would cost us $375 dollars for 1,000 copies.

No one earned a salary at the time from “AL DIA Newspaper Inc.,” and we didn’t pay rent either, as it was a home-based business. The only expense the corporation had was the printing bill Don Reed handed over to me with a gentle smile and the stern requirement that it needed to be paid in advance.

“Park Printing,” owned by the nice Reed family that still continues to print AL DIA stationary today, was then the small printing shop on 2nd Street, between Rising Sun Avenue and Erie Avenue, in North Philadelphia, where the first edition of AL DIA finally came to life.

I loved the smell of the fresh ink the day it was delivered. I lifted the eight-page baby up with enthusiasm, kissed it into existence, still not persuaded by the words I had written and the pictures I had taken, all assembled in the living room of my home on top of that light box. It finally became the first edition of AL DÍA.

I drove directly to all the business locations I knew around my neighborhood to break the news to the world, proud as I was of becoming the birth father of this child, but naïve enough to the fact that another $375 was needed to put out edition number two of the once-a-month, newsletter-size, black and white publication.

Eduardo Marin, the owner of La Manzana, a bakery on 2nd Street, gave me the boost I needed.

When he saw me, he took me upstairs to his office, asked me how I was doing and then proposed to buy an advertisement, the first one my publication would ever sell.

“How much is it?” he said.

I had no clue. Honestly, I had never sold an ad in my life.

“Maybe $25?” I said, afraid of the rejection.

On the contrary, he pulled out his wallet and counted, one by one, 25 single dollar bills that paid for that first ad.

More importantly, those $25 gave me the indispensable confidence to go back to tackle my second round as an improbable media entrepreneur.

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