Famous Black Business Owners That Will Inspire You

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Famous Black Business Owners That Will Inspire You

August is Black Business Month, so we are highlighting famous Black Business owners. You may have heard of some of these business owners before, and

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August is Black Business Month, so we are highlighting famous Black Business owners. You may have heard of some of these business owners before, and others may be new to you. We hope these business owners and their stories inspire and motivate you to continue your entrepreneurial journey. In addition, we hope that by reading these stories, you realize that as a Black business owner, you can achieve your version of success, whatever that looks like for you. 

Sarah Breedlove 

Sarah Breedlove is the first self-made female millionaire in the United States. If her name sounds unfamiliar, it’s because you may know her as Madam CJ Walker. 

Madam CJ Walker
Scurlock Studio // Wikimedia Commons// between 1905 and 1919

Walker created the Madam CJ Walker Manufacturing Company and died in 1919, the wealthiest Black businesswoman in the country.

However, she had to overcome a lot of obstacles and challenges throughout her life before she became successful.

After being the first child of her parents to be born into freedom, she was orphaned at age 7. With only three months of formal education under her belt, she did a series of low-paying jobs, including being a child domestic servant and a laundress. 

While she suffered from hair problems, she eventually learned about haircare and started offering hairdressing services. In addition to that, she developed several hair products designed to solve common hair problems such as lack of hair growth. 

Eventually, her business took off, and she had to hire thousands of women. In addition to helping her make money, she taught them how to budget and create their own business. 

History.com says that she also gave back to her community in many ways. According to them, “The self-made millionaire used her fortune to fund scholarships for women at the Tuskegee Institute and donated large parts of her wealth to the NAACP, the Black YMCA and other charities.”

“I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations….I have built my own factory on my own ground.”

Madam CJ Walker (1917)

Beyoncé and Jay Z

Beyoncé and Jay Z
Beyoncé and Jay Z performing. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license// Flickr// 2018//

Jay Z and Beyoncé are not only entertainers but are also business moguls. According to Cosmopolitan, as of July 2022, Beyoncé and Jay Z have a net worth of 1.9 billion dollars combined.

Before they made their money, they were just two young people with dreams. Beyoncé has been singing and dancing since she was a child. She took dance and voice lessons as well as entered talent shows. She worked consistently to hone her craft. Now, Beyoncé is a household name and an award-winning artist and performer. 

Jay Z grew up in the Bed-Stuy projects of Brooklyn. He sold drugs in his younger days and was unfortunately shot many times. However, he had an interest in music and decided to pursue it. In the early days of his music career, he had to sell CDs out of his car since nobody would give him a record deal. 

He kept at it and eventually got signed, produced award-winning albums and became one of the greatest rappers of all time. 

They have multiple streams of income. Cosmopolitan says Beyoncé and Jay Z make money from: 

  • Album and singles sales
  • Movies
  • Endorsements
  • Tours
  • Merch
  • Fragrance lines
  • Projects

One notable project or investment is Tidal, a music streaming platform. According to Cosmopolitan, Jay Z bought Tidal for $56 million dollars and sold a majority stake in the company for $247 million dollars. Beyoncé also has shares in the company. 

Clara Brown

Clara Brown
Clara Brown (1875-1880) from Wikimedia Commons

Did you know Clara Brown was a successful entrepreneur born into slavery? She was eventually freed in 1859 by her third owner at age 56. As she left the plantation to travel to start her life, she had to work as a cook in exchange for transportation. 

She eventually settled in Colorado. According to the Colorado Business Hall of Fame, she was called “Angel of the Rockies”.

She started and built a successful laundry business. Brown was then able to invest money into gold mines and became the first black woman to do so. She cemented her place as one of the great black business owners.

She was inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame on January 27, 2022. Her story is a testament that it’s never too late to start pursuing your dreams. 

Rose Meta Morgan

Rose Morgan
Rose Morgan sitting on a desk with beauty products, photographed by Austin Hansen in 1949. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division
Source: The New York Public Library Digital Collections  

Rose Morgan is another successful Black woman that earned her wealth from haircare. Morgan had a small shop in New York City which eventually became the biggest African American beauty parlor in the whole world. 

According to the New York Times, she had an entrepreneurial spirit since she was a child, which was inspired by her father. As a child, she sold flowers made out of crepe paper. She was quoted in the New York Times saying, “We sold them for five cents a bunch, and I would give them a penny on a bunch, so I was in business at the age of 10,”

Morgan graduated from selling paper flowers to doing hair by age 12. According to the New York Times, eventually, Morgan arrived in NYC with $500, enough to rent a booth for $10 per week. 

Morgan also met Olivia Clarke, who was a skin care specialist with multiple Biology degrees. According to the New York Times, they combined their expertise and struck a deal. 

Morgan was able to bank $3 million in her first decade however she had problems getting funding from her bank, just like many of us today. She was quoted in New York Times saying, “I went to them and tried to borrow some money and couldn’t get a dime.”

Therefore in 1965, she created her own bank called Freedom National. This was the only Black commercial bank in New York. 

She lived the life she wanted.

“I never denied myself anything. I traveled all over the world. I did all the things I wanted to do.”

Rose Morgan quoted by the New York Times

Rose Morgan’s story is one of following your dreams and a testament to collaboration. 

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama

Caption: Oprah receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2018) Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

We could not write a blog post about famous Black Business owners without including the legendary Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah grew up in Mississippi and came from humble beginnings. Her childhood was marred by poverty and abuse. However, despite everything, she became a billionaire. At one point, she was the only Black billionaire in the world. 

When you think of iconic talk shows, the Oprah Winfrey Show comes to mind. However, she was fired as a TV anchor. Fortunately, she didn’t let that stop her from being on TV and eventually became the host of a successful talk show. 

Besides being a talk show host, Oprah owns a website (Oprah.com), wrote books, starred in movies, and owns a television network. She is also philanthropic and famously opened a school for girls in South Africa.

“I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint–and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you. ”

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah’s story is one of determination. 


We hope these stories of black business owners inspired you. The featured people overcame obstacles and showed that being consistent, collaborative, and unrelenting in pursuit of dreams can lead to success. This Black Business Month, celebrate with us and support other Black businesses so you can help them achieve their dreams too. We’re all in this together, and we need each other.


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  • comment-avatar

    Wow. This is so motivational. Netflex has a series called self-made about Madame CJ Walker, who dominated the hair care industry in her time. The series also helped me understand the obsession that my great-grand mother who raised me with hair. She worked on every female in the family head and grew our hair to 12, 14, and even 16 inches. It would be during the series that I would learn that Black Women were losing their hair due to the environment, job, and having to go without shampooing their hair in some cases due to a lack of water, and poor diets. I didn’t appreciate the hair and would in the 1970s wear harsh hair styles, gel, naturals, and eventually cut it ALL off. But after seeing that series and realizing the hard work and love that Anna invested in me, I have now grown my hair back to where she had grown it. I now appreciate my hair. I appreciate Anna. I appreciate Madame CJ Walker. She has been deemed the first Black female millionaire, but after doing much research that’s not true. She dominated the industry in doing so that earned her the title.

  • comment-avatar
    Angela Lockhart 2 years ago

    Thank you for sharing those amazing stories.Madame CJ Walker story really inspired me since I first saw the movie. Their stories has inspired me to keep pushing to I accomplish my goals.