Oral Histories

Interview of Kim L. Hunter

Owner of the marketing communications firm Lagrant Communications, the Lagrant Foundation, and KLH Enterprises.
Series:
"Where Do We Go from Here?" Histories of Long-term Black Business Ownership, Community, and Family in Los Angeles County
Topic:
Business
African American History
Interviewer:
Hester, Yolanda
Interviewee:
Hunter, Kim L.
Persons Present:
Hunter and Hester.
Place Conducted:
Hunter's office.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Yolanda Hester, UCLA Center for Oral History Research; M.A., African American studies, UCLA. Hester prepared for the interview in this series by looking at a number of books and articles that examined Black business ownership in a historical context, as well as articles that examined it from a social science perspective and looked at current socioeconomic debates and findings. For the Hunter interview, she also looked at articles on the rise of African Americans in the advertising/communication industry, as well as articles on Hunter in the Los Angeles Sentinel and in trade publications such as PR Week and AD Age. In addition, she read an essay Hunter had published in Crisis Communications by Kathleen Fearn-Banks.
Processing of Interview:
The interviewer prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview. Hunter was given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the content but made no changes.
Length:
4.25 hrs.
Language:
English
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Audio:
Series Statement:
This series documents long-term and multigenerational business ownership in the black community through oral history interviews with owners of businesses located in Los Angeles County. The title is inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last book, Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community, which The title is inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last book, Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community, which focused on economic issues, including issues related to black-owned businesses. Businesses were chosen to participate in the series based on two criteria: that the business had been in operation for at least twenty-five years and that it was currently active at the time of the interview. An effort was also made to ensure that the businesses selected represented a variety of sizes and industries. They range from small, local businesses with only a couple of employees to enterprises that have a regional and even national reach, and the industries represented include construction, real estate, insurance, communications, dry cleaning, restaurants and catering, mortuaries, barbershops, and stove repair. Due to limited resources and time constraints, the interviews focused primarily on businesses in the Pasadena area and in South Los Angeles, with selected businesses in Hollywood, Gardena, and downtown Los Angeles as well. South Los Angeles remains one of the most important centers of Black economic activity in the region, and the Pasadena area has historically been a final stop for many Blacks who migrated to Southern California. It is also important to note that although the series focused mostly on these two areas, the reach and customer base of these businesses span well beyond their local communities. The first section of each oral history covers the individual’s family and migration history. The second and third sections then examine each business from two perspectives: (1) the day-to-day functioning of the business, i.e., staffing, profit and losses, marketing, etc., and (2) broader businesses strategies, including responses to policy changes, technological development, demographic shifts, and changes in the economy. For reasons that included scheduling, health, and capacity issues, some of the business owners who were invited to be interviewed declined. Those businesses included Eso Won Books, Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles, Pete’s Foods Products, Winmax Construction Corporation, Beauchamp Distributing Company, and Gallery Plus. The UCLA Center for Oral History Research has also created a website that offers more context about black businesses in Los Angeles and includes numerous audio clips from this interview series. See https://www.library.ucla.edu/community-commerce-oral-histories-african-american-businesses-los-angeles
Parents’ background—Home environment—Parents’ separation—Attending Central High School—Started working at 12—Dealing with domestic and neighborhood violence—Central High School experience—Work life—Attending University of Washington in Seattle—College years and life in Seattle—The African American experience on the West Coast—The Association of Black Business Students at University of Washington—Getting hired by Baxter, a medical products business, and moving to Los Angeles—Relocation to Minneapolis—Life in Minneapolis—Moving back to Los Angeles—Becoming an entrepreneur in the ‘90s.
Early clients—Working with the Minority AIDS Project—Distinction between communications, advertising, and marketing—Educating the Black community about AIDS—Hunter’s coming out to his family—The workflow at Hunter’s Lagrant Foundation—History of multicultural advertising—Authenticity and tokenism in the communications industry—Adding the Hispanic market to his capabilities—Early learning curves—The importance of value proposition—Downsizing after the loss of an account—Crisis communication—CompUSA—AT&T and Bank of America—Representing Johnnie Cochran—Class consciousness in L.A.’s Black community.
The story behind Hunter’s name—His three “children”—Starting Lagrant Communications—Staffing—Promoting the business—The importance of strategic networking—Expenses and profitability—Expansion and adding the LGBTQ market—Social justice and consumerism—Technological change and social media—Involvement in trade organizations—Policy changes and the 1996 California State ballot Proposition 209—The Lagrant Foundation—Advice to younger self and the significance of Black business ownership.