Highlighting the Voices of Black Entrepreneurs: Stories of Success and Overcoming Adversity

There were 2.6 million black-owned businesses in the United States in 2018, generating over $150 billion in revenue. Learn about how some of these business owners rose to their level of success.

Ramiro Mendes

African Americans often face economic disparity and hardship when they try to launch a business. Some of the challenges that they can face include:

  • Limited access to capital: African American entrepreneurs often have difficulty accessing the capital they need to start and grow their businesses. This can be due to a lack of personal wealth, lower credit scores, and discrimination in lending practices.
  • Limited access to business networks: Building a successful business often requires access to networks of suppliers, customers, and other businesses. African American entrepreneurs may have difficulty accessing these networks due to historical exclusion and discrimination.
  • Racial and economic disparities: African Americans face significant disparities in wealth and income compared to white Americans. These disparities can make it harder for African Americans to invest in their businesses and access the resources they need to succeed.
  • Systemic racism: Racism and discrimination in the business world can make it harder for African Americans to succeed as entrepreneurs. For example, African American business owners may face discrimination from potential customers or investors, or they may be excluded from certain industries or markets.

Let’s take a look at some of the major African American entrepreneurs and business owners who have overcome some of these obstacles and are wealthy because of their hard work and success. 

Daymond John 

Daymond John is a successful African American entrepreneur who is best known for his role as a “shark” on the popular television show Shark Tank. He is also the founder and CEO of FUBU, a clothing brand that was popular in the 1990s.

One reason why Daymond John is a successful entrepreneur is his ability to identify and capitalize on emerging trends in the market. When he started FUBU in the early 1990s, he saw an opportunity to create a clothing brand that spoke to the emerging hip-hop culture. He created hats and t-shirts that featured the FUBU logo and sold them out of the trunk of his car. As the brand grew in popularity, John was able to expand the product line and build a successful business.

Another reason for John’s success is his strong work ethic and determination. He faced a number of challenges in his early years as an entrepreneur, including a lack of access to capital and difficulty getting his products into stores. But he persisted, working long hours and building relationships with key players in the industry.

John has also been successful in leveraging his personal brand and public profile to build his businesses. His role on Shark Tank has given him a platform to showcase his business acumen and connect with other entrepreneurs, while his work as a motivational speaker and author has helped him build a loyal following.

Janice Bryant Howroyd 

Janice Bryant Howroyd is a successful African American entrepreneur who is the founder and CEO of ActOne Group, a staffing and workforce management company. Howroyd has always had a clear vision of her goals and an ability to innovate in her industry. She saw an opportunity to provide a more personalized and efficient staffing service to businesses, and she created a company that could deliver on that promise. She was also an early adopter of technology in her industry, which helped her stay ahead of the competition.

She  grew up in a large family in the segregated South, and she learned the value of hard work and perseverance from an early age. She has always been known for her strong work ethic and her ability to lead by example.Howroyd has always been committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace, and she has made it a priority to hire and promote employees from diverse backgrounds. This has helped her company attract top talent and better serve a diverse range of clients.

Howroyd is also committed to mentoring and supporting other entrepreneurs and professionals, particularly women and people of color. She has established several programs and initiatives to support young people and entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds.

George Foreman 

George Foreman is a successful African American entrepreneur who is known for his achievements both inside and outside of the boxing ring. After retiring from boxing, Foreman went on to build a successful business empire that includes a line of grilling products, a clothing line, and other ventures. His grilling products, in particular, have been highly successful and are sold around the world. Foreman’s success as an entrepreneur can be attributed in part to his strong personal brand. He is known for his affable personality and his ability to connect with people from all walks of life. He has also been successful in leveraging his personal brand to promote his various business ventures.

Foreman has also invested heavily in the next generation. Not only did he support his son’s boxing career, but he helped George “Monk” Foreman III establish a gym brand called “Everybody Fights,” but he also helped him launch and operate a boxing promotion company called the Foreman Boys. 

Arthur G. Gaston 

Arthur G. Gaston was an African American entrepreneur and civil rights activist who lived from 1892 to 1996. He was born in Alabama and became known for his success in the business world, particularly in the areas of real estate, insurance, and banking.

Gaston started out as a coal miner and later became a door-to-door salesman for the National Benefit Life Insurance Company. In 1923, he founded the Booker T. Washington Insurance Company in Birmingham, Alabama, which became one of the largest African American-owned businesses in the country.

Gaston also invested in real estate and helped to develop several properties in Birmingham, including the A.G. Gaston Motel, which became a hub for the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Gaston used his wealth and influence to support the movement and to help African Americans overcome discrimination and segregation.

Reginald F. Lewis

Reginald F. Lewis was an African American lawyer and businessman who lived from 1942 to 1993. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and is best known for his successful acquisition of Beatrice International Foods, which made him the first African American to build a billion-dollar company.

Lewis graduated from Harvard Law School in 1968 and began his career working as a lawyer for the New York firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. In the 1980s, he turned his attention to business and founded his own investment firm, TLC Group, which focused on acquiring and developing businesses.

In 1987, Lewis made his biggest acquisition when he led a leveraged buyout of Beatrice International Foods, a multinational food company with operations in more than 30 countries. The acquisition was valued at $985 million, and Lewis became the first African American to own a company worth more than a billion dollars.

Lewis was known for his business acumen and his ability to turn around struggling companies. He was also a philanthropist and established several scholarship programs and other initiatives to support education and economic development in the African American community.

Maggie Lena Walker

Maggie Lena Walker was an African American entrepreneur and community leader who lived from 1864 to 1934. She was born in Richmond, Virginia, and is best known for being the first woman to charter and serve as president of a bank in the United States.

Walker began her career as a teacher and later became involved in the Independent Order of St. Luke, a fraternal organization that provided support and financial services to African Americans. She worked her way up in the organization and eventually became its leader in 1899.

Under Walker’s leadership, the Independent Order of St. Luke grew and expanded its services, including establishing a newspaper, a department store, and a bank. The bank, known as the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, opened in 1903 and was the first bank owned and operated by African Americans in the United States.


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