African American Entrepreneurs: Help our kids see who they can become.

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We don’t share the stories of Americans African American entrepreneurs enough. My name is Bill Poulos, If a kid or teen sees what is possible it could keep them out of trouble and help them become a success. Share the stories of these heros with others.

Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey has a net worth, as of 2018, of $2.8 billion. Oprah has taken on the titles of the richest African American of the 20th century, the first multi-billionaire black person, and the greatest black philanthropist in American history.

“The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.” -Oprah

She is a talk show host, producer, actress, and philanthropist. She is most known for her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Winfrey was born in rural Mississippi on January 29, 1954. She was born into poverty to a single teenage mother. Throughout her childhood and early teens, she was molested and became pregnant at the age of 14. Her child died at infancy. She was then sent to live with her father, Vernon Winfrey, in Tennessee. While in high school there she landed a job in radio and soon became a co-anchor of the local evening news at the age of 19. At the age of 22, she was recruited to co-anchor the 6 p.m. news at WJZ-TV in Baltimore. Winfrey was later fired for this job, told by her boss she was “unfit for television news.” WJZ hired her for a then failing talk show, People Are Talking. The show became a hit and Winfrey continued the talk show for eight years.

“Everybody has a calling. And your real job in life is to figure out as soon as possible what that is, who you were meant to be, and to begin to honor that in the best way possible for yourself.” -Oprah

Winfrey was then recruited by a Chicago TV station to host her own morning show, A.M Chicago. Within several months she took the show from third rated to first place. This success led her to nationwide fame and a role in Steven Spielberg’s film The Color Purple, which led to a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The film later was adapted for the stage, and Winfrey helped as one of the producers of the now 11-time Tony-nominated musical.

The Oprah Winfrey Show launched in 1986 as a nationally syndicated program, with placement on 120 channels and audience of 10 million people. She soon launched her production company, Harpo, Inc., of which she is chairman and CEO, and gained ownership of The Oprah Winfrey Show from ABC. Winfrey began “Oprah’s Book Club,” as part of her talk show, entering the publishing world. The program launched unknown authors to the top of the bestsellers lists.

In 2000, Winfrey debuted her monthly magazine, O: The Oprah Magazine and by 2011 she had launched her own television network, Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

Winfrey has remained an activist and philanthropist most of her life, owning Oprah’s Angel Network, which raised more than $50 million for charitable programs. An activist for children’s rights, a bill she proposed to Congress was signed into law, creating a nationwide databased of convicted child abusers. She founded the Family for Better Lives Foundation and in 2002 was named the first recipient of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Bob Hope Humanitarian Award.

Daron Taylor

Dr. William Pickard
Dr. William Pickard is a businessman, author, educator, and Chairman of Global Automotive Alliance. He is also a Co-Managing Partner at MGM Grand Detroit Casino, CEO of Bearwood Management Company, and co-owner of five African-American owned newspapers, including the Michigan Chronicles.

Born in the small town of LaGrange, Georgia, Pickard rose from humble beginnings to the entrepreneur giant that he is now. He began his career in the industry as a fast-food franchisee in Detroit, Michigan. Around 1989, after amassing enough funds, he founded an automotive manufacturing company which he then grew to one of the country’s largest provider of contract logistics, warehousing, freight forwarding, procurement, contract assembly services, and quality containment known as Global Automotive Alliance. The company now has over $ 500 million in net sales, and is operating in the United States and Canada.

Global Automotive Alliance is comprised of several member companies in the logistics industry such as Vitec, ARD Logistics, Global SQ, and Key Logistics Solutions.

Dr. Pickard is a business and civic leader in the Detroit metropolitan area who has been a steady part of several civic and business development boards such as African Development Foundation, Standard Federal Bank, and the National Urban League, to name a few. He has been the Director of Michigan National Corporation and its subsidiary Michigan National Bank since 1989, as well as member of the U.S. Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, and the Executive Board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

As a huge proponent of education, Dr. Pickard is a consistent donor for scholarship and school improvement funding; as well as speaker in talks and seminars on entrepreneurship. He also released the book “Millionaire Moves: Seven Proven Principles of Entrepreneurship” in which he shared the story of his engrossing professional journey in the hopes of creating a new generation of skillful, driven entrepreneurs who can someday beat the odds, like he did.

Kenneth Irvine Chenault
Kenneth Irvine Chenault, an American business executive, was the chairman and CEO of American Express from 2001 until 2018, making himself the third black CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Chenault was born June 2, 1951 in Mineola, New York. He attended Bowdoin College in his undergraduate years and completed his law degree at Harvard University.

Before joining American Express in 1981, Chenault worked as an attorney. He worked at Rogers & Wells in New York City before moving on from the legal professional and taking on a consultant role at Bain & Company. During his time as a consultant he was mentored by Mitt Romney, fellow Harvard Law School alumni, Massachusetts governor, and 2008 presidential candidate. Mitt Romney revealed in a 1997 Ebony interview that Chenault has a clear vision and the ability to get things done in confusing circumstances.

When Chenault joined American Express he took a position in the languishing merchandizing department. He revived the department, lead his team to success, and launched corporate partnerships with many companies, like Delta Airlines. In 1997, he became the president and chief operating officer. By 2001, he was name CEO. The September 11 attacks in New York took place across the street from the American Express headquarters and Chenault lead the company through the personal and economic devastation.

Chenault serves as an active public servant holding positions on many civic, academic, and professional organization boards. Some of those boards include Bowdoin College, the NCAA, and the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health. He devotes much of his time to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center Foundation and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. His success and partnerships throughout the community have led him to speak at commencements at universities like Howard University, Northeastern University, and Wake Forest University. His work as a public servant has lead him to receive the prestigious Third Lantern Award.

Mellody Hobson
Mellody Hobson is the president of the Chicago-based Ariel Investments and sits as a director for big companies, like Dream Works Animation, Estee Lauder, and Starbucks Corporation.

Hobson was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 3, 1969. She received her undergraduate degree from Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

After graduation, Hobson began interning for Ariel Investments. She eventually worked her way to Director of Marketing and Senior Vice President. By 2000, she landed the role of president for a company managing over $13 billion in assets. Arial Investments became one of the largest African American owned mutual fund and money management companies in the United States.

In 2009, Hobson created and hosted Unbroke: What You Need to Know About Money, a show on ABC featuring celebrities like the Jonas Brothers, Oscar the Grouch, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Hobson chairs and leads many organizations outside her role as president for Ariel Investments. She became the first African American woman to head the Economic Club of Chicago in 2017. She also is the Chair of the Board of Trustees of Arieal Investment Trust, a regular contributor on financial issues on CBS This Morning, and a spokesperson for the annual Ariel/Schwab Black Investor Survey. Other boards include JPMorgan Chase & Co., the Chicago Public Education Fund, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, and the Sundance Institute.

Hobson has won many awards and nominations including Time’s 2015 Time 100 List, Ebony magazine’s 20 Leaders of the Future, Working Women Magazine’s 20 Under 20, the World Economic Forum’s Global Leaders of Tomorrow, Esquire’s America’s Best and Brightest, and The Wall Street Journal’s 50 Women to Watch.

Kenneth Frazier
Kenneth Carleton Frazier is the chairman and CEO of Merck & Co., a pharmaceutical company. He initially joined the company as general counsel, directing the company’s defense against litigation over the anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx. He is the first African American and second lawyer to lead a major pharmaceutical company.

Frazier was born December 17,1954 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father, a janitor, motivated him to be successful by teaching him to believe he could do anything. This led Frazier to pursue and receive his undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University and complete his law degree at Harvard Law School.

Frazier started his career in Pennsylvania as a lawyer, eventually working his way to partner. He spent much of his time as a lawyer doing pro bono work, helping to release a man on death row wrongfully accused in Alabama. It was not until 1992 that he joined Merck as general counsel during a joint venture with another pharmaceutical company and fully joined general counsel of Merck in 1999. Frazier held various leadership roles, such as chairman of the board, before securing his role as CEO.

Robert L. Johnson
Robert Johnson is an American media magnate, entrepreneur, philanthropist, investor, and executive. Prior to being acquired by Viacom in 2001, he co-founded BET. RLJ, a holding company that invests in business sectors, is another company Johnson founded. Through the success of his companies and former majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, Johnson became the first black American billionaire.

Johnson was born April 8, 1945 in Hickory, Mississippi. He attended the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign for his undergraduate degree and received his Master’s in Public Affairs from Princeton University.

Johnson found a job in Washington, D.C. after graduating from Princeton that introduced him to the television industry. He worked at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, serving as the public affairs director. He eventually became the Vice President of Governmental Relations at the National Cable and Television Association, due to his experience working as a press secretary for Congressman Walter E. Fauntroy.

In 1979, Johnson left his position to create the first cable television networked tailored to African Americans, Black Entertainment Television. By 1985, BET has turned a profit and became the first black-controlled company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Johnson earned the title as the first African American billionaire after he sold BET in 2000 to Viacom for $3 billion. Although he sold the company, he remained CEO until 2006.

After he left BET, Johnson founded The RLJ Companies, a holding company with a portfolio consisting of hotel real estate investments, private equities, financial services, asset management, automobile dealerships, sports, and entertainment.

Johnson serves on many boards including, Board of Directors for RLJ Lodging Trust, RLJ Entertainment Inc., Lowe’s Companies, Inc., KB Home, Think Finance Inc., Strayer Education, The Business Council, NBA Board of Governors, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, US Airways, Hilton Hotels, General Mills, the United Negro College Fund, and Deutsche Bank’s Americas Advisory Board.

Chris Gardner
Chris Gardner was a business owner, American investor, stockbroker, motivational speaker, philanthropist, and author. He was the CEO of a stock brokerage firm he founded himself in 1987, Gardner Rich & Co. The company thrived in Chicago, Illinois until he sold his share to found Christopher Gardner International Holdings.

Gardner was born on February 9, 1954 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father was in Louisiana during his birth and his stepfather was physically abusive to his mother and sisters, leaving him without positive male role models. After an incident in which his stepfather reported his mother to the authorities for welfare fraud, Gardner and his sisters were placed in foster care.

While in foster care, Gardner met his Uncle Henry, who became a positive father figure in his life. Unfortunately, his uncle died when Gardner was the age of nine. The struggles he encountered in his early childhood convinced Gardner that domestic abuse, alcoholism, child abuse, illiteracy, powerlessness, and fear were things he would avoid in his future.

Before his death, Gardner’s Uncle Henry shared his stories of the worldwide adventure he experienced in the U.S Navy. This drove Gardner to enlist when he finished school. Gardner worked as a hospital corpsman during his four years at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. This allowed him to connect with Dr. Robert Ellis, a decorated San Francisco cardiac surgeon, who offered Gardner a position doing clinical research at the University of California Medical Center and Veterans Administration Hospital in San Francisco. By 1976, he was given full laboratory responsibilities and co-authored many articles with Dr. Ellis.

His position at the lab paid about $8,000 a year and was not enough for Gardner to support himself and his new born child. During this time, he struggled with being homeless and trying to raise his toddler son. After quitting his job to take on a medical equipment sales position, he met a man in a red Ferrari who changed his life. The man he met shared he was a stockbroker and the successful career path led Gardner to make enough to purchase a Ferrari of his own from Michael Jordan.

Gardner established Gardner Rich & Co. in 1987, which manages over $1 billion worth of assets. After selling his stake in Gardner Rich, he became CEO and founder of Christopher Gardner International Holdings, with offices in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.

Due to his trials and successes, Gardner decided to write a book of memoirs entitled The Pursuit of Happyness, published May 2006. The book led to a major motion picture of the same title starring Will Smith.

In 2012, Gardner’s wife encouraged him to fulfill himself with true happiness for the remainder of his life. Taking on the challenge has led him to travel the world 200 days year, having motivation speaking engagements in over 50 countries.

Gardner has received awards like NFI’s Father of the Year Award, the 25th Humanitarian Award from the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women, and the 2006 Friends of Africa Award from the Continental Africa Chamber of Commerce.

Martin Ijaha
Martin Ijaha is the co-founder and CEO of the UK startup, Neyber, a company that partners with employers to offer loans to employees at affordable rates. His business model allows repayments of loans to be taken directly out of employee paychecks. Martin drew inspiration from the traditional “sou-sou” savings club common across Africa and matched it up with modern technology to create this financial technology startup. The startup recently attracted a £100million investment from Goldman Sachs.

Ijaha is a former investment banker and left Goldman Sachs in 2012 when he came up for the idea for his business. In Africa, there was a savings club called Sou-Sou. His mother would put £50 in a pot every time she was paid and would take the money home at the end of the month. The pot was communal and acted as a form of community savings, allowing community members to draw from the pot when needed. Ijaha turned this model into the structure for his business, in which companies would allow employees to borrow money and pay it back with their future salary. Applying this collective saving and borrowing model in the workplace connected the biggest community and cut the banks out of the process.

Don Peebles
Roy Donahue “Don” Peebles is a real estate entrepreneur, political activist, and author. He is the founder, CEO, and chairman of the Peebles Corporation, a development company of luxury hotels and commercial and high-rise residential properties in Washington, D.C., New York City, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Miami Beach, and San Francisco. According to corporate disclosure documents, he owns 100% of The Peebles Corporation. Peebles runs the largest minority-owned real estate firm in the U.S.

Peebles was born March 2, 1960 in Washington, D.C. His grandfather worked at Marriott Wardman Park hotel as a doorman, while his father was a car mechanic.  While in high school, Peebles served as a Congressional Page. Peebles dropped out of Rutgers University in 1979 in pursuance of a career in real estate.

By 1983, at the age of 23, Peebles established a residential and commercial real estate appraisal firm, RDP Corporation. The name eventually changed to Peebles Corporation, the company Peebles runs today.

Peebles is a top-selling author, writing titles such as The Peebles Principles and The Peebles Path to Real Estate Wealth. He appears on CNN, CNBC, and Fox as a regular guest and is sought after for educational, business, and professional addresses across the nation.

Beyond his own professional success, Peebles has worked encourage mentorship as a way to expose youth to entrepreneurship. He is also an active political supporter and fundraiser for local, state, and federal campaigns, working for both major parties. His work in the community includes serving on various boards, such as Chairman of the Board of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Board of Directors of YMCA of Greater New York, Miami-Dade County Mayor Gimenez’s Business Roundtable, President Barack Obama’s National Finance Committee, and former Chairman of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Peebles has won awards and titles like Business Trailblazers and Titans of Black America from Black Enterprise, 40 Most Powerful African Americans in Business, and Top 10 Wealthiest Black Americans by Forbes.

Kymberlee Jay
Kymberlee Jay is a business owner, athlete on the Nike payroll, a TV presenter, choreographer, and dancer. She began her career as a dancer for Madonna before working as a choreographer. She is now the Founder and Creative Director of DoodleDirect, a company that works with companies to make animated videos to boost internal and external communications. Jay was a British plus size hip hop dancer when Madonna hand-picked her to appear in a promotional video. Her unconventional dancer’s physique inspired women and created controversy within the industry. Throughout her life she has moved from the role of dancer to choreographer, working with high-profile brands and entertainment giants internationally across TV and live events.

In 2015, Jay founded DoodleDirect, a visual communications firm with locations in New York and central London. In addition to her company, she has taken on consulting roles at firms like Nike, Holiday Inn, the global entertainment group AEG Presents, and more.

Jay’s success with DoodleDirect and collaboration with major clients like Knight Frank, the Food Standards Agency, and Vauxhall, have led her to win the Arts and Media Rising Star award at the 2017 Black British Business Awards.

Link Howard III

Link Howard III is an entrepreneur, pastor, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Powerlink Facilities Management Services. Powerlink is an ISO 9001 certified, cross-industry staffing, construction, and facilities business that caters to all the support services’ needs of eastern U.S. and Canada. Since its founding in 2003, the company remained committed to its mission of providing their clients with people that have particular links and familiarity of the culture and morals of each patron’s business. Their openness and commitment to diversity allowed them to grow and accommodate industries from healthcare, education, commercial facilities, and manufacturing, to name a few.

Prior founding Powerlink Facilities Management Services, Howard was your ordinary high school graduate who pursued a career in the military by enlisting in the Air Force soon after graduation. He served in the Vietnam War and remained in the federal service as an Equal Employment Opportunity Manager for all Air National Guard civilian employees in the country until 1997. When he left, he was eventually employed in an automotive company and rose from Operations Manager to Vice President for Sales and Marketing. Afterwards, he took all he learned about servicing and leadership to jumpstart his own company, Powerlink Facilities Management Services. Since then, it has grown into the 500+ employee community that it is today; with more than 250 customer sites in Ontario, and throughout the country. In 2012, PFMS is number 20 on Crain’s List of Largest African American Businesses with a reported annual revenue of $23.5 million.

Alongside his direction of Powerlink, Howard also provides scholarships and educational opportunities for youth in Detroit and Flint; while keeping to his obligation as a pastor and leading social trips and missions in Africa.

Wayne-Kent A. Bradshaw

Wayne-Kent A. Bradshaw is the current President and CEO of the Broadway Federal Bank and company. The said business is Los Angeles’ last black-owned bank that was founded in 1946 to give financial assistance to the consumer minority who were being ignored by the established banks of the time.

Bradshaw joined the company in 2009 as the President and Chief Operating Officer and was quickly promoted as Director of both the company and the bank around 2012 due to his extensive experience in community and commercial banking.

Prior Broadway, he was part of the several banks and other financial management organizations in the country; enriching his about 40-years experience in the industry. Some of the institutions he served are the State Banking Department as Chief Deputy Superintendent from 1981 to 1983; Los Angeles based, Family Savings bank as President and CEO from 1989 through 2000; and Washington Mutual Bank as Regional President and National Manager for Community and External Affairs from 2003 to 2009.

At present, Bradshaw continues to lead Broadway Federal Bank flawlessly with his proven abilities in planning and implementation that boost the competitiveness and growth of the company amidst trying times such as the 2011 scam scandal one of their loan officers has dragged Broadway Federal Bank into. He is also part of various community and educational boards such as California State University Northridge, California Community Reinvestment Corporation, and Northridge Hospital Medical Center.

The Broadway Federal Bank reported a total revenue of $4 million during the third quarter of 2015; a $765,000 increase compared with the $584,000 logged in 2014.

Vinnie Johnson

Vinnie Johnson, former Detroit Piston guard turned philanthropist and businessman, is the founder and Chairman of Piston Automotive. Subsequent his success with the Detroit Pistons, he decided to take on the new challenge of building his own company that endeavors to boost Detroit’s economic situation by providing jobs and opportunities to its people.

Since its establishment in 1995, Piston Automotive has expanded greatly under Johnson’s leadership from its initial single facility in Detroit to multiple sites throughout the country including Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, and Missouri. It now has a projected revenue of $2.8 billion making it the largest minority-owned business in southeast Michigan.

In conjunction with Johnson’s successful career in business, he was made a member of the Detroit Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Minority Business Development Council, as well as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the JL Automotive LLC, PASA Modules, LLC joint ventures.  Johnson is also involved in numerous charity and philanthropy works.

Walter Edmond Douglas

Walter Edmond Douglas is a businessman, activist and local Detroit pioneer who, from being a simple dealer—part of Ford Motor minority training program—turned Chairperson of one of Ford’s top dealerships, Avis Ford.

Now, Avis Ford is nationally ranked in Metro Detroit serving the entire region that includes Beverly Hills, Birmingham, Bingham Farms, Bloomfield Hills, Detroit, Ferndale, Franklin, Oak Park, Royal Oak, Southfield, and West Bloomfield; and Douglas is a Dealer of the Year title holder—an award given away by Black Enterprise magazine to recognize successful and noteworthy black innovators. In 2012, the company was ranked number 10 in the Crain’s List of Largest African-American Businesses with its $107.6 million revenue that year.

Douglas was originally from North Carolina and moved to Detroit in 1966 due to a job transfer in the Internal Revenue Service. His move was about the same time that Detroit was in grave turmoil over huge frustrations and pinned up emotions on how black Detroiters are being treated in society. He felt deeply for the situation and his people that he became an active citizen volunteering around the city. His dedication and efforts were noticed by city leaders that in 1972, he was made vice-president of the non-profit organization New Detroit Inc. which deals with the city’s racial injustices. He then became president of the organization in 1978 after playing numerous key roles in the promotion of equality of the blacks and whites.

Around 1985, Douglas extended to the private sector, joining Ford Motor’s initiative to give African-Americans a chance to own dealerships. Douglas purchased a share in Avis Ford, successfully grew the business, and the rest was history.  He also founded the Avis Rent-a-Car system and continues to serve the local Detroit community. He recently released a book called The Activist Entrepreneur to share his 25-year story of growth, leadership, and battling the great rebellions and recessions of his time.

Carla Walker-Miller

Carla Walker-Miller is a visionary entrepreneur, philanthropist, founder, President, and CEO of the Walker-Miller Energy Services, LLC (WMES).

Walker-Miller Energy Services is originally a Detroit-based firm established in 2000 which is focused on providing cost effective energy efficient strategies, and waste reduction services to its clients. While Carla is your solid kind of businesswoman, she is also a proud and active champion of issues related to energy conservation, water affordability, and global recruitment, employment, and training of black Detroiters. She has the knack for hiring people who have been unemployed for a long time so as to give them urban locals the chance and hope to do well in life, and stimulate funds circulation within the communities they serve and work in. Also, part of her strong commitment to her community, she set off a non-profit organization called The Water Access Volunteer Effort (WAVE) Fund which provides water bill assistance to low-income families and citizens of Detroit. She is also a board member of various organizations such as TechTown Detroit, Detroit Regional Chamber, University of Detroit Jesuit High School, and the Wayne State University Physicians Board.

With over 30 years of experience in the industry, she and her company had been recipients of many accolades and recognitions such as the 2017 Champion of the New Economy award by the DBusiness magazine; finalist for the Entrepreneur of the Year award for Michigan and Ohio by Ernst & Young; 2014 Community Partner of the Year by the Habitat for Humanity; one of the 50 Fastest Growing Women-owned business in America for 2016 by the Women Presidents Organization; trailblazer honor by The Heat and Warmth Fund, and Employer of the Year by the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, to name a few.

Far from the crumble of her first business due to the 2009 recession, Carla’s Walker-Miller Energy Services is now in contract with most of Michigan’s utilities ensuring business continuity and further success as made evident by its 2017 revenue of $25 million.

Richelieu Dennis

Richelieu Dennis is a Liberian–Sierra Leone entrepreneur who co-founded the Sundial Brands with his university roommate and best friend, Nyema Tubman, and mother, Mary Dennis in 1992.

Sundial Brands is a beauty products company that from humble beginnings is now the producer of several other brands such as SheaMoisture, popular for their handcrafted soap and salves which recipe originated from Dennis’ grandmother, Sofi; Nubian Heritage the brand that celebrates the legacy of ancient Nubia with the remix of global healing and traditions into modern skin and body care solutions; and nyakio™ skincare which products are Kenyan-inspired from the history and family of founder Nyakio Kamoche Grieco, to name a few.

Originally, co-founder and Chief Executive Office, Dennis was supposed to return to Liberia after graduating from the Babylon College in the United States but was unable to because of the intensifying civil unrest in the country. The change in the original plan became quite a blessing in disguise as it prompted the creation of Sundial Brands. Their then need to support themselves in a foreign country had Dennis, drawing from his rich family roots and tradition some wisdom, recipes, and experiences on natural body care products that they recreated in their small apartment in Queens, and sold in the streets of New York.

Dennis credits his entrepreneurial knowhow and skills from his grandmothers (who were both vendors in their small village in rural West Africa) and his mother, Mary—whose principles of compassion, hard work, and respect had been his guiding values in leading the company despite prejudice towards minority businesses and challenges regarding racial segregation. In the 26 years of Sundial Brands, it took Dennis 16 years just to put it in the main shelves.

The brand has come a long way. From its initial cramped headquarters in Queens, they now operate in a state of the art facility in Amityville, New York, and with a recorded revenue of $200 million in 2015; demonstrating a 31% increase in revenue every year. Slowly but surely, Sundial Brands has been making its mark in the beauty department while promoting equality, value, and esteem towards beauty of all color and race.

Charles Adams

Charles Adams is the founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Adams Communication & Engineering Technology. A company he established in 1999 to serve federal agencies, particularly the Intelligence Community, Department of Defense, Veteran Administration, and other private sectors with all their mission- critical IT needs.

Adams started his career in the Intelligence Community in Germany as a Senior Signals Intelligence Analyst at Field Station Berlin. It was followed by his time at TRW in Washington, DC as a Software Engineer assigned to the Naval Space Command Center when he moved to the United States. After which he held more positions in several other Aerospace, Software Development, and Systems Engineering centers from 1990 to 1999.

Come April 1999, with about 20 years of experience in the industry, Adams opened his own company, ACET with just a single employee. Since then, he has led the company to considerable growth with now about 500 employees and alliance with the federal government, and high-profile businesses, communities, and organizations throughout country. In 2016, ACET has a reported revenue of $322 million putting it on the 59th spot in the Washington Technology’s Top 100 List.

Gene Waddy

Gene Waddy is the “Jersey-native” mentor, owner, founder, and Chief Executive Officer of Diversant, the biggest African-American owned IT staffing and solutions firm in the United States. It offers a wide variety of services such as staff augmentation, payroll, diversity programs, and direct hire.

Diversant has been in rapid growth since its establishment in 2005 and is one of the few companies that did not waver during the 2009 recession; giving it an excellent reputation with some of the Fortune 500 companies. It has expanded to 12 different locations all over the US and employs about 1,300 IT consultants; working directly to businesses of several industries like telecommunications, insurance, energy, and banking.

Aside from being an entrepreneur, Waddy is also an active member of his community hosting mentoring programs for the youth, as well as board and member of many organizations concerned with career development, advancement, and youth education like the Program for Acceleration in Careers of Engineering, Marion P. Thomas Charter School in Newark, and New Jersey Tech Council, among many others.

Waddy’s entrepreneurial expertise helped Diversant acquire its 2017 charted revenue of $164 million, while his solid leadership, fortitude, and commitment in helping others gave him numerous titles and recognitions including Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2013, and 2011 NJBiz Executive of the Year finalist.

Sheila Johnson

Sheila Johnson is a philanthropist and entrepreneur of wide spectrum who is the founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts.  She is a patron of sports, film, education, community development, women empowerment, and a woman if many firsts.

Prior her venture in the hospitality industry, she’s already the first African American to have a stake in not just one but three professional sports team: the Washington Wizards (NBA), Washington Mystics (WNBA), and Washington Capitals (NHL); and after, she became the first African American woman to reach a net worth of a billion dollars.

Johnson founded Salamander Hotels & Resorts in 2005 after overseeing the growing luxury businesses in Virginia. She began with a 340-acre property and turned it into a spa that is reflective of the Middleburg area. The aim was to encourage city folks to come to the countryside to de-stress and appreciate the local and natural beauty of Virginia. The business has expanded since and is now a conglomerate of many luxury businesses that includes Innisbrook Resort, Reunion Resort, Hammock Beach Resort, Henderson Beach Resort, NOPSI Hotel, Hotel Bennett, and the latest addition to its collection, Tyron Resort,

Aside from leading Salamander Hotels & Resorts, Johnson is also busy with Black Entertainment Television as its founding partner, as well as creator and producer of award winning programs, documentaries, and feature films. She is also part of the Sundance Institute Board, ANNIKA Foundation, and Middleburg Film Festival’s Founder and Chair. She is also a partner in Mistral, makers of fine home, bath, and body products, owner of her a luxury scarves line, and a fervent supporter of education and the arts. Member of the Leadership Council at Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership, Board of Governors of Parsons the New School for Design in New York, Americans for the Arts, VH1’s Save the Music Foundation, Curry School of education Foundation at the University of Virginia, and University of Illinois Foundation, as well as sponsor of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center which is a combination facility of classrooms, galleries, and public program spaces. She is also the Ambassador for the Healthy Site Institute, CARE, and member of the Foreign Relations Council.

With 30-year experience and all her accomplishments and efforts, she has been given many accolades in the different fields that she serves, like Top 50 America’s Richest Self-Made Women (Forbes Magazine), and Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, to name a few. In 2017, her net worth was placed at $750 million.

Oscar Horton

Oscar Horton is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Sun State International Trucks, LLC., a full service truck dealership that sells, leases, and services new and used trucks, buses, and tractors in over 1000 locations in North America. His dreams of directly influencing and impacting people’s lives positively is what led him to leaving his comfortable executive position and start his own business.

From the rubbles of the Tampa and Sarasota dealerships, Horton opened and transformed Sun State International Trucks LLC to the flourishing company that it is today. During the time of purchase, the company faced numerous challenges such as poor employee morale, lack of technological infrastructure, and other recurring losses, due to workings of the previous management. With his dream on the line and the situation at hand, Horton took an aggressive technique in order to turn things around and generate growth for the company and its people. Today, the Sun State International Trucks LLC has about $158 million revenue, as logged in the 2016 African-American Business books.

Despite his and the company’s current success, Horton does not intend to sit on his laurel nor stop at serving his community. He intends to make more opportunities of growth for his staff, improve Sun State International’s technological infrastructures, and deepening customer relationships; while serving on the academic boards such as the University of South Florida, Academy Prep Center, Goodwill Industries-Suncoast, Boys and Girls Club, and Bank of Tampa, among many others.

Leon C. Richardson

Leon C. Richardson is the founder, President, and CEO of the largest minority-owned chemical management company in the United States, known as the Chemico Group. Richardson began his career in the US Marine Corps where he stayed for eight years. He branched out to business whilst still in the corps by enrolling at the University of Maryland’s off campus program for a Business Management Degree. He eventually left the corps and continued his pursuit of business at Detroit College, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, and Ross School of Business at University of Michigan.

Prior Chemico Group, Richardson worked in the automotive industry where he was able to acquire skills and knowledge in organic chemistry, chemical manufacturing, as well as sales and marketing.

Founded in 1989, the business specializes in supplying its clients with an integrated solution for the whole chemical lifecycle. With a client portfolio comprising of the biggest companies such as Chrysler, Boeing, Honeywell, Delphi, and General Motors, Chemico Group grew rapidly over the years.  It has expanded from a single employee start-up business to a globally recognized chemical and environmental services giant that is today employing about 300 people and operating in 22 states in the United States and two other countries outside, Mexico and Canada.

Richardson’s steadfast and concrete leadership skills in the past 27 years has brought his company a revenue of over $100 million and numerous awards and recognitions like the 2017 Class IV Supplier of the Year Award by The Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, Corp! Magazine’s Diversity and Multiculturalism Award of 2016, Supplier of the Year Award for seven consecutive years by General Motors, 2017 Supplier Quality Excellence Award by Toyota North America, and others similar awards from the automotive line of industries.

Jordan Notenbaum

Jordan Notenbaum is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Mobile Defenders, the leading distributor of cellphone and other wireless devices parts, accessories, and repair tools and services to small businesses and individual clients across the United States.

Notenbaum received his bachelor’s degree in marketing and Finance in 2010 at Grand Valley State University while already being part of the business industry as an eCommerce Fulfillment Supervisor, and later Junior Controller at the biggest arts and crafts products distributor in the world, Notions Marketing Corporation.

After graduation, he opened up a business with his childhood friends Steve Barnes and Gary Von Myhr in the form of Genius Phone Repair which in just a span of 2 years became Indiana and Michigan’s retail repair go-to place. The three friends then realized the importance of creating a better and well-rounded supply chain solution and expanded the business in 2013; under a new name, Mobile Defenders.

Since, the company has generated a total of $35.8 million revenue and continues to be known as the country’s leading solutions provider in mobile and gadgets repair.

Timothy J. Adams

Timothy J. Adams is the force behind Systems Application & Technologies, Inc. also known as SA-TECH. As President and Chief Executive Officer, Adams progressively grows SA-TECH into the professional engineering, IT, and logistic services company of today that caters to organizations such as the United States Department of Defense, Army, and Navy.

Adams’ background and expertise lie in business administration, innovation, and management

with a hint of experience in aerospace. He founded SA-Tech in 1989 with but a solid business plan, himself, and a bank loan. Now, his company is a multimillion dollar business recognized throughout the country, employing over 400 people and has offices in Maryland, California, New Mexico, Washington, and Alabama.SA-TECH grew from a stable small-business industry player offering testing support services and anti-terrorism protection training to one of the respected big companies in the defense industry with a steady 12% increase in revenues annually.

Over the years, SA-Tech has won various accolades for its remarkable service to the nation and steady business growth. Some of its most distinguished awards and rankings are Top 100 Privately Held Companies in the United States, ranked by the Washington Business Journal, Maryland’s Top 50 Diversity Owned Business, Black Enterprise’s Top 100 Industrial/Services Black Businesses in the Nation, one of The Gazette’s Politics and Business Exceptional 53 Companies in the State of Maryland, and Black Chamber of Commerce Exemplary Business Recognition Award, to name a few.

Together with the success of the business is the recognition of the skills and expertise of its founder, Adams. His industry knowhow and charisma has won him titles and appreciations like Bowie State University’s 2010 Founders Promise Award, Maryland’s 25 CEOs You Need to Know, Top 100 Minority Business Enterprise Hall of Fame for the Mid-Atlantic Region, Maryland ‘s 2013 Chamber of Commerce’s Hall of Fame inductees, Most Admired CEOs by the Daily Record, Prince George’s County Young Democrats 2016 Business Leader of the Year Award, among many others.

A man of the community, Timothy J. Adams has a wide-range of advocacies where he played significant roles in presenting the issues of small business to the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship and providing help to persons with disabilities as part of the Committee for Review for the Americans with Disabilities Act. As of present, his volunteerism to the Patriots Technology Training Center (PTTC) in Maryland helped heal the gap brought about by the digital, enable students of the minority to experience innovations, and encourage the youth to pursue STEM courses and careers.

Who did we miss? (We know 40+ people is only a very small sample). What great African American entrepreneur do you know who should be celebrated here? Let us know! Contact Bill Poulos at

“Align yourself with the right people, forge the right relationships and you’ll set yourself up for the long run.” –Daymond John

Daymond John
Daymond John is a successful American entrepreneur, investor, television personality, author, and motivation speaker. He is best known as the founder, president, and CEO of FUBU and an investor on the ABC television series Shark Tank. Daymond has a net worth of approximately $250 million.

John was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 23, 1969 and grew up in Queens. He had an entrepreneurial spirit at a young age, selling customized pencils to students in first grade. At the age of 10, his parents divorced and he was raised by his mother alone. Moving from middle class to poor, he began working at the age of 10 handing out flyers for $2 an hour. He struggled with reading and writing due to dyslexia and barely scraped by in high school. In the early 1990’s he began waiting tables at Red Lobster.

Wanting to start an apparel company for young men, his mother taught John how to sew. Recognizing John’s passion, his mother mortgaged her home to raise $100,000 to fund John’s business.

In 1992, he launched his clothing line FUBU, standing for For Us, By Us, in his mother’s house. John worked for six years at Red Lobster while trying to get his company off the ground. He had to close his business three times as he struggled to make it as an entrepreneur. Eventually celebrities began to wear his product in music videos, launching his brand to the next level. Today, FUBU has earned over $6 billion in global sales.

In 2009, John joined the reality television show Shark Tank, in which entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to five investors called “sharks.” The first season cost him about $750,000 of his own money. By 2015, John had invested $7,667,000 in Shark Tank projects.

John has continued to found businesses in New York. He is the CEO and founder of The Shark Group, a consulting and brand management firm located in Manhattan, New York. He is also the founder and CEO of Blueprint + Co., a co-working space in Midtown Manhattan.

John has taken on the role of public and motivation speaker in recent years. His speaking engagements include California First Lady Maria Shriver’s 2010 Women’s Conference, AT&T’s History Makers Tour, Babson College School of Entrepreneurship, Creative Liaison’s program at the annual London International Awards, and more.

Reginald F. Lewis

Reginald F. Lewis was a lawyer, entrepreneur, and the first black American to build a billion dollar buisness. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland on December 7, 1942. He came from humble beginnings, but was destined for greatness. When he was 10 he started a newspaper service, delivering the Afro American Newspaper. Two years later Reginald sold his business with 100 subscribers and made a profit.

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In high school, he played basketball, baseball, and was the football quarterback earning a scholarship to Virginia State University. After earning his bachelors in political science he went on to Harvard Law School. Lewis is the only student to be admitted to Harvard Law without applying. When he completed his law degree he was recruited by the distinguished law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LL. 2 years later, Lewis opened his own law firm with several colleagues. In 1983, they formed a venture capital firm, TLC Group, L.P., where Lewis could do his own deals. He went on to buy and revive the struggling pattern making company, Mccalls, selling it for $90 million. Lewis bought TLC Beatrice International for $985 million in 1987. At the time, it was the biggest offshore buyout in the history of the United States.

“Keep going. To build a better society in America. To be a compassionate America… Keep going, no matter what.” – Reginald F. Lewis

Reginald believed in giving back to his community and established the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation to fund grants to non-profit organizations. In 1992, he gifted $3 million to Harvard and the International Law Center was renamed the Reginald F. Lewis International Law Center. Unfortunately, Lewis passed away in 1993 from brain cancer. He wanted to create a museum of African American culture. His foundation helped open the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture in his hometown of Baltimore in 2005. A Smithsonian affiliate, the museum shares the accomplishments and history of the African American community.  

Warren Thompson
Warren Thompson is the President and Chairman of Thompson Hospitality Corporation. Thompson Hospitality Corporation currently reports over 4000 employees and $485 million in annual revenue. Warren is an entrepreneur who began his career at the age of 14. Since, Thompson has come a long way from his very first venture into business modestly cutting grass, to purchasing the hog business of his own father, and now head of the nation’s largest minority-owned food service company, and retail food and facilities management firms.

“Do the right thing. Do the best you can. Treat others the way you want to be treated.”-Warren Thompson

Thompson Hospitality was built in 1992 with a $100,000 capital that Warren saved during his nine years with Marriott, after graduating from the university and receiving his MBA in 1983. It was recognized as “Company of the Year” in 2010 by the Black Enterprise Magazine which Warren credited to his employees’ hard work and his father, Thompson Sr.  Warren’s father, have quite an influence over his life that to date, his management style is what’s being implemented in his company. According to Warren, his father was his first mentor, business partner, and best friend who has taught and passed on to him the value of hard work and building solid relations with your people and clients.

At present, Warren is connected with over 30 of the nation’s largest public companies, as well as hospital centers and urban school districts. They operate nationally and internationally with a retail lineup of Austin Grill, Be Right Burger, American Tap Room, Willie T’s Lobster Shack, and the newest addition in their collection, Pheast Food Group.

Janice Bryant Howroyd
Janice Bryant Howroyd is a multimillionaire entrepreneur, ambassador, author, and philanthropist who founded one of the largest staffing firms in the world, ACT-1 Group. With more than 17,000 clients and operating in 19 countries, the firm generates $ 1.1 billion in net sales; making Howroyd one of the richest self-made women in the United States. She has a net worth of $420 million and holds the title, first African American Woman to build and own a billion dollar business.

Howroyd was born in Tarboro, North Carolina on September 1, 1952 as one of the 11 children of a modest couple. During that period, being a black girl of humble background posed numerous challenges for Howroyd growing up. With that, her mother taught her to be innovative, resourceful, and many other principles of making lots from nothing; all of which eventually helped her in building and sustaining her business that has now been in operation for nearly 50 years.

ACT-1 Group began as a full-time employment agency in Beverly Hills in 1964 with a capital of just $1500, a fax machine, telephone, and Howroyd. Her determination and natural entrepreneurial talent allowed the business to flourish amidst her time’s weighty social restrictions and concerns such as racism and gender inequality. Her personal motto “Never compromise who you are personally to become who you wish to be professionally.” guided her during the tough times in her career and expansion of ACT-1 Group, which now includes AppleOne, AT-Tech, ACT•1 Personnel Services, ACT•1Govt, ACheck Global, and DSSI—all talent acquisition companies with focus on specific fields and industries.

Through her success in business, Howroyd was able to branch out to philanthropy, authorship, and leadership. She is now the ambassador of the Department of Energy’s Minorities in Energy Initiative, and board member of numerous organizations such as Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, Harvard Women’s Leadership Board, National Utilities Diversity Council, WeConnect, California Science Center, and Los Angeles Urban League. She is also a member of the Industry Trade Advisory Committee on Services, the United States Department of Commerce; Board of Trustees for North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and author of the book called The Art of Work – How to Make Work, Work for You!

According to Howroyd, one of the best parts of her business is that, it allows her to help others. Her means now allow her to give back and support several universities via personal service or scholarship funding. She believes that business and community service should go hand in hand; saying “One cannot effectively lead without passionately serving”.

Charles Sanders

Charles “Chuck” Sanders is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Urban Lending Solutions—one of the country’s biggest outsourced services company that is focused on mortgage fulfillment, home retention solutions, title and settlement services, appraisal and valuation assistance, as well as collection and call center services. Today, under Sander’s administration, Urban Lending Solutions is 2,400 people strong with a revenue of $220 million.  

Prior starting his own company, Sanders had a brief career as a running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the National Football League. After he left, he began exploring in the field of marketing and with guidance from Pittsburgh real estate entrepreneur and friend, Robert Murphy Jr., Sanders learned the workings of the real estate industry in Murphy’s company, then ventured on his own in the mortgage business around 2000.

Since the establishment of Urban Lending Solutions in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, it has stretched out to other parts of the country and opened offices in Broomfield and Highlands Ranch, Colorado, Westlake Village, California, and Troy, Michigan.

Urban Lending Solutions has been in operation for more than ten years now and continues to be a problem solver for lenders and servicers, alike; staying true to its mission of “helping people achieve and preserve the American dream of owning a home”.  Over the years, Sander’s dedication and managerial prowess have had numerous award giving bodies recognize Urban Lending Solutions and its services. In 2007, it was awarded the Supplier of the Year by The National Minority Supplier Development Council, and received the PRMPC President’s Trophy. In 2009, it was included in the Top Five Fastest Growing Firms in Western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Business Times list. Finally, in 2010, Urban Lending Solutions generated a revenue of $127 million landing the No. 28 spot on the Black Enterprise 100 List of the Nation’s Largest Black Owned Companies.

Victor Edozien

Victor Edozien is a Nigerian-American businessman who is the founder and Managing Director of Asaba Group Holdings Company. At present, Asaba Group Holdings is 800 people strong and has an annual revenue of $500 million.

Victor is dubbed the Prince of Steel, and was selected for the Michigan Chronicle’s “Men of Excellence” award in 2017 for his success in the field of business, and contributions in inspiring others through his craft, vision, leadership, achievements, and social responsibility.

Born in New Jersey but was brought up in Nigeria until his undergraduate years, Edozien is an actual scion of the royal Edozien family in Asaba, making his title Prince of Steel quite literally fitting given his background and everything he has established for himself.

It was in 1980s that he decided to drop out of school and move back to the United States. Once in the states, he finished his Master’s degree and served in the army before working part time in an air-conditioning design team—his learnings and experiences here are what made him keen on starting his own business.

He began with Asaba Group which is a business strategy consulting and advisory firm focused on providing transaction-based advisory services. From the beginning, it has had an impressive client list that includes General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Intel, and the US Air Force. After successfully solidifying Asaba Group as a top rate consulting firm, Edozien decided to expand and thus created Asaba Group Holdings in 2004. It was released as the private equity investments and holding branch of the company. Through this new division, Edozien aims to move away from the advice giving configuration to actual doing. Edozien’s Asaba Holdings operates on manufacturing, consulting, and lifestyle businesses in several states in the United States: Indiana, Alabama, Illinois, and Michigan. From there, the company caters to the business needs of big and small scale consumers around the globe.

Moziah Bridges
Moziah Bridges appeared on the reality television show Shark Tank at the age of 12. There he presented Mo’s Bows, his bow tie business idea. He turned down a $50,000 invest offer from one of the investors in favor of a zero money, but ongoing mentorship, with Daymond John. The reality show and mentorship propelled his business forward, landing his a seven-figure deal to supply bow ties to the NBA.

Bridges began his business at the age of 9. Always having a passion for suits and ties, he began his business due to his dissatisfaction with that lack of available bow ties for kids. His grandmother taught him how to sew and he began to create neckwear he would wear himself. Today, each bow tie is still sewn from scratch.

His company has received features in O magazine an Vogue.

Bridges has continued on to become a young philanthropist, donating $1,600 to send 10 children from Memphis, Tennessee to Glenview Summer Camp.

Bridges has set a goal of going to college and starting a full clothing line by the time he is 20 years old.

Richard Bennett

Richard Bennett is the CEO and President of Advanced Systems Development, Inc., a leading information technology solutions provider to the US Government including the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also part its portfolio are federal agencies of the United States such as the District of Columbia and Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands.

Prior to founding ASD in 1979, Bennett’s belief in outstanding customer service has long-lived since his early days when he was still assisting in his father’s automobile repair shop. This philosophy of building relationships with customers helped him offer the best service for each client that their business received. When ASD began with 250 employees, he brought the same concept of exemplary service alongside a diverse set of solutions spanning asset management and logistics, software engineering, network engineering, and operations management.

ASD has a projected revenue of around $25 to $50 million per year and was awarded as one of the Top 25 Government Tech Solution Provider in March 2018, ASD’s solutions portfolio has further diversified to include cloud computing and advanced technology solutions. Currently based in Virginia, the company is an Alliant Small Business contract holder, awarded by General Services Administration (GSA). Its corporate partners include Booz-Allen Hamilton, Cisco, IBM, L-3 Communications and Microsoft.

Richard Bennett remains to be a passionate advocate of both delivering best quality enterprise IT solutions and commendable customer service.

Darryl Washington

Darryl Washington is the founder, CEO and president of DKW Communications, Inc. Headquartered in Washington D.C., the company focuses its solutions on enterprise net-centric services, cybersecurity and intelligence, and management consulting. His outstanding leadership qualities has produced a multitude of awards for performance excellence, management excellence and financial growth.

Washington was born in Birmingham, Alabama but later moved to Washington, D.C. where he received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering at Howard University. Furthermore, his credentials involve providing support to intelligence agencies as a civil servant and serving on a managerial level at both system integrator companies RSIS and STG. Handling logistical support, facilities management and systems engineering, his experiences as an executive have as well contributed to his successes as a CEO.

His brainchild, DKW Communications, Inc., first picked up as a small company in 2001 to an organization that is presently equipped with 150 employees. With 20 strong years of service to the different agencies of the federal government such as the Department of Navy and Department of Agriculture where DKW continues to deliver IT and Mission Critical enterprise solutions. The federal vendor has received the USDA Farm Service Agency Small Business Contractor of the Year, among other distinctions, and presently holds $22.6 million annual revenue.

The Washington D.C. native serves his community church as one of its Board of Directors. A supporter of good education, be it in or out of school, Darryl Washington sponsors the National Book Club Conference and is a mentor on education for the Washington, D.C. public school system.

Charley Moore

Charley Moore is the founder, CEO and executive chairman of Rocket Lawyer, an online legal technology platform that aims to provide an accessible platform where everyone can affordably and conveniently view and share legal archives and documents.

A lawyer and a remarkable visionary, Moore had his humble beginnings in St. Louis, Missouri where, at an early age, he worked as a gas boy at one his father’s gas stations. An alumnus of the United States Naval Academy, he joined the US Navy and was afterwards named as one of the veterans of the Gulf War. Three years from the Naval Academy, he pursued studying business at the San Francisco University, and, later on, marched forward to University of California, Berkeley’s School of Law. His notable practices of law include his representation of big companies such as Yahoo! (IPO), WebTV Networks (acquired by Microsoft) and Cerent Corporation (acquired by Cisco Systems) during his appointment as an attorney at Venture Law Group in 1996.

From personal law cases to small- and mid-sized and corporate business legal cases, Moore started a disruptive digital law firm, Rocket Lawyer, in 2008 with the main objective of making legal documents available to everyone at an affordable cost. The company has partnered with LexisNexis as its lead seed investor. A few more online conglomerates joined Rocket Lawyer during its infancy stage including LinkedIn’s former CEO, Dan Nye, Investor Growth Capital, Google Ventures and August Capital. From the initial $2 million capital, the company branched out from its California headquarters to UK in 2012. Rocket Lawyer has an average of at least $10 million revenue per year, with its peak in 2011 that reached US $20 million.

Charley Moore has a seat as one of the board of directors for the Northern California Public Broadcasting Corporation (KQED) and also serves a similar position at the UC Berkeley School of Law. Imbued with a passion for law and politics, it is his belief that the most important responsibility as a citizen is participating and practicing one’s right to vote that was once hard-fought by the forefathers of America when they battled to gain democracy.

Cedric Nash

Cedric Nash founded Oakland Consulting Group, Inc. (OCG) in 1997 where he has since been the CEO and President. Awards from ICIC-Inc. Magazine Inner-City and Oakland Chamber of Commerce (Entrepreneur of the Year) fortified his reputation as a technology and corporate leader.

Nash is a graduate of the California Polytechnic State University with B.S. in Computer Science and has later on acquired a Master of Business Administration diploma from Pepperdine Graziadio Business School. He worked as a Transportation Officer in the U.S. Army, and later on spent twenty years as a Software Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he garnered experiences on information technology and project management. Opportunities knocked and as he progressed further the corporate ladder, he worked as an SAP consultant for two of the biggest integration firms, Deloitte & Touche and Ernst & Young.  Nash ventured on as a partner at Consulting and Resource Distribution (CARD) which served as a stepping stone for the foundation of his own company, Oakland Consulting Group (OCG), in California.

Built on the relationships and connections he made in his previous jobs, and experiences that fueled his desire to establish a software and consulting firm, Oakland Consulting Group’s range of solutions include a comprehensive ERP implementation and support services, business process reengineering and PMO support, business intelligence and data analytics services, and value-added software reselling and staffing services. The Maryland-based company’s list of clientele range from federal government and civilian agencies to educational and commercial companies. With partnerships with technology giants Oracle/PeopleSoft, SAP, Accenture and Workday, OCG has an annual revenue of $31 million and has since grown to 89 employees from 1997.

Alongside his successful leadership in OCG, his company grants internet access, up-to-date hardware and software components to Fremont High School. Cedric Nash has published articles that emphasize on information technology systems and staffing. Nash also holds memberships in prominent organizations such as the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), Information Technology Senior Management Forum (ITSMF), and National Black Data Processing Associate.

Mike Bruce

Mike Bruce is the founder of InScope International and has been the president and CEO since the company’s establishment in 2002. A visionary, he pioneered the professional services company to help bridge the gaps between sustainable competitive advantage and substantial corporate valuation existing in both corporate and non-profit organizations.

The exceptional leader graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, while juggling his duties as a young Air Force ROTC Cadet, and finished a B.S. in Computer Science course in Worcester Polytechnic Institute with honors. Bruce is also a holder of the joint MS/MBA diploma from the Information Networking Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. He later on held executive positions in the marketing and business development, strategic accounts and e-commerce departments. SingleShop, Inc. started his venture as a start-up entrepreneur in 1998 with capital investments from Draper Atlantic, Columbia Capital, and Merrill Lynch. Moreover, inspired with issues that are currently plaguing the global community, such as homeland security and housing affordability, Mike Bruce initiated InScope International with the mission to encourage corporations and non-profit organizations alike to be socially responsible in a highly competitive capitalist landscape.

Since its foundation, InScope International’s solutions portfolio is inclined towards six areas: apps, data, cyber, cloud, staffing and consulting. From apps development for web and mobile to big data analytics, cybersecurity, program management, the company adheres to connecting the gaps among the issues in all sectors, may it be for the civilian community or the government. InScope International’s clients include eBay for its commercial solutions, and federal government agencies such as U.S. Central Command, Federal Trade Commission and Air Force Material Command, among others. As of 2010, it has a reported revenue of $34.6 million.

A leader with purpose, Mike Bruce serves at the Young Presidents Organization wherein he mentors aspiring business leaders as an Education Officer. He also plays an active role in his church, being a member of the music ministry, as a pianist and keyboardist.

Mark Wright

Mark Wright established Diverse Facility Solutions in 2002 and serves as the CEO and president of the firm.

Wright is an alumnus of the University of Louisville where he received his B.S. in Political Science diploma. Prior to the conception of Diverse Facility Solutions (DFS), his appointment as Director of Operations in American Trans Air, or ATA Airlines, gave him opportunities to develop himself in operations management, facility management and project and construction management with which he consequently was able to pass on when he built DFS. His leadership has brought recognitions to the firm including the prestigious Black Enterprise 100’s for four consecutive years from 2014 to 2017, and Delta Airlines’ Catalyst Award in 2014.

Headquartered in Chicago, and with offices in Arizona, California, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Texas, Diverse Facility Solutions delivers exemplary maintenance and staffing services. As a facility solutions company, DFS has maintained different MBE certifications in a number of cities: Chicago, Detroit, New York, New Jersey and Texas. The organization also holds a certification from the Minority Supplier Development Council.  Furthermore, a top solution that DFS offers is its janitorial services for institutions and companies, be it in the commercial or government. Support services to the aviation industry are available such as oversize baggage runners, ticket checkers and airport ambassadors. Diverse Facility Solutions emphasizes on keeping a Quality Control plan unique for customers and their respective facilities. In 2017, the organization generated $35 million of annual revenue.

Not only does his unmatched experiences in the facilities maintenance industry set him apart, but Mark Wright’s commitment to quality of services and customer satisfaction enabled him to grow his company from a one-man team to at least 900 employees who has the same passion as their leader. An undeniable inspiration to his people, his leadership encouraged the company’s professionals to consistently produce good quality service—be it for their own or for their customers.

Robert F. Smith

Robert F. Smith is the Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Vista Equity Partners based in Austin.

Recognized as one of the brightest minds globally, he received reputable awards for both his corporate leadership and philanthropic achievements. To name a few, Private Equity International’s 2016 Game Changer of the Year, the Ripple of Hope Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, and the National Association of Investment Companies’ Award of Excellence. Cornell University also named the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering under his name in 2016.

Named by Forbes in 2017 as one of the 100 Greatest Living Business Minds, Smith’s humble beginnings started in Denver, Colorado, where he grew up in an African-American community. His collegiate years were spent in Cornell University wherein he finished with a bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering. He then finished a Master of Business Administration, majoring in Finance and Marketing, with honors at Columbia University. Prior to his six-year office in Goldman Sachs’ technology investment banking, Smith worked with Air Products & Chemicals, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, and Kraft General Foods. A business innovator and trailblazer, he is the first person in San Francisco to have encouraged tech mergers and acquisitions. This innovation-initiated acquisitions and merges among prominent brands Apple, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, eBay, and Yahoo!

Smith founded Vista Equity Partners in 2000, starting with at least US $26 billion of capital investments, primarily offering private and public equity solutions that leverage on excellent asset management strategies. In a decade and counting of persistence and good leadership, the business now boasts a diverse company portfolio from varied industries including Finastra, ReturnPath, SecureLink, Marketo, Solera, Infloblox, EagleView, Lithium, Kibo, Cvent, and Newscyle. Vista Equity Partners has a reported annual revenue of US $30 billion in 2017.

Robert F. Smith’s accomplishments exemplify his formidable capabilities as a leader and a philanthropist. Being an awardee of the Philanthropy 50 and the appointed board chairman of Carnegie Hall, his achievements have also brought pride to the African-American community. Smith also has a strong belief of preserving African-American history and maintaining equal rights for the minority being its founding director of Fund II Foundation.

Lawrence Wilkerson

Lawrence Wilkerson is the President, CEO and founder of one of the most successful engineering and tech firms across the U.S. With over 30 years of experience in the logistics industry, he has acquired unmatched expertise on supply chain, business process reengineering, logistics management and lifecycle support.

Wilkerson is an alumnus of the Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University wherein he acquired a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, and Florida Institute of Technology with a Masters in Logistics Management. He has taken a Logistics Executive Development Course as well. Furthermore, prior to the foundation of Logistics Systems Incorporated, he held a position at the Army G-4 as a Logistics Plan Officer where he worked for two years. As an U.S. Army Officer, highlights of his career involve his leadership during the U.S. Support Battalion in Egypt, and his instatement as the Chief of the National Operations Center for the army’s software enterprise integration systems where he spearheaded the implementation of the Army Single Stock Fund software. In 2002, shortly before he left the army, he started building Logistics Systems, Inc. (LSI).

Logistics Systems, Inc. puts into its core the long-term benefits of its solutions to their customers. Based in Washington, D.C., where most of the company’s clients are currently located, contract vehicles helped solidify the company’s business with the majority of its clients. The contract vehicles enable them to perform logistics assessments and Operations Plan (OPLAN) for the Headquarters, Department of Army (HQDA) and the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4 (Logistics).  Department of Homeland Security and Department of Health and Human Services also add to the company’s client portfolio. With a philosophy of helping leaders succeed, LSI sees to it that its customers are able to meet their organizational goals in a timely and cost-effective manner without compromising the delivery of quality solutions. In 2013, LSI generated a total of $25 million in revenue; of which 70% primarily come from the contract vehicles of the federal government.

Lawrence Wilkerson is a strong believer of continuous improvement, reflected in his management philosophy for LSI, “We Help Leaders Succeed” with a relentless passion for customer satisfaction.

John A. James

John A. James founded James Group International Inc. (JGI) primarily to offer logistics and international supply chain solutions, and later on established Renaissance Global Logistics for automotive exporting processes to countries outside of North America. Also, as the company’s executive chairman and CEO, he and his company has received a significant number of distinctions including the Ford Motor Company World Excellence Award for RSG (2011) and Michigan Chronicle’s Men of Excellence Award in 2009.

James’ earlier years started in his hometown, Starkville, Mississippi, where he received a B.S. Sociology diploma in 1964. He later on moved to Ohio to continue studying at the University of Toledo finishing a Guidance course, and at Wayne State University for Business Administration. A civil servant in his younger days, he became part of the U.S. Army where he was the Commissioned Officer in the Corps of Engineers and received an Army Commendation Medal from the Vietnamese Government.

Soon after his stint in the army, he started JGI, a globally-renowned logistics company that caters a significant number of its solutions to automotive companies encompassing Ford Motor Company, General Motors and Toyota Tsusho America, Inc.

Over the years, JGI was able to launch subsidiary companies—Renaissance Global Logistics (RGL) in Kentucky and Michigan, Motor City Intermodal Distribution (MCID) in Detroit, TLX and Magnolia Automotive Services (MAS) which is in strategic partnership with Toyota Tsusho America, Inc. based in Mississippi. JGI has also obtained the 48-state operating authority in the United States. In 2012, it has recorded earnings of $110 million including it in the top 10 of Crain’s List of Largest African American Businesses, at number 9.

James is not only a renowned name in the logistics and shipping industry as he has also been involved in mentoring and teaching the minority on how to be successful entrepreneurs in the highly-competitive capitalist arena. His contributions also include his sponsorship and volunteerism to the Southwest Detroit Business Association, Museum of African American History, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and African Relief Fund. James is also an inspiration for the young African-American community to be persistent with their goals as he was the first in the group to be permitted transportation of automotive parts in the State of Michigan.

Riana Lynn
Riana Lynn is the founder of FoodTrace, a company that builds software and apps to link local farms and food distributors with large wholesale food buyers. She is also an entrepreneur-in-residence with the Google Code2040, a program that supports and connects Latinx and black entrepreneurs with resources to build their companies.

Having experience with struggling food innovators, Lynn wanted to develop a supply chain software to help connect food industry players. Thus, she created FoodTrace. Thousands of food businesses across the US have been impacted by her products.

Prior to creating the idea for her company, Lynn served as a White House intern, Lynn worked at the Office of Public Engagement on projects advocating for the involvement of women and girls in STEM job initiatives, food, and nutrition. She assisted with Michelle Obama’s kitchen garden during her time as an intern.

In 2015, Lynn was selected as an Entrepreneur in Residence with the Google Code2040 program. FoodTrace was chosen as one of three companies to receive $40,000 from Google for office space and other resources through their program supporting underrepresented minorities in the tech industry. Prior to the award, Lynn participated as a fellow at the Good Food Business Accelerator program, based in the Chicago 1871 tech incubator.

CODE2040 is a San Francisco-based nonprofit that works to support minorities working in tech, with funding through a grant from Google for Entrepreneurs. Lynn was recognized and accepted to the program due to her work with healthy food and her experience advocating for inclusion of STEM.

Lynn founded Rivive Consulting Group, where she worked with Chicago 1871 management on various diversity initiatives.

Tiffany Simpson
Tiffany Simpson was a single mom struggling to raise her autistic child, who grew a digital empire after co-founding Belizean Artwork Publishing and creating multiple mobile applications for children learning and development.

Before finding success in her business, Simpson has admitted to starting several businesses that failed. Her success came when she partnered with her brother to found Belizean Artwork Publishing, a company publishing CDs and books for Belizean artists.

When her son was diagnosed with autism, Simpson worked to develop ways for her son to improve his speech and learn skills through computer games. After learning to develop websites, computer games, and mobile apps, she helped her 9-year-old son to create his own game and app The Games Space.

Shawn “Jay Z” Carter
Shawn Corey Carter, known as Jay Z, is an American businessman and rapper. He has sold over 75 million singles and 50 million albums worldwide, with 21 Grammy Awards under his belt.

Jay-Z also created a life as a entrepreneur.  He launched his own streaming music service, Tidal, which gained 1 million stream followers in 2015. In 2017, Jay-Z sold 33% of the company to Sprint, a telecommunications giant.

He owns 40/40 Club, a New York sports bar and is the co-creator of Rocawear, a clothing line. His role as a businessman extends further as he was once the president of Def Jam Recordings, the founder of Roc Nation, an entertainment company, he co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records, founder of Roc Nation Sports, a sports agency, and a certified MLB and NBA sports agent.

Jay-Z was born December 4, 1969 in Brooklyn, New York City, New York. His father left his family at an early age and Jay-Z was raised by his single mother. Growing up in a housing project in the Bedford-Stuyvesant, Jay-Z had a less than stable life. He attended Eli Whitney High School before it was closed, moved to George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School, and tried to finish high school at Trenton Central High School in Trenton, New Jersey. Jay-Z has revealed that during this time in his life he sold crack cocaine, was shot three times, and did not graduate from high school.

Although Jay-Z struggled, his mother shares that Jay-Z always had a passion for rap, creating drum patterns and lyrics, and freestyling whenever he could. He began his career in 1995 without a record deal from a major label. He created Roc-A-Fella Records as an independent label and began selling CDs out of his car. Without a major label behind him, Jay-Z was still able to debut his album beats by acclaimed producers like DJ Premier and Super DJ Clark Kent and an appearance by The Notorious B.I.G. This first album reached 23 on the Billboard 200 and was eventually placed in the Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

After many years of success, in 2003, Jay-Z released The Black Album and announced that it would be his last solo record before retirement. He shared that due to lack of competition, the rap game had become boring. By 2006, Jay-Z had come back from retirement with the album Kingdom Come. More solo albums followed. By 2009, Jay-Z had released 12 albums and earned 9 Grammy nominations.

Jay-Z has won awards and recognition like Greatest MC of all time by MTV, three albums ranked among Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, most number one albums by a solo artist on the US Billboard 200, 88th-greatest artist of all time by Rolling Stone,10th most successful artist of the 2000s, 5th top solo male artist and 4th top rapper by Billboard, and more.

In 2008, Jay-Z married American R&B singer Beyonce. Prior to their marriage, Beyonce and Jay-Z worked together on the songs 03 Bonnie & Clyde, Crazy in Love, That’s How You Like It, Déjà Vu, Upgrade U, and more. The couple was listed by TIME magazine as the most powerful couple in their 100 most influential people edition in 2006. Forbes ranked them as Hollywood’s top-earning couple. In 2012, the couple had their first daughter, Blue Ivy Carter and in 2017 Beyonce gave birth to twins named Rumi and Sir.

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is a business owner, American songwriter, singer, and actress. She is a Grammy Award-winning recording artist, who is known for her vocals, videos, and live shows.

Beyonce established her own clothing line with her mother, House of Dereon, launched her own fragrance, Heat, and served as a spokesperson and model from brands like L’Oreal and Tommy Hilfiger.

Beyonce was born September 4, 1981 in Houston, Texas. During her youth, Beyonce participated in many singing and dancing competitions.

In the 1990’s Beyonce became acquainted with fame as she was the lead singer of Destiny’s Child, an R&B girl group. Her father served as the band’s manager. The group landed a record deal in 1997 with Columbia Records and soon became one of the most popular R&B acts. In 2004, the group released their last album together and broke up the following year. This game Beyonce the time to pursue her professional career.

During her time with Destiny’s Child, Beyonce explored other professional projects. She starred in MTV’s Carmen: A Hip Hopera in 2001 and co-starred in Austin Powers spy parody Goldmember with Mike Myers in 2002. After Destiny Child’s break up, Beyonce continued her acting career starting opposite Jennifer Hudson, Jaime Foxx, and Eddie Murphy in the film Dreamgirls.

Beyonce established her solo career in 2003 with the album Dangerously in Love. This album won five Grammy Awards and sold millions of copies. She integrated various artists into her album, such as Sean Paul, Missy Elliot, and Jay-Z. Her second album was released in 2006 and featured hit singles like “Irreplaceable” and “Déjà Vu.”

While working on her I am…Sasha Fierce album, Beyonce was cast in the film Cadillac Records, starring R&B legend Etta James. The following year, Beyonce sang James’ trademark song “At Last” during President Barack Obama’s inaugural ball.

In 2013, Beyonce performed during a Super Bowl halftime show, featuring her former bandmates from Destiny’s Child. In 2016, she returned to the Super Bowl stage, featuring Bruno Mars and Chris Martin of Coldplay. The performance highlighted her single “Formation” from the album Lemonade and announced her latest world tour.

Initially her album Lemonade was only available on Tidal, Jay-Z’s online streaming service, but eventually was offered on iTunes and Amazon. The album debuted as number one, making Beyonce the only artist in history to have all of her first six albums reach the top of Billboard’s album charts.

Throughout her career, Beyonce has become one of the world’s best-selling music artists, sold 100 million records worldwide, won 22 Grammy Awards, and the most nominated woman in the history of the Grammy’s. She has earned recognition as the most awarded artist at the MTV Video Music Awards (24 wins), the Top Certified Artist in America by The Recording Industry Association of America, the Top Radio Song Artist of the Decade by Billboard, the highest paid black musician in history, TIME’s 100 most influential people, the most powerful female in entertainment by Forbes, and more.

In 2008, Beyonce married rapper Jay-Z. In 2012, the couple welcomed their daughter Blue Ivy Carter into the world. In 2017, the couple welcomed twins, a boy and a girl.