Life After American Legacy: Rodney Reynolds Prepares for His Next Act

You can call it Rodney Reynolds’ next act. After founding and operating American Legacy Magazine for 16 years, the seasoned entrepreneur is looking to leverage and expand the quarterly Black history and culture publication’s intellectual property to build a multimedia content and mobile experience company.

The result is American Legacy Network Corp., a multimedia company consisting of the American Legacy Network streaming service; ALXMOBILE, an experiential mobile marketing business; and ALN Productions, a film and television programming producer. And though American Legacy Magazine ceased production in 2012 when the print publishing industry upended, its DNA and mission to celebrate and advance Black history and culture continue through content produced through Reynolds’ new venture.

When American Legacy Magazine was forced to shutter, Reynolds was at a crossroads. “I had to think about how I would stay in business. What was I going to do? I’m a print guy,” he recalls. The Cleveland native and the University of Cincinnati-educated Reynolds is steeped in print publishing beginning in 1980 at a general-purpose publication for Black men, Spectrum Magazine. He also contributed to publications such as New Visions and Renaissance Magazine, which emphasized Black history. He also developed Today’s Black Father, which focused on issues facing Black families and served as publisher and editor for Minority Business, a quarterly publication.

Reynolds looked for ways to leverage his experience to create content outside print publishing. So, he met with a business consultant who took his team through some exercises to examine the company’s business model and how to transform it into a digital-forward venture. “And that’s when we came up with a Black history streaming service,” he says. The company also developed the American Legacy’s “Know Your History” board game, which eventually sold more than 10,000 copies. That helped fuel the idea that the company could continue to exist without a print product by developing content for other platforms.

Among the original programming on the American Legacy Network streaming platform is “The American Legacy Challenge.” Hosted by Brandi Harvey, daughter of comedian and television host Steve Harvey, the show was inspired by Black History trivia-like events American Legacy Magazine hosted years ago. High school students are quizzed in the show on events and prominent people in African American history. “I am really excited about the game show,” says Reynolds. “We were initially working with the Black News Channel to have it distributed there, but we decided to syndicate it. We’re working on the syndication part of it now.”

ALXMOBILE, the company’s mobile experiential unit, uses branded experiences to engage and interact with consumers on a more one-to-one basis. The business recently completed the Black Hockey History Museum Tour, a 27-market tour for the National Hockey League in the United States and Canada, celebrating over 200 years of Black achievement in the sport. The tour features immersive displays with facts and photos celebrating the contributions of Black hockey players – past and present – to the sport. “That tour and partnership with the NHL have grown tremendously. It’s increasing even more for 2023, and the budget has doubled,” says Reynolds.

Earlier this year, ALXMOBILE launched a mobile experience sponsored by Toyota celebrating Black American Pioneers of the West & the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo. In June 2022, ALXMOBILE launched a tour celebrating the life and legacy of Madam C.J. Walker and the new MADAM haircare product sponsored by Sundial/Unilever. “Several major entities have sponsored some of the Black history-oriented tours that we’ve done. We are building that area of our business now.”

Reynolds is looking to build a multi-generational enterprise and has enlisted his children to oversee aspects of it. ALN Productions, which creates short-form videos in partnership with producers of television, film, and documentary projects, is headed by Reynold’s two sons. “One of the first things they did was look at the extensive archives of American Legacy Magazine so that we could utilize that as the basis of potential projects,” he explains.

The next step for Reynolds and American Legacy is building out the streaming product while continuing to expand ALXMOBILE and the production business. But that will require investment capital – something that’s too often hard to come by for entrepreneurs of color. “We’re raising capital now, basically round one of this particular offering,” he says. “And we’re looking to raise $9 million over three years. But the first portion we’re working on now.”

Despite heading into his 42nd year in the media business, Reynolds says he’s not even close to considering retirement. “I’m more invigorated and excited now with some of the stuff we’re doing because we have pivoted. I love what we’re doing in the mobile experiential business,” he attests. “There’s nobody else out there doing the kinds of stuff that we’re doing and telling the stories that we’re telling.”

 

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