Not everyone is lucky enough to have a light bulb moment in their career. But when Al McFarlane was a young reporter at the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, MN, he turned in a story that was so good – he knew he’d found his calling.
“Before that time, I would’ve said I’m going to be a journalist, I’m going to be a reporter,” Al recalls. “That was the day when I said, ‘I am.’”
Al didn’t know it then, but he had only just scratched the surface. In 1975 he purchased the rights to Insight News, a color cover magazine based in and serving Minneapolis’ African American Northside and began publishing it as a community newspaper.
An agent of change
“We have always been Afrocentric,” Al said of Insight News. “And the mission has been to elevate for people of African descent – our story, our truth – to dispel the disinformation that seeks to marginalize us.”
It is Al’s ancestral roots that motivate him to be an agent of change. He is a first generation American with a Cuban-born father, and a mother whose lineage goes back to the times of slavery in Mississippi and Alabama.
His passion for journalism and social change also led him to support the creation of other ethnic newspapers, and he helped organize the Minnesota Multicultural Media Consortium. In 1996, Insight News became Minnesota’s first African American-owned media publication to establish an internet presence, allowing them to reach an even larger audience.
Small business financing to overcome challenges
When the pandemic began in 2020, Insight News fell on hard times.
“All of the places we delivered the paper to shut down,” Al explained. “We print 35,000 copies and we sell advertising based on our delivery to about 400 newsstands around the Twin Cities every week.”
To continue operating, Insight News hired a company to perform door-to-door distribution. This proved to be a costly pivot, but necessary to deliver critical information during a public health emergency. They also began to dive deeper into the digital media space, enhancing efforts around social media, the web, radio, and television.
To navigate this new reality and support the business’s growth, Al found himself in search of capital. He learned about the Minnesota Inclusive Growth Fund (MIGF) – a program created by nonprofit community lenders offering flexible, below-market, fixed-rate financing – and decided to apply.
Through MIGF, CRF had the privilege of connecting with Al. CRF is one of the co-creators and lenders of MIGF and was able to work with Al to provide a working capital loan used for payroll and operating expenses.
Positioned for long-term success
“We’ve never really had a significant working capital investment. This is the first time after 30 years in business,” Al said.
“I’m in the best shape that I have ever been in, in terms of the organization, the structure, the team, the vision, and the plan. And now I have working capital to execute against that vision.”
Equipped with financing, Al’s goal is to exponentially grow his business. He plans to expand even further in the digital space and continue to make Insight News a source for credible news and information in the Twin Cities African American community.
“If we don’t bring our voice to the table, the world is operating with a lack of information,” Al explained.
“What we say and what we feel is critically important. My job is to make sure that we say it.”