Five of The Most Inspirational Black Entrepreneurs of All Time

This guest post is by Tapha Ngum of

Five of The Most Inspirational Black Entrepreneurs of All Time

If all you did was watch the news and sports channels, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the only way to become successful as a young black individual was to get involved in sports or become an entertainer. Even in this modern day, it is very rare that we see images of black people who have been successful in creating businesses. That’s why I have compiled a short list of some of the most inspirational entrepreneurs in the black community of past and present. To help inspire some of the more entrepreneurial readers of black presence and help to illustrate what is possible with a little belief and lof of hard work.


Madame C.J. Walker

C J Walker
C J walker

Born: Dec. 23, 1867, Delta Louisiana

Died: May 25, 1919 (Aged 51)

Industry: Cosmetics

There is probably no one else that i could have started this list with. Madame C.J. Walker was not only the first black woman in the US to become a millionaire, she was also the first female of any race to become a millionaire, period. I think that it is important for people to realise just how significant what this woman did was.

This is a woman who, born to recently freed slaves – transcended illiteracy, racism and poverty to become one of the richest women of her time. Remember also, that women’s rights at this time were also not that great. So, she had to contend with that, on top of everything else. The odds were truly stacked against her. Right from the beginning.

She started out by inventing a process that made it easier for black women to straighten their hair. Once she had perfected her invention, she then proceeded to go an exhausting trip all over the US and caribbean, selling her invention door to door. The business got so big, that at one point she employed more than 3,000 people.

Berry Gordy

Berry Gordy

Born: November 28, 1929, Detroit, Michigan

Industry: Music

This guy is responsible for most of the greatest black musicians of all time. Through Motown Records, he financed and nurtured the careers of Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye, among many others.

He started out with just an $800 loan from his father, which he used to form the record company that would become Motown.  He slept on the ground floor of the building he worked in, in the early days, and focused his energies on making records.

He changed black music forever with his insights into how artists should present themselves to their audiences. Through his artist development program, he showed his proteges how to act, dress and speak professionally in manner that was the most appealing to audiences.

In 1988 he sold his interests in Motown for $61 million to MCA and Boston Ventures.

 Sean Combs

Sean Combs
Sean Combs

Born: November 6, 1969, Mount Vernon, New York

Industry: Music

What makes Sean Combs inspiring, is not just that he has amassed a fortune of well over $500m. But that he has done it while having what seems to be, a hell of a lot of fun. He has parlayed his own individual passions, such as design, food and marketing into several incredibly successful businesses, namely his branded clothing line – Sean John, his restaurants ‘Justin’s’ and his legendary record label Bad Boy Records.

He recently announced to Wolf Blitzer, that he would like to open his own business school, to help others achieve the same successes that he has.

Christopher Gardner

Christopher Gardner
Christopher Gardner

Born: February 9, 1954 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Industry: Finance

Chris Gardner, who became a household name after the movie ‘The Pursuit Of Happyness’ (which was based on his life) was released, is one of the few entrepreneurs that i know of who are black and have succeeded wildly within the financial industry. His story is one of extreme struggle, pain and ultimately triumph. He was homeless for a long time, having to support his son by selling medical printers that nobody wanted, door to door.

What makes his success so inspirational is that despite the struggles he was going through at this time, he managed to land an apprenticeship at a firm and literally outperformed almost everyone else there. He was then hired full time, and his life from then on, was never the same.

He now runs the multi million dollar ‘Gardner Rich and Co’ firm out of Chicago illinois, with plans to expand his business interests to South Africa.

This guy is truly an inspiration for young black men everywhere. As he has succeeded in an industry where we are few and far between.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey

Born: January 29, 1954, Kociusko, Mississipi

Industry: TV, Broadcasting, Movies

As of 2012, according to Wikipedia, Oprah Winfrey has a networth upwards of $2.7 billion.

When you read through her story on the same wiki page, you begin to understand just how amazing that achievement is.

Not only did she grow up and succeed at a time where women were not seen as equal to men. But she also did it, despite that fact that she was born when racism in the United States was just reaching its peak.

This is a woman who has overcome staggering odds to not only become one of the most succcessful black women of all time, but to also become one of the most successful people. Period.

She is an inspiration to women and men alike.

Share some more success stories that you may know

These are just scratching the surface, almost every day now there are young black people who are doing extraordirily well in their chosen fields. I’d be here all day if I had to list them all. 🙂

But I’d love to hear of some more. So, if you know of any Black entrepreneurial success stories that you’d love to share, then please let us know in the comments!

This is a guest post from Tapha. Founder of, a site that provides custom iphone app design templates to people who cannot afford to spend $1,000′s on their iphone app design.

3 thoughts on “Five of The Most Inspirational Black Entrepreneurs of All Time

  • 21st September 2013 at 6:22 am

    why is there never any mention of British born black entrepreneurs that have actually changed the game or changed the status quo, on these lists?

    People like Adam Affriye, Wilfred Emmanuel Jones, Piers Linney, Charles Ejogo, Caroline Marsh, Chakabars, and Tracy Webster, they are my inspirations, not Puff Daddy, and Oprah Winfrey!

    • 14th November 2013 at 4:53 am

      I agree. Nothing we haven’t read before.
      There’s always a focus on Americans as if not one single Black person in the UK has ever built a successful business. Let’s start look at and celebrating the achievements of entrepreneurs over here such as:

      Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe
      Bernard Kordhieh
      Jamal Edwards
      Dr Uchenna Okoye
      Dr Yana Johnson
      Mavis Amankwah
      Natasha Faith and Semhal Zemikael
      Alexander Amosu
      Charles Gordon
      Alistair Soyode
      Edwin Broni-Mensah
      Nathaniel Peat
      Charles Thompson
      Yemi Osunkoya

      Not to mention CEOs of two of Europes largest media agencies, Karen Blackett (Mediacom) and Magnus Djaba (Saatchi & Saatchi).

      By the way, the above are all black, not mixed race as is commonly done with these ‘lists’.

  • 27th July 2016 at 10:13 am

    I think Levi Roots is a good addition to that list. Based off his positive message and deep set roots within the black community.


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