In honor of Black History Month, we’re looking at some of the successful brands built by African Americans. Guest writer Jade Branion gets us started.
Brands built by African Americans accounted for approximately 9% of the 27.6 million U.S. businesses in 2012, and the figure has been steadily rising ever since. The number of companies owned by African Americans grew by 34% from 2007 to 2012. But Black History Month is not only about the biggest companies that have made the most money; it’s also about black entrepreneurs doing innovative and interesting things in the world.
Here are some of the many successful black-owned brands—and black entrepreneurs— in different fields showcasing the contributions made by the black community in the business world.
World Wide Technology (WWT), Co-founded by David Steward
Founded in 1990, WWT is an IT company with annual revenue of more than $11.2 billion. The company has state-of-the-art labs, with top-notch developers and IT engineers deploying technologies at scale. Their mission is to better the world by transforming organizations to become meritocracies.
David Steward is the current chairman of the company, which is one of 2018’s biggest black-owned businesses in the U.S. While growing up, he faced discrimination and vividly remembers being barred from public swimming pools and attending separate schools. His net worth is now estimated at $4 billion.
North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, Founded by John Merrick
In 1898, this company was founded on a desire to serve the underserved black community. African Americans were still in slavery. The success of this enterprise was achieved three decades after slavery ended, and it was a source of tremendous pride for blacks across the country during the early freedom days.
John was committed to creating a diverse workplace that fosters interaction between people of different cultural and racial backgrounds.
DC Design, Founded by Durell Coleman
Founded in 2015, this design firm is focused on solving the biggest problems in the world through Human-Centered Design. (Human-centered design is an approach to problem-solving, commonly used in design and management frameworks that develops solutions to problems by involving the human perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process.) The company works alongside governments, non-profits, organizations, and foundations that aim to shift entrenched systems for better functionality.
Durell Coleman was awarded the Jefferson Award for Public Service for his social impact and has been featured in the PBS documentary “Extreme by Design,” which is a design teaching aid used worldwide. He also hosts a workshop dubbed “Design Thinking: Foundations,” which teaches how to design solutions for difficult problems.
Salamander Hotels & Resorts, Founded by Sheila Johnson
Salamanda is a property acquisition company that acquires assets with soul by nurturing, building, and respecting their unique qualities. The company also deals in property development and property management and consultation. For example, their resort in the Carribean, known as Half Moon, was awarded for the largest spa oasis and best restaurant in Jamaica.
Sheila Johnson was a co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET); she used her fortune to set up Salamander in 2005. She was the first black woman billionaire in the U.S.
Carver Federal Savings Bank
Founded back in 1948 in Harlem, Carver Federal Savings Bank was focused on serving African American people and businesses that were shunned by other banks. It’s now the largest black-owned bank in America and still thrives by supporting local black communities. The bank invests 30% of its revenue in the communities.
The financial crisis hit black-owned banks just like the other banks, but this bank weathered the storm thanks to other Wall Street institutions and the federal government. The new CEO Michael Pugh promises a big comeback.
There are plenty of black-owned businesses that continue to push boundaries. Some are run by celebrities, but you might not even know others exist, even though you have probably done business with them. Manna Inc., for example, had an impressive $875 million in annual revenue in the year 2017 although it’s not a household name.
On the other hand, you have Chris Gardner (founder of Gardner Rich & Co) whose life story inspired the blockbuster film “The Pursuit of Happyness” starring Will Smith. Billionaires such as Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z, and Floyd Mayweather are brand names carrying enormous power through media popularity and earning ability.
The top 100 black-owned brands together generated about $30 billion in 2018, which adds a substantial amount to the U.S. revenue. African American entrepreneurs are extending their reach across a range of various industries to impact the community and create employment for millions of people.