Black Business Month
National Black Business Month was the idea of John William Templeton, president and executive editor of the scholarly publishing company, eAccess Corp—along with engineering executive, Frederick E. Jordan in 2004. Mr. Jordan was unable to get financing for his San Francisco-based business. Together, the two men shared a goal to drive policy change affecting African American entrepreneurs, seeking greater equity and inclusion.
Today, Black-owned businesses represent 2.4% of the nation’s businesses, despite the fact that Blacks represent 12.8% of the population. In contrast, white-owned businesses account for 86.5%.
As we celebrate Black Business Month, let’s look at some of the most successful Black-owned businesses and consider some tips on how to set up a business that are worthwhile for all potential business owners.
A Salute to Some Well-Known Black Businesses
Without a doubt, one of the most successful black-owned businesses is the IT giant, World Wide Technology. WWT has more than $10 billion in annual revenue and over 5,000 employees. It’s one of the largest private companies in the U.S.
David L. Steward founded the company in St Louis, Missouri in 1990. The chairman says that the company’s success is a far cry from the poverty and discrimination that he experienced in his youth:
“I vividly remember segregation—separate schools, sitting in the balcony at the movie theater, being barred from the public swimming pool.”
Today, Mr. Stewart’s net worth is estimated at about $4 billion, and his company was on top of this year’s BE 100s list of the nation’s largest black-owned businesses.
In 1898, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company was founded by a group of black social leaders who pooled their resources to establish an insurance company for the underserved African-American community. John Merrick, one of the founders, was born into slavery and then built up a successful barbershop business with branches throughout the Durham, North Carolina- area before moving into insurance. North Carolina Mutual was the largest black-owned business in the United States for much of the 20th century. It’s still around today with assets of over $160 million.
Here’s a recent startup that’s been making headlines in the media world since it started in 2014. Blavity’s quick ascent has attracted the attention of venture capital firms that have invested roughly $10 million in Blavity. It’s a community of multi-cultural creators and influencers in the world. Its mission statement says “Our vision is to economically and creatively support Black millennials across the African diaspora, so they can pursue the work they love, and change the world in the process.”
Ebony and Jet are two of the most famous magazines for the African-American market. Both publications were created and published by the Johnson Publishing Company. John H. Johnson founded the firm in 1942, after working his way out of poverty after serving as an office boy at an insurance firm. Mr. Johnson’s first publication, a magazine called Negro Digest, was an unexpected hit.
Mr. Johnson is widely regarded as the most influential African American publisher in American history. Growing up in Arkansas, there were no high schools for black students, so he repeated the eighth grade to continue his education. After moving to Chicago with his family, he attended DuSable High School, where he graduated with honors. In addition to his business and publishing expertise and success, Mr. Johnson was highly involved at both community and the national level. He accompanied then-Vice President Richard Nixon to nine African nations in 1957, and then to Russia and Poland in 1959. President Kennedy sent Mr. Johnson to the Ivory Coast in 1961 as Special Ambassador to the independence ceremonies taking place there, and President Johnson sent him to Kenya in 1963 for the same purpose. President Nixon later appointed him to the Commission for the Observance of the 25th Anniversary of the United Nations.
Harpo Inc. “HARPO” is “OPRAH” spelled backwards. Oprah Winfrey is a famous media personality, but her business savvy and her company, Harpo Inc. made her into a billionaire. With Harpo, Ms. Winfrey was able to gain control of her own show instead of having it owned by the network. As a result, she was no longer paid as talent like most TV personalities; instead, she received a large percentage of the show’s huge profits. Harpo has branched out into other media such as magazines and its own network, OWN.
Forming a Business
According to a 2021 census on minority-owned businesses, Black business owners own approximately 124,551 businesses in the U.S. Here are some key legal aspects you should know when forming your own business:
- Choose a business structure. The legal structure you select for your business will affect your business registration requirements, how much you pay in taxes, and your personal liability. You’ll need to choose a business structure before you register your business with the state.
- Write a business plan. Your business plan is the foundation of your business and is a roadmap for how to structure, run, and grow your new business. A business plan is essential to convince people that working with you — or investing in your company — is a wise move.
- Apply for licenses and permits. A business must be legally compliant. Make certain your company has the necessary licenses and permits, which vary by industry, state, location, and other factors.
The idea of Black Business Month is simple: support Black-owned organizations to promote greater economic freedom for Black neighbors and help them their growing businesses. Join us in creating a better environment for black entrepreneurs and businesses.