Being born in a minority group can hinder your success, as you may face some challenges that non-minority members would never encounter. History and, sadly, the present have proven that being black isn’t always a bed of roses.
This article highlights the inspiring stories of six black entrepreneurs, who beat the odds, and celebrates their achievements that range from big, historic companies to fast-growing businesses.
David L. Steward
David Steward founded the IT company World Wide Technology (WWT), one of the largest private companies in the United States. Steward started his business in 1990. It has grown from a small product reseller into a technology solution provider.
WWT specialises in cloud capabilities, data centre and virtualisation, security, mobility, and networking technologies, along with voice, video, and collaboration solutions. It provides advanced technology solutions to several companies and organisations around the world.
Steward grew up in the segregated South in a poor family, but that didn’t stop him from getting an education and fulfilling his dreams. He says, “talent is equally distributed, opportunity is not. We need to change that by inspiring and igniting untapped potential. Diversity and inclusion are essential to innovation; both foster stronger business outcomes”.
BlackEnterprise published a list of the largest top 100 American black-owned companies in 2019, and WWT crowned that list with $11.2 billion in annual revenue.
Madam C.J. Walker
Madam C.J. Walker was born in 1867 as Sarah Breedlove in Louisiana. She is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first self-made female millionaire in America.
Madam Walker was the first child in her family born into freedom after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. She worked as a washerwoman and a sales agent selling products for Annie Malone, an African-American hair entrepreneur who would become Walker’s rival in the industry.
Walker gained much knowledge and as a result, she developed a product line and hair care products oriented to African American women. She sold her products door-to-door, teaching women how to take care of their hair. Walker, slowly but surely, created an empire residing in the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company.
The Netflix TV series “Self Made” with Octavia Spencer portrays Madam Walker’s story and her rise from poverty to millionaire status. However, the show created mixed opinions because of storyline inaccuracies, resulting in a fictional work rather than a biography.
If you’ve watched the 2006 film, “The Pursuit of Happyness” starring Will Smith, you know who we’re talking about. The film, based on the real story of Chris Gardner, depicts his journey from homelessness to becoming a millionaire.
Gardner became a stockbroker and, in 1987, founded his brokerage firm Gardner Rich & Co in Chicago. It specialises in executing debt, equity, and derivative product transactions for some of the nation’s largest institutions. In 2006, he sold his stake and became the founder and CEO of Christopher Gardner International Holdings.
Gardner is also interested in philanthropic work. He sponsors various charitable organisations and helps create low-income housing as well as employment opportunities in the very city he was once homeless. He became a motivational speaker and published a memoir that was adapted to the big screen.
Morgan DeBaun is the youngest entrepreneur on our list. At the young age of 32, she succeeded in creating a successful business that’s making a difference.
In 2018, she was named by Forbes as one of America’s Top 50 Women in Tech. She is the founder and CEO of Blavity, a company she launched in 2014.
Blavity helps content creators with marketing, social outreach, and funding. It’s a digital media company for black culture and millennials, reaching over 100 million readers monthly. Its brand portfolio includes a travel platform called Travel Noire and a black entertainment news site named Shadow and Act, along with Blavity News, AfroTech, 21Ninety, and Lunchtable.
DeBaun also works as an advisor to global companies such as Disney and American Airlines. She partners with several brands to ensure they authentically reach the black audience.
Aliko Dangote is a Nigerian businessman who’s among the top richest Black entrepreneurs in the world. He is the CEO of the Dangote Group which operates in the industries of sugar and salt refining, food processing, cement manufacturing, among a few others.
The company first started in the 1970s as a trading firm. By the late 1990s, it had shifted its focus on manufacturing for import substitution. Its vision consists in becoming the leading provider of essential needs in food and shelter in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Dangote Group operates in 17 African countries and is a market leader in cement on the African continent.
Dangote’s business also strives to achieve self-reliance in Nigeria in all the sectors where it operates. Clearly, its success has almost single-handedly taken Nigeria to self-sufficiency in cement and is helping other countries to do the same.
Aliko Dangote was listed by Forbes as the “Most Powerful Man in Africa” for six consecutive years, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. With a net worth of $14 billion, he’s Africa’s richest person.
Rebecca Enonchong is a Cameroonian entrepreneur, founder, and CEO of AppsTech. At the age of 15, Enonchong moved to the U.S. to continue her studies. She worked as a door-to-door newspaper salesperson and became the company manager within two years.
AppsTech, established in 1999, offers enterprise software products and services to serve all enterprise software requirements, from architecting a solution, licence sales, implementation, integration, training, and application management services. It operates in more than 40 countries.
In 2014, Enonchong was listed by Forbes as one of the “10 Female Tech Founders to Watch in Africa”. However, achieving success wasn’t easy at all. She faced some obstacles along the way, such as lack of funding. Medium published an interesting article written by Enonchong about her journey and the lessons she learned called “How I Built a Global Tech Business with No Funding”.
Reading about these entrepreneurs proves that anything is possible if you have the right mindset and the willingness to go all the way to fulfil your dreams. Don’t let the challenges and obstacles pull you down. On the contrary, they should serve as your fuel to keep thriving as the show must go on!