In honor of Black History Month, we’ve compiled a list of 20 most influential Black entrepreneurs. Obviously, there are many more talented names that could be added to this list. #nodisrespect
The first person on our list is the media executive, television producer, talk show host, actress, and philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey. Oprah Winfrey’s career didn’t start well. She was fired early in her career while working with a television station in Baltimore known as WJZ-TV. Her boss was quoted to have stated that she is unfit for television news and needed to be fired. Oprah, who didn’t let the words of her boss dictate who she would become, persevered and went on to start her own talk show which brought her to the limelight. Today, Oprah is worth $2.8 billion, according to Forbes, making her the richest black American on the planet.
Tyler Perry: Tyler Perry Studios (TV/Media)
Tyler Perry has joined the ranks of Black celebrity billionaires like Jay-Z, Oprah Winfrey, and Michael Jordan. The brilliant actor, writer, producer, playwright, and director went from being raised in poverty to building an empire
Tope Awotona: Vista Equity Partners (Investing)
Tope is KILLING IT as the founder of Calendly, the online scheduling service that our team uses every day.
Morgan DeBaun: Blavity (News Media)
Morgan DeBaun, named by Forbes in 2018 as one of America’s top 50 women in tech, is the founder and CEO of media company Blavity. Blavity, founded in 2014, cultivates a community of content creators and helps them with marketing, social outreach, and funding. The company also runs a travel platform for Black millennials called Travel Noire and a black entertainment news site named Shadow And Act. DeBaun has additionally launched summits for Black professionals, including Summit 21 and AfroTech.
Lisa Price: Carol’s Daughter (Cosmetics)
As a result, celebrities such as Will Smith, Jada Smith, and Jay-Z each invested $10 million into the brand to aid in her nationwide expansion. Valued at an incredible $27 million in 2014, Price sold her brand to French personal care company, L’Oréal. Lisa’s story is a prime example: minority-owned businesses can find life-changing success by catering primarily to women of color.
Pat McGrath: Pat McGrath Labs (Cosmetics)
Kylie, who? Pat McGrath is the real self-made billionaire, and she’s Black! Two years ago, she introduced her cosmetic line called Pat McGrath Labs and to her surprise, it sells out consistently. A New York investment firm noticed Pat’s company and immediately invested $60 million in the business. “It has always been my dream to create an iconic beauty brand that goes beyond the usual limitations, that lives outside of the parameters of what is expected. I am thrilled to be working with the unique and expert team at Eurazeo Brands.” -Pat McGrath
Neal Sales-Griffin: Code Now (tech)
Neal Sales-Griffin is the CEO of CodeNow, a Y Combinator-backed nonprofit that hosts coding workshops for students from low-income backgrounds in six cities across the US. Before heading CodeNow, Sales-Griffin was the CEO of The Starter League, an institution determined "to teach everyone to code," with an innovative curriculum and strong alumni connections. Neal also teaches entrepreneurship at Northwestern University. "That's the entrepreneur way: continue trying things, keep pushing forward, and don't be hesitant to pivot or adjust if something isn't working out." ~ Neal Sales-Griffin
Courtne Smith: NewNew (Social Media App)
Most people probably want to ask Courtne Smith about her time spent as Drake’s personal assistant and member of his management team. Working closely with one of the biggest pop stars and successful businessmen as his friend and right hand probably yields some inspiring, lifelong knowledge (and we get to that). But the more interesting thing about Courtne Smith, the co-founder and CEO of the polling app NewNew, is her ability to evolve her businesses and fearlessly meet new challenges along the way.
Keba Konte: Red Bay Coffee (Food)
Three-hundred-fifty percent growth is what most businesses dream of. But to have that level of growth in a matter of hours can pose an interesting fulfillment challenge. We did our best to handle the rapid increase, and I am super impressed with our production team for their execution. We have since invested in a better shipping software and employed scan-and-pack technology. We are ready for another increase.
Kika Keith & Madison Shockley III: Cannabis Entrepreneur
Kika Keith is an aspiring cannabis entrepreneur who has partnered with a well-established cannabis company to open a dispensary in South Los Angeles/Leimert Park, as part of the city’s “social equity” program
Akin Adebowale and Ousman Sahko: Blacktag (Streaming Service)
The two entrepreneurs began Blacktag, a new streaming service that aims to shift more advertising dollars to Black creators.
Danielle Hawthorne: Scotch Bonnets by Dani (Apparel)
Today’s young entrepreneurs are starting on their own business endeavors before they even make it to college, and 17-year-old Danielle Hawthorne is no different. As a sophomore of Cardinal Spellman High School, New York native Hawthorne thought of a plan to launch her own line of handmade satin bonnets and durags called Scotch Bonnets By Dani, as a way to turn a profit and provide quality products that local beauty supply stores did not.
Atria Lyons: Atira Lyons (Apparel)
20-year-old Atira Lyons has been documenting her journey on social media since earlier this year. Many of her followers have been spreading the word about the luxury durag collection in an effort to encourage others to support Black businesses amid COVID-19, especially those owned by Black women. In 2020, Lyons opened a storefront on Melrose in Los Angeles.
Kevin Thompson, Tykeem “Tak” Williams, and Naim Statham: Verve Scooters (Tech)
“Verve Scooters came to fruition because we saw a need for an effective eco-friendly way of transportation for our community that was also affordable,” CEO Kevin Thompson, co-founder, Tykeem “Tak” Williams, and COO, Naim Statham, said in an interview with Black Enterprise.
Tyra Banks: Bankable Productions (Tech)
Supermodel and TV host Tyra Banks is the founder of Bankable, an all-women production company. The company recently expanded its reach in Hollywood to develop scripted and unscripted content through a deal with Disney Television Studios’ ABC Signature.
Ray Smith: #BEAPP (Tech)
#BeApp — a new digital platform that allows users to livestream their favorite music artists and concerts — is striving to create inclusive ways for the average person to access various forms of entertainment, no matter where they’re located. World class artists such as Dj Khaled and Miguel are using this app to make streaming accessible to all.
Kristal Hansley: WeSolar (Energy)
Kristal Hansley is the first-ever Black woman to own a community solar energy company! According to Black Business, Hansley, founder of WeSolar and an advocate for the use of solar power, knows how solar energy has helped thousands of low-to-moderate income families save on their electricity expenses. She says this is what motivated her to get her company established that is “dedicated to specifically opening community solar farms in neighborhoods like Baltimore.”
Gabrielle Union: Flawless by Gabrielle Union (Cosmetics)
Last year, Gabrielle Union announced the launch of Flawless by Gabrielle Union, an affordable, moisture-rich haircare line for Black hair. However, this was not her first journey into the world of African American hair care. In fact, Union’s first attempt at launching the line came in 2017 but she quickly halted the project when she began to lose her own hair as a result of IVF treatments.
Naj Austin: Ethel’s Club (Social Club)
Founded by Naj Austin, Ethel’s Club is a social club where members of the Black community have access to healing through “conversation, wellness and creativity.” Following the pandemic, Austin pivoted to an all-virtual membership, offering the same much-needed resources and space to her members.